Southern Seminary Doctoral Studies

Rooted in the desire to see God’s fame increase as equipped ministers take the gospel to the nations, we devote ourselves to training men and women who will serve faithfully in the church, on the mission field and in the academy.


As many of you know, Southern Seminary was one of the pioneers in the development of doctoral degrees among seminaries. Over a century ago, the seminary became one of the first free-standing institutions to offer a recognized Ph.D. In the late 19th century, American higher education was beginning to standardize the Ph.D. as the highest academic degree in North America. It retains that status today, and I am extremely proud of the fact that Southern Seminary was one of the institutions that led in the development of this important academic milestone. We now have many other doctoral degrees to accompany it.

When I arrived at Southern Seminary as a student, I would often visit the library and look at the massive line of doctoral dissertations that were then available in a special section of shelves. From time to time I would take down one of these dissertations written by illustrious pastors and scholars such as W. A. Criswell, Herschel Hobbs, and so many others. Then, a few years later, I embarked on my own doctoral program at Southern Seminary. I knew that I was joining a very long line of consecrated scholarship. I felt then, as I feel now, the weight and glory of that tradition.

As a doctoral student, I knew that I had entered into a tradition and that behind me stood a long line of Christian scholars. Now, I am unspeakably encouraged to know that I am followed by a line of deeply committed, highly convictional, and academically gifted pastors and scholars.

My prayer is that the doctoral program will be for you a consummate exercise of the stewardship of your gifts and a priceless opportunity for your development as a Christian in the service of Christ’s church. Always remember that the doctoral program at Southern Seminary was intended for just this purpose — to provide a first-rank core of Christian pastors and scholars for the church.

President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

At Southern Seminary, we train:

Expert Practitioners
Seeking to become better equipped in ministry skills.

Scholar Practitioners
Those who desire to examine a specific area of interest more deeply through research while applying their findings to real-life ministry.

Scholar Researchers
Those who want to advance their research competencies and be prepared for a life of teaching, research and service in the academy or the church.

Core Values

Academic Excellence

Southern Seminary’s doctoral programs exist to provide the highest level of scholarship and academic training possible — in service to the church and the advancement of the Great Commission. This academic pursuit is grounded in its biblical and theological fidelity and conducted in a confessional context.

Relationally Driven

Scholarship is best produced in community. At Southern, this community is made up of professors and students who eagerly seek to learn from one another and spur each other on in the faith.

Personal Development

It is the desire of the faculty to see each student grow intellectually, skillfully, and spiritually during their academic endeavor.

Influential Publication

Southern Seminary professors are at the forefront of evangelical scholarship, and a part of doctoral studies at Southern involves learning to contribute to scholarly discussion through publication. Our doctoral programs are intentionally designed to encourage ongoing publication among both faculty and students.

Global Focus

Theological education is a global endeavor. Southern expects that its professors and graduates will seek to make disciples of every tribe and tongue through cross-cultural teaching and missionary endeavors.

Doctor of Ministry

Through the Doctor of Ministry degree (D.Min.), Southern Seminary equips leaders, strengthens churches, and makes an impact on the world with the message of Jesus Christ. The D.Min. helps ministers achieve excellence in their ministries and personal lives.
Go to D.Min.



Students are challenged by the interaction and rigor of their seminars. This atmosphere of academic excellence causes students to grow into more competent servants of God.


The program is shaped so that students will implement what they learn into their local ministry context. A high expectation is placed on providing an education to ministry practitioners who desire to build up their churches and ministries.


The cohort model allows students both to be challenged in their learning communities and to develop lasting bonds with other ministry leaders.


“Looking back on the educational opportunities that I experienced, my D.Min. degree has proven to be the one where I received the most practical pastoral training. I am forever indebted to the professors who poured their lives into mine and helped me become a stronger leader and pastor.”

Kevin Ezell President, North American Mission Board; D.Min. Pastoral Studies, Southern Seminary

“Few experiences in life have been as personally edifying, challenging, and spiritually enlightening as the pursuit of the D.Min. through Southern Seminary. With a project specifically related to my calling and ministry with the IMB, the studies were both practical and immensely helpful. In my current role, I continue to draw regularly from the resources and training provided through the SBTS D.Min.”

