The Catholic University of America
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Pursuing a Ph.D. in Church History

The goal of the Ph.D. in Church History is to prepare students for careers in research, writing, and teaching on the college, university, and seminary levels. Students in the Ph.D. program are expected to think critically about the ways in which the Church has been studied over the centuries and to apply those insights to the study of their area of concentration.  In order to do this effectively, students are expected to acquire advanced training in the original languages and to conduct their research in the primary texts.  The program allows for students to complete coursework and to acquire competency in fields and disciplines relevant to their area of concentration.


Thumb It is expected that applicants to the program will have taken courses in the History of the Church, Theology, Religious Studies, and in such related disciplines as History.

Students entering with an M.A. degree will be considered for advanced standing in the program. Relevant bodies within the school may review the quality of a student's M.A. degree before granting advanced standing to a student. After such an evaluation, the student may be required to complete further work, including work in related disciplines.

Applicants to the Ph.D. program should include a sample of their scholarly work and should indicate in the statement of purpose how the proposed area of research draws upon the resource (i.e., areas of faculty expertise and/or special collections) of the university.


  • Ph.D. students are required to complete a minimum of 36 credit hours beyond the M.A.
  • At least 15 credit hours will be in Church History, 12 credit hours of which will be from courses taken at the 700 and 800 levels.
  • Among the 15 credit hours required is The Writing of Church History (TRS 620A).
  • The remaining 21 credit hours may be taken in another field in the School of Theology and Religous Studies, or from another school or department in the University, e.g., Philosophy, History, Semitics, Greek and Latin, etc.
  • The student's adviser will guide the student in selecting the courses appropriate to the student's area of concentration.


Thumb Church History students must demonstrate reading knowledge of French, German, and Ecclesiastical Latin, as well as any other languages that may be needed for research in the area of concentration (e.g., Patristic Latin, Greek, and/or Syriac).

The language requirements will be met by passing an examination administered either by the Church History area or by the Department of Greek and Latin, to be determined by the Church History faculty.

Depending on the student’s area of concentration, another modern language may be substituted for French or German.  Approval for such a substitution will be granted by the director of the academic area upon consultation with the Church History faculty.

Comprehensive Examinations

ThumbChurch History students are required to pass four written comprehensive examinations.  Two (four-hour) examinations will be in the area of concentration, and two (four-hour) examinations will be in minor fields, one of which may be in another discipline (e.g., History, Philosophy, Greek and Latin, Semitics).


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Contact Information

For more information about the Ph.D. in Church History, contact the area director, Dr. Susan Wessel at or 202-319-6423.