Description of PhD Program

The Religion PhD program provides an opportunity for qualified students to do graduate work in this discipline at the highest level and in the university setting. It provides preparation for research and teaching in graduate theological education and in the college and university setting where religion is taught as one of the liberal arts and in relation to other such disciplines, particularly the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. The Baylor program offers work in four areas: New Testament, Old Testament, Historical Studies, and Theological Studies (Historical Theology, Systematic Theology, Christian Ethics, Contemporary Theology, Religion and Literature). If you are unsure of which concentration you should apply for (particularly deciding between Historical Studies and Theological Studies), please contact the Graduate Studies Office Academic and Student Support Associate or the Graduate Program Director, Dr. Jim Nogalski.

Jump to:

I. Course Work
II. Modern Foreign Languages
III. Preliminary Examinations
IV. Ph.D. Candidacy
V. Teaching Colloquy
VI. Dissertation
VII. Calendar for Ph.D. Program Completion

I. Course Work

For the Ph.D. in religion, a total of fifty-seven (57) hours is required; nine (9) dissertation hours and thirty-nine (39) semester hours (minimum) as indicated here:

  • Major: Thirty-three (33) semester hours (minimum) in the field declared as the area of concentration (Old Testament, New Testament, Historical Studies, Theological Studies). All courses in the major must be at the 5000 level.
  • Cognate: A total of nine (9) semester hours (minimum) at the 5000 level in a cognate field (Old Testament/New Testament; Historical Studies/Theological Studies/Historical Theology). NOTE: Students whose concentration is in Historical Studies or Theological Studies have the option to apply for and obtain approval to take Historical Theology as a cognate. Doing so allows students the opportunity to take additional courses in this topic than they might otherwise be able to. For a list of seminars that can be taken for Historical Theology credit, please click here.
  • Elective Courses: A total of six (6) semester hours of graduate courses within the Religion Department (but not in major or cognate field) or graduate courses in other departments. Electives should be chosen in consultation with area faculty, to enhance the research or teaching interests of the student.


Religion Major Religion Cognate Elective Courses
33 hours:
  • 6 hours colloquia (6 one hr. courses)
  • 27 hour emphasis (9 three hr. seminars)
9 hours:
5000 level courses in Religion Cognate Area (3 -three hour seminars)
6 hours:
Graduate courses within the religion Department but not in the major or cognate field; or graduate course in another department (2 - three hour seminars)

II. Foreign Languages

The requirement of foreign languages as research tools is related to the major field of study and to research needs. The basic requirement is intermediate proficiency in two foreign languages, one of which must be attained prior to the fall semester. Methods for achieving the proficiency are described in the Graduate School Catalog. The following statements indicate the basic policy in each area:

  • Old Testament and New Testament: The requirement is German and French. The area faculty may approve the substitution of another language for French if the student's research needs justify the substitution.
  • Historical Studies: (1) Students concentrating in Church History will achieve intermediate proficiency in two of the following: German, French, Latin.
  • Theological Studies: The requirement is German and French. The area faculty may approve the substitution of another language for French if the student's research needs justify the substitution.

Additional language study may be required in relation to research needs. One language must be completed before the beginning of course work in the fall semester, and the faculty recommends that all language work be completed in summer sessions. All foreign language requirements must be completed before students begin the last twenty-four semester hours of course work.

III. Preliminary Examinations

Doctoral students will take preliminary examinations at the completion of course work. Each student is required to take three preliminary examinations within the student's field of specialization.

IV. Ph.D. Candidacy

Admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. with a major in religion requires 1) satisfaction of foreign language requirements; 2) satisfactory completion of preliminary examinations; 3) approval of student's dissertation prospectus by Religion Graduate Faculty; and 4) certification by the Dean of the Graduate School.

V. Teaching Colloquy

The purpose of the teaching colloquy is to help students 1) gain insights into the intellectual development of students; 2) learn practical approaches to classroom instruction; 3) receive exposure to modern theories of teaching and learning; and 4) receive assistance in preparing for the employment application process.

Graduate Ph.D. students may receive the opportunity to teach courses within the religion department. Students wishing to teach must meet the following requirements:

  1. Successful completion of preliminary examinations
  2. Current enrollment or completion of REL 5399 (Teaching Colloquy)
  3. Attendance of mentoring sessions with appointed supervisor (currently Dr. Eric Holleyman).

VI. Dissertation

The final stage in the doctoral work is the satisfactory completion of a dissertation in accordance with guidelines provided by the Department and by the Graduate School.

VII. Calendar for Ph.D. Program Completion

Coursework Summer Fall Spring
Before 1st year 1st Modern Foreign Language    
First Year   10 hours (3 courses + colloquium) 10 hours
Between 1st & 2nd years 2nd Modern Foreign Language and Prelim Prep    
Second year   10 hours 10 hours
Between 2nd & 3rd years Prelim Prep and/or additional language    
Third year   7 hours (2 courses + colloquium) 1 hours (colloquium); Prelim Prep: Prelim Exams; Submit Topic Proposal
End of third year Submit Prospectus (Aug/Sept)    
Fourth year   Prospectus & Dissertation Dissertation & Teaching Colloquy
Fifth year Dissertation, Teaching and Graduation!