The program of any particular student may deviate from the following outline at some points, but this sketch indicates in general what may be anticipated.


Orientation and registration for incoming Ph.D. students is held immediately before the opening of the fall term in September. During the preceding May, students will be assigned temporary advisers who will help with first semester registration. Early in the semester a three-person residence committee will be appointed to work with the student throughout the residence period. From this committee and especially its chair, the student should secure counsel regarding courses and other aspects of the program up to the comprehensive examinations. As students plan their programs, they should remember that faculty will not normally be available during the summer recess or during official leaves from the Seminary. At these times members of the faculty have no contractual obligation to advise students, to read drafts of dissertations, or to engage in any other instructional activity. Other appropriate faculty members are normally substituted for residence committee chairs who are on leave.

First Two Years

Language Requirements:

After fulfilling the initial modern language requirement (see  Language Requirements ), the student enters a two-year period of full-time resident study prior to the completion of the comprehensive examinations. During this residence period, students are required to complete successfully a minimum of eight doctoral seminars or their equivalent. Full-time resident study is generally understood as enrollment for two or more seminars, courses, or directed readings per term, in accordance with faculty advisement, with availability Monday through Friday for library research and interaction with colleagues outside of scheduled class meetings. In no case is advanced standing granted at the time of acceptance for admission. In exceptional cases the Ph.D. Studies Committee may later reduce the time of residence preparation for the comprehensive examinations on recommendation of the student's department. Under no conditions will the minimum requirement of two years' full-time tuition be reduced.

First Year Review

In the first term of the second year, the student’s work is reviewed and evaluated by the residence committee. The first-year review is based on a self-evaluation prepared and distributed by the student to members of the residence committee. After the review, a written evaluation of the first year is presented by the residence committee to the student and to the Ph.D. Studies Office. If the student’s committee feels there is cause for concern at the end of the first year, this review may take place in May of the first year.

Third Year

Comprehensive Exams

The period of resident study culminates in the comprehensive examinations, a series of written examinations, and/or papers, as specified by each department, followed within ten days to two weeks by an oral examination, usually two hours in length. (Permission to substitute papers for examinations generally is not granted in the Department of Biblical Studies.) Other variations in testing procedure must be approved by the Ph.D. Studies Committee. In the oral examination, which is conducted by the faculty in each area, the student’s competence across the breadth of the field is assessed, and a determination is made as to whether the comprehensive examination as a whole has been passed, provisionally passed (with required revisions), or failed. Examinations may be taken in April and May of the second year of residence or in September and October or January of the following year. The examinations may be taken in one of these periods or split between two consecutive periods, as determined by the residence committee in consultation with the student. All seminars must be completed and grades recorded before comprehensive examinations begin. An exception to the requirement for a recorded grade will be made for any seminars in which a student is enrolled during the term in which comprehensive examinations are being taken.

Dissertation Proposal

The student is urged to give thought to possible dissertation areas and topics from the very beginning of residence. Seminar and course paper topics may be selected in part to explore such possibilities. Upon the student's satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student's department appoints a dissertation committee, taking into account the research topic and the student's suggestions. The committee is subject to the approval of the Ph.D. Studies Committee. The chair of the dissertation committee must be a full-time member of the Seminary faculty. Under the guidance of the dissertation committee, the student develops the research topic into a formal dissertation proposal to be submitted to his or her department for approval. The comprehensive examinations must be passed and the dissertation proposal approved no later than the last departmental meeting in the third year. Failure to meet this deadline may result in dismissal. During the summer recess or during official leaves from the Seminary, faculty members have no contractual obligation to advise students, to read drafts of dissertations, or to engage in any other instructional activity. Other appropriate faculty members may be appointed as substitutes for dissertation committee chairs who are on leave.

Years 4 and 5


The Ph.D. Studies Committee has set a maximum length of 250 pages for a Princeton Seminary dissertation. Permission of the dissertation committee is required in advance for a significantly longer work. A final draft of the dissertation must be approved by the dissertation committee no later than March 15 of the year in which the degree is to be conferred. To allow sufficient time for evaluation of the dissertation, the student should submit the draft to the committee several weeks in advance of this deadline. Style guidelines and specifications are available from the Academic Affairs Office. After the dissertation is approved, a date for a public oral examination is set by the candidate's department, in consultation with the candidate and with the approval of the Academic Affairs Office. One final copy, together with a copy of an abstract of 350 words or less, must be delivered to the Academic Affairs Office no less than two weeks before the oral examination date.  An electronic editable version is to be sent to the Associate Dean for Curricula. Upon satisfactory completion of this examination, the candidate is recommended by the examiners for the Ph.D. degree.

At least one week prior to the last faculty meeting of the term, one perfected post-defense copy of the dissertation (unbound) must be submitted to the Ph.D. Studies Office for review by the dissertation format examiner. The copy must include an abstract of 350 words or less. All required formatting changes must be made promptly in accordance with the examiner’s instructions and three final copies of the dissertation with abstract submitted to the Ph.D. Studies Office. Final transcripts will not be issued until this process is complete. The dissertation is made available to the scholarly world by microfilm, for which the candidate is to complete the Doctoral Dissertation Agreement form in the Ph.D. Studies Office. The abstract is published in Dissertation Abstracts.

Completion of the Program

The Ph.D. program is designed to be completed in no more than five years of full-time study. In those cases in which candidates are allowed to study on a part-time basis during the dissertation stage, all degree requirements are expected to be completed within six years of entry into the program. The candidacy will be terminated if the dissertation is not successfully defended within nine years of the date of entrance into the program. Failure to pay tuition (full or reduced) for an academic year without approval of the senior vice president and chief operating officer will result in termination of the candidacy.

Princeton Theological Seminary does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, national or ethnic origin, or disability in its admission policies and educational programs. The Seminary's Senior Vice President (Administration Building, Business Office; 609-497-7700) has been designated to handle inquiries and grievances under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other federal nondiscrimination statutes.