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Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Applicants should have earned a master’s degree (or equivalent) in theology or religion from an accredited college, university, seminary, or divinity school, and have a superior academic record in previous undergraduate and graduate education. Applicants should be able to articulate a clear sense of intention regarding goals for advanced study in the concentration selected: Bible, Culture and Hermeneutics or Theology, Ethics and the Human Sciences.

The Ph.D. application process includes:

  • Official transcripts from all academic institutions attended;
  • Four letters of reference—at least two must be academic, one may come from a pastor or other ministry professional, and one may come from a supervisor or friend;
  • A personal essay describing your intention and goals for Ph.D. study as guided by the application instructions;
  • A current resume or curriculum vitae;
  • A sample academic/research paper (term paper, discrete section of a master’s thesis, or published essay);
  • Scores from the Graduate Record General Test (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test taken within 7 years of application.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores are required of applicants for whom English is not a first language. The exam must be completed no more than two years prior to application. The TOEFL may only be waived if the applicant has completed another degree, in English, in the United States.

Ph.D. Application

The Doctor of Philosophy program is designed to prepare religious leaders to work at advanced levels in a variety of teaching, counseling, research, ministry, and administrative positions. 

Application Instructions

Qualifications:  Ph.D. applicants must have earned a Master’s degree in Theology or Religious Studies prior to enrollment.

1. APPLICATION PROCESS: Completion of the online application form is only one part of the comprehensive application process. Official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and application for financial aid will be submitted in hard copy.  Applications must be complete before they will be forwarded to the CTS Ph.D. Center for consideration.  Please plan accordingly to meet the appropriate deadlines.

2. ONLINE APPLICATION FORM: The bulk of your application information will be collected by way of the online form. Read all directions prior to beginning the form to understand the requirements for the degree program to which you are applying.  Prepare your written materials and assemble them in one document to be submitted as an attachment.  Identify the persons who will serve as referents. Gather information regarding institutions attended and degrees received. Determine your form of payment for the application fee.

Once you have begun your application, you will have 30 days to complete the form. If you experience technical difficulty, please contact the Office of Admissions at 773-896-2410 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

3. WRITTEN MATERIALS: Written materials should be carefully assembled into one document to be included as an attachment on the online application form.  The application form will refer to this collective document as an “essay”.

  • Academic Autobiography Please respond to the following questions regarding your academic work. Note: This portion of your application is extremely important, and we urge you to take care in the preparation of it. Several faculty members will read it closely during the admissions process. The essay (not to exceed six [6] pages in length, typed and double spaced) should include the following:
  • Various influences which have been important in your intellectual development and in the formation of your present academic interests;
  • Your academic and professional objectives in applying to the Ph.D. Concentration in Bible, Culture and Hermeneutics (Jewish and Christian Scriptures) or the Concentration in Theology, Ethics and the Human Sciences;
  • A detailed description of your proposed plans for doctoral research, including previous work in this area and the directions you might pursue;
  • Current Resume: Provide a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Sample Academic/Research Paper: Please submit an appropriate sample academic/research paper of approximately twenty (20) pages (term paper, discrete section of a master’s thesis, or published essay) that is representative of your work and related to the area of interest.  For students who have earned a previous degree at CTS, the paper should come from a course taken here and should include the grade and original faculty comments.

4. REFERENCES: Ph.D. applicants must submit four (4) written references.  At least three (3) of the references must be academic. One may come from a pastor or other ministry professional, a professional colleague or a personal friend.

List the names and contact information for these references on the online form.  Identify the type of reference (academic, pastoral, or professional/personal).

5. ACADEMIC RECORDS: Provide the names of all colleges and universities attended or presently attending and indicate the degrees earned or expected on the online form. List them in chronological order. The online form can accommodate up to five institutions.

Request the Registrar of each institution to send an official transcript of all academic work in a sealed and signed/stamped envelope directly to CTS.  Please include transcripts for all post-secondary schools attended, including those at which you did not earn a degree.

6. GRADUATE RECORD EXAM (GRE) OR MILLER ANALOGIES EXAM SCORES:  The Graduate Record Exam (or Miller Analogies Exam) is required.  Please have your test scores sent directly to CTS.  The test must have been taken within seven years (7) of application to CTS.  The CTS school code for the GRE is 1120.  The CTS school code for the Miller Analogies Exam is 2021.

7. APPLICATION FEE:  A non-refundable $50 application fee is required of all online applicants. Payment may be made by debit card or credit card (MasterCard, Visa, Discover Card or American Express.)  Persons serving as volunteers, team members, Corp members, staff and alums of the AmeriCorps, City Year, Peace Corps, and VISTA are eligible for an application fee waiver.   

8. FACULTY INTERVIEW: A faculty interview is not required for admission to the Ph.D. Program. Should questions arise regarding your application, you may be contacted by a member of the Ph.D. Center faculty.

9. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: All applicants must complete the admissions process within two years of submission of application materials. No applications will be held after two years.  Applicants who are not accepted to CTS may only reapply after two years, and must resubmit an application. Submission of an application and the supporting documents assumes that the information is accurate and true to the best of the applicant’s knowledge. All documents submitted as a part of an application become the property of the Chicago Theological Seminary and are not transferrable to a third party.

10. TRANSFER APPLICANTS:  Transfer students are occasionally admitted to the Ph.D. Program.  Applicants interested in possible transfer to the CTS Ph.D. program should contact the Ph.D. Center Director to discuss eligibility.

International Students

Chicago Theological Seminary welcomes applications from international students for admission to graduate study.  International students should plan to begin their studies at the Seminary in the Fall Term. All necessary documents must be received by the appropriate application deadline. Follow the general application instructions above, noting the following additions and clarifications:

1. TRANSCRIPTS written in a language other than English must be accompanied by a notarized translation.

2. APPLICATION FEE:  A non-refundable $50 application fee is required of all online applicants. Payment may be made by credit card (MasterCard, Visa, Discover Card and American Express), debit card, or direct withdrawal from a bank account.

3. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language):  TOEFL scores are required of applicants for whom English is not their first language. The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 550 on the written test, 217 on the computer test, and 80 on the internet-based test.  The CTS school code for the TOEFL is 1120. The TOEFL may only be waived if the applicant has completed another degree, in English, in the United States.

4. I-20 FORMS:  I-20 forms are not issued until after an international student is admitted. If admitted, your admissions letter packet will include a CTS International Student I-20 Application form and an estimate of the cost of attendance for your degree program. The form will explain the financial documentation requirements for the issuance of the I-20 by the seminary. You may contact the CTS Office of Financial Aid prior to applying for information about cost of attendance or I-20 requirements.