The DSc. in Religion and Health program is an inter-professional program intended to enhance careers in ministry and/or health care by providing advanced education in the emerging field of religion and health. It is an excellent pathway for chaplains preparing for Board Certification or pursuing advanced education/leadership opportunities.  It is also intended for health care professionals and managers, and those in ministry who desire training in the integration of faith and health. The program is not designed for pastoral ministry, or to generally prepare students for the job market.

Program Overview

There are several components of this doctoral program.  In addition to core religion courses, students will choose an area of concentration, conduct research, complete an internship/practicum relevant to the concentration, and a project/dissertation.  Detailed information about each of these components is provided below. 

The Program will accommodate students who have completed a master’s degree in either Religion or a Health care profession.  Core courses will be offered as intensives on the LLU campus two consecutive years during the summer term.  Many other courses are offered online, particularly in concentration areas, and as co-requisite religion courses. Students may progress through the program at their own pace (up to five years maximum).   All students must have a demonstrated proficiency with technology and have access to a personal computer and the Internet.

Program Objectives

Graduates of this Program will successfully:

  • Identify how theological and biblical perspectives provide a unique foundation for discussing issues in religion and health
  • Understand the implications of health care policy and advocacy in establishing new behavior, affecting society, and establishing long-term change in relation to religion and health
  • Demonstrate integration and leadership skill development in the areas of wholeness and  whole-person care
  • Summarize the ways religion and health interact within a specific area of health, chaplaincy, religion or faith/health leadership (through the concentration)
  • Demonstrate the capacity to create research questions and agendas in the integration of religion and health

Program Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 60 quarter credits from the list below, with an overall grade point average of B or better, with no grade lower than C, and no grade lower than a B- in a core course.

Core Religion Courses (16 units)

RELT 500

Religion and Global Health

Focuses on an international perspective of the interconnections between religion and health, with special attention to how faith (theological  ideas) of a community play a role in how people seek treatment and relate to health and disease. 


RELR 508

Religion, Health-Care Policy, and Advocacy

Explores how religious and ethical visions shape definitions of health, concepts of just health care policies, and attitudes toward the urgency of taking action to improve the health of communities.  Encourages students to be participant-observers in programs of effective health care advocacy. 


RELT 509

Theological and Biblical Perspectives in Religion and Health

Examines issues related to health, illness, and suffering from theological and biblical perspectives.


RELR 692

Seminar in Religion and Health Care Leadership: Current Trends

Explores current trends in faith and health care leadership, such as working with faith communities, developing a values-based health care system, and understanding current research and hiring mission; as well as other topics.  Course taught in seminar fashion, exposing students to various health care leaders and allowing students to focus on their area(s) of interest.





Religion Research Courses (6 – 8 units)

RELR 590

Quantitative Research in Religious Studies

Introduces methods and data used to study religion and health; and how they are used to answer research questions related to the discipline. Published quantitative studies will be examined.  Software programs (Excel, SPSS) used to analyze quantitative data will be explored, and students will analyze quantitative data as a component of the course. (Additional project required for fourth unit.)

3 - 4

RELR 591

Qualitative Research in Religious Studies

Looks at various methods used to examine the relationships between religion and the health of individuals and populations; primary focus will be on grounded theory methods.  Students will conduct their own research and/or be involved in a research project as a component of this course. (Additional project required for fourth unit.)

3 - 4



6 - 8

Areas of Concentration (24 units)

Religion Concentrations

Clinical Ministry*




Specific Health Concentrations

Child Life Specialty


Drug and Alcohol Counseling


Family Counseling


Family Life Education




Forensic mental Health


Emergency Preparedness & Response


Lifestyle Intervention


Maternal Child Health


Global Health


Health Administration


General Health Concentration

In collaboration with an advisor, students may select courses around a topic area within the health sciences to form a concentration.   This may be accomplished by

  • Choosing courses outside a particular concentration but within the same School (SBH, SPH);
  • Choosing a variety of courses from both Schools (SBH and SPH) around a specific topic (i.e., gerontology); or
  • Select courses from any LLU School that provides an overall perspective of health to provide a more general understanding of the field



Note:  Students entering the Program with an MA in Religion who wish to prepare for a chaplaincy career should choose the Clinical Ministry Concentration, and select additional courses from the MS in Chaplaincy and Denominational Studies Certificates programs as needed co-requisites. 

