May 27, 2024  

Religious Education PhD

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs by Degree

Religious Education, PhD

John V. G. Matthews, Interim Director

The PhD (Religious Education) prepares men and women to be scholars and researchers in specialized teaching and discipling ministries of the home, the church, or the Christian college or university. All candidates further develop the core competencies of a religious educator and select an area of specialization for intense study and research using research methodologies of the social sciences.
Graduates with a PhD (Religious Education) are prepared to serve the church in teaching and leadership of ministries focused on the family, the church, or the school and to investigate contemporary religious education issues, using social sciences research methodologies.
They demonstrate competency in six major roles and an emphasis area:

Religious Educator Roles

  1. Christian Apologist
  2. Pastor-Teacher
  3. Servant-Leader
  4. Evaluator/Researcher
  5. Maturing Christian
  6. Lifelong Learner

Areas of Emphasis

  • Christian Formation and Discipleship
  • Theological Curriculum and Instruction
  • Customized: See Curricula Requirements for Emphasis below.

Total Credits: 64

Degree Core - 44

Core Requirements - 44

Christian Apologist - 6 credits

Pastor-Teacher - 6 credits

  • Electives in psychology, curriculum and instruction

Servant Leader - 3 credits

  • Elective in administration or leadership

Researcher-Evaluator - 23 credits

Research courses - 7 credits:

Dissertation sequence - 16 credits:

Maturing Christian - 3 credits


Research is a major component of the PhD (Religious Education) program.


At the time of their topic approval, students must show competency in the proposed research methodologies of their dissertation research. The research project from the course DSRE 887 - Applied Research  is an appropriate way to demonstrate this competency.


Course Plan. Upon acceptance into the program, the student is assigned an advisor by the director of the program. Normally within the first 16 credits of study the student and advisor prepare a course plan for completing the degree requirements. This course plan must be approved by the Religious Education 0ffice.

Comprehensive Examination. Early in their program, students should obtain a copy of the Comprehensive Examination Guidelines from the Religious Education office.

All prerequisites and regular course requirements of 48 credits or more must be completed before the student sits for the comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination consists of five sections, one of which may be given in a takehome format, one of which is a portfolio presentation, and three of which must be written in a supervised environment. Examination dates are arranged through the administrative assistant for the Discipleship and Religious Education Department. 

Formal application to take the comprehensive examination should be made by the beginning of the semester preceding the semester the student intends to take the examination.

For more detailed information regarding the comprehensive examination, see the Religious Education Doctoral Handbook.

Advancement to Candidacy. Students should apply for advancement to degree candidacy when they apply to take comprehensive examinations and after they have

The student is advanced to degree candidacy after passing the comprehensive examination.

Dissertation Committee. Before the student registers for EDRM 880 - Dissertation Proposal Development  or GSEM 854 - PhD-ThD Dissertation Proposal Seminar , the student in consultation with his/her advisor selects a tentative dissertation topic. The program director, in consultation with the student and advisor then appoints a faculty member knowledgeable about the tentative topic to chair the student’s dissertation committee. The student, the program director, and the doctoral committee chair collaborate in the selection of two other members to complete the student’s dissertation committee. All three members of this dissertation committee must approve the proposal before it is presented to the Proposal Review Committee and the PhD/ThD committee. The appointment of the dissertation committee is subject to approval by the PhD/ThD committee, as are any changes to the committee.

At least six weeks before the dissertation defense, the director, in consultation with the dean of the Seminary, appoints an external examiner.

Dissertation Proposal. No later than the last semester of course work, students must submit to the PhD/ThD Committee a final proposal that is approved by their dissertation committee. Students defend their proposal before the Religious Education Doctoral Committee.

Two types of proposals are acceptable:

  1. A 10–15 page overview of the major elements of the dissertation.
  2. The first three chapters in tentative form.

Either format must include a clear statement of the problem, the research question/s, a preliminary survey of relevant literature, and the research methodology.

Dissertation Preparation. The dissertation prepared by the PhD candidate must

  • Make an original contribution to scholarship
  • Demonstrate the candidate’s competence for independent research
  • Reveal the candidate’s familiarity with and proficiency in handling the relevant literature
  • Present a logically organized, methodologically sound, and readable account of the investigation, findings, conclusions, and implications of the study.
    See the Religious Education Doctoral Handbook for more information on dissertation preparation.

Oral Defense of the Dissertation. The candidate must orally defend his/her dissertation. The defense date is set and announced by the director of the Religious Education Program at least two weeks before the defense. No defenses are scheduled during the final two weeks of a term or during the interim between semesters.

See the Religious Education Doctoral Handbook for more information on the oral defense of the dissertation.

Concentration - 20

Concentration Requirements - 20

Courses for the emphases, and in one case, language prerequisites for an emphasis, are listed below:

Christian Formation and Discipleship - 20 credits

Theological Curriculum & Instruction - 20 credits

Language Prerequisite: If the area of study requires a language, complete the course NTST 552 Intermediate Greek , OTST 552 Biblical Hebrew II  or pass a qualifying examination at the intermediate level in Greek or Hebrew.

