Why I finished my PhD

Peter Enns has written a post making its way around my Facebook thread entitled are PhD programs in biblical studies ethical? a final thought from SBL.

This is obviously a complex issue, but I see posts like this often enough that I’ve wanted to sit down and blog my experience for quite a while.  When I look back on the reasons why I finished my PhD I think the reasons were threefold:

  1. I had a sense of vocational calling when I started
  2. I didn’t accumulate school related debt
  3. I always had what I felt like was a legitimate plan B other than teaching at a college or university

Of course, memory is a fragile thing and I’ve probably forgotten many things I thought along the way, but I can say that I almost completely lost number 1 in the list above at different times for a variety of reasons.

I think a big part of what kept me working through was knowing that I wasn’t really putting my family at any kind of financial risk. And, I also knew the PhD would give me a better shot at even my plan B job a little further down the line.  So, even when the feeling of calling had gotten buried somewhere along the way and I may have felt like scrapping the whole thing for that reason, I still had the sense that it was a good idea to finish.

I should say that my PhD story did have a happier next chapter than I ever imagined at times.  I was offered my current position working with Logos Bible Software which has been a blast. I work with Hebrew day in and day out and am picking up valuable programming skills along the way. I’ve been able to work with a ton of great people.  So, this all probably colors the way I look back at my PhD work.

At any rate, the one piece of advice I would give to incoming students is think through the whole debt thing and the plan B thing ahead of time.  With all of the reports about the job market for PhDs, a sense of vocational calling may not be enough to get you through your program.

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