Academics
With world-renowned teachers and alumni, CTS is the global leader in transformational religious studies. We offer several Masters and Doctoral degrees, including Masters in Divinity, Sacred Theology and Religious Leadership.
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Doctor of Philosophy

Mission Statement

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program of the Chicago Theological Seminary educates persons to reflect synthetically on religion, social justice, and culture by encouraging interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to texts and contexts.  We advise and mentor leaders to become scholars who will work at the highest levels of teaching and research within the academy, religious communities, and the public square.

Program Description

The CTS Ph.D. program is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary degree emphasizing cultural criticism and textual hermeneutics oriented toward social justice.  Students in the program have multiple areas of inquiry around which they can focus their studies. These areas of inquiry match the core strengths of the faculty and the commitments of the program, which are in alignment with the current racial and ethnic diversity of our faculty. Under the areas of inquiry design, the student’s research interests determine the student’s scholarly trajectory and guide them as they develop their programs of study:

  • Sacred Texts and Hermeneutical Strategies
  • America as an African Diaspora
  • Womanist Religious Studies
  • World Feminisms
  • Interreligious Studies
  • LGBTQ Studies
  • Theology and Cultural Criticism

The students are supported by faculty mentoring and by the passion of the pedagogies taught by the faculty. Rather than simply making space for differing perspectives, our program values the students’ cultural specificity and epistemologies.  We work to promote new disciplinary attitudes and mentor students to be confident in their core competencies that have been nurtured by valuing diversity.

Course of study

Coursework: In the initial coursework phase of the program, students are required to take 12 courses, of which “Contemporary Hermeneutical Strategies” and “Pedagogy” are required.  Students must also attend one non-credit course that will meet periodically over one academic year to support the students’ professional development.

Language Exams: Students must take 2 language exams.

Comprehensive Exams: Students must take four written qualifying exams, followed immediately by an oral examination based on (1) a preliminary dissertation proposal prepared by the student and (2) the written exams.

Exam topics
Exam 1: History and Theory of a Primary Field
Exam 2: Major Figure or Sacred Text/body of Texts
Exam 3: Concentration
Exam 4: Issue

Dissertation: After the oral examination of the written exams and the dissertation proposal, students are admitted to candidacy, and spend the remainder of the program writing their dissertations, which conclude with an oral dissertation exam.

Program Goals and Learning Outcomes

Ph.D. Program Goals

  • Graduates should have a thorough understanding of primary and cognate fields of study and sufficient mastery of supporting language and research tools.
  • Graduates should be able to apply knowledge in a teaching context.
  • Graduates should be able to engage in original research that advances theological, ethical, and/or biblical knowledge.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate ability to conduct original research that advances theological, ethical, and/or biblical knowledge.
  • Demonstrate skills appropriate for teaching college or graduate level classes.
  • Demonstrate ability to synthesize interdisciplinary knowledge.
  • Demonstrate ability to relate texts to contexts.
  • Demonstrate capacity for critical analysis.
  • Demonstrate a breadth and depth of understanding of primary fields.
  • Demonstrate understanding of cognate areas.
  • Demonstrate language skills or mastery of appropriate research tools.

If you have questions about program requirements, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., director of the PhD program. 

Ph. D Program Handbook [PDF]

Apply to the Ph. D. Program