The Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) degree is tailored to fit the needs of students pursuing advanced doctoral studies or seeking careers in teaching or research. It also provides a strong foundation for students called to serve in lay ministry roles throughout the church, academy, and world. There are two curricular tracks available to students. M.T.S. Core is for those considering a wide variety of applications for their degree (including lay ministry, deacon's orders, non-profit work, and secondary teaching) and who are seeking an all-around theological education in Church History, Biblical Studies, and Theology. M.T.S Focus, which creates greater curricular flexibility, is for students who have already had extensive theological preparation in their undergraduate coursework and who intend to apply for further academic study after completion of the M.T.S. 

Graduates have pursued studies at top universities including Duke University (Ph.D. and Th.D.), Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Chicago. Others have served in lay ministry positions in the church, non-profit management, academic publishing, counseling, and corporate and government consulting. The degree can also fulfill academic requirements for serving as a deacon in the United Methodist Church.

Spiritual Formation

Support for Christian Discipleship

M.T.S. students can opt to participate in spiritual formation groups during the first year of study along with M.Div. students. Spiritual formation creates a unique opportunity for students to support each other in prayer, fellowship, and community.

Mentoring for Doctoral Applications

Preparation for Further Study

Our M.T.S. degree program is a strong platform for students who plan to pursue further academic work. Our professors mentor students for the doctoral application process, providing support and feedback on research projects and support during the process. The M.T.S. program directors and cohort representatives hold various workshops to assist students in preparing for further graduate work.

Merit-Based Scholarships & Fellowships

Tuition Support

M.T.S. applicants are eligible to be considered for one of four Petry merit-based scholarships (100% tuition) and M.T.S. scholarships (22% tuition per year of study). Scholarships are awarded based on a combination of academic performance and promise for ministry. There is no separate application for scholarships. In addition, the Fellowship in Theology, Medicine and Culture offers three full-tuition scholarships for M.T.S. students. Learn more about the fellowship.

Our academically rigorous curriculum—enriched by vibrant worship, opportunities for spiritual formation, the close-knit student community, and mentoring for the doctoral application process—makes the M.T.S. a premier program for those seeking preparation for their ministry to the world in an intentional Christian community.


The M.T.S. program features a two-year curriculum that covers foundational areas of history, theology, and Scripture with the flexibility to pursue electives in one's area of interest. Students also complete a thesis under faculty direction during their final year.  View a sample two-year schedule (pdf).

The M.T.S Core curriculum requires the completion of 7 core courses and is appropriate for students seeking a wide variety careers, including lay ministry, teaching, and deacon's orders. The M.T.S Focus curriculum allows students with extensive theological preparation in their undergraduate studies to focus their course work in a specific area that aligns with faculty divisions (Historical Studies, Biblical Studies, Ministerial Studies, or Theology and Ethics). For both the M.T.S. Core and M.T.S. Focus programs, students will complete 16 courses and write a thesis.

Core courses include Old Testament, Church History, New Testament, Christian Theology, Christian Ethics, and Ministerial Studies. Students can choose from a wide variety of electives ranging from New Testament Exegesis, to Christianity and Race, to Restorative Justice and the Church.

Diaconal Ministry

Fulfills Academic Requirements for UMC Deacons

Our M.T.S. degree meets the academic requirements for ordination as a diaconal minister in the United Methodist Church when United Methodist doctrine and polity (Parish 777/778), as well as any additional requirements for ordination, are taken as electives. Interested students should consult with their Annual Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry for more information.

Dual Degree Option

Master of Theological Studies/Juris Doctor

Our combined four-year program in law and theology prepares you for ministries in a host of fields, such as advocacy for social justice issues and teaching. It also means you can graduate with degrees from both Duke Divinity and Duke Law in four years.

Certificates and Concentrations

Duke Divinity School currently offers three certificates that can be earned in the M.T.S. program. These certificates give students the opportunity to focus their coursework on a particular area of ministry or study.

Certificate in Anglican Studies
The Certificate in Anglican Studies is designed to serve the academic and formational requirements of those preparing for ministry—lay and especially ordained—in the Episcopal Church and other member churches of the Anglican Communion.

Certificate in Gender, Sexuality, Theology, and Ministry
The certificate in Gender, Sexuality, Theology, and Ministry is designed to offer opportunities to women and men to study gender and sexuality in the life of the church, in the Christian tradition, and in contemporary culture.

Certificate in Theology and the Arts
The Certificate in Theology and the Arts offers students firm grounding in the key theological loci and practices relevant to a lifetime’s engagement with the arts in the church, the university, and beyond.

