Deciding on Graduate School


This may not be the most appropriate forum for this subject but I have never posted on any of the forums here albeit being a member for a number of years. That being said, here is my issue: I am trying to decide between two different graduate schools for studies in Church History. The two schools are: The Graduate Theological Union @ Berkeley (it’s common MA program with a concentration in History) and the Catholic University of America’s Church History MA program. Any advice or information about the two schools?


Interesting Subject. What do you hope to do with Masters after graduating?


I’m not entirely sure. I intend to focus on Early Church History while working on my Master’s and my loose plan is to continue those studies into a phd program.


Grad School is expensive! I would advise that you be sure of what you want to do with the degree before you commit to such an investment of time and money


Indeed it is. I don’t mean to suggest that this isn’t something I’ve seriously thought about but rather I am more interested in a discussion about the schools and their academic programs. Is there a better forum for this question?


Do you want to be a professor after your PHD?


By what criteria have you narrowed your choices down to these two?


Graduate school is very costly in this day, I hope you understand. I work in a college myself, and I am consistently advising my students 1) to be very sure that they’ll have sufficient work after receiving the degree and 2) to be certain that the burden of debt is lessened by fellowships, grants, and awards available.

You say you might want to go on for the doctorate afterwards and become a professor. But first ask yourself how many professors of church history there are in the US. 200? 100? Likely only a handful. Next, how many of these are full-time and tenure-track? I’m sure you’re aware that about three-quarters of college faculty in the country are now adjuncts, who are paid dismally. In my institution, an adjunct professor in the humanities makes $3,200 per course. However many courses you get to teach each semester depends on your institution’s enrollment and upon student demand. Many of the adjunct professors I know travel over 100 miles daily to different institutions to teach because there isn’t enough work at one institution. Even still, they have a lot of trouble covering their debts.

Next, who will hire you? Most Catholic universities are run by a religious order; wouldn’t they prefer to give work their own members whom they’ve trained for this specific situation? Do secular or Protestant universities even have programs in church history besides an odd course here or there?

I hate to sound discouraging, but I know so many bedraggled adjunct professors myself and so many people with advanced degrees yet menial jobs to advise extreme caution to laypersons in going to graduate school just for the sake of getting a degree, particularly if that is an non-professional degree in a field where few teachers are needed.

That said, if given a choice I would choose CUA.

God bless.




I would say CUA. Not only is is a Catholic Institution, it has a strong Eastern Catholic influence. Nothing against Berkley but I couldn’t see studying Church History at a secular university.


Reality Check, and delivered with much care:

I think you really, really need to think hard about why you’re planning to go to graduate school to study a topic that has no marketable outcome. Unless you are living on a trust fund, you need to find a job when you graduate. No one is going to hire someone with a Masters in Church History.

Even if you go on to get a PhD, your job prospects are incredibly slim. You could, perhaps, teach at a college or university. But those jobs are very hard to come by these days. You’ll likely end up teaching as a part-time adjunct, with no job security, working on a semester-to-semester contract basis that could end at any time. My wife is a part-time college instructor. It works out really well for us because it gives her flexibility: she never knows how many classes she’ll get from semester to semester. But if she relied on it as her sole income, life would be extremely difficult. Also, I hate to bring up the Affordable Care Act, but because of health benefits obligations, her college eliminated an entire classification of faculty (the so-called "Part-Time Permanent Instructor’) so as to avoid paying their benefits. Her net income is now around $30k per year. And she has a PhD (engineering). Truth be told, she hasn’t sought a full-time position.

My sister-in-law was in a tenure track professorship (History) at a small college, but she gave it up when she and my brother moved to a different city. That was about five years ago and she has yet to find another full-time teaching position, even through they now live in a big city with a lot of colleges and universities. She, too, has a PhD.

Hey, I love Education. I’m all for it. But if one of my kids had a plan like yours, I wouldn’t be supportive (because I’d end up being $$ supportive in the end.)


Thank you for all your responses. I suppose since I posted this in the vocations forum I was likely to get more responses about going to graduate school in general rather than simply a discussion on the merits of the two schools, which is what I was going for. The Graduate Theological Union is a consortium of 9 seminaries associated with UC Berkeley. Students apply to a specific member school. The one I applied and was accepted into is the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.

Being an academic is something I’ve always pictured myself as and wanted to do. This is what I’m best at and I’m prepared to (and already have to a certain degree) take on the financial responsibilities and job market difficulties that go with it, as is my fiancee.

Thanks again.


Thanks for the additional information. I didn’t know that about Berkeley. I would still lean toward CUA because of the Eastern Catholic angle. I wish you the best. Due in large part to the high cost of graduate school, we have far too few people who pursue academia for the love of knowledge as you seem to be doing. :slight_smile:


As a Canadian, I don’t know much about these two schools but I think you need to ask yourself what do you want to do with your life? Like many people have said, you need to look at the job prospects but I also think you also need to look at other schools as well and see if they also have programs that interest you. Considering jobs in theology are scarce, it might also be a good idea when looking at schools to look at the job prospects of your present degree. I know several students who work full and part time in their fields while working on a MA in Theological studies.

It is also important to realize that graduate schools are highly competative which means it is likely that you will have to apply to several because there is no garantanees that you will get into your first choice.

I am just completing a graduate degree in Theological studies at a secular university (Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.) I can say without a doubt that I have loved studying at my school therefore I would not necessarily cross a secular university off your list. It has been my experience with secular universities, it can also be a meeting place where students from various christian denominations study together. This is what happens inside the department of Theological studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The conversations we have and the things we learn from each other is unbelievable because the students are from all sorts of denominations which carry different view point and ideas. This is important in theology these days because Christians are interacting more and more in the secular world which is changing the faces of theology.

Discernment for you will be to discover what subject is God calling you to study and at what school, state and even possibly even what country as well. Canada also has some amazing schools which are worth while checking out.

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