Doctor of Philosophy & Master of Theology
Center for Advanced Theological Studies
The Graduate Studies Program at Fuller Theological Seminary traces its beginnings to a rigorous ThM program which was initiated in the 1950s. Later, a full doctoral program was instituted. In 1988, the Program was reconstituted as the Center for Advanced Theological Studies (CATS). The center seeks primarily to prepare women and men for ministries as teachers and educators. The CATS program, with its diverse and international group of students, engages in graduate work at the highest levels of scholarship, research, and reflection. This takes place in a community of scholars committed to such study within the context of evangelical faith aimed at serving the varied and worldwide Church of Jesus Christ. The CATS program is also dedicated to contributing significantly to theological scholarship in general and to evangelical scholarship both in academic and church settings. The center is served by a Graduate Faculty of full and associate professors who have special designated responsibilities in theological research and graduate education. It is staffed administratively by an associate dean and the program director. The Graduate Faculty consists of scholars who have distinguished themselves in research, publication, and graduate level teaching and supervision. In addition to the Full and Associate Members of the Graduate Faculty, the center is also served by Contributing Members of the resident faculty in their capacity as mentors and course supervisors, and by visiting members from other institutions who contribute their expertise in specialized fields. The work of the center is supervised by a faculty committee .
The center offers programs leading to the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Master of Theology (ThM). These programs are offered in the following concentrations of Christian studies: Christian Ethics, Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Practical Theology, and Theology and Culture.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree
The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is the highest academic degree awarded by Fuller Seminary. The PhD is a foundational degree program for a vocation in teaching at the university, seminary and college level. The School of Theology PhD is designed to prepare its graduates for a vocation in theological teaching and scholarship by equipping them with the essential tools for high-level scholarship, by guiding them in a major research project in the area of their major concentration, and by supporting the development of skills in teaching. The PhD is awarded upon successful completion of research language requirements (or their equivalent in some concentrations), 72 units of course work consisting of seminars or directed reading courses, Comprehensive Examinations, a dissertation proposal, and a scholarly dissertation based on research in the area of the student’s major concentration.
General standards for admission to Fuller Theological Seminary may be found in the Admission Standards section of this catalog. Graduate students who seek admission to the PhD program of the center should possess demonstrated academic gifts, and should be committed to a Christian calling in a life of scholarly research and theological reflection, leading to teaching and publication. Admission to the PhD program is based on superior intellectual ability as demonstrated by the applicant’s grade point average and Graduate Record Examination scores, and a first theological degree (Master of Divinity) or its educational equivalent from an institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). For those who have earned a theological degree from an institution located outside the United States and Canada, accreditation of institutions and degrees by other agencies may be acceptable.
An MA degree from an ATS-accredited institution, comparable to Fuller’s MA in Theology, is also considered acceptable for admission except for the concentration in practical theology, for which the MDiv (or its educational equivalent) is required. If the student’s previous study has not included the study of at least eight units of Hebrew and Greek, the student must demonstrate competence by examination or course work during the first year in order to remain in the program. For those entering with a theology and culture, Christian ethics or practical theology concentration, only one biblical language will be required. Applicants wishing to have their transcripts evaluated officially should contact the Office of Admissions for details. In addition, applicants for the practical theology concentration must have the equivalent of three years of full-time ministry experience. In order to demonstrate ministry experience, applicants must submit an executive summary of paid and volunteer positions held, including church and parachurch, part-time and full-time, sketching primary responsibilities and accomplishments.
A cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or above from graduate level study is required for admission to the PhD program. All applicants, including those whose first language is not English, must have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within five years preceding the date of application to Fuller. A verbal score of 160 (600 on the prior scale) and a writing score of 5.0 are normally considered minimum entrance requirements. The GRE quantitative score is also considered in the admission process and for granting fellowships to incoming students.
Applicants whose native language is not English must submit an official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of at least 100 (internet) or 600 (paper test), or an official IELTS Academic Format score of at least 7.0, in addition to submitting GRE scores, if these scores fall below the minimum acceptable scores. The test date of the TOEFL or IELTS scores must not be more than two years preceding the date of application to Fuller.