9 credits from one of the following areas:

  • Biblical Archeology & History of Antiquity
  • Christian Ministry
  • Church History
  • Mission
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Theology
  • Christian Philosophy

5 credits from Curriculum & Instruction

6 credits from Christian Formation & Discipleship Emphasis

Customized - 20 credits

Students may design an individualized course of study if three conditions are met.

  • Academic area must be appropriate to Religious Education
  • Graduate courses on the topic must be available at Andrews University
  • Andrews University faculty with expertise in the topic must be available for advising
  • 6 credits need to be taken from Christian Formation & Discipleship Emphasis

Options for the customized course of study may include such areas as family life education, campus spiritual leadership, education history, church music and worship, spiritual nurture of children, or spiritual nurture of youth and young adults.

Admission Requirements

In addition to meeting the general admission requirements listed in the Graduate Programs Admission section and in the Seminary Admission Requirements, applicants must:

  • Hold an MA (Religious Education); an MDiv; an MA (Religion); or an MA degree in education or related area plus have 28 credits in religion (16 of which may be on the undergraduate level).
  • Have 16 undergraduate or graduate credits in education or religious education.
  • Prerequisites will be evaluated for a coverage and balance of different areas of theology and education.
  • Show promise of future usefulness to church and society.
  • Demonstrate the ability to handle doctoral-level work in English.  A TOEFL score of 90 is required of all PhD (Religion) program applicants whose native language is other than English, and who have not completed a bachelors or masters degree in an English based program.
  • Time to Apply. While early applications are recommended, the deadlines for application to the PhD (Religious Education) program are as follows:

  • For North American students: three months prior to the anticipated starting date.
  • For non-North American students: six months prior to the anticipated starting date.
  • Items to Submit. In addition to submitting the items required of all graduate students, applicants to the PhD (Religious Education) must also submit

  • A 600-word statement of purpose, which includes their mission statement, a description of the journey that created a desire to pursue doctoral studies, and a vision of the professional accomplishments they foresee.
  • A 200-300 word description of their area of interest for dissertation research and an explanation of this choice.
  • A significant research paper (term paper, thesis, or research report), normally written during the master’s level studies. This paper should give evidence of the applicant’s ability to carry out research and to present the results and conclusions of such work in standard English and in an acceptable style.

General Requirements

  • All course work taken at the Seminary should be at the 600-, 800-, or 900-levels; course work taken at the School of Education should be appropriate for doctoral level study.
  • At least 51% of the student’s course work should be designed specifically for doctoral students.
  • A minimum of 32 credits in approved on-campus doctoral course work (not including the dissertation) must be completed after acceptance into the doctoral program at Andrews University.
  • Students must earn a 3.00 cumulative GPA for all course work in the degree program.
  • Students must establish residency by taking a full-time load (8 credits) for two of three consecutive terms (semester or summer).
  • Students must pass the comprehensive examination.
  • Students must write and defend a dissertation.

Time Limits. All degree requirements must be completed within ten years of first registration for Andrews University doctoral course work. All course work and the comprehensive examination must be completed within six years of first registration. The dissertation must be completed within five years after passing the comprehensive examination. (The student who takes six years to complete course work and pass the comprehensive exam will be allowed four years to complete the dissertation.)

Full-time Status. For students who have not completed all courses for the degree, full-time status requires one of the following options:

  • Registering for 8 or more credits of course work and/or dissertation and/or internship.
  • Registering for 4 or more credits of dissertation.

For students who have completed all requirements for the degree except the dissertation, full-time status requires all of the following:

  • Registering for one or more credits of dissertation or dissertation continuation;
  • Doing “full-time” work on the dissertation or internship as defined by at least 24 hours a week or 720 hours per year and confirmation of same by the dissertation chair.
  • All course work is campus-based and supported by online resources.

Bulletin Requirements. A student may choose to meet the requirements of any bulletin in force after acceptance into the doctoral program, as long as he/she maintains active status. If a break of enrollment occurs and the student is placed on inactive status, he/she must meet the requirements of a bulletin in effect after enrollment resumes.

Prerequisites. Students entering the PhD (Religious Education) program should have a foundation in research methods of education and psychology and in basic statistics as evidenced by EDRM 505 - Research Methods and EDRM 611 - Applied Statistical Methods I or their equivalents. As part of the conceptual framework for the religious education program, EDFN 500 - Philosophical Foundations for Professionals; DSRE 605 - Contemporary Topics in Religious Education and Discipling; and DSRE 541 - Foundations of Biblical Spirituality are required.

Program Outcomes

  1. As a Christian Apologist - Develops and articulates effectively a philosophy of religious education.
  2. As a Pastor-Teacher - Uses and teaches appropriate methodologies for discipling across the lifespan.
  3. As a Servant-Leader - Models the principles of servant leadership in the church, school, and broader community.
  4. As an Evaluator/Researcher - Conducts research, and analyzes and reports findings.
  5. As a Maturing Christian - Exhibits a growing maturity in understanding and portraying the love of Christ.
  6. As a Lifelong Learner - Demonstrates personal and professional development.
  7. As an area Expert - Applies all relevant core competencies to the area of emphasis and teaches others to do likewise.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs by Degree