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Doctor of Divinity: Degree Program Information

A Doctor of Divinity is an honorary degree and not a typical doctoral program open for student enrollment. However, a traditional doctoral program in divinity, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Divinity, can provide scholars with advanced knowledge and expertise in a particular aspect of religious studies. This program is most often taken by aspiring professors.

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Doctor of Philosophy in Divinity

Rather than being a traditional degree program open for enrollment, a Doctor of Divinity is instead an honorary degree bestowed upon individuals who have devoted their lives to theological pursuits or community betterment. It is most typically offered by theological seminaries or universities with theology departments.

On the other hand, a doctoral program in divinity and religious studies is designed to prepare students for positions related to teaching and research in the field. Most Ph.D. programs in divinity take between 5-7 years to complete, are heavy on individualized research hours and require the completion of a publishable dissertation. Students can also earn a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) to learn how to apply theological teachings to religious communities.

The majority of universities offering doctoral programs in divinity require students to select a particular topic on which to exclusively study, such as philosophy of religions, religious ethics, history of Christianity or history of Judaism. Students are expected to exhaustively research a particular religious topic and create a dissertation that explores new or unexamined ideas in the field. Doctoral students often work very closely with university professors and committee members to determine that their research and dissertation stay on the right track up until graduation.

Education Prerequisites

Aspiring doctoral students are most often required to complete a bachelor's and a master's degree program in divinity, history, religious studies or a similar field before they apply. Many schools also require Ph.D. students studying divinity to display reading competence in at least two languages other than English. Students should also submit documents explaining their proposed plan of study and have that plan approved by a university committee.

Program Coursework

The courses found within a doctoral degree program in divinity can vary greatly depending on which academic track a student is interested in pursuing. However, there are some common seminar topics that might apply to doctoral students in such a program, including:

  • Theology and philosophy
  • Religious ethics
  • Introduction to Judaic civilization
  • Elementary Hebrew
  • Gospel studies
  • History of Christian thought
  • Modern Christianity in America
  • Sociology of religion
  • Religious ideologies and utopias

Popular Career Options

The majority of students who graduate from doctoral programs in divinity go on to earn positions in academia or research at colleges and universities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that philosophy and religious teachers held about 22,880 jobs in the United States in 2012, with an average salary of $71,210. Those with Ph.D.s were expected to have the best job prospects, and the growth rate for postsecondary educators overall was predicted to rise by 17% between 2010-2020, which is slightly faster than average.

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    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
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