Some Advice for (Some) Current Seminarians from Down the Road

I completed my Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree at Western Seminary in Portland, OR. I was asked to write a couple short posts to current Th.M. students there who may be considering Ph.D. studies in the future. My first entry went live this morning: Transitioning to Doctoral Studies—Pt. 1. As I understand it, part two will post next Tuesday.

Oddly, I've found myself advising people about doctoral studies ever since I began my own. I know of five or six people—maybe more—who have talked to me at conferences or on the phone. Maybe my experience as an enrollment counselor back in the day has something to do with it. I don't know. I will say here what I didn't write in these blog posts: I'm not positive that I made the right decision in pursuing my Ph.D. Furthermore, I have pondered quitting dozens of times. It's not that I can't do the work. It's that I am aware that I was naive in my understanding of the job market when I began. In spite of being well-aware of the data there was something inside of me that presumed that I was an exception to the rule. This was a mistake. There remains a high probability that I won't find a job at the college or seminary level. This isn't pessimism, just reality. Therefore, I've been forced to ponder "Plan B" more than I'd like to admit. (I may be on Plan D or E by now.) So, I will say, if you're thinking about getting a Ph.D. because you want to teach at the college or seminary level, proceed with caution! Be aware that you may want to have a Plan B justification for doing so, e.g., the pastorate, leading a non-profit, teaching high school, etc. (In other words: don't place all your eggs in one basket.) Ph.D. programs are emotionally draining in themselves. It makes it even more difficult when faced with nihilism about one's vocational future.