Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology (PhD)
The PhD degree program is offered to students wishing to enhance their knowledge and competence in teaching and research in practical theology, understood as the theologically positioned, interdisciplinary study of the practices of religious communities and of the traditions and social contexts that shape and challenge those practices.
In studying the practices of religious communities, the doctoral program in practical theology is designed to prepare students to understand and assess the contemporary situation, to reflect historically and systematically on the church’s embodied witness of faith in that situation, and to develop faithful and effective strategies for Christian practice in that situation. This preparation, while it has a common structure and an ecclesiological center, emphasizes the particularity of context and requires a diversity in focus that requires strong interdisciplinary skills and a highly integrative acumen. The full text of the PhD Handbook may be found in the Advanced Studies section of the STH website.
PhD admissions are made not only to the degree program but to a particular concentration, as noted in the application. A request to change the concentration after admission to the program is tantamount to a new application and requires both:
- a detailed petition from the student justifying the request; and
- a signed statement from the potential new major advisor consenting to take the student as an advisee.
These items should be collated and sent to the Director of Admissions, who will then bring the request before the Advanced Studies Committee (ASC) on the applicant’s behalf. Such requests will be evaluated by the ASC after reviewing the student’s record in graduate work undertaken to date.
Applicants must have the MDiv or an equivalent degree. Applicants holding the MRE, MTS, or an equivalent two-year degree may be considered for admission on the basis of that degree; however, admission will only be granted if the applicant holding a two-year master’s degree also has an undergraduate degree in religious/theological studies, a second-level one-year master’s degree such as the STM or ThM, or significant professional experience in a related field. When admitted, applicants holding a two-year master’s degree may be required to complete additional specified prerequisites as part of the PhD curriculum. Graduate academic work with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 is required.
Those who wish to be considered must complete the application by December 15 for admission the following fall. There are no admissions to the PhD program in the Spring Semester.
Please note that all applicants to the PhD program must include a valid GRE score as part of their application. No exceptions will be made for international students or for students who have successfully completed a doctorate in another field. International students for whom English is not a native language must submit both a valid GRE score and a valid TOEFL score to complete their applications.
Refer to the Admissions section of the School of Theology (STH) website for specific application instructions.
Current approved concentrations within the Practical Theology PhD program include:
- Liturgical studies
- Mission and evangelism
- Pastoral theology
- Church and society
- Congregational studies
- Religious education
- Church leadership and administration
In the admissions process, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will assign each student a faculty core advisor who will assist the student in preparing for the core exam and orienting the student to the discipline of Practical Theology throughout his or her coursework. The Associate Dean will also assign each student a faculty concentration advisor within the concentration the student has chosen. These advisors will assist the student in selecting courses and satisfying degree requirements within the time frames established by the ASC of the School of Theology.
Students may request a change of advisor within their concentration with the consent of the new advisor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs attested on a signed form submitted to the ASC Office.
PhD Curriculum Requirements
A minimum of 12 courses, including:
- Three core seminars: Proseminar in Practical Theology; Ecclesiology; and Advanced Research in Practical Theology
- Six courses in the concentration
- Three courses from cognate disciplines or electives with advisor’s approval and guidance
- A maximum of four courses may be taken at institutions other than Boston University.
- One must be registered as a full-time student (12 or more credits) to be charged STH tuition rates; part-time students pay the tuition rate of the school in which the course originates.
- The time limit for the degree program is seven years (14 semesters). For more information regarding degree deadlines for PhD students, please consult the PhD Handbook.
Required Colloquia: In addition to required coursework, all entering PhD students must take the yearlong doctoral colloquia TF 901 (Fall) and TF 902 (Spring) as a way of preparing for doctoral-level research, teaching internships, and a career in teaching. The colloquia are graded Pass/Fail and cover the following topics:
- Research methods
- Teacher training
- Professional identity
The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Office coordinates the colloquia, with oversight by the ASC, and faculty members take turns facilitating the colloquia annually.
For information on financial aid for the Doctor of Philosophy program, please consult the School of Theology’s tuition and financial aid website.
Doctoral Teaching and Research Internships Program (DTRIP)
The School of Theology provides a teaching and research internship program for all incoming PhD students that orients these degree programs toward a teacher training, research training, and mentoring model.
The DTRIP program requires all doctoral students to accept one research internship, one junior teaching internship, and one senior teaching internship during their degree program and prior to graduating. For a full list of requirements and information on the DTRIP, please see the DTRIP handbook.
Faculty Mentoring and Evaluation of Students
Faculty members who mentor doctoral interns are responsible for providing an evaluation of the intern during and at the conclusion of each assignment. Periodic seminars and workshops will be offered to help faculty to better function effectively as mentors for doctoral interns under their supervision.
As mentioned above, the internship program requires all incoming doctoral students to participate in research and teacher training colloquia offered annually by the STH faculty. See the PhD Handbook for more information.
- No grade lower than B is acceptable for use in satisfying the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy. An automatic academic review occurs if a student receives a grade lower than B. The 12 required courses may not be taken on a Pass/Fail basis but must receive a letter grade. Two grades lower than B are grounds for termination from the degree program.
- Coursework for the degree must contain at least four 900-level courses. (These requirements may not be satisfied by directed study courses except by approved petition to the Advanced Studies Committee.)
- A maximum of four of the 12 courses may be taken at institutions other than Boston University, and these must be approved in advance by both advisors.
- Doctoral colloquia and courses taken to meet language requirements do not count toward the required coursework for the PhD. In addition, undergraduate and 700-level courses will not count toward the required coursework for the PhD.
For a full list of requirements of the PhD degree, please see the PhD handbook.