Late spring is a good time for potential applicants to start thinking about applying to graduate school. Most application deadlines come between about November 15 and January 15, for admission the following fall. Here’s my post from the Anxious Bench archives about choosing the best programs for you – and whether you should apply to graduate school at all.
I routinely get questions from undergraduate and Master’s students about applying to graduate programs. (Mostly in history, though not exclusively.) Here’s some of the most common questions.
Should I apply to a Ph.D. directly, or to an M.A. program? I was a political science major as an undergrad, so it made a lot of sense for me to switch to history for an M.A. before I applied to Ph.D. programs. It helped me get my bearings in a new field (even though I had been a history minor) and made me a much stronger candidate for Ph.D. programs. If you are not sure a doctorate is for you, a terminal M.A. can make a lot of sense. You can apply directly from a B.A. to a Ph.D. program, but students with only a B.A. will obviously have a harder time justifying their preparedness for the Ph.D.
What about the job market? I hear it is rotten. As I have noted before at Patheos, the job market is indeed terrible, and anyone going into a Ph.D. program needs to take a broad, flexible view of what they might do career-wise at the end. There can actually be a few more opportunities if you would be open to teaching in either a Christian or a secular school environment (Christian schools sometimes struggle to find candidates who have both a serious Ph.D., and a serious faith), assuming that the secular schools do not get scared off by signposts in your c.v. that you are a Christian.
If you are a Christian thinking about graduate school, let me say this: we desperately need serious, thoughtful Christians to be active in academia and publishing, as a matter of Christian witness to both students and other professors. Being a professor is a great life, assuming you can get a job. But graduate work is not for everybody.
-Information about Baylor’s graduate program in history, which offers both Ph.D. and M.A. degrees.
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