Online PhD in Divinity / Divinitatis

Divinity/divinitatis PhD programs are typically composed of advanced studies in theology, biblical history, and Christian ministry. Many students pursuing a PhD in divinity/divinitatis do so in order to achieve the highest level of academic and scholarly education in religious studies. Through Ph.D. studies, a doctoral degree in divinity/divinitatis prepares candidates for teaching and leadership positions, and can also enhance their existing ministry practice. This doctorate is well-suited to those aspiring to be leaders, researchers, teachers, pastors, or missionaries in the modern age of Christianity.

The curriculum of a PhD program in divinity/divinitatis integrates biblical study and interpretation as well as an in-depth history of Christianity and theology. Doctoral-level course work is approached from an academic perspective, emphasizing the ability to not only understand Christianity but also to place it historically in the context of global religion. Practicing ministers and professional religious scholars have the option of completing this degree to enhance their skills and/or improve the effectiveness of their ministry. To focus their efforts during the Ph.D. program, students will select a concentration within this field, such as biblical studies, religions in America, or religions and literature, for example. Students are usually required to present a dissertation to support their specialized research, as well as meet various program requirements to graduate.

About Online PhD Programs in Divinity/Divinitatis

For PhD programs in divinity/divinitatis, a curriculum involving both academic religious studies and interactive social discourse is important. The best Ph.D. programs in this field teach candidates how to be effective leaders, communicate powerfully, and unite communities, so practice through social interaction is essential. Although there are minimal on-campus requirements, many colleges and universities offer online hybrid options for the PhD in divinity/divinitatis. Regent University features a Ph.D. in Renewal Studies, with concentrations available in biblical studies, history of global Christianity, or Christian theology. Through this program, students are able to take some courses online, in combination with a with a one-week residency per semester and select on-campus requirements. Sample courses from Regent University’s curriculum are below:

Year One:

  • Renewal Studies and the Academy. This course addresses religious methodologies by introducing a brief history of Renewal Studies within the wider theological academy, and also explains how these methodologies relate to biblical studies, the history of global Christianity, and trends in theology.
  • Renewal Theological Method. Through this class, students explore the question of Christian theological method and hermeneutics, with an emphasis on distinctively “renewal” approaches to theological research, and also investigate the nature of religious identities, including renewal, Christian, and other faiths.
  • Systematic Theology. This elective course focuses on a pneumatological approach to traditional theology, exploring the Trinity, creation, Christ, soteriology, pneumatolology, and ecclesiology.

Year Two:

  • Advanced Research Methodologies. Students learn the contemporary conventions of advanced academic research and communication, and are also introduced to new methods for gathering, organizing and critically examining data in this course.
  • Eastern Christianity. Through this elective, students embark on a historical and topical study of Eastern Christianity, emphasizing doctrine and spirituality, including Armenian, Assyrian (Nestorian), Coptic, Ethiopic, Maronite, Melkite, Orthodox, Syrian, and Uniate churches.
  • Guided Research in Biblical Studies, History, or Theology. With guidance and pre-approval from their instructor or advisor, students research of a topic of interest related to their dissertation.

The dissertation marks the conclusion of intensive research for the Ph.D. candidate. As part of the dissertation process, doctoral divinity/divinitatis students organize a formal presentation of their original research in the subject area of their choice. Typically, divinity doctorates are awarded to Ph.D. candidates after they have presented their dissertation, as well as addressed any additional exams, interviews, residencies, or program-specific course work that may be required.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Divinity/Divinitatis

As religious beliefs are personal and can seem quite controversial, pursuing a higher education in divinity may not yet be a widely accepted academic prospect. Since this fairly young hybrid field of theology and ministry studies can be called different names, depending on the institution, some students might find it hard to be sure what they will be studying. The course work involved in this field requires determination, dedication, and often requires a lifetime of service or answering a higher calling. Some students may question whether they have the divine inspiration to earn this degree, and whether the career they aspire to in this industry would even require a doctorate.