The application process opens each year on August 1. Applications for admission, including transcripts, references, GRE scores, and a specimen of scholarly work must be received by January 2. Notification of a decision is sent out by March 15. During the application process applicants are encouraged to contact faculty members with whom they would like to work to discuss their interests. Decisions concerning acceptance and appointment of mentors are made by the CATS Committee (a School of Theology faculty committee). Once admission has been granted for a particular year, deferment of matriculation for more than six months is not permitted.
Graduate Assistantships and Fellowships
A number of tuition fellowships are awarded annually to PhD students. Awards are based on merit, with the strength of all application documents used as a basis for evaluation for incoming students, and progress and GPA in the program used as a basis for evaluation for returning students. There are several awards made each year. Awards are also given specifically to international students. Dilworth Fellowships and Stassen Jubilee Fellowships are awarded annually to international students who intend to work in their country of origin. The George Gay Memorial Fellowships are awarded annually to Hispanic students. Inquiries regarding CATS fellowships should be directed to the CATS office.
Financial aid covering part of the tuition cost is also available to graduate students in the form of research and teaching assistantships, where remuneration is given for academic assistance offered to faculty members.
Concentrations and Fields
Upon admission, students are assigned by the CATS Committee to a primary mentor. A student’s primary mentor is normally a professor working in the major field of the student’s research. A second mentor is selected by the student’s mentor following Comprehensive Examinations to provide further supervision, and to serve as the second internal reader of the dissertation. Under the guidance of the primary mentor, and with the approval of the CATS Committee, the student designs a program of 12 six-unit courses. These courses consist of seminars and directed readings. Major research papers are a component in all seminars and directed readings. In some concentrations there are core courses which all students in that concentration must take in Stage One (first 42 to 48 units) of the PhD program. All courses selected should contribute to the dissertation topic or the areas of the Comprehensive Examinations.
The major field of study is chosen from one of the concentrations offered by the Center: Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Christian Ethics, Practical Theology, and Theology and Culture. In addition to a major concentration, students may also choose a minor field of study. Students are required to take no fewer than 42 units of seminars or directed readings in their major field, and if a student has elected to have a minor, at least 18 units of seminars or directed readings in the minor field. Seminars and directed readings in minor fields are selected from one or more of the concentrations under the guidance of the student’s primary mentor.
In order to engage in high level research both in their degree program and in their future careers, students must be proficient in research languages that relate to their field of study. In addition to New Testament Greek and biblical Hebrew, which are prerequisites for admission to the program, PhD students must demonstrate knowledge of two or three research languages. Specific requirements differ according to the concentration; details are available from the CATS office. Knowledge of biblical Greek and Hebrew is demonstrated through the successful completion of 8 quarter units of study (or its equivalent) in each language. One or two research language requirements must be satisfied by the beginning of the second year of study, and all research language requirements must be met before the Comprehensive Exams are taken.
Students in the New Testament and Old Testament concentrations must pass an additional Greek or respectively Hebrew competency exam after the first year of study.
Students who have already studied a research language for graduate credit within four years before admission may petition to have the examination waived with respect to that language. Official transcripts reflecting the language courses taken must be submitted with the petition. In cases where another language is more relevant to the field of research or the dissertation topic, students may petition to be examined in that language instead of one of the standard prescribed languages.
The PhD program is divided into two stages, with the Comprehensive Examinations placed between the stages. Stage One normally consists of 42 units. Though minors are optional, if a student has a minor, during Stage One, such a student normally takes 30 units in his or her major concentration and 12 to 18 units in his or her minor concentration. Stage One must include a methods or foundational seminar in the student’s major concentration, and preferably a methods seminar in the student’s minor concentration, if the student has a minor. Some major concentrations have additional core requirements which should be taken in Stage One.
When a graduate seminar is offered in the field of a student’s studies, the student is expected to enroll in the designated seminar. Students may select a paper topic within the general framework of the seminar which relates to their dissertation topic. Students in Stage One of the program may also take directed reading courses with the approval of their mentor if no relevant seminar is offered.
