The Ph.D. Program is a rigorous, focused course of study that prepares individuals of exceptional academic ability for careers in teaching, research, and writing and for various roles of leadership such as pastoral ministry, chaplaincy, or denominational leadership.
The Ph.D. Program helps students gain expertise in one of the disciplines taught by the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ph.D. study requires a high degree of originality, independence, analytical research in both biblical and non-biblical languages, judgment, and skill in articulating research findings, resulting in each student significantly contributing to a particular field. Students enrolled in the program follow the current Doctor of Philosophy Handbook, which is also provided by the Research Doctoral Studies Office.
Applicants must hold a master’s degree in their intended area of study from a regionally accredited college, university, or seminary. Acceptable degrees for entrance into the Ph.D. program include the Master of Theology (Th.M.) and the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or, for the SCMW, a Master of Music (MM). The Master of Arts (MA) may be acceptable for some majors depending on the overall content of the degree curriculum. When possible, the school will offer opportunities for otherwise-qualified applicants who do not have the required prerequisite degree equivalency through additional studies. This option is available solely at the discretion of the RDS Director in conjunction with the appropriate Dean and the Registrar to determine the necessary coursework.
Generally, applicants must have at least two transcripted semesters of biblical Greek and biblical Hebrew (though some departments require more). In the School of Educational Ministries, Greek and Hebrew may serve as research languages to be acquired during the seminar stage.
Applicants with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher in graduate studies in Bible and theology will be well-qualified for the limited spaces available in the program. Applicants with a grade point average below a 3.3 will normally be requested to take additional graduate courses to demonstrate academic ability before being considered for the program.
*All Church History and Historical Theology majors must choose one of the following specializations in lieu of a minor:
For all programs, faculty availability and specializations determine seminar offerings and dissertation supervision.
Students who minor in a discipline must complete the comprehensive bibliography, reading and research seminars in the minor, and the comprehensive exam in their minor area.
Application for admission to the Ph.D. program is made through the Admissions Office.
Students should confirm that the Office of Admissions has official transcripts for all courses taken at the undergraduate or graduate level.
International applicants must submit their transcripts to SpanTran (http://www.spantran.com) for evaluation. Spantran sends results directly to the RDS Office.
Each applicant must submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam Standard Examination (GRE). The GRE should be taken at least four months prior to the SWBTS Ph.D. entrance examination and must have been taken no more than five years prior to applying for admission to Southwestern’s Ph.D. program. Applicants must take the GRE at a testing center since Southwestern Seminary does not administer the GRE. Current GRE testing sites are listed at www.ets.or. Each applicant must take the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing portions of the General Test.
If ten years have passed since an applicant finished his or her most recent coursework, he or she may contact the RDS Office for permission to submit the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) score in lieu of the GRE.
International applicants must submit scores either from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or DuoLingo English Test (DET). For the TOEFL, a minimum score of 100 on the internet-based test or 250 on the computer-based test is required. Students who complete the computer-based TOEFL must also complete the TSE (Test of Spoken English). For the DET, a score of 120 is required.
Each applicant must submit a research paper (4000-6000 words) on a subject in the student’s chosen major. The form and style should follow the most recent edition of the Turabian Manual for Writers. In matters not addressed by Turabian, the paper should adhere to the most recent edition of (1) The Chicago Manual of Style or (2) The SBL Handbook of Style.
In addition to the general admissions requirements, each applicant must provide two confidential academic references from former graduate-level professors. These forms must be submitted by the recommenders electronically to the Office of Admissions.
Applicants who submit their application (including all supporting materials) by the deadline may be invited to sit for an entrance examination and attend an interview. The entrance examination probes the applicants’ knowledge in the chose major field and tests the ability to organize and express thoughts logically and clearly. These examinations have a two-hour time allotment. Applicants invited to sit for the entrance examination will be notified by the RDS Office of relevant details. Study aids for these examinations are available from the RDS Office.
Likewise, the RDS Office will facilitate entrance interviews to be conducted by professors in the applicant’s chosen major. On rare occasions, the faculty of the applicant’s minor area of study may also wish to conduct an interview.
Ph.D. admission represents a competitive process whereby the most qualified applicants receive an invitation to enter the Ph.D. program. Admission to the Ph.D. program does not rest on a single factor, but on the strength of the entire portfolio, demonstrating readiness for Ph.D. work. Ph.D. program faculty in the applicant’s major and the Director for the Research Doctoral Programs evaluate the applicant’s fitness for doctoral studies. Students will be notified by mail after taking the entrance examinations whether they have been accepted into the Ph.D. program.
