The Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) program provides students with academically rigorous training, comparable to the demands of the Ph.D., focused on the ministries and practices of Christian communities. The program centers upon areas of study such as worship, preaching, evangelism, and the arts. At the same time, the Th.D. program seeks to place such practices into creative interdisciplinary conversation with the established academic discourses of biblical studies, historical studies, and theology and ethics. The interdisciplinary scope of the program extends, as well, to other areas of the university and addresses fresh areas of research such as the intersection of divinity and health care, or peacemaking and reconciliation.

Application Information »

Academic Requirements
  • Ordinarily, at least two academic years of full-time (three courses per semester) residency; Continuous registration in a “continuation” status from completion of course work to completion of dissertation
  • Twelve courses: ordinarily, at least six courses related to a primary concentration and at least three courses related to a secondary concentration
  • A core seminar that may count as one of the primary or secondary concentration courses
  • The student must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0; A student who falls below this level will likely be dismissed from the program
  • Demonstrated competence in two modern languages other than English; additional proficiencies may be required in light of the student's particular research interests. Students whose work focuses on Scripture will also be required to demonstrate proficiency in Hebrew and Greek.
  • Written preliminary examinations (including at least one in the primary area, one in the secondary area, and a dissertation exam)
  • An oral preliminary examination during which members of the student's preliminary examination committee will ask the student to discuss the issues treated in the written examinations
  • Completion and defense of an academic dissertation within four years of completing preliminary exams that demonstrates the student’s ability to contribute to scholarly discourse and to bring that discourse to bear on the ministries and practices of Christian communities
  • Students are required to submit a yearly report of progress through their course of study, for continuance in the program and renewal of institutional support
Forms & Resources

Degree and Research Resources

Preliminary Exam Forms & Resources

Dissertation Forms & Resources

Career Resources

About the Program

General academic forms »

Certificates & Concentrations

The Th.D. program is designed to enable interdisciplinary and integrative study. Students work with their principal advisor to craft a primary concentration (of at least six courses) and a secondary concentration (of at least three courses) that embody their research interests and provide coherence to their study. These areas of concentration will be shaped to enable critical and constructive reflection on particular practices of Christian community and life, and are expected to draw upon core areas of the theological curriculum.

Th.D. students also have the option to pursue a Certificate in Gender, Theology, and Ministry.

For information about other certificates or concentrations, please contact the relevant concentration or certificate director.

Course of Study
  1. On entering the Th.D. program students are assigned to the director of the program as their advisor. Initial advising is assisted by students meeting with individual matriculation committees during orientation. These committees are composed to reflect the student’s areas of interest and intended only for this initial meeting. They help the student reflect both on an overall program of study and on specific courses for the first semester. The suggested course load is three courses per semester.
    Th.D. Course Guidelines (pdf)
  2. The director of the Th.D. program advises students through their first year, helping them in course selection for second semester and in selection of a principal advisor. This advisor will normally be in their primary area of study and will serve as chair of their preliminary examination committee.
  3. Students then work together with their principal advisor in selecting the other members of their preliminary examination committee. This committee is made up of 3–5 faculty members, with the principal advisor as chair. The student’s primary area of concentration should be reflected by the expertise of at least 2 members; the secondary area by at least 1 member. At least 3 members of the committee must be regular rank faculty members in the Divinity School unless otherwise approved. The proposed committee list should be reported to the Th.D. director for approval by the middle of the student’s second year.
    Preliminary Examination Committee Approval Form (pdf)
  4. Prior to taking preliminary examinations, students must complete all required coursework and pass their language competency exams. Students should normally complete at least one language requirement by the beginning of their second year.
    Th.D. Language Guidelines (pdf)
    Th.D. Support Funding for Languages and Conferences (pdf)
  5. Preliminary examinations are expected to take place within six months of completing coursework, optimally during Fall semester of the third year. Students work with their principal advisor and committee in preparing for these exams according to the established guidelines. Students registered for full-time study who have not completed preliminary examinations by the end of their third year must submit a letter to the Th.D. director explaining the delay and requesting an extension from the Th.D. oversight committee. Except under unusual circumstances, extension will not be granted beyond the middle of the fourth year.
    Th.D. Preliminary Examination Guidelines (pdf)
    Th.D. Preliminary Examination Report Form (pdf)
  6. In consultation with their principal advisor, students designate a dissertation committee after passing preliminary examinations. This committee does not need to be identical to the student’s preliminary examination committee. The chair of the dissertation committee will serve as the student’s dissertation supervisor. The proposed committee list must be reported to the Th.D. director for approval.
    Th. D. Dissertation Committee Approval Form (pdf)
  7. Under direction of their dissertation supervisor, students next prepare and defend a dissertation proposal, according to the established guidelines. The proposal defense should occur by the end of the semester after passing preliminary examinations. Upon approval of the dissertation proposal the student is admitted to candidacy for the Th.D.
    Th.D. Dissertation Guidelines (pdf)
    Th.D. Dissertation Style Guide (pdf)
    Dissertation Proposal Defense Report Form (pdf)
  8. If the proposed dissertation involves some form of research on human subjects (surveys, ethnography, etc.), it is accountable to the Institutional Review Board of the Office of Research Support at Duke University. There are several types of IRB review. Most Th.D. projects have qualified for a streamlined process. Students should consult the Research with Human Subjects site for details on the types of review and assistance in obtaining approval for their research on human subjects.
  9. The dissertation is then prepared, submitted, and defended in an oral examination. This should ordinarily all take place within four semesters after the preliminary examinations are passed. If the dissertation is not submitted and accepted within eight semesters after the preliminary examinations, the student may be dropped from candidacy. Petitions for an extension (of one year) must be submitted to the Th.D. oversight committee. Unless exceptions are granted, credit is not allowed for graduate courses or language examinations that are more than six years old at the date of the dissertation defense. Similarly credit will not be allowed for preliminary examinations that are more than five years old.
    Dissertation Defense Report Form (pdf)
    Dissertation Submission Guidelines (pdf)
  10. If a student’s participation in the Th.D. program should end prior to successful defense of his or her dissertation, the student may elect to receive a Th.M. degree—provided that the student has successfully completed at least nine courses in his or her Th.D. studies.
  11. Students are encouraged to seek career advice from their principal advisor, the Th.D. director, and other Duke Divinity School faculty through the course of their studies. Divinity School students do not have general access to the Career Center at Duke University, but Th.D. students will find helpful the webpage they provide on preparing resumes, and their guide for using Interfolio, the credentialing service that we recommend.
    Duke University Career Center Resume Guide
    Duke University Career Center Credential Service
  12. During the semester when a student intends to defend the dissertation, he or she must apply to graduate through ACES by the established deadline with the registrar of the Divinity School. If the student does not defend the dissertation successfully in that semester, he or she must apply to graduate again for the appropriate semester.
  13. The student’s final responsibility is to submit the completed dissertation in both print and electronic format to the Divinity School registry by the submission deadline.
    Th.D. Dissertation Submission Guidelines (pdf)