Doctor of Philosophy in Theological Studies



45 credit hours

Program Length

as few as 36 months


Regionally Accredited by SACSCOC

Prepare to Teach the Next Generation — Earn an Accredited PhD in Theological Studies Fully Online

At Columbia International University, we are committed to providing you with a comprehensive and enriching educational experience through our PhD in Theological Studies program. Designed to equip you as a proficient scholar and educator, our program offers advanced knowledge and skills in the fields of Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Apologetics, or Theological Ethics.

As a student in our PhD in Theological Studies program, you will embark on a transformative journey of research, writing and scholarly engagement. Through rigorous study and exploration, you will develop a deep understanding of the theological disciplines that will enable you to make a significant contribution to the field of Theological Studies.

Research lies at the core of our program. You will be trained to conduct advanced-level research with a firm foundation in the functional authority of Scripture. Our faculty, renowned scholars in their respective areas of expertise, will provide guidance and mentorship as you navigate the intricacies of theological scholarship.

Your research findings will not only contribute to the advancement of Theological Studies but also enable you to present your insights in a professional, organized, coherent and structured manner. Through written and oral presentations, you will have the opportunity to engage with the scholarly community and disseminate your research to a wider audience.

We believe in the importance of responsible and ethical scholarship. In the context of a supervisory relationship, you will learn to function responsibly, upholding CIU’s core value of Victorious Christian Living. Our faculty will support and guide you in maintaining the highest standards of academic integrity and ethical conduct throughout your doctoral journey.

By pursuing our Theological Studies, you will be equipped to teach in postsecondary theological higher education settings, both nationally and internationally. Whether you aspire to teach in universities, seminaries, or other theological institutions, our program will provide you with the necessary tools, expertise and pedagogical training to excel as an educator.

Join us at Columbia International University’s PhD in Theological Studies program and immerse yourself in a vibrant scholarly community. Engage in rigorous research, develop advanced writing skills and make a scholarly contribution to the theological disciplines that resonate with your passion. Benefit from personalized mentoring by distinguished faculty, who will guide you in your intellectual and spiritual growth. As you pursue your doctoral degree, you will become a transformative force in theological higher education, shaping the minds and hearts of future students.

Next online class starts January 8, 2024

Why Choose Columbia International University’s PhD (Theological Studies) Degree? 

Our ATS-accredited Ph.D. in Theological Studies degree combines a research focus with individualized mentoring and online modality to create a quality doctoral experience that will prepare you to be a well-rounded scholar, make a significant contribution to scholarship in your discipline, and teach in theological higher education both inside and outside the United States. 

Benefits of our PhD (Theological Studies) Degree 

At Columbia International University, we are dedicated to providing you with a unique and enriching PhD program that is tailored to your needs and aspirations. Our fully-online, dissertation-focused program follows the modified-European model, offering you a flexible and comprehensive educational experience. Here’s why our program stands out: 

  • Complete Online Modality: With our program, you have the convenience of completing your entire PhD without the need to relocate or come to campus. You can engage in rigorous academic pursuits from the comfort of your own home or any location that suits you. 
  • Affordable Tuition: We understand the financial commitments of pursuing a PhD program. Our program offers affordable tuition that can save you up to 50% compared to other seminary PhD programs. Additionally, the cost of textbooks is included, easing your financial burden. 
  • Research and Writing Skills: Throughout the program, you will develop and enhance your research, writing and teaching skills. These foundational skills are crucial for your academic and professional journey, empowering you to contribute meaningfully to your chosen field of research. 
  • Diverse Research Topics: We encourage you to pursue a wide variety of research topics that align with your interests and goals. You have the freedom to explore and delve deep into areas that ignite your passion, allowing you to make a significant scholarly contribution. 
  • Coursework Focus: Our program emphasizes the refinement of your anticipated dissertation topic before you embark on your research. This focused coursework ensures that you are well-prepared and equipped to tackle your dissertation with clarity and purpose. 
  • Small Group Discussions: Engage in synchronous small group discussion sessions that foster a sense of community with your fellow classmates. These interactive sessions provide opportunities for collaboration, intellectual exchange and the development of lifelong connections. 
  • Mentorship: You will work closely with a mentor who shares your areas of interest and expertise. This mentor will guide and support you throughout your PhD journey, providing invaluable insights and feedback as you refine your research and writing. 
  • Tutorial Discussions: Benefit from tutorial discussions with your mentor, allowing you to deepen your understanding of the knowledge related to your discipline. These one-on-one sessions provide personalized attention and guidance, ensuring a well-rounded scholarly development. 
  • Ongoing Mentor Engagement: Your dissertation mentor will be actively involved in your research and writing process. Their consistent engagement and support will help you stay on track, offer guidance and ensure the quality of your dissertation. 
  • Timely Program Completion: Our program is designed to be completed in as few as three years, allowing you to obtain your PhD in a timely manner. We provide a structured and supportive environment that helps you stay focused, motivated and on schedule. 