Tom Elliff Former President, International Mission Board; D.Min. Evangelism and Church Growth, Southern Seminary


Total of 32 hours
Can be completed in 36 months

Foundational seminars — 16 hours
Contextualized writing seminars —8 hours
Ministry research project —6 hours
Project methodology —1 hour
Introduction to doctoral research and writing —1 hour


  • Applied Theology
  • Biblical Counseling
  • Biblical Spirituality
  • Biblical Theology
  • Black Church Leadership
  • Christian Worship
  • Church Revitalization
  • Executive Leadership


  • Expository Preaching
  • Family Ministry
  • Global Missions
  • Korean Church Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Urban Missions
  • Vietnamese Evangelism and Church Growth

Doctor of Educational Ministry

The purpose of the Doctor of Educational Ministry degree (D.Ed.Min.) is to equip persons committed to Christian leadership for a high level of excellence in the practice of education and discipling ministries, Christian leadership, church growth, and missions administration.
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Students will develop their skills as leaders in the local church, academia, or other ministry contexts.


Students will hone their skills in educationally driven ministries.


Students will develop competency in research geared towards their ministry context.


“The doctor of educational ministry program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is a great blend of being academically challenging yet practically focused for a ministry setting. One of the program’s strengths is its commitment to being biblically and theologically sound in every area of ministry. The genuine love for Christ shown by the professors and students creates an encouraging community of learning.”

—Jonathan Geukgeuzian Church Ministries Chair, School of Religion, Liberty University, Current D.Ed.Min. Leadership student, Southern Seminary


Total of 46 hours 
Can be completed in 36 months 

Foundational seminars — 16 hours
Contextualized writing seminars —8 hours
Educational seminars —12 hours
Ministry research project —8 hours
Empirical research seminar —4 hours
Introduction to doctoral research and writing —1 hour


  • Biblical CounselingBlack Church Leadership
  • Christian Worship
  • Church RevitalizationExecutive Leadership
  • Family Ministry
  • Global Missions
  • Leadership
  • Urban Missions

Doctor of Missiology

The Doctor of Missiology program (D.Miss.) serves missionaries, practitioners, teachers, and administrators by providing advanced formal education, guided reading in pertinent missiological literature, field experience, mentoring, and supervision. Strong cohort-based study combined with a variety of research and practice emphases allow students to combine academic excellence with ministry application.
Go to D.Miss.



Students will demonstrate a mastery of the philosophical, historical, biblical, and anthropological disciplines rooted in a graduate-level understanding of the missiological disciplines.


Students will demonstrate the capacity to serve as intercultural field missionaries through classroom, research, and practical experience teaching pastors in international settings.


Students will apply ethnographic research and missiological principles to identify effective strategies for reaching and teaching peoples of other worldviews in culturally appropriate ways.


“My studies at Southern have not only broadened my understanding concerning the mission of God and the urgency of the mandate of the Great Commission, but have also deepened and renewed my vision and passion for Christian mission. It gives me the grace to teach with confidence. It also enables me to present sound and balanced biblical teachings on missiology to my students.”

Isaiah Olatoyan Assistant Lecturer at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, D.Miss., Southern Seminary


Total of 58 hours
Can be completed in 36 months

Guided mentorship — 6
Thesis — 6
Missiological research seminars — 4

Foundational seminars — 48
Coursework covers topics such as:

  • Theology and history of missions
  • Intercultural studies and world religions
  • Missions leadership
  • Missionary sending and care
  • Missions strategies

Program Emphases

  • Intercultural Evangelism and Church Planting
  • Sending Church
  • Islamic Studies
  • Theological Education

Doctor of Education

The purpose of the Doctor of Education Program (Ed.D.) is to equip men and women to serve as leaders in educational institutions and in the educational ministries of the church.
Go to Ed.D.



Students will demonstrate a mastery of the educational disciplines rooted in a graduate-level understanding of the theological disciplines.


Students will demonstrate the capacity to serve the church, the academy, and the world through leadership and teaching.


Students will apply educational research to solve complex social and organizational problems.


“So much of my ministry over the last decade can be traced back to my doctoral studies at Southern Seminary. I developed trust and respect for the men I serve under now, Dr. Rainer and Dr. Waggoner. And by God’s grace, my dissertation became the foundation for my first book, Simple Church. The learning and the community was rich, and the Lord used my time at Southern to develop in me a deeper love for the bride of Christ and a greater sense of awe for his Word.”



Total of 60 hours
Can be completed in 30 months

Graduate research seminar — 2 hours
Foundational year: four seminars —24 hours
Advanced research year: four seminars —24 hours
Thesis: thesis research and writing and thesis defense —10 hours

Research Concentrations

  • Discipleship
  • Leadership
  • Christian Education
  • Higher Education
  • Christian Formation and Human Development

Master of Theology (Ministry)

The Ministry Master of Theology (Th.M.) is designed for students interested in furthering their M.Div. studies but who are not necessarily planning to do advanced studies beyond the Th.M. degree. The Ministry Th.M. coursework is designed to cover broader categories of study than the Research Th.M. or Ph.D., enabling the student to round out their M.Div. education in preparation for ministry. 
Go to Th.M.


