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Thoughts and Opinions on PhD in Bible Exposition from Liberty University
#1
I've done a lot of research and reviewed a ton of online seminaries and universities and have come away with this conclusion: if I'm going to pursue a PhD I want to do it at an RA school (specifically Liberty). I'll list detailed information about my particular situation below. Would love feedback on the school, the program, and on my specific usability, future prospects, etc. (i.e. is this a good idea).

1. The program, all in, would cost $14k. I can barely afford this. It would require I keep my current job for at least 2 years. I would use about $1000 from savings to make up the difference (I might be able to make it up by really living like a grad student but I'm pretty close to that already). My current job is pretty stable and has longevity (but only to the extent that any job does in this day and age. Translation: I could be fired or laid off for any reason at any time or the company could just fold tomorrow - none of these are likely but always possible). I would not be going into any debt for the degree. But if anything goes wrong I'm up the proverbial creek (i.e. lose job, major vehicle breakdown, and anything else I cannot foresee). But I think it is possible to skip a semester or two and pick back up later.

2. The program is 2 years in length (or, at least, I can complete it in 2 years). Here is the Completion Plan for the degree. The first year would be courses while the second year would be focused on the dissertation + defense. Defense is either in person or virtually. Two people on the committee. They are assigned, I do not seek them out or get to pick them.

3. I'm not particularly comfortable with having to jam all the courses into the first year. It feels kind of scammy that they financially incentivize students to load up on credits each semester (but I think this is the nature of higher ed these days and this is the cheapest PhD I could find online that was RA). They divide up the semester into two terms. I would have to take 2 courses term 1 and three courses term 2. All courses are 8 weeks long. Year 2 Dissertation "courses" are 16 weeks long. Language courses (4) will have to be completed doubled up and back to back in the beginning of the first year. This makes me nervous, though none of the courses require students to gain actual language proficiency. 

4. My ultimate goal is to teach online at seminaries or bible colleges as an adjunct instructor (maybe 2 or three courses per year). My target schools are Redemption Seminary (unaccredited but will be seeking accreditation in the future) and NationsU (volunteer teaching). I'm also not opposed to mentoring at Columbia Evangelical University either. The alternative would be (or in addition to) to start my own online school so I have the freedom to develop my own curriculum and offer certificates.

5. If I can swing it, I would also like to get 9 more credits in History (I currently have 9 graduate credits from APUS) so I could qualify to teach History online as an adjunct. Not sure how realistic this is since my MA is only NA and my PhD would be in a religious subject (plus the History market appears to be as flooded with applicants as the Biblical Studies market).

...............

So, here are my questions:

1. Would it be worth it?
2. What is the reputation of Liberty at other Seminaries and bible schools? What about at RA secular schools like community colleges, etc?
2. Do you think I'll end up getting the PhD and be completely unemployable? (making money is really not the goal, but I don't really want to make that kind of financial investment and have the degree be practically useless). I guess I'm hoping for some kind of ROI on the investment.
3. Any reasons you can think of to not do it (yep, looking for people to talk me out of it).


Thanks for any info or advice. Brutal honesty is highly encouraged. Confused
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#2
5) Um Yeah, go for it as you only need to take 3 extra Graduate History courses. You should continue at APUS if it has the courses you need, otherwise, there are other options such as Fort Hays I think or at least there are a few graduate schools with tuition under 300/credit. I think it's worth it to have a secondary "History" option to teach.

Oh BTW, have you ever thought about teaching at Seminaries Overseas instead? Would there be easier yet different requirements for teaching at those? Shop around, it's not just you choosing the school, the school also needs to choose you, put more options on the table, if one doesn't work, try another! Off to see the wizard...
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#3
I have the opposite advice from bjcheung: Avoid it unless you can realistically see future work options, even part-time options.

Residential seminaries overseas actually post job offers from time to time. In the United States, you may have a hard time with finding any real offer in the field. The competition for those rare openings is fierce, and many PhD applicants come from top universities. I wouldn't count on online seminary options. It's extremely difficult to join residential Bible college and seminary faculties in the United States. The options for online seminary gigs are infinitesimally small. Keep in mind that many seminaries (Fuller Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, etc.) are known as affirmative action employers. Your employment also depends on your ethnicity, so that factor must realistically be taken into consideration. Are you non-white? If not, you have an even smaller chance of getting that long-term faculty position after your PhD. Unless you receive a full scholarship or find a much cheaper program, I don't believe that it makes sense to go into possible debt over a fictional online seminary teaching gig. These online seminaries are often struggling financially, so this may not even provide a part-time salary. Personally, I would wait for a cheaper online doctorate option, or try finding a teaching position with a Master's degree. If you can't get a part-time position with a Master's, I wouldn't bank on a future career with an added doctorate.