Certificate in Theology, Medicine, and Culture
The Certificate in Theology, Medicine, and Culture will prepare Duke Divinity students for robust theological and practical engagement with contemporary practices in medicine and healthcare.

Application Information

Duke Divinity School accepts applications beginning in September and concluding with our third deadline on April 15. Our admissions requirements include demonstrated program goals commensurate with the M.T.S.  degree program, a commitment to some form of diaconal or lay ministry, and a minimum GPA of 3.25 in a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited college or university prior to the intended date of enrollment.

Application Deadlines

  • Early deadline: November 1
  • Priority deadline (to be considered for merit scholarships):  January 15
  • International applicant deadline:  January 15
  • Final deadline:  April 15
Application Checklist

1. Create an account

We will begin accepting fall 2020 applications in late August 2019 and will update this section when the application reopens. In the meantime, please join our mailing list if you have not already. The process for submitting an application will be largely unchanged for next year. Learn more about that process below. If you have additional questions, please reach out to our office via email: admissions@div.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.

Please upload .pdf documents

3. Add your recommender information

  • Three (3) letters of recommendation submitted through the online application system are required: 1 academic, 1 church, and 1 personal/character or additional academic or church.

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.

Please ask your recommenders to upload .pdf files.

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. 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 your chosen deadline.

5. Submit required supplemental documents by deadline

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
    • 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. 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 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
    • Three (3) letters of recommendation submitted through the online application system are required: 1 academic, 1 church, and 1 personal/character or additional academic or church.
    • 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.
  • Statement of Purpose
    A three-page essay describing (1) your goals for enrolling in the Master of Theological Studies program; (2) integrating your reflection on a theological book(s) that has helped to shape your theological imagination; and (3) how you understand your goals and development of theological imagination in relation to the mission of Duke Divinity School to prepare leaders for the church, academy, and world.
  • Writing Sample
    Submit a 4-6 page (1000-1500 words) academic writing sample, such as an essay or excerpt from an academic paper or article. Attention to theological themes is desired. Include the title of the writing sample and provide context if an excerpt.

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. EST 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. EST on the Monday after the deadline date.

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.\

Please ask your recommender to upload .pdf files.

  • 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

Financial Certification

Unlike many schools, Duke does not require financial support documents as part of the application; instead, students submit this information after they have been admitted and are enrolled in the program.  

Duke does not automatically issue I-20s to students upon admission.  Instead, students work with the department to submit information and supporting documents to Duke's Visa Services Office. The process is described below.

  • Upon accepting the offer of admission, a student will receive an email from our office with a User Name and password in order to complete the online Request for Temporary Visa Form - Part II.
  • The student completes the online form, prints it off, signs it, and returns it to our office, along with the appropriate supporting documents. 
  • Students must show liquid funds in the total amount listed in the PDF document available on our Tuition page.
  • Financial documents must be less than four months old.
  • Only after we receive everything from the student will our office complete Part I of the Request for Temporary Visa Form. At that time, the student’s entire packet will be sent to Duke Visa Services for processing.
  • Visa documents (I-20 or DS-2019) are usually issued within 2 calendar weeks from the date that Duke Visa Services received the completed packet.
  • Register for your visa appointment only after you receive your visa documents.

Those on non-Duke visas complete a modified process during the enrollment period.

Additional Requirements for Transfer Applicants

All transfer applicants are evaluated on the same basis as other applicants. However, students applying to transfer from another seminary or theological school must include the following:

  • Statement of Purpose
    Applicants must include an extra page in their essay that provides an explanation of and purpose for the proposed transfer.
  • Letter of recommendation
    A fourth letter of recommendation must submitted as part of the application, and it must be written by the director of field education or student life at the school from which the transfer is sought.

Please ask your recommender to upload .pdf files.

Graduation Requirements

The Master of Theological Studies program is normally completed in two years. Requirements for graduation are:

  • Sixteen courses (M.T.S Core - 7 required courses and 9 electives; M.T.S Focus 4 required courses and 12 electives) and four or more semesters of residency are required.
  • Thesis: Each student is required to write a paper that addresses the learnings or major emphases of the individual's program. The paper will be submitted within a course during the final semester, fulfilling the requirements of both the course and the degree program.
  • Student portfolio: All M.T.S. students are required to compile a portfolio consisting of certain papers with faculty feedback and student reflections. The portfolio serves to demonstrate the formation of the student in the areas of exegesis of Christian texts and the ability to think theologically.

Note: Participation in a spiritual formation group is strongly encouraged, though not required, for M.T.S. degree students.


We’re available to answer any questions you might have. 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.