Duke Divinity’s Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) program provides students with academically rigorous training informed by an understanding of theology as critical reflection on Christian practice and belief in the light of Holy Scripture.
Entering students work within theological disciplines such as Bible, church history, theology, ethics, homiletics, and Christian formation, and also at the intersection of these disciplines with fields such as political science, peacemaking and reconciliation, medicine, and the arts. The program is intentionally interdisciplinary, and students have access to the resources of both the wider University and partner institutions (including UNC-Chapel Hill, NC Central University, and NC State University).
Our program boasts a superb placement rate, with graduates working at institutions such as United Theological Seminary, Duke Divinity School, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Loyola University Maryland, Eastern Mennonite University, North Park University, Westmont College, Abilene Christian University, Loyola University Chicago, and Whitworth University.
Each student admitted to the Th.D. program receives the same financial package, which includes tuition, fees, and a stipend for five years as well as funding for language study and conference presentations. Students typically serve as research assistants during their first year and as preceptors (teaching assistants) in subsequent years of residency. Applicants should complete a FAFSA to allow the Financial Aid Office to determine loan eligibility, if needed.
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.
While many Divinity School faculty members are also members of the University’s Graduate Program in Religion (GPR), the Th.D. allows students to pursue their study under the direction of any regular-rank Divinity School faculty member—including those in disciplinary areas that fall outside the purview of the GPR, such as homiletics, evangelism, and Christian formation.
The curriculum for the Th.D. includes two academic years of full-time residency and completion of a dissertation that represents significant and original scholarly research.
The range and breadth of the Th.D. program is evident from a sampling of the dissertations completed. Recent graduates have investigated such topics as “The Censored Pulpit: Julian of Norwich as Preacher,” “Feeding and Forming: John Calvin, Materiality, and the Flourishing of the Liturgical Arts,” “Spiritualities of the Displaced: An Ethnographic Study of Homeless Lived Faith,” and “Lord, Teach Us How to Grieve: Jesus' Laments and Christian Hope.” View a list of dissertation topics (pdf).
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.
The Certificate in Reflective and Faithful Teaching (CRAFT) prepares students in the Doctor of Theology program for a vocation of teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Participants learn a wide range of pedagogical practices, develop a theologically grounded philosophy of teaching, hone their teaching skills, and create a professional teaching portfolio.
Th.D. students also have the option to earn a Certificate in Gender, Sexuality, Theology, and Ministry.
- Th.D. students must successfully complete twelve courses (normally three per semester). Entering students work with the Th.D. director and other faculty advisors to craft a primary concentration of at least six courses and a secondary concentration of at least three courses.
Th.D. Coursework Guidelines (pdf)
- The director of the Th.D. program serves as a student’s initial advisor and assists in the selection of a principal advisor from among the regular-rank faculty members of the Divinity School. This advisor will normally work in the student’s primary area of concentration and will serve as chair of the preliminary examination committee.
Th.D. Checklist for Graduation Requirements (pdf)
- Submission of an annual progress report is required for continuance in the program and renewal of institutional support. These reports, which include an assessment written by the student’s advisor, must be submitted to the Th.D. director by May 1 each year until the student graduates.
Th.D. Student Annual Report Form (pdf)
- Students work together with their principal advisor to select the other members of their preliminary examination committee. This committee is made up of three to five faculty members, with the principal advisor as chair. The student’s primary area of concentration should be reflected by the expertise of at least two members, the secondary area by at least one member. At least three members of the committee must be regular-rank faculty members in the Divinity School unless otherwise approved. The proposed committee list should be submitted to the Th.D. director for approval by the middle of the student’s second year.
Th.D. Preliminary Examination Committee Approval Form (pdf)
- Prior to taking preliminary examinations, students must complete all required coursework and pass their language competency exams. To remain on schedule, students should complete at least one language requirement by the beginning of their second year.
Th.D. Language Exam Guidelines (pdf)
Th.D. Funding for Language Study and Conference Presentations (pdf)
- Preliminary examinations should be taken within six months of completing coursework, optimally during Fall semester of the third year. Students work with their principal advisor and committee to prepare 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. Extensions will normally not be granted beyond the middle of the fourth year.
Th.D. Preliminary Examination Guidelines (pdf)
Th.D. Preliminary Examination Report Form (pdf)
- After passing preliminary examinations, students assemble a dissertation committee, composed of four or five members, in consultation with their principal advisor. This committee need not be identical to the student’s preliminary examination committee, but at least three members of the committee must be regular-rank faculty members in the Divinity School unless otherwise approved. The chair of the dissertation committee, who serves as the dissertation supervisor, should work in the student’s primary area of concentration. The proposed committee roster must be submitted to the Th.D. director for approval.
Th.D. Dissertation Committee Approval Form (pdf)
- Under the direction of their dissertation supervisor, students next prepare and defend a dissertation proposal according to the established guidelines. The proposal defense should occur within three months of passing preliminary examinations. Upon approval of the dissertation proposal the student is admitted to candidacy for the Th.D.
Th.D. Dissertation Guidelines (pdf)
Dissertation Proposal Defense Report Form (pdf)
- 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.