Total of 24 hours 
Can be completed in 18 months 

Graduate research seminar — 2 hours
Foundations for theological studies — 2 hours
5 Th.M. master level electives — 20 hours


  • Biblical Theology and Exegesis
  • Missions and Evangelism
  • Philosophy, Worldview, and Apologetics
  • Practical Theology
  • Theological and Historical Studies

Master of Theology (Research)

The Research Th.M. is designed for students interested in pursuing further studies, most likely a Ph.D. The Research Th.M. provides the opportunity to broaden and deepen the student’s knowledge in an area of concentration and to produce a significant research paper (thesis), which will be an important step in pursuing further studies. 
Go to Th.M.


Total of 26 hours 
Can be completed in 18 months 

Graduate research seminar — 2 hours
Foundations for theological studies —2 hours
3 Th.M. master level electives —12 hours
2 Ph.D. seminars —8 hours
Thesis research —1 hour
Thesis writing —1 hour


  • Biblical Studies
  • Biblical Theology
  • Church History
  • Missions and Evangelism
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Philosophy, Worldview, and Apologetics
  • Practical Theology
  • Systematic Theology

Doctor of Philosophy

With a combination of academic excellence and personal mentoring in an environment of confessional scholarship, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) students at Southern Seminary are trained to advance Christian scholarship for effective kingdom ministry. 
Go to Ph.D.



Students have the privilege of studying under and being mentored by world-class professors at the forefront of Christian scholarship. These relationships provide a unique opportunity to engage with the current academic discussions. Coupled with the resources of one of the largest theological libraries in America, this program truly allows for advanced scholarship.


In colloquia and area seminars, students not only grow as writers, they also learn to communicate and defend their research. General educational seminars are required for every Ph.D. candidate, preparing them to become lifelong teachers.


At Southern Seminary, scholarship is done for the glory of God and the advancement of the Great Commission. In addition to preparing graduates for college or seminary teaching, the program also equips students for the pastorate and other church-related ministries.


“Southern Seminary: an astonishingly well-published faculty coupled with an environment of renowned evangelical scholarship exist on one of the most beautiful campuses in America. That’s definitely the place you want to do a Ph.D.”



“ I will always be grateful for the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary. The academic rigors were challenging and demanding. But, at the end of the day, this degree proved not to be a mere intellectual exercise. The studies at Southern Seminary prepared me for both life and ministry. Even to this day, years later, I experience the great benefit of being a Ph.D. student and graduate of Southern Seminary.”



Total of 71 hours

Minor Concentration (Th.M. Phase) — 24 hours
Graduate research seminar — 2 hours
Foundations for theological studies —2 hours
3 seminars —12 hours
2 colloquia —4 hours
Two research languages —4 hours
Research portfolio

Major Concentration (Ph.D. Phase) —31 hours
5 seminars —20 hours
2 colloquia —4 hours
Guided reading mentorship —1 hour
Prospectus hearing —1 hour
Teaching in higher education contexts —4 hours
Comprehensive exams —1 hour

Ph.D. Candidacy —16 hours
Dissertation writing and defense —16 hours


  • Apologetics and Worldview*
  • Applied Apologetics*
  • Biblical Counseling*
  • Biblical Spirituality*
  • Biblical Studies
  • Biblical Theology
  • Christian Ethics*
  • Christian Ethics with an Emphasis in Public Policy*
  • Christian Missions*
  • Christian Philosophy*
  • Christian Preaching*
  • Christian Worship*
  • Christianity and the Arts*
  • Church History and Historical Theology
  • Evangelism and Church Growth*
  • Higher Education*
  • Leadership*
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Pastoral Theology*
  • Systematic Theology
  • World Religions*

Minor (Th.M.) Concentrations

  • Biblical Theology and Exegesis
  • Missions and Evangelism
  • Philosophy, Worldview, and Apologetics
  • Practical Theology
  • Theological and Historical Studies

*Available in modular format

Minor concentration Th.M.

Similar to other premier research institutions, the SBTS Ph.D. includes a Master’s degree en route to completing the program. The Minor concentration Th.M. is not a stand-alone degree, but an essential part of our students’ training. Upon completion of the program, our students have a terminal academic degree (the Ph.D.) in their primary concentration and a Th.M. in a minor area of concentration, broadening their academic expertise.

Modular format

Many of our Southern Seminary Ph.D. concentrations are offered in a modular format, which allows students to complete a degree without relocating to Louisville. Modularly delivered programs offer tremendous flexibility, allowing students to earn their degree without having to leave their current place of ministry.

First, students complete coursework involving pre-seminar work by coming to campus twice per year for two weeks during winter and summer terms. After completing seminars, students take comprehensive exams that assess their learning in their areas of study. The program culminates in the research phase as students write and defend their dissertation.

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