Doctor of Philosophy

Mission Statement:

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 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 PhD 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 & Hermeneutical Strategies
  • America As An African Diaspora
  • Womanist Religious Studies
  • World Feminisms
  • Interreligious Studies
  • LGBTQ Studies
  • Theology & 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:


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.


Students must take 2 language 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 Topic 1: History and Theory of a Primary Field
  • Exam Topic 2: Major Figure or Sacred Text/body of Texts
  • Exam Topic 3: Concentration
  • Exam Topic 4: Issue


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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


International Students

Due to the multiple online modalities of our PhD courses, it will be difficult for CTS to issue I-20 forms needed for F-1 visas for international students wishing to study in the US. International students, however, may study and complete their PhD remotely from their home countries.