Monday, June 29, 2009

Advice for those contemplating graduate school

John Anderson, John Stackhouse, and Andy Rowell have some good advice and information for students considering graduate programs in Biblical Studies or Theology. But for a dose of hard reality you really should read Thomas Benton's recent columns in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go
Just Don't Go, Part 2
And, on a related subject: What to Advise Unemployed Graduates

My advice: Go for it, if you love it because you love it*, but stay out of debt if you can possibly avoid it--especially if you are entering a field where there may not be jobs at the other end.

*It refers to study in your field, not the dream of teaching.

My sense is that in Biblical Studies the number of graduates with newly minted Ph.D.'s is out of all proportion to the number of academic jobs available. Maybe I don't know where to look (since I'm not on the market), and now is not the job-posting time of year, but the SBL Career Center currently has 0 (that's zero) jobs posted.

Of course, a graduate degree in Religious Studies may lead to a lucrative fulfilling career in any number of other fields. And if you want to serve the church there are other more important jobs than being a professional academic--like being a pastor, for instance.

Finally, trust God and be thankful. Who you are matters more than what you do. (I'm aware the advice is easier to give when one has a job than to live when one doesn't.)


John Ottens said...

Wow, that's pretty discouraging. I had no idea.

ErinOrtlund said...

People who are open to teaching in a college or seminary overseas will broaden their options, assuming they find a good fit and funding.

d. miller said...

Thanks, Erin! I should have mentioned that there is plenty of need and no lack of good teaching opportunities overseas. Of course, one often has to raise one's own support for that sort of thing.

ErinOrtlund said...

True, but not always. We looked into opportunities with the Presbyterian Church a few years ago--had there been an open door, we would not have had to do personal support raising. But then, if God calls someone to a mission work involving support raising, He can provide--I know Wes Olmstead has a friend teaching at an Ethiopian seminary with SIM.

I do agree though that it's good to go in to doctoral work with your eyes wide open about the tight academic job market.