Overview

Duke Divinity’s 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 on areas of study such as worship, preaching, evangelism, and the arts. At the same time, as an integral component of its mission, the Th.D. program seeks to reconfigure the way in which such practices are brought into creative interdisciplinary conversation with the established academic discourses of biblical studies, historical studies, and theology and ethics.

Scholarship Support

Funding Your Education

Each admitted student is awarded the same financial package, which including includes tuition, fees, and stipend. Students typically work as either research assistants or teaching assistants (preceptors) while completing their Th.D. Students should complete a FAFSA to allow the Financial Aid Office to determine loan eligibility, if needed.

The interdisciplinary scope of the Th.D. program extends to other areas of the university and addresses fresh areas of research. The program encourages scholarly studies that probe the intersections of interest between Christian communities and the broader society, or theology and the broader university—such as theology and healthcare or the theological undergirding of peacemaking and reconciliation.

Curriculum

The curriculum for the Th.D. includes two academic years of full-time residency (with three courses per semester) and completion of an academic dissertation.

We designed the Th.D. program to deepen the ways in which we cultivate scholars, teachers, and pastors who embody the integrative theological task—ranging across the boundaries between the traditional academic disciplines of biblical, historical, systematic, and ministerial studies—to encourage and support theological reflection on matters of faith and practice in Christian communities.

Like the Ph.D., the Th.D. at Duke is a rigorous research degree. The most immediate difference between the two is that the Ph.D. is awarded through and supported by the Graduate School of the University, while the Th.D. is awarded through and supported by the Divinity School. The Ph.D. covers the range of world religions, including Christianity. The Th.D. focuses on Christianity, with specific attention to the ministries and practices of Christian communities.

While many Duke Divinity School faculty members are also members of the University Graduate Program in Religion, the Th.D. allows students to pursue their study under the direction of any regular-rank Divinity faculty person—including those in disciplinary areas outside the purview of the Ph.D., such as evangelism and pastoral care.

Certificates and 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, Sexuality, 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.
    Duke University Career Center Resume Guide
    Duke University Career Center Academic Career Preparation
    Interfolio Credentialing 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.

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)

Application Information

Duke Divinity School accepts application on a rolling basis from September to December 20. For admission, applicants must have earned or be a candidate for a Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), or comparable master’s degrees from an ATS-accredited school prior to the intended date of enrollment.

Application Deadlines

  • Final deadline: December 20
Application Checklist

1. Create a ChooseDuke account

Our application is part of ChooseDuke, a university-wide system for applicants. To begin your application to Duke Divinity School, you will need to create an account.

Note: You must log out of any existing social media accounts before attempting to create a Duke social media log-in. If you need assistance with creating a social media account or logging in to ChooseDuke, you may contact our office at admissions@div.duke.edu or request help from our Applicant Help Desk at chooseduke-support@duke.edu

2. Work on your application form

The system requires you to submit information in 3 sections in order to complete your application. The first step is to answer all required questions and to submit the application form.

3. Add your recommender information

  • Four (4) letters of recommendation are required: 3 academic, 1 church.
  • You will be asked to provide contact information for your four recommenders as part of the online application.
  • NOTE: Three recommenders can be added immediately to your application. The fourth recommender's information will need to be entered once you submit your application.

All applicants will be asked to provide recommenders' contact information as part of the online application. After you enter your recommender's information, the system will automatically send an email request to your recommender. The email will contain instructions guiding your recommender through the process of submitting a recommendation via our secure form.

4. Pay the fee and submit your application

A $55 non-refundable application fee is collected by credit card when you submit the online application. The online application must be submitted before you can upload required supplemental materials. We recommend that you submit your application as soon as possible to ensure that you have adequate time to upload all required supplemental materials by the final program deadline.

5. Submit required supplemental documents by deadline

The online application and fee must be submitted before you can upload required supplemental materials. Supplemental materials such as unofficial transcripts, essays, resume, and any writing samples can only be uploaded once your application and fee are submitted.