Upon satisfactory completion of 42 units of graduate seminars or directed reading courses and all research language requirements, the student’s performance will be subject to review by the CATS Committee and he or she will take four Comprehensive Examinations. Failure to pass one or two Comprehensive Examinations will lead to retaking the examinations not passed. If no satisfactory result is forthcoming, a terminal ThM degree will normally be offered upon completion of an approved thesis. Passage of the Comprehensive Examinations and approval by the CATS Committee advances students to candidacy (Stage Two) in the PhD program.
Inasmuch as dissertations frequently need some adjustment of method, revision of topic, or narrowing of scope after a student has done preliminary research, the development of this second stage will involve reflection on the dissertation project between student and mentor and the student’s submission of a formal dissertation proposal to the primary mentor and the CATS office within twelve months of completion of the comprehensive examinations. All courses of this second stage will generally be directed reading courses, designed to round out and bring closure to the student’s research.
Each graduate seminar or directed reading course taken will receive a letter grade. No grade below B will count toward the PhD (B- is considered below B and does not count). A PhD student who receives a grade of B- or lower in a CATS seminar will be placed on academic probation for one term during which the student may not register for a CATS seminar. The student’s mentor and the CATS program director shall determine together what remedial work is necessary during the period of probation. If a PhD student receives a second grade of B- or lower in a CATS seminar he or she will be referred to the CATS Committee. In conversation with the student’s mentor, the Committee will determine whether to dismiss the student from the program. The Committee may elect to transfer the student to the ThM degree program.
Students who are unable to complete the work for a seminar or directed reading course in the quarter in which they registered for the course may receive a grade of Hold from the professor. A Hold allows a maximum of one additional quarter in which to complete their work (the summer is considered one quarter as well). In some cases, the student may not be permitted to register again until the work is completed.
The residency requirement for the PhD program is defined as at least two years of full-time study (or in the case of part-time students, at least 42 unis through seminars or directed readings) on the Pasadena campus. Students in Stage Two may petition the CATS Committee to take up to three seminars or the equivalent of a full school year at an accredited graduate school in the United States or another country.
Comprehensive examinations are taken following the completion of the first 42 units and the research language requirements. Three examinations will cover subject matter in the student’s major concentration and one examination will cover subject matter in a minor concentration. Students without a minor will take four examinations in their major concentration. The examinations are normally given four times a year, during the seventh to ninth week of the Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer quarters. Students are advanced to candidacy when they have successfully completed their Comprehensive Examinations. They may register for their next course while awaiting the outcome of their examinations, but all examinations must be passed before further coursework is begun.
A scholarly dissertation must be presented and approved as the final requirement for graduation. The following rules apply to PhD dissertations:
- The dissertation topic, in the area of the student’s major field, is normally selected immediately after the comprehensive examinations, with the submission of the dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal shall not exceed 5000 words in total length, including bibliography, and shall be submitted to the CATS office for approval by a review committee. The review committee has two members: the student’s primary mentor, and another member of the Fuller faculty. The latter will be designated by the primary mentor to serve in one of the following two roles: second mentor (when the professor will be engaged on assisting the primary mentor as he or she guides the student’s work on the dissertation), or secondary reader (when the professor will only be responsible for reviewing the finished dissertation). Further details may be found in the CATS Student Handbook. The topic is subject to revision as the student’s research proceeds.
- Dissertations are expected to make use of the required languages, where appropriate, and incorporate the results of course work and general reading.
- As a student prepares the dissertation, he or she is supervised by the primary mentor and the secondary mentor (when the student has a second mentor).
- The length of the PhD dissertation is limited to 100,000 words, including text and notes. The bibliography and appendices are not included in the word count. It is understood that some topics lend themselves to shorter length. The minimum length is 50,000 words. Students submitting dissertations are required to attach a signed statement indicating the word count of their dissertation.
- No research for which credit has already been given toward a degree either at Fuller or any other institution may qualify to be recognized for the School of Theology PhD.
- There will be two internal examiners, the first and second mentor (normally the primary mentor and the secondary mentor or second reader) and an external examiner appointed by the CATS Committee upon the recommendation of the student’s first mentor.