After all admissions materials have been compiled, the Department Chair meets with all faculty supervisors in the applicant’s major. After carefully reviewing all documents in an applicant’s portfolio, faculty supervisors in the student’s major field make admission recommendations to the Director for the Research Doctoral Programs.
Applicants denied admission to the Ph.D. program may reapply only once. All application materials are confidential. The Director for the Research Doctoral Programs and faculty have no obligation to divulge information regarding admission decisions.
Admitted Ph.D. students may defer their admission one year without being required to reapply to the Ph.D. program.
Once accepted into the Ph.D. program, a student may not change the major field. Students desiring to pursue a different major must reapply to the Ph.D. program.
Each program requires students to demonstrate competency in at least two research languages and determines its own specific research language competencies. Research Languages should be chosen under the guidance of the student’s supervisor. English may not serve as one of the two research languages, nor may any native language that does not directly pertain to the student’s area of research.
All RDS students will choose their research language competencies in consultation with their supervisors. For example, students may be required to demonstrate competency in biblical languages, German, French, Latin, Logic, **statistics, music theory, or the International Phonetic Alphabet, depending on their chosen field of study.
**To meet this requirement, students must show proficiency in Modal, Symbolic, and Quantification Logic. Critical Thinking, or an equivalent introductory class in Logic, is a prerequisite for Intermediate Logic.
Incoming students who are missionaries may petition their supervisor and the RDS Director to use an appropriate language from their mission field as a research language, provided that the language will serve as a research tool during doctoral studies. Language substitution petitions require the approval of the supervisor and the RDS Director.
Ph.D. program minors do not require additional language competencies.
The seminar sequence varies by School. Students must complete all seminars prior to taking comprehensive exams (with the possible exception of the Teaching in Higher Education Seminar). Students must successfully complete their comprehensive exams before submitting a dissertation prospectus.
See the relevant subsections below for lists of seminar requirements, and then refer also to the recommended seminar sequence forms in the RDS Handbook Appendices.
It is recommended that the student seek advisement from the Supervisory Committee for the selection of all seminars.
Faculty availability and specializations determine seminar offerings.
Students in the School of Theology or the Fish School of Evangelism & Missions must complete the following courses:
*All Ph.D. students must attend three years of the Ph.D. Orientation in the Fall semester.
**The Teaching in Higher Education Seminar (two hours) falls at the conclusion of the seminar stage. This seminar introduces the standard organization and policies at institutions of high education.
Students in the School of Educational Ministries must complete the following courses:
Students in the School of Church Music and Worship must complete the following courses:
Oral Comprehensive examinations require mastery of the field bibliographies distributed at the beginning of the student’s program. The major and minor supervisors may make minimal alterations to their respective bibliographies throughout the seminar stage, but no later than four months prior to the comprehensive examinations. Any change to a comprehensive bibliography must be communicated both to the student and to the Ph.D. office in writing.
The Ph.D. dissertation must argue for a clearly articulated thesis which constitutes a contribution to scholarship in its field. It should demonstrate the candidate’s ability to design a viable research project, pursue the research in relative independence, and write with clarity and force.
Southwestern Seminary offers a “flex” approach for distance Ph.D. students to access reading and research seminars with synchronous flexibility. Whereas traditional online education is an asynchronous learning experience in which the student reads and views materials that have been posted for a class, virtual flex access is synchronous participation in a live classroom experience. The virtual student is “present” audibly and visually in the classroom with students who are physically present. The educational experience, in presentation and discussion, takes place in real time. Students wanting to attend reading and/or research seminars through the flexible access option must obtain the written approval of their major and minor supervisors (through the registration form) and submit this written approval to the Ph.D. office for registration purposes. The Association of Theological Schools has given Southwestern approval to offer Ph.D. flex access.
International students, may eligible to participate in curricular practical training (CPT) as a part of their Ph.D. curriculum. In order to qualify for this opportunity, international students must register for the CPT Track. This Track includes specific course work designed to complement both educational and vocational goals and to prepare students for ministry beyond their Ph.D. studies. Interested students should complete an application through the International Student Services office.
If an applicant to Southwestern’s Ph.D. program has earned an accredited Ph.D. from another institution in a theological field of study other than that for which he is applying, academic credit for that subject may be granted to the student as having met the seminary’s requirement of having to complete a minor field of study in the Ph.D. program for which he is applying.
For additional information about Ph.D. studies, please contact the RDS office:
Southwestern Baptist Theological SeminaryP.O. Box 22448Fort Worth, TX 76122-0448RDS@swbts.edu817-923-1921, ext. 4650