  • Unofficial Transcripts
    • Transcripts from all previous colleges, universities, graduate schools, study abroad institutions, and seminaries must be uploaded as part of the application. Transcripts must be submitted regardless of when you attended, how many hours you earned, or whether you earned a degree.
    • Transcripts must be uploaded as part of your online application. Do not send paper or electronic copies directly to us. 
    • All students who enroll at Duke must submit final transcripts before registration.   
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
    You will upload your resume as part of the online application process. The resume should provide an overview of your life and experiences — educational background, work experience, church or vocational preparation, leadership roles, professional affiliations, honors and awards, community service, skills, and interests and hobbies.
  • Recommendations
    • Four (4) letters of recommendation are required: 3 academic, 1 church.
    • You will be asked to provide contact information for your four recommenders as part of the online application.
    • NOTE: Three recommenders can be added immediately to your application. The fourth recommender's information will need to be entered once you submit your application.
  • Essay
    A two-page, double-spaced essay (1 page per question) describing your goals in undertaking doctoral study, including an indication of your proposed focus. It is also important to identify the persons on our faculty whom you perceive as contributing most directly to your course of study. We watch as well for expressions of interdisciplinary interests and commitment to scholarship that attends to and is in service of Christian communities.
  • Writing Sample
    Submit one academic writing sample such as an article or term/course paper. Recommended academic writing sample excerpt is 15 pages.
  • Official GRE Scores
    • Th.D. applicants must submit official scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as part of the application process. Official GRE scores must be transmitted electronically from the Educational Testing Services (E.T.S.) to Duke (institution code 5156). E.T.S. will not send scores that are more than five years old; Duke Divinity School will not accept personal or paper score reports.
    • Official GRE scores must arrive before the application deadline date. Please plan to take the exam or submit your scores no later than 6 weeks before the deadline.

Applications must be complete in order to be considered by the Admissions Committee. All supporting documents (e.g., transcripts and reference letters not submitted online) must be received by 5:00 p.m. on the stated deadline date. If the application deadline date falls on a weekend, all applications and supporting documents must be received in the Admissions Office by 5:00 p.m. on the Monday after the deadline date.

Note: In the Th.D. program, as in Duke’s Ph.D. program, it is not possible to defer acceptance of admission. Admitted applicants who decide not to matriculate in the year for which admission is offered may reapply for admission at a later time. In such cases, there is no guarantee of readmission or of the financial aid package. Those who reapply will be considered in the competitive pool of applicants for the year in which they choose to reapply. The Admissions Office keeps all application materials for a period of three years, so you can draw on these materials in reapplying. You must fill out a new application form and pay the application fee. However, you may request, in writing, that supporting documents used for your prior application be used again, eliminating the need for resubmitting transcripts, recommendations, etc. Of course, you should update your application with any materials that will make it more current—such as transcripts showing any further academic work; perhaps an additional recommendation; revised personal statement; or new GRE or TOEFL scores, should you decide to retake these exams.

Additional Requirements for International Applicants

All non-U.S. citizens must review the application requirements for international applicants.

  • Endorsement Letter
    One letter of recommendation must be from a church official affirming support of your pursuit of theological education in the United States. This can be your church letter or an additional recommendation.
  • TOEFL Scores for International Applicants
    Applicants whose native language is not English must submit official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) as part of the application process. Official TOEFL scores must be transmitted electronically from the Educational Testing Services (E.T.S.) to Duke (institution code 5156). Personal copies are not accepted and must be less than two years old.
    A TOEFL waiver question is included in the online application form. You do not need to contact us in advance if you meet the criteria for a TOEFL waiver. No exceptions will be made if you do not meet the criteria:
    • Received or will receive by the time of enrollment an undergraduate degree where the language of instruction was English only (the official language of the country is English)
    • Earned or will earn by the time of enrollment an undergraduate degree from a college or university in the United States

Graduation Requirements

Requirements for graduation are:

  • 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

Resources

We’re available to answer any questions you might have about the admissions process. Please contact us at admissions@div.duke.edu or (919) 660-3436 or toll-free: (888) GO-2-DUKE. The resources below will also help you learn more about our programs.

For questions specifically about the Th.D. program, contact J. Ross Wagner, associate professor of New Testament and director of the Th.D. program.