How to find and apply for a Ph.D. program
Deciding whether to pursue a Ph.D. can be an angst-ridden process filled without doubt, financial uncertainty, and regular bouts of self-pity. At the very least, the would-be doctoral student must wrestle with the following questions:
- Do I really want to put myself and my family through the upheaval that a doctoral program involves (e.g. moving, financial stress, etc.)?
- Am I okay with the fact that I may well not be able to find a teaching position at the end of the day?
- What do I want to study and do I enjoy it enough to spend that much time on it?
- Where should I do my doctoral studies?
- Am I even qualified for the doctoral program that I want? If so, how do I get in?
- Should I just stay home and watch Lost on Netflix instead?
And, those are just the questions for the first week. If you get past these, you’ll run into many more down the line.
Given the number and significance of such questions, it’s no surprise that people are always looking for advice on whether/how to pursue a doctoral program. So, I’m always keeping my eye out for good resources to help with the process. And, just this morning, someone sent me a link to a very helpful post by Daniel Treier at Wheaton College on preparing for a PhD.
Treier divides his post into three sections:
- Discerning Whether to Apply
- Determining When/Where to Apply
- Developing an Application
He offers some pretty blunt advice in the first section that may be eye-opening. But, I particularly liked one comment that he made regarding the job market and the needs of the church:
The job market suggests that in most fields we evangelicals do not need more applicants; we need a few better-prepared ones. In the church, meanwhile, we quite likely need more intelligent and intellectually-curious pastoral staff members. Let the one who has ears, hear.
One of my arguments for the value of a Th.M. is that it’s a degree program well-suited to training “intelligent and intellectually curious” men and women for pastoral ministry in the local church. I think we have too often directed our best minds into the academy, thinking that somehow such people were “wasted” in local churches. What a tragedy. (For another take on this, read Sean Lucas’ post “Ministerial Students, Calling, and PhD Studies.”)
But, if you still want to pursue a Ph.D. after reading his post, I found the third section particularly helpful. I’ve run across other posts on the first two issues, but this is the best that I’ve seen to focus closely on what it takes to develop a quality application. (See also John Anderson’s post “To Those Applying to Ph.D. Programs…My Advice“).
And, here are some other posts that you may want to check out:
- Do I need a Master of Theology (Th.M.)?, Marc Cortez
- Advice for applying to doctoral programs, Marc Cortez
- What’s it like to go from a ThM to a PhD in the UK, Ben Johnson
- Advice to prospective doctoral students, Dave Black
- Ministerial Students, Calling, and PhD Studies, Sean Lucas
- To Those Applying to Ph.D. Programs…My Advice, John Anderson
- Interested in a NT PhD?, Nijay Gupta