Practicum Internship

RELG 595

Religion and Health Practicum

Registration required; no academic credit received.


Students must complete an approved practicum/ internship within their concentration area, as approved by an advisor. Typically this is met by the satisfactory completion of at least one quarter of practicum work at an approved site.  It is recommended that students complete all coursework prior to their practicum/ internship.

Settings providing practicum opportunities include, but are not limited to:

  • Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) System hospitals
  • LLU Behavioral Health Institute
  • LLU Global Health Institute
  • LLU Institute for Health Policy and Leadership
  • LLU Institute for Community Partnership
  • LLU Lifestyle Medicine Institute
  • LLU Center  for Bioethics
  • LLU Center for Spiritual Life and Wholeness
  • LLU Center for Health Promotion
  • LLU Schools that offer health concentrations
  • LLU Campus Ministries
  • Professor-driven research/service opportunities
  • Non-LLUH entities that are approved

For students beginning their preparation for chaplaincy careers, this requirement will be satisfied by at least one quarter of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).  Loma Linda University Medical Center, under the auspices of the Department of Chaplain Services, is an ACPE-accredited Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Center.  (Note: Acceptance into the CPE program is at the discretion of the CPE supervisor and must be arranged individually and in advance.)

Dissertation (11 units)

RELR 592

Doctoral Portfolio in Religion and Health*

Establishes the groundwork for the program by exploring the connections between faith and health, and the genres specific to each. Acquaints students with the principle theoretical and practical skills necessary for discussing the two fields of religion and health. To be completed in the first quarter of doctoral work.


RELG 596

Dissertation Proposal

Students will work in collaboration with the research advisor to develop their dissertation proposal, adhering to School of Religion and Faculty of Graduate Studies guidelines. Students must successfully defend the proposal relating to religion and health.


RELG 597

Dissertation Research

Registration for this course is ongoing throughout the Dissertation writing process. 





* Portfolio and Critical Essays
Students will be completing a Doctoral Portfolio in Religion and Health, along with their coursework, which will require 6 critical essays.  Each one will address one of the program objectives. One essay is required at the completion of the first quarter in the program (RELR 592 Doctoral Portfolio). The remainder of the Portfolio is due at the completion of the coursework, prior to exams.

Entrance/Graduation Requirements
The number of units required for graduation depends on the previous graduate degree earned prior to entering the DSc. program:

Previous Degree# Units Required

MS in Chaplaincy or MDiv. Degree
(72 qtr. units minimum)

60 units*

MA Degree
(48 qtr. Units minimum)

60 units

PLUS Religion co-requisites

24 units

 84 units

Masters in Health profession

60 units

PLUS Religion co-requisites24 units

84 units

Co-requisites:  Students entering the Program with an MA in Religion or a graduate degree from a health-related field must complete an additional 24 units of religion/theology, 15 units of which must be in theology or Biblical studies (RELT prefix). Students may complete the co-requisite units while enrolled in the DSc. program.

Transfer credits
Students may be eligible to receive credit for approved graduate-level courses from other accredited institutions, subject to a transcript evaluation.  

Advanced Standing:  Students entering with specialized training beyond the MA level may apply for advanced standing.

Students applying for admission must meet the following requirements:

  • Graduate degree from a regionally-accredited institution
  • Minimum grade point average of 3.30
  • Three letters of recommendation (one each from academic, clergy, professional)
  • GRE test scores - no more than five years old

(HSRT scores may be accepted in lieu of GRE)

  • A demonstrated proficiency with technology and access to a personal computer and the Internet
  • International applicants must also submit current TOEFL scores and evaluations of any international transcripts – please visit
  • Interview

Applications:  Apply online at  The School of Religion has a rolling admission policy in which completed applications are reviewed and students are accepted on a continual basis.  Your application must be submitted by the deadlines listed for the quarter you wish to enroll:

  • Fall quarter:  August 1
  • Winter quarter:  November 1
  • Spring quarter:  February 1
  • Summer quarter:  May 1

Documents required beyond the online application include: 

  • All official transcripts of college/university work (mailed directly to LLU)
  • GRE test scores - no more than five years old

(HSRT scores may be accepted in lieu of GRE)

  • Statement of research interest and sample paper
  • International applicants must submit current TOEFL scores and evaluations of any international transcripts – please visit

Note:  All documentation should be received within two weeks after the application deadline for the quarter of choice.  The online application will prompt you with instructions and timelines to successfully complete the process.