- When a student has completed the dissertation and is ready for submission, the first mentor must certify that the manuscript is ready for evaluation. The official manuscript is then read simultaneously by all three examiners. After the external examiner turns in his or her recommendations, and oral defense of the dissertation takes place.
- The program makes use of the following distinctions in the evaluation of dissertations: Pass (either as Superior or Adequate), Resubmit, and Inadequate. Candidates whose dissertations are graded as Superior by all readers are deemed to have passed “with distinction.” In cases where any one of the three examiners assesses a dissertation as not showing “adequate knowledge of the field of study,” or as not showing “adequate evidence of independent research and originality in making a contribution to knowledge,” or as not being satisfactory in its format or literary presentation, the dissertation must be graded Resubmit or Inadequate. Dissertations which are graded Inadequate may not be resubmitted.
- In all cases where a dissertation is graded Resubmit by all three readers, the evaluation process may be repeated once. In this case, the revised manuscript is reevaluated by all three readers (including an external examiner). Candidates will be required to pay an additional fee to cover the costs incurred by reexamination of the dissertation.
- An electronic copy of the dissertation in its final form must be submitted to ProQuest Dissertation Services, and three copies printed on 100 percent rag paper will be presented to the office of the Center for Advanced Theological Studies. Students are responsible for all fees related to these copies of the dissertation.
Time Limit for Completion of Degrees
The normal upper limit for completion of the PhD is eight years, dated from the first quarter the student is enrolled in the program in any way. This time limit may only be extended in special circumstances by petition to the CATS committee.
Students in the PhD must register each Fall, Winter, and Spring Quarter.Registration for Summer Quarter is not required (unless necessary due to loan deferment or visa requirements). Students who do not register for course work or language study are required to pay a continuation fee as well as any applicable seminary registration fees. Students who do not register for two successive quarters (not including summer quarter) may be dropped from the program. In order to reenter the program, the student must petition the CATS Committee, which will determine if and how re-entrance is possible. ‘
Graduate seminars and directed reading courses offered in the PhD program are designated by 800 numbers. A list of 800-level graduate seminars and graduate-level language classes may be found at the end of the Courses of Study section. A partial list of research areas covered by the directed reading courses and a list of the specific graduate seminars to be offered in the coming year are available from the office of the Center for Advanced Theological Studies.
Master of Theology (ThM) Degree
The Master of Theology (ThM) degree is designed to enable qualified graduates in theology to broaden and deepen their theological knowledge and competencies beyond the MDiv level. This goal is achieved by providing an opportunity to take a limited number of courses in areas not previously included in their degree work, and also to pursue studies at an advanced level in a field of specialization.
General standards for admission to Fuller Theological Seminary may be found in the Admission Standards section of this catalog. Applicants should possess an MDiv degree or its educational equivalent from an ATS-accredited school, with an overall graduate GPA (grade point average) of at least 3.5, and a competency in at least one biblical language (or depending on the concentration chosen, two languages). Competency in biblical languages is demonstrated through the successful completion of at least eight quarter units of study or its equivalent in the respective language. An MA degree from an ATS-accredited institution, comparable to Fuller’s MA in Theology with an emphasis in biblical studies and theology, is also considered acceptable for admission except for the concentration in practical theology, for which the MDiv (or its educational equivalent) is required. If the student’s previous study has not included the study of eight quarter units of Hebrew and/or Greek, the student must demonstrate competence by examination or course work prior to submitting a thesis proposal, in order to remain in the program. For those entering with a theology and culture, Christian ethics or practical theology concentration, only one biblical language will be required. Applicants wishing to have their transcripts evaluated officially should contact the Office of Admissions for details. In addition, applicants for the practical theology concentration must have the equivalent of three years of full-time ministry experience. In order to demonstrate ministry experience applicants must submit an executive summary of paid and volunteer positions held, including church and parachurch, part-time and full-time, sketching primary responsibilities and accomplishments.
