Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology



45 credit hours

Program Length

as few as 36 months


Nationally Accredited by ATS

Prepare to Teach the Next Generation — Earn an Accredited PhD (Practical Theology) Fully Online

At Columbia International University, our PhD (Practical Theology) program is designed specifically for individuals like you who have a passion for teaching in postsecondary theological higher education. If you are seeking an academic/philosophical doctoral program that equips you with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in scholarly research and writing and make a meaningful contribution to the field of Theological Studies, our PhD (Practical Theology) program is designed to help you reach your goal.

You will engage in rigorous academic study explores the profound truths of Scripture, with a focus on the functional authority of Scripture.

You will develop advanced research and writing skills that allow you to contribute significantly to the field of Practical Theology.

You will gain valuable skills in presenting your scholarly work in a professional, organized, coherent and structured manner, both in written and oral form.

You will engage in a supervisory relationship with an experienced faculty mentor, who will help you navigate the responsibilities of your academic pursuits while embracing spiritual growth and exemplifying Christian character.

Throughout your journey in Columbia International University’s online PhD (Practical Theology) program, you will receive excellent academic instruction, intentional professional mentoring, and consistent academic support. You will develop the advanced research and writing skills necessary to make a scholarly contribution to the field of Practical Theology. You will present your research findings in a professional and compelling manner. You will embrace the transformative journey of intellectual growth while embodying the principles of Victorious Christian Living. You will prepare to become a well-rounded scholar and educator, equipped to make a lasting impact in postsecondary theological higher education both nationally and internationally.

Practical Theology is one of three concentrations within the PhD degree. Within the Practical Theology concentration, you may pursue a wide variety of research topics. You might wish to consider a topic in an area such Chaplaincy, Homiletics, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, or Moral Theology. If you have questions about how your anticipated topic might fit into the concentration, contact the program director for guidance. Note: In February 2022 the ATS Board of Commissioners approved a three-year experiment to offer a non-residential PhD degree as an exception to Standard 5.15, through a combination of online courses (synchronous and asynchronous) and one-on-one faculty mentoring sessions.

The other concentrations within the PhD degree are Biblical Studies and Theological Studies. (See the Concentrations below.)

Why Choose Columbia International University?

At Columbia International University, we are committed to providing you with a comprehensive and enriching educational experience through our ATS-accredited PhD (Practical Theology) program. Designed to equip you as a well-rounded scholar and educator, our program offers a unique blend of research-focused curriculum, individualized mentoring, and flexible online modality.

As a student in our PhD (Practical Theology) program, you will have the opportunity to delve deeply into your chosen area within the field of Practical Theology. Through rigorous research and academic exploration, you will gain a thorough understanding of your topic, contemporary issues in practical theology, and the methods scholars use in your chosen discipline.

Mentoring lies at the heart of our program. You will receive individualized guidance and support from an experienced faculty mentor who is a renowned scholar in his or her respective fields. Your mentor will provide personalized attention and expert advice as you navigate your research journey and develop your scholarly voice.

Our online modality offers you the flexibility of pursuing your doctoral studies while balancing other commitments in your life. Through our innovative online platform, you will have access to engaging course content, interactive discussions with faculty members and peers, and valuable resources that will enhance your learning experience.

Throughout your PhD journey, we are dedicated to preparing you to make a significant contribution to scholarship in your discipline. You will develop advanced research skills, critical thinking abilities, and scholarly writing expertise that will empower you to produce high-quality academic work. We believe in fostering a collaborative academic community, where you will have opportunities to engage in scholarly conversations and present your research findings to peers and faculty.

In addition to equipping you as a scholar, our PhD (Practical Theology) program prepares you to excel as an educator in theological higher education. Our curriculum includes pedagogical training, enabling you to teach and mentor future generations of students effectively in theological institutions both inside and outside the United States.

Benefits of our PhD (Practical Theology) Degree

Our unique PhD program is fully-online, dissertation-focused and follows the modified-European model. It offers you the opportunity to:

  • Complete your entire program using fully online modality without relocating or coming to campus.
  • Pay affordable tuition that saves you up to 50% of the cost of other seminary PhD programs and includes the cost of textbooks.
  • Develop your skills in research, writing and teaching, while you pursue a wide variety of research topics.
  • Focus your coursework on refining your anticipated dissertation topic before beginning your research.
  • Engage in synchronous small group discussion sessions that foster a sense of community with your classmates.
  • Work closely with a mentor whose areas of interest and expertise align closely with your dissertation topic.
  • Develop a well-rounded understanding of the knowledge related to your discipline through tutorial discussions with your mentor.
  • Engage regularly and intentionally with your dissertation mentor throughout the research and writing process.
  • Complete your entire program in as few as three years.

