There are a number of different doctorates that Christian leaders work toward but two of the most common are the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Ministry (DMin). As someone who is a DMin student, I frequently get asked, “What is the difference between a PhD and a DMin?” Here is my short answer.
There are some major differences in the format of the studies, although it is hard to summarize as different countries have different types of PhDs. In North America, PhDs have a major course component in addition to language tests, comprehensive exams and a dissertation. In Europe, it is mostly just a dissertation. A DMin includes courses, generally in a modular format, with a thesis. The DMin thesis is shorter than a PhD dissertation.
However, the main difference is in the purpose of the degree. Traditionally, people received PhDs to teach in universities and seminaries, as well as to research in order to publish academic books and journal articles. People received DMins, not to teach, but to equip themselves to be better pastors or leaders in Christian ministries. PhDs are supposed to be for professors and DMins are supposed to be for pastors.
Having said that, I am a DMin student and I am not a pastor. In fact I am an adjunct instructor at a Bible college and I publish academic books and journal articles. There are people I know who have PhDs who have not found teaching opportunities and so they become pastors. Confusing, right? The lines have definitely become blurred. (Please note that since writing this post, I am now a pastor and have cut back on my teaching.)
Should you seek a PhD or a DMin? I would suggest that you follow the traditional track. If your plan is to teach, don’t go for a DMin as a quicker way to get a doctorate. Get your PhD and then see what happens. If you are a pastor and you want to take your studies to a new level, I would suggest a DMin. Again, that may lead to teaching opportunities but that is not the purpose of the degree.
I recently did a podcast episode on this subject. It is only about five minutes long, have a listen.
I also have written a post called What Theological Degree Should You Get? that you might find helpful.
If you are interested in a Doctor of Ministry, I would suggest Acadia Divinity College. That is the school where I am studying and I have found the school and the program to be excellent. It is definitely something worth checking out.