Practical Theology PhD Program - Princeton Theological Seminary

Practical Theology PhD Program

The PhD program in practical theology offers three tracks, which are designed to prepare students to teach at a seminary, college, or university. However a majority of graduates go on to serve in many different capacities and institutional settings, including the parish.

PhD Studies Current PhD Students


Pastoral Theology

The PhD program in pastoral theology prepares students to learn and read texts critically, recognize the importance of introspection, and learn to use theology and ethics as tools for assessing the beliefs, practices, and actions of Christians.


The PhD program in homiletics brings together scholars with a unique range of interests and expertise, including theology and hermeneutics, rhetoric, performance theory, communication, and African American studies.

Christian Education

The PhD program in Christian education engages students in ground-breaking research using sophisticated practical theological methods and research tools.

PhD Course of Study

Students are to successfully complete a minimum of eight doctoral seminars or their equivalent, two of which must be inter-area seminars on issues of common concern to the whole field of practical theology. One of these two seminars must be PT900 History and Method of Practical Theology. In addition, each of the three areas will have specific requirements for the remaining six seminars.

Students are required to take five written comprehensive examinations (one departmental examination in practical theology and four area examinations), the timing of which will be determined in consultation with the Residence Committee.

The examinations may all be taken during one of the following two examination periods, namely, September and October of the third year or January of the third year. Alternatively, the examinations may be divided, so that one or two examinations may be taken in April and May of the second year and three or four examinations in September and October of the third year, or one or two examinations in September and October of the third year and three or four examinations in January of the third year. When the examinations are divided, the examination in practical theology will always be taken as the first in the overall sequence. The oral examination will be based on the written examinations.

Students in Christian education will write examinations in the following areas:

  1. Practical theology
  2. Christian formation, theology, and spirituality
  3. Christian formation and the human sciences
  4. Contemporary discipleship and education
  5. History and philosophy of Christian formation

Students in pastoral theology will write examinations in the following areas:

  1. Practical theology
  2. One or more of the human sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology, anthropology)
  3. The theological disciplines (systematic theology, ethics, biblical theology, or philosophy as related to the theological enterprise)
  4. Theory, method, and practice in pastoral theology
  5. Psychology of religion, or another field of relevance to pastoral theology (e.g., philosophy of religion, sociology of religion, religion and science, religion and literature)

A paper may be substituted for one of the four area examinations.

Students in homiletics will write examinations in the following areas:

  1. Practical theology
  2. Speech, performance theory, and preaching
  3. History, theory, and practice of preaching
  4. Theology and hermeneutics in preaching
  5. Preaching the gospel in diverse cultures

On occasion, a student will be authorized to substitute a topic—such as liturgical studies and proclamation—selected by the Residence Committee in consultation with the student.