Go for a PhD if you can get a full scholarship, or want to explore global teaching positions after financing the program on your own. Otherwise, I would avoid it.

Here's how the situation really looks ("Liberty University cuts divinity faculty"):

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019...ty-faculty
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#4
(11-22-2020, 03:41 AM)openair Wrote: I have the opposite advice from bjcheung: Avoid it unless you can realistically see future work options, even part-time options.

Residential seminaries overseas actually post job offers from time to time.  In the United States, you may have a hard time with finding any real offer in the field. The competition for those openings is fierce, and many PhD applicants come from top universities. I wouldn't count on online seminary options. It's extremely difficult to join residential Bible college and seminary faculties in the United States. The options for online seminary gigs are infinitesimally small. Keep in mind that many seminaries (Fuller Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, etc.) are known as affirmative action employers.   Your employment also depends on your ethnicity, so that factor must realistically be taken into consideration. Are you non-white? If not, you have an even smaller chance of getting that long-term faculty position after your PhD. Unless you receive a full scholarship or find a much cheaper program, I don't believe that it makes sense to go into possible debt over a fictional online seminary teaching gig. These online seminaries are often struggling financially, so this may not even provide a part-time salary. Personally, I would wait for a cheaper part-time online doctorate option, or try finding a teaching position with a Master's degree. If you can't get a part-time position with a Master's, I wouldn't bank on a future career with an added doctorate.

Go for a PhD if you can get a full scholarship, or want to explore global teaching positions after financing the program on your own. Otherwise, I would avoid it.

Yeah, I'm well aware of the woke realities of academia in and out of the church. It's one (of many) of my major concerns. I keep asking myself if I would really want even a part time position in a school that would base it's hiring practices (or even worse its theology) on ridiculous ideology. That's exactly why I'm seeking advice from as many people as possible because I can't seem to actually pull the trigger, yet I also can't seem to shake the impulse to want to pull the trigger.

So, I know a full professorship is pretty much out of the question (and I'm definitely okay with that). In fact, to be completely honest, I don't expect Seminaries or Christian Colleges to even exist in the future. I predict they will have their accreditation pulled on a massive scale or will be required to compromise on their doctrine in order to keep it. That will render them less than useless. I think Churches will have to seek alternative accreditation or go the unaccredited route in the future.  

Part of me (quite a big part) would rather I just forget about it and focus on developing courses online. I would have no boss, can sell as few or as many courses as God would desire, and I would still be able to do all the research I want in the subjects that interest me. But, for whatever reason, I haven't been able to shake the feeling or internal "need" to pursue this degree.

I would love the opportunity to work at a church run school, or a teaching program. But these are usually pastor positions (carrying pastor responsibilities) and are not academic in nature - more practical and I'm not at all interested in practical. ;-) If I develop my own curriculum, I could potentially "market" the whole program to churches across the country, even possibly set up theology schools as a consultant or under the auspices of mission worker. Heck, I could use the $15k as seed money to get started!

But I've got to somehow shake this impulse to pursue a PhD and I'm not certain how to do that.

Quote:bjcheung775) Um Yeah, go for it as you only need to take 3 extra Graduate History courses.  You should continue at APUS if it has the courses you need, otherwise, there are other options such as Fort Hays I think or at least there are a few graduate schools with tuition under 300/credit.  I think it's worth it to have a secondary "History" option to teach.  


Oh BTW, have you ever thought about teaching at Seminaries Overseas instead? Would there be easier yet different requirements for teaching at those? Shop around, it's not just you choosing the school, the school also needs to choose you, put more options on the table, if one doesn't work, try another!  Off to see the wizard...

3 courses alone is too close to not get that qualification. But, I'm not certain how practical it really is or what kind of ROI there would really be. I've applied to teach a few history adjunct pre-college credit courses online and for that part-time contract position alone there were over 100 candidates. I can't compete against someone who got a PhD in History from Harvard or even a State school. I definitely have no chance against 100 of them. Especially with no teaching experience. I applied for an online adjunct position teaching bible courses at an unaccredited bible college and there were 13 other applicants and it only paid $200 / month. I never heard back so I certainly didn't get that one either.  

