Doctor of Theology

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Conferral of a Doctorate of Theology honoris causa on Desmond Tutu (right) by the University of Vienna

Doctor of Theology (Latin: Doctor Theologiae, abbreviated DTh, ThD, DTheol, or Dr. theol.) is a terminal degree in the academic discipline of theology. The ThD, like the ecclesiastical Doctor of Sacred Theology, is an advanced research degree equivalent to the Doctor of Philosophy.[1][2]


In the academic study of theology, often deeply rooted in the Christian religion, the nomenclature of doctoral degrees varies between Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Philosophy, and Doctor of Sacred Theology. However, Doctor of Ministry is generally understood as a professional doctorate, whereas Doctor of Divinity is a honorary doctorate, and in is often awarded as honoris causa.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

In the United States, some of the older theological seminaries began offering the ThD as an equivalent to the research Doctor of Philosophy. In Princeton Theological Seminary, for example, this practice was inherited from the German system of education, since the professors involved in establishing the doctoral program were trained in German universities. Though the PhD was the doctorate of arts faculties in German universities (called the philosophy faculty in Germany, hence the Ph), Princeton Theological Seminary has since switched to using Doctor of Philosophy as its main designation.[3] A similar shift happened at Harvard Divinity School in 2015.[4] At this time, the only Association of Theological Schools accredited schools currently accepting students to ThD programs are Duke Divinity School and Evangelical Seminary.[5]

Due to the secular push in doctoral studies, some ThD programs have moved to other known accreditation, like the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), or The Council of Private Colleges of America (CPCA).[6][7][8]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the Doctor of Theology is a relatively new academic doctoral programme.[9] Certain universities have begun offering it as a form of research based professional doctorate, not unlike the Doctor of Education.[10] To distinguish the more practical nature of the degree, some British universities have adopted the term Doctor of Practical Theology.[11]


  1. ^ "Structure of U.S. Education Systems: Research Doctorate Degrees". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Degree Program Standards" (PDF). ATS. Association of Theological Schools. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  3. ^ "History - PhD Anniversary". Princeton Theological Seminary. Archived from the original on 26 August 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Degree Programs". Harvard Divinity School. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Member School Advanced Search". ATS. Association of Theological Schools. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  6. ^ "The Association for Biblical Higher Education: Home". Association for Biblical Higher Education. Retrieved 2020-08-19.
  7. ^ "Meeting A Higher Standard". TRACS. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  8. ^ "The Council Of Private Colleges Of America". Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  9. ^ "Degrees of the University" (PDF). Ordinances. University of Birmingham. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Professional Doctorates". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  11. ^ "DPT Practical Theology Doctorate". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 23 August 2016.