the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. program equips students for advanced scholarship, effective teaching, and service. The program is intended to qualify graduates for college or seminary teaching. It may also be useful in the pastorate and in other church-related ministries that benefit from advanced Christian scholarship. The program requirements for the Ph.D. in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry vary somewhat from field to field. The student consults with his or her faculty supervisor to design a plan of study that will result in breadth and depth of scholarship in the major field of study and conversance with one or more minor fields. Students typically need four years of full-time study to meet all program requirements; however, there are many factors that may affect program length.

Program Requirements

  • Two research languages — 0
  • Eight area seminars — 32
  • 81020 Graduate Research Seminar — 2
  • 81200 Teaching Principles and Methods — 4
  • 81300 Higher Education — 2
  • Five colloquia (one per semester) — 10
  • Comprehensive exams — 0
  • Dissertation — 8
  • Dissertation defense — 8
  • Total Ph.D. credit hours — 66

Committee of Instruction

At the time of matriculation the student meets with his or her faculty supervisor to develop a plan of study and secure a committee of instruction. The committee of instruction is composed of the student’s faculty supervisor and two other professors with whom the student expects to take seminars. This committee will normally prepare the student’s comprehensive examinations and may serve as the dissertation committee.

Area Seminars

Ph.D. study is pursued in large part through area seminars in the student’s major and minor fields of study. A minimum of eight area seminars is required. Seminars should be chosen in consultation with the faculty supervisor.

General Seminars

Three seminars that are not specific to the student’s areas of study are required. Students are expected to take the Graduate Research Seminar (81020) prior to the beginning of their coursework. The Higher Education Seminar (81300) may be taken at any point in the student’s program. Teaching Principles and Methods (81200) may be taken after the student completes two years of study. For each of these seminars most of the preparation is done before the first day of class.


The colloquium serves as a forum for exploration of literature, issues, and developments in the student’s major field of study. Students are required to take a minimum of five colloquia. Area faculty or the faculty supervisor may request that a student participate in the colloquium beyond the five colloquia program requirement.

External Study

Up to two seminars may be taken at an approved doctoral granting institution other than Southern Seminary with the approval of the faculty supervisor, the Director of Research Doctoral Studies, and the Associate Vice President for Doctoral Studies. Students engaged in external study register at Southern Seminary under Ph.D. Student: Affiliate Registration (course 81990) and pay the fees and tuition required by the host institution. If the student is simultaneously taking courses for credit at Southern Seminary he or she will also pay Southern Seminary’s registration fees and tuition. The student is responsible for insuring that an official transcript of course work taken at other institutions is sent to the Office of Academic Records.

Language Requirements

A reading knowledge of two modern and/or classical languages is normally required. Additional languages may be required if the committee of instruction determines that it is necessary for the student’s program of study. Common language options are German, Latin, French, and Spanish. The decision as to which languages are to be learned should be guided by the student’s particular research needs. In all cases the supervisor must approve the languages chosen.

A student may satisfy a language requirement by earning a passing grade in a non-credit language course offered by the seminary by passing a language proficiency examination, or completing an equivalent language course at another institution. The Office of Doctoral Studies administers these examinations several times a year. Knowledge of one language should normally be acquired before matriculation and competence in a second language must be demonstrated prior to taking the comprehensive examinations.

Exceptions to the language requirement require approval by the student’s faculty supervisor, the Director of Research Doctoral Studies, and the Associate Vice President for Doctoral Studies. Exceptions are sometimes made in the following cases. (1) Students whose study will benefit from empirical research and statistics or ethnographic research may be permitted to substitute demonstrated proficiency in one of these for a language requirement. (2) International students may be permitted to use their native language to satisfy a language requirement when that language is a primary language for the student’s research. Missionaries duly appointed by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention may be permitted to use their field language to satisfy a language requirement when that language is a primary language for the student’s research.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to demonstrate a thorough acquaintance with literature in area of specialization and the ability to engage critically and productively in this area.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate conversance with the literature in the general field of study and fields closely related to the area of specialization.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to use standard research tools and methods in the chosen field of study.
  • Students will be able to plan and conduct research in the area of specialization and to communicate its results effectively.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the role of the professor inside and outside the classroom in institutions of Christian higher education.

Grading Policy

The minimum passing grade in any course taken for Ph.D. credit is a “B” (3.0 on a 4.0 scale). A student who earns a grade lower than a “B” will lose credit for that course and will be placed on probation. The student may also be subject to an enrollment review.

Comprehensive Examinations

Comprehensive examinations corresponding to the student’s areas of study are administered at the conclusion of the student’s coursework. All Billy Graham School students take three written comprehensive examinations. The student should consult his or her committee of instruction for guidance in preparing for these exams. Additional preparation beyond what has been required for seminars and colloquia will normally be expected. An oral comprehensive exam may also be required subsequent to the written comprehensive examinations. Failure on any part of a comprehensive exam will result in a review of the student’s status by the committee of instruction, the Director of Research Doctoral Studies, and the Associate Vice President for Doctoral Studies.


Each student must demonstrate the ability to conduct and report on original research. The first stage in this process is the submission of a dissertation proposal, which is called a prospectus. Following approval of the prospectus by the student’s supervisor, the dissertation committee, the Director of Research Doctoral Studies, the Associate Vice President for Doctoral Studies, and the seminary faculty, the student completes a defense draft of the dissertation. When the faculty supervisor determines that the draft is defensible, it will be submitted to the Office of Doctoral Studies from which it will be distributed to the dissertation committee. At the oral defense the committee will assign a grade to the written work and to the oral defense. A passing grade requires the unanimous approval of the committee. The dissertation committee will also inform the student of any additional revision required for the final submission.

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.