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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Religion

The doctor of philosophy degree in religion is offered by the Department of Religion in the Graduate School. Students may be admitted to the Ph.D. program upon graduation from an accredited college with a baccalaureate degree or from an accredited seminary or graduate school with a post-baccalaureate degree. Students with an M.Div. or M.A. degree may be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program. Ordinarily, students with only the baccalaureate degree are admitted first to the M.A. program. Successful completion of the latter provides a foundation for doctoral studies but does not guarantee admission to the Ph.D. program. Applicants with the B.A. degree are advised to consider not only the M.A. program in the Graduate School, but also the two-year M.T.S. (Master of Theological Studies) program in the Vanderbilt Divinity School as preparation for Ph.D. work.

Areas of Study

Degree programs are offered in:

Interdisciplinary studies, both within religion and in other areas of knowledge, are encouraged. The study of religion can be pursued at Vanderbilt both as a critical, humanistic discipline, employing a variety of methodological perspectives, and as a theological discipline, interpreting the biblical religions and their historical, theological, and ethical heritage.

Degree Requirements

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two modern languages:

A. a modern language of research (normally French, German, Spanish, or Modern Hebrew); and

B. one of the following:

  1. another modern language relevant to the field of study;
  2. a biblical or other relevant ancient language;
  3. the student's native language, if not English;
  4. a research method such as statistics when appropriate.
Each of the areas of major concentration specifies which of the options under B are acceptable for its students. The requirement for modern languages may be satisfied by passing departmental reading examinations or by passing, with the grade of B+ or higher, a Vanderbilt University course designed specifically to teach graduate students to use the language in research. Currently such courses are offered in French, German, and Spanish. Special arrangements are made for demonstrating competence in other languages. Beyond this department-wide requirement, in biblical studies a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek is required, and in some areas of historical studies a knowledge of Latin or Greek is required. Students should be prepared to learn such other languages, ancient and modern, as may appear requisite for scholarly interests. Students should check with their area directors concerning specific requirements.

A total of 72 credit hours of coursework is required for the Ph.D. degree; transfer credit is available for relevant post-baccalaureate credit hours. Qualifying examinations are usually taken by the fifth semester of study, followed by presentation of a proposal and finally by dissertation work and an oral defense.