Doctor of Theology (ThD)

The ThD degree program is offered to students wishing to enhance their knowledge and competence in research, teaching, and service in certain advanced areas of theology and ministry. It has a strong academic specialization, which integrates a major discipline with a minor discipline, making it distinct from the DMin (a professional doctorate) and from many PhDs that focus on one discipline. Like the PhD, the ThD is a rigorous academic research degree. However, unlike the PhD—which positions research in the arts, sciences, and humanities more generally—the ThD positions that research more particularly in the theological disciplines while integrating a major and a minor discipline and the concerns of the church.

The ThD program has an interdisciplinary design based on one major discipline (eight courses) and one minor discipline (four courses). The major and minor disciplines are integrated in a particular theme or program; an adequate rationale for this integration, particularly in terms of the applicant’s vocation, must be included in the personal statement of the application.


ThD admissions are made not to the degree program in a general sense, but to the major and minor disciplines noted on the application. The student’s major and minor selections must be sufficiently distinct so that the proposed integration can be significant.

A request to change the major discipline within the ThD 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 ThD 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 ThD program in the Spring Semester.

Please note that all applicants to the ThD 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.

Major and Minor Disciplines

ThD Major Disciplines, by Area

The following disciplines are eligible for majors.

Area A: Biblical & Historical Studies

  • Church history
  • Mission studies (see below for joint program in missiology with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)
  • New testament
  • Hebrew scripture

Area B: Philosophy, Theology & Ethics

  • Social and theological ethics
  • Theology

Area C: Religion, Culture & Personality

  • Pastoral psychology

Area D: Ministry in Church & Society

  • Liturgical studies

Minor Disciplines

All of the above major disciplines are offered as minor disciplines as well. The following fields are offered only as minor disciplines:

  • Evangelism
  • Homiletics
  • Pastoral theology
  • Psychology of religion
  • Religious education
  • Sacred music
  • Sociology of religion
  • Spirituality

Assignment of Major and Minor Professors: Each candidate shall have two advisors appointed to them at the time of admission by the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs: one professor in the major discipline and one professor in the minor discipline. These advisors will assist the student in selecting courses and satisfying degree requirements within the time frames established by the Advanced Studies Committee of the School of Theology.

ThD Curriculum Requirements

The program requires a minimum of 12 courses, including eight in a major discipline and four in a minor discipline, for a total of 48 credits. At least three courses in the major and one in the minor must be at the 900 level (these requirements may not be satisfied by directed study courses except by approved petition to the Advanced Studies Committee). Of the eight-course major, at least five courses must be taken at the School of Theology or in related departments of the University; of the four-course minor, at least three courses must be taken at the School of Theology or in related University departments. Students must be registered as full time (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.

Required Colloquia: In addition to required coursework, all entering ThD 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.

Academic Requirements

No grade lower than B is acceptable for use in satisfying the requirements for the Doctor of Theology. 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.

Doctoral colloquia and courses taken to meet language requirements do not count toward the required coursework for the ThD. In addition, undergraduate and 700-level courses will not count toward the required coursework for the ThD.

The time limit for the degree program is seven years (14 semesters).

For a full list of requirements of the ThD degree, please see the ThD handbook.

Financial Aid

For information on financial aid for the Doctor of Theology program, please see 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 ThD and 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 list of full 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 function effectively as mentors for the doctoral interns under their supervision.

Teacher Training

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. Please see the ThD Handbook for more information.

Joint ThD Program in Missiology with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Since 2007, the BU School of Theology and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary have collaborated to offer a joint Doctor of Theology program in missiology. This program combines the Boston University School of Theology’s broad academic resources as a mainline theological institution with a respected university-based doctoral degree and Gordon-Conwell’s recognized faculty, research facilities, and worldwide contacts as one of the largest evangelical seminaries in North America. Gordon-Conwell resources for doctoral students include faculty in missiology, apologetics, theology, and church history. Its extensive library holdings at its three campuses in South Hamilton and Boston, Massachusetts, and Charlotte, North Carolina, include the urbanology collection of its multicultural, multiethnic campus in inner-city Boston, the Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell, with the research strengths of internationally recognized statisticians Drs. David Barrett and Todd Johnson, editors of the World Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford University Press), serves as a resource for the study and understanding of Christianity internationally. The J. Christy Wilson, Jr. Center for World Missions offers lectures, events, overseas missions opportunities for students, and resources for missions scholars-in-residence.

About the Program

The missiology departments at Boston University School of Theology and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary enjoy a close working relationship. This relationship benefits students who study missiology in either school, as they can utilize the academic resources of both institutions. A result of this collaboration is the Doctor of Theology program in missiology offered jointly by the Boston University School of Theology and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Although the program is fully administered through the School of Theology and offers a Boston University degree at its completion, students in the joint ThD program in missiology may have doctoral advisors from either institution. Library and classroom resources are also shared.

The following professors are approved core faculty for the program:

From Gordon-Conwell: Jack Davis, Todd Johnson, Peter Kuzmič, Garth Rosell, and Kevin Xiyi Yao.

From Boston University: John Berthrong, Dana Robert, and Bryan Stone.

Application Procedures

All applications for the joint ThD program should be made through Boston University School of Theology, which handles all aspects of the application process. See the application section of the STH website to access the STH online application. The description above for the ThD is also the basic description for the joint doctoral program, so applicants should apply answering the requirements for that program. There is one additional essay required for the application to the joint doctoral program, as follows:

  • What are your specific interests in the proposed degree program? Applicants should include a request for both a major and a minor discipline, with a description of what you wish to study in each discipline and how you see the relationship between the two.

Applicants can get to know the approved professors from Gordon-Conwell via the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary website. Applicants should consider their research interests and, in their additional essay question, express a preference for the Gordon-Conwell professor with whom they would like to work. As part of the application process, applicants may be requested to have an admissions interview with one of the designated faculty from Boston University. This interview may be conducted in person, by Skype, or by telephone (although in-person or Skype interviews are preferred). Faculty from both institutions must approve an application before that person is offered admission to the program. However, applicants need only apply once, to Boston University School of Theology, and its Admissions Office will coordinate the process between the two schools.


There are 12 courses in the joint ThD curriculum. The six required courses are as follows:

  • History of Christian Mission: This course will cover the chronology and historiography of Christian mission, as well as introduce students to methods and primary sources for historical research.
  • History of Missiology: This course surveys the history of the Protestant mission thought from the pietists and the Puritans through the mid-twentieth century.
  • Contemporary Missiology: This course covers key texts by major missiologists from the mid-twentieth century to the present.
  • Anthropology and Missions: This course introduces students to the methodologies of applied anthropology and case studies of missions in social context.
  • Theology of Mission: This course proceeds systematically through theological perspectives on mission studies.
  • Theologies of Dialogue: This course introduces students to theological perspectives on the encounter of Christianity with other religions.

The other six courses will be selected by the student according to his/her plan of study, in consultation with the faculty advisors. The student must take at least four courses from each institution.