Featured Faculty


The PhD in Biblical Studies program is for those who want to teach in post-secondary theological higher education both nationally and internationally. If you want to earn a Biblical Studies PhD online, speak with CIU today.

The Theological Studies concentration encompasses the broad areas of Historical Theology, Systematic Theology, and Apologetics. If you want to make an original and significant contribution to your area of study and, as a result, contribute to the understanding of a theologically-informed biblical worldview, earn your PhD in Theological Studies online with CIU.

What Will I Study?


  • PTH 9200 Issues and Methods in Practical Theology

    You will survey significant contemporary issues in Practical Theology, including areas such as chaplaincy, homiletics, pastoral theology, moral theology, and the pastoral cycle. You will then identify an issue and a method related to the area of your proposed dissertation topic and will explore each in depth.

    3.00 credit hours
  • PTH 9400 Principles of Teaching, Learning, and Course Design

    You will review biblical perspectives on teaching and learning, survey principles of adult education, and explore best practices of course design and development. You will learn how to design lessons and courses that go beyond the communication of content to the facilitation of learning and will apply those skills to the creation of a course related to the area of your proposed dissertation topic.

    3.00 credit hours
  • PTH 9900 Practical Theology Dissertation Proposal

    You will engage in guided practice of bibliographic (text-based) research that will prepare you to write a doctoral dissertation in Practical Theology. You will learn to craft a research problem, identify appropriate research methods, locate, evaluate, and document scholarly sources, structure argumentation, and write at the doctoral level. Building upon those skills, you will write a dissertation proposal that must be approved by the Dissertation Proposal Committee before you begin the dissertation research courses.

    3.00 credit hours
For a comprehensive list of courses related to this program visit the Academic Catalog.

Admission Requirements

  • Online application
  • Official transcripts from accredited institutions (all graduate level work)
  • Completed MA, MDiv, or ThM with 3.5 GPA
  • Major research paper, (20–24 pages)
  • Proposed research topic (1 page plus bibliography)
  • Transcript evidence of having completed four semesters of Greek and/or Hebrew (in any combination)
  • Two academic references
  • Interview with admissions committee
  • *International requirements when appropriate

Accreditation and Accolades

ATS (The Association of Theological Schools)
ABHE (The Association for Biblical Higher Education)
SACSCOC (The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges)

Career Path Opportunities

  • Seminary Professor
  • International Theological Educator
  • Bible College Professor
  • Pastor
  • High School teacher

Top FAQs

What specializations are available in this program?

As a Practical Theology PhD student, you may choose to focus your study in the areas of Chaplaincy, Homiletics, Moral Theology, Pastoral Care, or Pastoral Theology.

Is the program accredited?

The PhD program is accredited professionally by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), as well as regionally by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and nationally by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).

Is the program really fully online?

The entire PhD program uses online modality, so that you never need to come to the Columbia campus.

Is the program synchronous or asynchronous?

The three foundational seminars are largely asynchronous, but with a synchronous component. Instructors facilitate two-hour discussion group sessions of six to eight students that meet five to eight times throughout each semester.

In February 2022 the ATS Board of Commissioners approved a three-year experiment to offer a non-residential PhD degree as an exception to Standard 5.15, through a combination of online courses (synchronous and asynchronous) and one-on-one faculty mentoring sessions.

What does a Modified-European model mean?

The modified-European model combines the strengths of both the North American and European models. You enter the program with a preliminary idea of the topic for your dissertation, and the coursework in the three foundational seminars helps you refine your topic to be substantive, coherent and focused. After those seminars, you engage in your dissertation research, writing and defense, which comprises 80% of the studies.

Is this program cost competitive with other ATS accredited PhD programs?

Total tuition for the program is 25–50% lower than the cost of other seminary PhD programs and includes the cost of textbooks.

Do I receive a Bible software package as a student?

As a PhD student, you will receive a free copy of Accordance Bible Software that you may use as long as you are pursuing your doctoral studies. Upon graduation, you own the software.

Do I have to know biblical languages for this program?

If you are pursuing work related to Practical Theology, you must show transcript evidence of having completed four semesters of Greek and/or Hebrew in any combination.

Do I have to complete any research languages for this program?

In order to have as wide access as possible to scholarly literature related to your dissertation topic, Practical Theology students demonstrate proficiency in one theological research language as part of their PhD studies. The process of collecting a working bibliography for your dissertation usually helps you identify the specific language you will pursue.

How long will the dissertation be?

The wordcount for your dissertation is 90,000–110,000 words, including the introduction, the body, the footnotes, the conclusion and the bibliography, but not the front matter.

Who will my dissertation mentor be? Do I have a say in the decision process?

We will work with you to recruit a dissertation mentor whose areas of interest and expertise align as closely as possible with your topic. Since the majority of our mentors come from outside the seminary, the range of topics you may pursue is broad, and you have the opportunity to work closely with an expert in your field of research.


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