Join us at Columbia International University’s PhD program and embark on a transformative academic journey. Experience the convenience of online learning, benefit from affordable tuition and receive personalized mentorship from esteemed faculty. Take the next step towards becoming a distinguished scholar and make a lasting impact in your chosen field. 

Featured Faculty

TK Dunn

Associate Professor of History and Theology


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 Practical Theology concentration encompasses the broad areas of Chaplaincy, Preaching, Pastoral Theology, and Moral Theology. In this concentration, you may choose to focus your research in any of the major areas of practical theology. If you want to make an original and significant contribution to your area of study and, as a result, contribute to a more accurate understanding of the message of Christ as found in Scripture, the Practical Theology concentration is for you.

What Will I Study?


  • THE 9200 Issues and Methods in Theological Studies

    You will survey significant contemporary issues in Historical Theology or Systematic Theology and review key methods used in theological study. 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)

    3.00 credit hours
  • THE 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)

    3.00 credit hours
  • THE 9900 Theological Studies Dissertation Proposal

    You will engage in guided practice of bibliographic (text-based) research that will prepare you to write a doctoral dissertation in Theological Studies. 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)

    3.00 credit hours
  • THE 9902 Theological Studies Dissertation Research and Writing II

    Upon successful completion of the dissertation proposal course, your supervising professor will guide you as you engage in research for a 90,000 - 110,000 word dissertation in a selected area of Theological Studies. (3-6) Repeatable. Prerequisite: THE 9901

    6.00 credit hours
  • THE 9903 Theological Studies Dissertation Research and Writing III

    Upon successful completion of the dissertation proposal course, your supervising professor will guide you as you engage in research for a 90,000 - 110,000 word dissertation in a selected area of Theological Studies. (3-6) Repeatable. Prerequisite: THE 9902

    6.00 credit hours
  • THE 9906 Theological Studies Dissertation Review & Defense

    Upon successful completion of the dissertation research and writing courses and upon your supervising professors recommendation, you will submit the final draft of your 90,000 - 110,000 word dissertation to the Dissertation Defense Committee comprised of your supervising professor and two additional faculty members. Once the committee has read the dissertation, you will appear before them and defend it orally. (6) Repeatable. Prerequisite: THE 9905

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

Admission Requirements

  • Application
  • Official transcript from accredited institution (all graduate level work)
  • Completed MA, MDiv, or ThM with 3.5 GPA
  • Submit Master’s thesis or major research paper, approximately 5,000–6,000 words (20–24 pages)
  • Submit research proposal (approximately 500 words)
  • Biblical languages: 4 semesters of either/both biblical languages
  • 2 Academic References
  • Interview with admissions committee
  • *International requirements when appropriate

Accreditation and Accolades

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

Career Path Opportunities 

  • Career options include professions such as: 
  • Seminary Professor 
  • International Theological Educator 
  • Bible College Professor 
  • Pastor 
  • High School Teacher 

What specializations are available in this program?

As a Theological Studies student, you may choose to focus your study in the areas of Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Apologetics, Theological Ethics.

Is the program accredited by ATS?

The Ph.D. program is accredited professionally by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), as well as regionally by SACSCOC and nationally by 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 your 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 Theological Studies, 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, Theological Studies students demonstrate proficiency in two theological research languages as part of their PhD studies. The process of collecting a working bibliography for your dissertation usually helps you identify the specific languages 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.


You may also be interested in