Doctor of Theology

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]

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


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 higher academic doctorate, often awarded honoris causa.

United StatesEdit

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] 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) or choose to be only affiliates of accrediting agencies so they have more freedom to teach Christian Doctrine that is more practical for church ministry.[5] For example, the only Association of Theological Schools accredited schools currently accepting students to ThD programs are Duke Divinity School and Evangelical Seminary.[6]

United KingdomEdit

In the United Kingdom, the Doctor of Theology is a relatively new academic doctoral programme.[7] Certain universities have begun offering it as a form of research based professional doctorate, not unlike the Doctor of Education.[8] Unlike the Doctor of Ministry offered by seminaries in the USA,[9] the ThD/DTh is assessed at the same level as the PhD degree[10][11] and requiring a thesis worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.[12] To distinguish the more practical nature of the degree, some British universities have adopted the term Doctor of Practical Theology.[13]


  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. ^ "The Association for Biblical Higher Education: Home". Association for Biblical Higher Education. Retrieved 2020-08-19.
  6. ^ "Member School Advanced Search". ATS. Association of Theological Schools. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Degrees of the University" (PDF). Ordinances. University of Birmingham. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  8. ^ "Professional Doctorates". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  9. ^ "DMin (Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC, USA)". Wesley House, Cambridge. Wesley House, Cambridge. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Professional Doctorate in Theology and Practice". University of Winchester. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  11. ^ "Practical Theology DTh". University of Roehampton. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Definitions". University of Birmingham: Postgraduate Research. University of Birmingham. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  13. ^ "DPT Practical Theology Doctorate". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 23 August 2016.