All applicants, including those whose first language is not English, must have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within five years preceding the date of application to Fuller. A verbal score 160 (600 on the prior scale) and a writing score of 5.0 are normally considered minimum entrance requirements. Applicants whose native language is not English must submit an official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of at least 100 (internet) or 600 (paper test), or an official IELTS Academic Format score of at least 7.0, in addition to submitting GRE scores, if these scores fall below the minimum acceptable scores. The test date of the TOEFL or IELTS scores must not be more than two years preceding the date of application to Fuller.
Applications for admission, including transcripts, references, and GRE and TOEFL scores, must be received by January 2. Notification of a decision is sent out by March 15. During the application process, applicants are encouraged to contact faculty members with whom they would like to work to discuss their interests. Decisions concerning acceptance and appointment of mentors are made by the CATS Committee. Once admission has been granted for a particular year, deferment of matriculation for more than six months is not permitted.
Areas of Concentration
The ThM is offered in the following areas of concentration: Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Christian Ethics, Practical Theology, and Theology and Culture. The ThM requires students to identify an area of concentration and to take at least 24 units in that area of concentration. Students are required to take a methods seminar or foundation course in the area of concentration. The purpose of this seminar is to introduce the student to the field and methods of research in a given area. As such, it lays a foundation for the advanced work required in the thesis. A second 800-level course in the area of concentration or a related field of study is also required. A significant function of the seminars is to provide opportunity for mutual stimulus and criticism within a community of scholars. Students are required to write a thesis (6 units) on an approved topic in their area of concentration as their final course in the program.
Program Design and Duration
The program consists of 32 units of academic study – and it may be completed in one calendar year of full-time study or its equivalent. It must be completed within three years of initial enrollment.
Students must take at least 20 units at the 800-level, including a 2-unit thesis proposal and 6-unit thesis. Other courses may be taken at the 500- or 800-level. The 500-level courses allow students to extend their basic theological knowledge and competencies in one or more areas. The 800-level courses are designed to deepen knowledge and competencies in a specialized area and provide opportunity for participation in doctoral seminars.
Students are required to take at least three-fourths of their course work (24 units) in the designated field of concentration. This may be achieved through a combination of 500- and 800-level courses. One of the courses in the area of concentration must be a methods seminar or other foundational 800-level course in that field. Students are required to write a thesis (the equivalent of one 800-level course) on an approved topic in their area of concentration as their final course in the program. When a student enters the ThM program in order to undertake interdisciplinary study, with mentor approval he or she may take up to 12 units outside of his or her designated field of concentration.
Credit is given only to the approved courses which a student successfully completes as a registered student in the ThM program. All courses must be taken for credit, and no course which receives a grade lower than B may count toward the degree (B- is considered below B, and will not count). No four-unit course for which credit has been given toward another degree may count toward the ThM. Students are not permitted to duplicate previous course work, or transfer credit from other programs.
In order to encourage breadth and also to utilize the rich diversity of the seminary’s course offerings, ThM students are permitted (subject to the needs of the student’s concentration, the advice of the mentor, and overall program requirements) to take any 500-level course offered on any of Fuller’s campuses, or online, in fulfillment of their degree requirements. All 800-level course work must be taken on the Pasadena campus, and all 800-level course work and directed readings must be supervised by a member of the CATS Faculty.
At least 20 units of all required coursework for the ThM must be completed in seminars and/or classes on the Pasadena Campus. Independent studies and Directed Readings are not counted toward this requirement. IDL classes do not count toward the ThM degree requirements.
Students who wish to specialize in Old Testament or New Testament must have at least eight quarter units of both Hebrew and Greek. All other students must have eight quarter units of either Hebrew or Greek.. Students may take Hebrew or Greek for credit as a part of their ThM course work. A maximum total of 16 quarter units of language study (biblical and research languages combined) may be applied toward the ThM degree requirements.
The ThM requires competence in a research language in addition to the biblical languages. When a student meet the language competency requirement by examination, without taking a course, the student must still take the total of 32 units of course work. Students who have taken a foreign language for credit in another degree program may petition the CATS Committee for a waiver of this requirement. Students may also petition the CATS Committee to substitute a different language from those listed above, provided that the language is relevant to their course work.