I have a co-worker who just finished her MA degree and started teaching online as an adjunct. It cost her $40k and most of that is debt she's still paying off, and she's already regretting getting the degree. She says the pay is terrible, there is no stability, and the students would rather sue you than learn anything. It sounds just awful!

APUS is not an option. Their rates are way too high now. Plus I did not enjoy my experience there. 

I looked at Fort Hays. They are interesting. Graduate History courses are $300/credit. I couldn't find any additional fees but I'm sure there are some, which always ratchets up the price per credit. Liberty offers graduate history courses and I'm already accepted into their MA program, but I'm up against a few deadlines and they so far say they will not allow me to take history courses while enrolled in the PhD program. Their history courses are $275 / credit with a military discount + $200 tech fee per term. But I can get the $200 waived so.......but that's $2400 for what? The opportunity to apply for adjunct teaching jobs that I have no shot at getting?

Once I get my MA (December 1st) I have to apply for the PhD program to see if they will take all my credits, etc. Long story short, the only way I can swing the Liberty degree is the fancy tuition schemes they cooked up. But, I've found Liberty often claims to offer a lot of great financial savings that end up being more slogans and advertising than real savings - if anyone is considering this school take my advice READ THE FINE PRINT ON EVERYTHING. For this particular program, the Military discount actually costs me $1000 more than just taking the program at regular credit rates with the block rates half the time. But, one wrong step and I blow my budget. It's insanity!

Thanks for the advice, though. I'm weighing all my options. But I think I'm becoming a bit schizophrenic with all this. Too bad I don't have a rich great uncle somewhere that can fund my education.
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#5
I can't truly recommend a non-accredited school. But in terms of the non-accredited route (assuming that you would be aware of the possible implications of getting such a degree), you could look for options such as this one; https://www.forge.education. The last time I checked, it was free. However, I am not sure if they currently charge anything for the programs. They also want to expand their faculty.
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#6
Honestly, with the controversy surrounding Liberty lately, I would not be so quick to choose Liberty right now lest you find yourself a pariah even amongst fellow Christians. I think you really need to step back and consider exactly why you want a PhD so badly and you need it RIGHT NOW. This is your third or fourth thread on the subject. You keep getting told that this is probably not the best route to take and, yet, you persist. I'm not saying that it's wrong to want a doctorate but you don't seem to have any real plans beyond "teaching".

What do you have to offer the Christian community that cannot be done without a doctorate? Whether you have a doctorate or not, why should anyone listen to YOU and what you have to say? You are avoiding unaccredited institutions and, yet, it sounds like you want to go out and found yet another unaccredited Bible school. Why? What value is this? Why would anyone want to view your unaccredited lectures if you, yourself, refuse to go with an unaccredited school? What would happen if you put your desire for a doctorate on hold for 6-12 months and tried to enact your teaching plan with your Master's degree?

If you want to waste $14k on a degree that, in the long run, probably won't change all that much in your life, that's your own business. But I don't think anyone here is going to tell you to leap on this opportunity. Look inside your heart and examine the reasons why you want to go against the advice you keep receiving in this forum.
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#7
Maybe consider becoming a chaplain. To me that seems like a practical job with opportunities pretty much everywhere and pays enough to buy food, etc. Depending on your current master's degree, you might just have to take chaplaincy courses. I looked into it a bit when I was actively working on the NationsU courses. I'm Catholic and it seemed like I might be able to use a NationsU master's to become a Catholic chaplain since at least one of the Catholic chaplaincy organizations takes nationally-accredited theology degrees for certification. I would think that there would be some denominations that would be more or less stringent.

I could envision several advantages of becoming a chaplain. A person could take a chaplain job at a college or a college hospital and maybe get subsidized tuition through the college to pay for more study. Also, the chaplain job could get a a person in the door at the academic institution and then when everybody loves you and sees you working on the doctorate, maybe you get hired as a professor. At the very least, you have practical experience that is at least somewhat relevant to Biblical study. And, at the very least, you have a practical pathway if the pure theology career doesn't work out.

I would also think that there will probably always be a market for chaplaincy degrees and maybe you could become a professor in a chaplaincy program. Who knows?
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