What Can I Do with a PhD?

August 25, 2023

Westminster’s PhD program offers the highest level of theological education available anywhere in the world, tailored to those who are seeking a career in vocational theological education, or teaching at the university or seminary level. As one of the only Reformed theological institutions in the United States that offers a PhD, there are few programs like Westminster’s doctoral program. In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at what makes the program so unique, namely, the skills that you will gain and the structure and benefits of the program.


Skills of PhD Graduates

The PhD is designed to create students who are the world’s foremost expert in their particular topic of research. You will demonstrate an ability to produce scholarly academic work that constitutes a unique contribution to your field of study. You will also be forced to engage with primary source material in their original languages. This requires you to demonstrate familiarity with two research languages (typically Latin, German, Dutch, and/or French).

This program is also committed to creating future professors who have the skills necessary to teach the next generation of pastors and professors. To do this the Westminster PhD exposes our post-graduate students to advanced degree coursework in key theological disciplines. As a theological educator, you will need to be able to field diverse questions and think on your feet. This program will prepare you to do just that. We endeavor not to produce mere theological researchers, but truly well-rounded theological educators as well.


Structure of the PhD 

The PhD consists of two phases. The first is the coursework phase. This phase consists of 10 courses, 4 core courses specific to your discipline, 3 directed reading courses, and 3 elective courses.

Once you have completed your coursework, you will then move on to your comprehensive exams and your dissertation proposal. The comprehensive exams consist of a written exam and an oral exam. They are comprehensive in that anything that appeared in your course work or that is relevant to your field is fair game for the exam. If you pass your comprehensive exams and your dissertation proposal is accepted, you become a PhD candidate and begin the second phase of your doctoral program, the research phase.

Once you become a candidate you will have an advisor assigned to you that will oversee and advise your dissertation research. Your dissertation must consist of a unique contribution to the knowledge of the subject. It must be worthy of peer reviewed publication and will be assessed by your primary advisor, a secondary WTS faculty reviewer, and a reviewer external to Westminster. Once submitted you will have an oral defense of your dissertation before your primary and secondary WTS reviewers. Once passed, you will then be conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


Benefits of the PhD 

 The PhD is an extremely competitive program with only a handful of accepted candidates each year. It also the most rigorous of all of Westminster’s degree offerings. As such, it is not for the faint of heart. With that said, there are a number of benefits that come with the PhD.

Faculty advising

The dissertation process will give you the tools necessary for a career of academic writing. You will sit under the guidance of one of our expert faculty members and receive personal instruction from some of the world’s foremost experts in theology. Your writing will be guided and critiqued before you submit your dissertation to the review process in which your work will be further dissected for improvement. This process provides indispensable guidance that will shape your academic writing for years to come.

Robust Coursework

The PhD also prepares you for a career as a theological educator. While independent researchers have their role, Westminster aims to empower those who would seek a role as educators who focus as much attention in the classroom as they do in their personal study. You will be prepared to shape the minds of the future pastors and educators of God’s church by being exposed to the highest level of theological coursework available. The courses tend to be small seminars with lots of discussion. This format allows you to direct the conversation which will all the more prepare you for a future career in the classroom.



Westminster’s PhD program offers the highest theological education available to anyone anywhere in the world. It prepares those who would serve God’s kingdom through teaching in the classroom and through research and writing. It is a competitive, robust, and rigorous program that has produced some of the world’s foremost experts in theology.

Want to learn more? Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students that are able to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, and examine scholarship opportunities. Contact a counselor here.  




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