In fact, these days getting a PhD in divinity/divinitatis can be a lucrative career move. With a doctoral degree you can be sure you’re among top qualified religious workers, and find work in a variety of professional environments, including ministries and places of worship, schools and child care facilities, hospitals and health care facilities, civic and social organizations, and even local government. Graduates of a divinity/divinitatis Ph.D. program are also eligible for graduate-level teaching careers in religious studies at colleges and universities. Post secondary teachers brought in an average annual salary of $ 62,050 in May 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the requirements for a divinity/divinitatis doctorate may command endurance, this degree can open the door to the highest order of spiritual career opportunities.

Application & Admission Requirements

PhDs in divinity/divinitatis require prerequisites to gain entry into the doctoral program. Depending on the granting institution, programs typically require a master’s degree in divinity or a related religious studies program, as well as a minimum amount of residency experience. In addition, students are often asked to learn foreign languages to interpret old-world religious texts, and submit a proposed plan of study before beginning their doctoral research. Doctorates usually require an extensive application process, including evaluation of previous transcripts and GPA, as well as academic goals for the student’s future course of study.

Career Options & Job Market

While a doctorate in divinity/divinitatis provides diverse career potential, degree qualifications vary from one occupation to the next. Divinity Ph.D. graduates can hold positions as pastors, ministers, religious studies counselors, spiritual counselors, or Christian studies counselors, among others. Graduates are also qualified to teach divinity studies or religious studies in colleges and universities, as doctorates are required for post secondary professors at this level. While exact occupational details of religious workers are unspecified, post secondary teachers made a mean annual salary of $62,050 in May 2010, and jobs in this field are expected to increase 17% by 2020, according to the BLS.

Where to Find Information

  • Harvard Divinity School Established in 1816 as the first nonsectarian theological institution in the U.S., HDS aims to be a primary resource in religious and theological studies for all denominations in the global community.
  • Seminary.com Seminary.com is an extension of the Christian Globe Network (www.cgn.org) which helps provide clergy and religious workers with the best resources for ministry and leadership.
  • Yale Divinity School Through partnerships with Yale University of Sacred Music and Berkeley Divinity School, YDS caters to a variety of students from all Christian denominations and faiths to help them begin a lifetime of ministry and service.

How to Get Funding

Divinity/divinitatis students should explore their federal aid options first, by submitting the FAFSA application according to the national deadline. In addition to possibly qualifying for federal student aid, students should also seek state-funded education funding, whenever possible. Many federal government aid websites feature individual funding organizations and programs, listed by state. Students can also research college-specific and program-specific grants, loans, and work-study financial aid programs. Various merit-based and need-based scholarships are also available.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. At $20,500 max, and with only 6.8% fixed interest per year, Ph.D. students can get low-interest loans through this financial aid program.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. This loan features an average of $3,500 per academic year and an interest rate of only 5%, and is applied only to full-time students with a requisite need for financial aid.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Most schools fully participate in all available federally regulated aid programs, even though they typically manage their own campus-based programs individually.

Essential Advice

  • Carefully make up your mind. Think it through to make sure you are willing to devote yourself to the doctorate process. You’ll know if you feel secure in your decision. You should be able to see how the long-term benefits will justify the initial hard work. You may want to poll other doctoral students for their opinions.
  • Go ahead and start the application. It took a while just to get to the starting point, and you’re about to enter into the lengthy application process. You’ll be thankful you got started on the application early, further down the road.
  • Look for work experience opportunities. Going from a master’s degree straight into doctoral studies may be overwhelming. You’re allowed to take a break by changing it up for a while. Consider getting in some professional experience first, then decide whether you will go back to academia.
  • Explore financing for your extended education. As if deciding to get your doctorate wasn’t stressful enough, you have money to worry about. At least you can make this prospect less harrowing by organizing your financial aid options before you embark on your degree.