- The dissertation is then prepared, submitted, and defended in an oral examination before the dissertation committee. The defense should ordinarily take place within four semesters of passing preliminary examinations. If the dissertation is not submitted and accepted within eight semesters after the preliminary examinations, the student may be dropped from candidacy. In exceptional circumstances, an extension of one year may be granted. The student’s petition for such an extension must be submitted to the Th.D. director for approval by the Th.D. oversight committee before the end of the eighth semester after prelims. This petition should be accompanied by a letter from the supervisor indicating that the dissertation can be successfully completed within the time frame of the extension. Students dropped from candidacy may be required to pass a second set of preliminary examinations in order to be reinstated.
Th.D. Dissertation Style Guide (pdf)
Dissertation Defense Report (pdf)
- Students must apply to graduate through DukeHub at the beginning of the semester in which they intend to defend the dissertation. If the student does not defend the dissertation successfully in that semester, he or she must apply to graduate again at the proper time.
- After successfully defending the dissertation, the student must make any necessary revisions, obtain the supervisor’s approval (if required by the examiners), and submit an electronic copy of the revised dissertation by the deadline established for the academic term in which the student seeks to graduate.
Th.D. Dissertation Submission Guidelines (pdf)
If a student’s participation in the Th.D. program should end prior to successful defense of the dissertation, the student may elect to receive a Th.M. degree, provided that he or she has successfully completed at least nine courses as a Th.D. student.
Students are encouraged to seek career advice from their principal advisor, the Th.D. director, and other Duke Divinity School faculty throughout 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 the following resources helpful:
Duke Divinity School accepts applications to the Th.D. program from September to December 15. For admission, applicants must have earned or be a candidate for earning a Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), or comparable master’s degree from an ATS-accredited school prior to the intended date of enrollment.
- Final deadline: December 15
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Four (4) letters of recommendation are required: three academic, one church.
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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 (step 5 below). 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 application 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, resume, and writing sample can only be uploaded once your application and fee have been submitted.
- Unofficial Transcripts
- All applicants must have, at minimum, an unofficial copy of their transcript from the college or university that granted or will grant their bachelor’s level degree. Th.D. applicants must, at minimum, additionally supply an unofficial copy of their transcript from the seminary or divinity school that granted or will grant their master’s level degree. Additional coursework or degree information from previous colleges, universities, graduate schools, study abroad institutions, and seminaries may also be uploaded as part of the application. Transcripts may be submitted regardless of when you attended, how many hours you earned, or whether you earned a degree or not.
- Transcripts must be uploaded as part of your online application. Do not send paper or electronic copies directly to us.
- All students who are admitted and matriculate at Duke Divinity School must submit final transcripts showing that the minimally required degree has been granted before enrollment.
- The file limit size is 2.5 MB, so please compress files that are over this size.
- Submit .pdf files only
- Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
You will upload a .pdf 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.
- Recommendation Letters
- 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.
- Statement of purpose
An essay of one to two pages (single spaced) describing your goals in undertaking doctoral study, the academic and life experiences that have prepared you for doctoral work, your proposed area(s) of focus, and your particular reasons for applying to the Th.D. program at Duke.
- Writing Sample
Submit a sample of your scholarly work, 15-20 pages in length (double spaced).
- 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 date of the final deadline stated above. If the application deadline 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.
Note: 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 identical financial aid package. Those who reapply will be considered in the current year’s pool of applicants. It is necessary to fill out a new application form and pay the corresponding application fee. If your prior application was made within the past three years, you may request in writing to reuse supporting documents submitted earlier, eliminating the need for resubmitting transcripts, recommendations, etc. However, you should consider updating your application with any materials that will make it more current—such as transcripts showing any further academic work, perhaps an additional recommendation, a revised personal statement, or new GRE or TOEFL scores (should you decide to retake these exams).
All non-U.S. citizens must review the application requirements for international applicants.
- Endorsement Letter
One letter of recommendation must be written by a church official from your home country affirming support of your pursuit of theological education in the United States. This can double as your church letter or serve as a fifth 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 ETS to Duke (institution code 5156). Scores must be less than two years old. Duke Divinity School will not accept personal or paper score reports.
A TOEFL waiver question is included in the online application form. You do not need to contact us in advance if you meet one one or both of the following criteria for a TOEFL waiver:
- Received or will receive by the time of enrollment an undergraduate degree at a college or university where the sole language of instruction is English and in a country where the official language is English
- Earned or will earn by the time of enrollment an undergraduate degree from a college or university in the United States
No exceptions will be made if you do not meet the criteria.
- Ordinarily at least two academic years of full-time (three courses per semester) residency; continuous registration in a “continuation” status from completion of coursework to completion of the dissertation
- Twelve courses: ordinarily at least six courses related to a primary concentration and at least three courses related to a secondary concentration
- The Th.D. core seminar, taken in the Fall semester of the first year, which may count as one of the primary or one of the secondary concentration courses
- Maintenance of 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 examination committee 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 examinations
We’re available to answer any questions you might have about the admissions process. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.