All language study (except in the case of students specializing in Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literature) must be completed prior to passing the thesis proposal.
The thesis is designed to demonstrate the student’s competence in his or her area of concentration. It should deal with a specific topic in a way comparable with a paper published in a professional journal. The aim should be stated at the outset, and should be accompanied by a statement of purpose. The normal length of the thesis is between 15,000 and 28,000 words, including notes and bibliography. The thesis is examined by the student’s mentor. Theses which receive an A grade from the mentor will be examined by another resident faculty member. If that faculty member concurs with the mentor’s evaluation, the thesis will be designated as “Passed with Distinction.” Those theses evaluated as “Passed with Distinction” will be bound and deposited in the library.
At the outset of a student’s program the CATS Committee will assign a member of the Graduate Faculty as the student’s mentor. The mentor, who teaches in the area of the student’s concentration, is responsible for advising the student about courses, and for supervision and examination of the thesis. The student is required to take at least the 6-unit thesis course with the mentor. All Full, Associate, and Contributing Members of the CATS Graduate Faculty are eligible to serve as mentors.
Students must have fulfilled all course, language, and thesis requirements in order to be eligible to participate in the commencement ceremony. Students may be cleared for graduation during any quarter of the academic year provided that all degree requirements have been met.
Relation to Other School of Theology Degree Programs
The ThM is designed as a self-contained terminal degree. However, the ThM may be viewed as a complement to the DMin program, in view of the fact that the latter concentrates on competence in the practice of ministry in such areas as church growth, counseling, preaching, management, etc. The ThM provides an opportunity for pastors and others to pursue advanced study in theological disciplines, as well as to extend their knowledge and competence in the wide variety of courses offered by Fuller on the Pasadena campus and at its other sites.
Master of Theology students who wish to earn the PhD do not transfer directly to the PhD program. A new application for admission to the PhD must be submitted as one nears graduation from the ThM program. Entrance to the PhD program is subject to meeting the entrance requirements in effect at the time of application in competition for available places. Only students who have earned a cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher for their ThM work will be considered for admission to the PhD program.
Students with a ThM from Fuller (or another accredited school) who are admitted to the PhD program may petition to be granted up to 18 units of advanced standing. The advanced standing means that they are required to take only 54 units of coursework instead of 72.
Students in the PhD program may transfer to the ThM as a terminal degree, either for personal reasons or because their performance in the PhD program does not warrant continuance in it.PhD students who have completed 32 or more units in the first stage, including research language units, may submit a ThM thesis without registering for the designated directed studies for the thesis proposal or the ThM thesis. PhD students who have completed one or more comprehensive examinations may receive two units of credit against the ThM degree for each exam graded “Passed” or “Passed with Distinction.” Three comprehensive exams graded “Passed” or “Passed with Distinction” may replace the requirement to submit a ThM thesis.
For more information on the ThM degree and its policies, please refer to the CATS Student Handbook.
Time Limit for Completion of Degree
The normal upper limit for completion of the ThM degree is three years, dated from the first quarter the student is enrolled in the program in any way. This time limit may only be extended in special circumstances by petition to the CATS committee.
Students in the ThM program must register each Fall, Winter, and Spring Quarter. Registration for Summer Quarter is not required (unless necessary due to loan deferment or visa requirements). Students who do not register for course work or language study are required to pay a continuation fee as well as any applicable seminary registration fees. Students who do not register for two successive quarters (not including summer quarter) may be dropped from the program. In order to reenter the program, the student must petition the CATS Committee, which will determine if and how re-entrance is possible.
Graduate seminars and directed reading courses offered in the PhD and ThM programs are designated by 800 numbers. The 4-unit courses which ThM students may take as a part of their curriculum are designated by 500 numbers. A list of 500-level (4-unit) courses may be found in the Courses of Study section. A list of 800-level graduate seminars and graduate-level language classes may be found at the end of the Courses of Study section. A partial list of research areas covered by the directed reading courses and a list of the specific graduate seminars to be offered in the coming year are available from the office of the Center for Advanced Theological Studies.