Doctor of Philosophy in Pastoral Theology

Doctor of Philosophy in Pastoral Theology programs teach students about the Bible and theological interpretations. Keep reading to find out more about the admissions requirements and online options. Also, check out common courses in these programs, career options and job and salary information. Schools offering Liberal Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What are the Admissions and Academic Requirements for a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology?

Admissions requirements for most Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Pastoral Theology programs include a Master of Divinity from an accredited university. Some schools require that students undergo a background check. Generally, you must have professional pastoral experience and letters of recommendation from people who have seen your potential for church leadership. You may also need to complete an admissions interview with a faculty member. Other prerequisites can include comprehension of a Biblical language, such as Greek or Hebrew.

Common PrerequisitesMaster's degree, background check, professional pastoral experience, letters of recommendation, comprehension of a Biblical language
Online OptionsDoctoral programs in pastoral theology online are rare, but related programs can be found
Program OverviewCore courses include theological interpretations, pastoral theology and research; heavily research-based; teaches ability to lead a congregation
Career OptionsChurch pastor or counselor, teach at college level, conduct theological research
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% growth (for all clergy)*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $48,990 (for all clergy)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Do Online Programs Exist?

Online programs in Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology are very rare, although some schools do offer related online programs, like theology, and make certain courses available online. Some courses are hybrids that combine online learning with some on-campus work. Other courses are available entirely online, so you can turn in work, complete assignments, conduct research and interact with classmates over the Internet. Programs may also feature intensive online courses that allow students to complete the class within a few weeks.

What Courses Will I Take?

The program is a 40-60 credit program, depending on the track you choose. You will take core courses in the Bible, theological interpretations, research, teaching, pastoral theology and church history. Other program requirements may include:

  • Conducting theological research in a Biblical language
  • Taking comprehensive exams in research methods, pastoral theology and Biblical languages
  • Researching, writing and presenting an original dissertation

Although a major portion of this program is research-based, there are still a number of courses that you will have to take. These include the core courses, which are based in theology, and also courses that cover the history of religion and the church. Through these courses, you should gain the ability to lead a congregation through tough theological questions. You will also learn to present your teachings so that the average person can understand them. Courses can include:

  • Pastoral practice and sexuality
  • Health and justice in the community
  • Providing care to the elderly
  • Counseling couples and families
  • Pastoral theology
  • Guilt, shame and forgiveness

How Can I Use This Degree?

With a Ph.D. in pastoral theology, you can become a pastor of a church, which typically involves preparing weekly sermons, organizing Bible studies and visiting the sick and elderly in your church community. You may also be responsible for marrying people and providing premarital or marital counseling. You could also become a church counselor and aid members of a congregation in a therapeutic manner. After obtaining a doctorate degree, you can teach at the college level or, if it interests you, continue working in theological research.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, clergy are projected to see a 8% growth in employment from 2016-2026. The median annual salary of these workers was $48,990 in May 2018.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Yeshivath Zichron Moshe

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: South Fallsburgh
  • Yeshiva Toras Chaim Talmudical Seminary

    Campus Locations:

    • Colorado: Denver
  • Yeshiva Derech Chaim

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: Brooklyn
  • Yale University

    Campus Locations:

    • Connecticut: New Haven
  • World Mission University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Los Angeles
  • Winebrenner Theological Seminary

    Campus Locations:

    • Ohio: Findlay
  • Westminster Theological Seminary

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Glenside
  • Western Theological Seminary

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: Holland
  • Western Seminary

    Campus Locations:

    • Oregon: Portland
  • Wesley Theological Seminary

    Campus Locations:

    • Columbia (D.C.): Washington