Description and Purpose of the PhD Program

Purpose and Goals

The Doctor of Philosophy degree program is designed to lead graduates to meet the following goals:

  • Mastery of a body of knowledge related to a chosen field of study
  • Excellence in designing, implementing, and reporting research
  • Proficiency in imparting the knowledge of the chosen field through teaching and other communication skills

The effectiveness of meeting these goals is reflected in the ministries of graduates. Of the 2005-2015 graduates, 33% are in full-time teaching positions, and an additional 20% teach adjunctively. Approximately 34% are pastors or serve on a church staff. Most of the remainder hold denominational positions or serve as counselors or chaplains. See Positions of NOBTS PhD Graduates for a detailed breakdown. Over the history of the program, graduates have held academic appointments at over 90 institutions.


The Doctor of Philosophy degree program is the highest academic degree awarded at NOBTS. Majors are offered in Biblical Exposition, Biblical Interpretation, Christian Education, Church History, Evangelism, Great Commission Studies, Missions, New Testament, Old Testament, Psychology and Counseling, and Theology. The research community consists of about 30 professors and 120 students.

This 64-hour program is comprised of three stages: residency/ThM candidacy, senior residency, and candidacy. Passage of the qualifying exam after completion of approximately half the required courses marks the completion of the residency stage, at which point students can apply to receive the ThM degree. Following passage of the oral examination after completion of all course work, students enter the candidacy stage of the program.


PhD Residency/ThM Candidacy
(33 hours)


Introduction to PhD Research and Writing

3 hours

2 Supervised Reading Colloquia (3 hours each)

6 hours

5 PhD Seminars (4 hours each)

20 hours

Teaching in Higher Education

3 hours

Qualifying Examination

1 hour

Doctoral Orientation (includes COOP9000)

No credit

PhD Senior Residency
(23 hours)

3 PhD Seminars (4 hours each)

12 hours

2 Supervised Reading Colloquia

6 hours

Dissertation Research Proposal approval       

1 hour

Prospectus Development

3 hours

Oral Comprehensive Examination

1 hour

PhD Candidacy
(8 hours)

Dissertation Prospectus approval

1 hour

Dissertation Research and Writing                 

6 hours

Dissertation Defense

1 hour

Total Required: 64 hours


Delivery Systems

PhD courses are offered on the main campus on a variety of schedules ranging from weekly sessions to three or four weekends during the semester or a week in January or summer for program workshops. See PhD Course Schedules for details.

In June 2016 the ATS Board of Commissioners approved a three-year experiment allowing an exception to the Commission's PhD residency requirement that "courses, seminars, and colloquia for research doctoral degrees shall normally be completed on the main campus" (Degree Program Standard J, section J.3.1.1). This experiment is limited to offering those courses (roughly two-thirds of the PhD program's total credits) through synchronous interactive video, not through asynchronous means.

Approval of this exception means that students who are unable to take advantage of the campus scholarly environment can participate fully in seminars and colloquia through live Internet connections. Some workshop courses still will require travel to the main campus during January or summer breaks.

Interested? Read more about the NOBTS SYNC delivery system and the breakdown of delivery options by major.

The program is directed through the Office of Research Doctoral Programs, Dr. Charlie Ray, Associate Dean (phone: 1-800-NOBTS-01, ext. 8010 or 504-816-8010; fax: 504-816-8039; e-mail: