PhD in Theology

Before You Apply

The PhD is the foundational degree program for teaching at a seminary, college, or university. The PhD in Theology, the highest degree offered by the School of Theology, prepares students for a vocation in theological teaching and scholarship in several ways:

  • Equipping them with the essential tools for high-level scholarship
  • Guiding them in a major research project in the area of their major concentration
  • Supporting the development of teaching skills

Students choose an area for major concentration:

  • Christian Ethics
  • Church History/Historical Theology
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Practical Theology
  • Theology (Systematic Theology)
  • Theology and Culture
  • Worship and Preaching

Graduates of the PhD in theology program should evidence the following:

  • A comprehensive knowledge of the discipline of their study
  • Research skills appropriate to their area of study, sufficient to engage in original research and writing that advances theological understanding in the service of the church, academy, and/or society
  • Critical reflection on the vocation of theological scholarship, particularly with regard to teaching and learning, and research
  • Capacities for the cultivation of theologically reflective practices of Christian discipleship
  • Sympathetic and respectful understanding of positions held by diverse scholars

Prerequisites for the PhD:

  • Applicants must have an MDiv or equivalent, or an MA degree similar to Fuller’s MA in Theology with a Biblical Studies emphasis, from an institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, with an overall GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • PhD applicants should be competent in the biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew. Language competency is demonstrated through the successful completion of at least 8 quarter units (6 semester credits) of coursework in each language. If PhD applicants have not yet reached this level, they must demonstrate competence within the first year of the PhD program.
  • During the PhD program, students will need to acquire skills in up to three research languages, as needed for their concentration. It is highly recommended that applicants begin their study of research languages prior to beginning the program.
  • Applicants to the PhD program must have taken the Graduate Record Examination ( GRE) up to five years preceding the application date. Preference is given to those whose verbal score is in excess of 160 and analytical writing score in excess of 5.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must provide an official record of scores earned on the Test of English as a Foreign Language ( TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System ( IELTS). Only test scores earned within two years preceding the submission date of the applicant's current application are acceptable. TOEFL overall scores of at least 100 (Internet-based) or 600 (paper), or IELTS overall scores of 7.0 meet the minimum English language entrance requirements.
  • Admission and the allocation of fellowship money is determined in part on the basis of the applicant’s submission of a major writing sample, ca. 7000-10,000 words, completed within three years of the time of applying, in the field of proposed study. This essay will be evaluated in terms of clarity of its thesis, ability to sustain an argument, critical engagement with pertinent primary and secondary sources, and professional presentation.
  • Applicants wishing to have their transcripts evaluated officially should contact the Office of Admissions for details.
  • Applications and all required documentation must be received by Fuller’s Office of Admissions by January 2.

Academic Information

The PhD is awarded upon successful completion of the following:

  • Research language requirements (or their equivalent, in some concentrations)
  • 72 quarter units of doctoral-level coursework (seminars or directed readings)
  • Comprehensive examinations
  • A dissertation proposal
  • A scholarly dissertation based on research in the major concentration area

Although each concentration has specific requirements, a typical program includes these components:

Stage One of the PhD program consists of 42 units of seminars and directed readings, including a methods seminar or foundational course in the student’s concentration. After 42 units have been completed, students will take four comprehensive examinations. Students who pass the comprehensive examinations will become candidates and move into Stage Two.

Stage Two of the PhD program consists of completing another 30 units of seminars and/or directed readings, related to dissertation research and writing. Students will pass a dissertation proposal and write a dissertation demonstrating knowledge of field research, evidence of independent research, an original contribution to the field, and appropriate presentation and format.

  • Students will have a primary mentor under whom they design their 72-unit program of seminars and directed readings.
  • Faculty in each field may require a minor concentration; in fields that do not require a minor concentration, students may choose their own minor concentration, in which they may take no more than 18 units.
  • The PhD program requires that students spend at least two years in full-time study on the Pasadena campus. Part-time students must complete at least six 6-unit seminars and/or directed readings on the Pasadena campus.

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Pasadena, CA 91182