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MDiv vs MTS (@ HDS)


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I'm currently applying to HDS with an interest in comparative religion. I've read through several of the super useful posts on this forum, but I'm still puzzled trying to decide which M* degree I want to apply to. I'm switching fields -- from comp science in undergrad 6 years ago into religious studies; perhaps I'm missing something that's obvious about the differences between these two degrees. 

So -- I'm not entirely set on what I'd like to pursue afterwards, but I would like to keep a door open to pursuing an academic route (PhD). I've been told that many PhD programs don't accept an M.Div as appropriate preceding degree because they're seen as "professional rather than academically rigorous", though looking at the program requirements it doesn't actually seem to me that I would be unable to get academic rigor alongside classes focusing on spiritual care. Furthermore, the M.Div has a thesis component whereas the MTS does not -- and this part I'm a bit confused about as doing a thesis before stepping into dissertation sounds like a great idea.

While I do not necessarily see myself going into ministry in a professional/traditional sense for a variety of reasons, I do feel drawn to study the ministerial content (care, sermon writing) as it is incredibly valuable to my community organizing work. Is there any benefit to doing an MTS over an MDiv considering the latter has a built-in thesis component (not to mention more time for language study) ?  If I get an M.Div, is it necessarily true that I would need to get another masters before applying to PhD programs? If so, I've been thinking about doing an MTS  (and perhaps auditing ministerial classes that are of interest) and then potentially going for a second thesis-based masters program...  would appreciate hearing thoughts on all of this! Thanks. :)

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The general wisdom is that the MTS is better for academic prep (this is true), but if you scroll through the Ph.D. profiles at top schools you'll find that there's quite a few people with MDivs (especially if it's from someplace like HDS or YDS). So yes, an MTS will help you, but an MDiv isn't gonna keep you out. 

You should talk to someone who's a grad of HDS or someone from admissions about this, but my sense of HDS's MDiv is that it doesn't differ wildly in content from the MTS; even if they have some ministerial/pastoral classes you ought to take, you still would have a lot of freedom in course selection so that you can do more academic prep.

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Thanks for the response ! I've spoken to some students who are currently at HDS, and they say (as well as the program websites) that the degrees are flexible enough that you can "make them what you want", as well as take whatever MTS classes within an MDiv. 

Do you know if PhD programs are likely to look at what type of work a student has done within a M* rather than placing specific emphasis on the type of M*? I was also told by a former student that simply the name of an MDiv over an MTS made it difficult for them while applying for PhDs, but it was unclear why that was the case. 

 

Thanks again. :) 

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I came out of an MDiv program, but it was from a seminary not a divinity school like HDS. Before I was able to get into a program, I had to take that supplementary year of a ThM to better develop my research skills that would better prepare me for a PhD program.

Because PhD programs are research-oriented and MDiv programs aren't all structured to produce researchers, it may fall on you to prove that you have the chops to do it well. My sense from having taken classes at HDS is that it doesn't seem like there's much of a difference between the MTS and MDiv programs in the course flexibility it allows. But from the general perception of MDiv vs. MTS, I would suggest going for the latter if you're already set on staying the course towards a PhD program. I'll add that I do know some people who wanted an MDiv for ordination purposes on top of wanting to prepare for a PhD program in the future. I see this as perhaps one of the few advantages of an MDiv over an MTS. 

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On 10/19/2018 at 9:43 PM, rong said:

I've spoken to some students who are currently at HDS, and they say (as well as the program websites) that the degrees are flexible enough that you can "make them what you want", as well as take whatever MTS classes within an MDiv. 

Do you know if PhD programs are likely to look at what type of work a student has done within a M* rather than placing specific emphasis on the type of M*? I was also told by a former student that simply the name of an MDiv over an MTS made it difficult for them while applying for PhDs, but it was unclear why that was the case. 

Because an MTS suggests that you've been given training for a specific academic track, and an MDiv does not. But I would question how that student knew the degree name was a problem.

Yes, both programs are flexible, but some are more flexible than others. It will depend on where the classes you want to take are located. I'm a medievalist with an MTS in the History of Christianity, and I spent almost all of my time down at the Yard. I think I took maybe 1 course at HDS proper per semester, if that. That kind of focus is much harder with the MDiv.

There are definitely some socio-intellectual differences between the cohorts. Generally, MTS students are more interested in precision of thought and theoretical coherence, while MDivs had a greater interest in affect and feeling. That's not to say that either approach is wrong, or that one is better than the other, but they don't talk to each other super well. The number of times I was told with a frustrated sigh, "Ugh, you're such an MTS..." :ph34r:

Finally, the thing to remember about spending time at Harvard is that the courses you take are not the point of the experience. Rather, it's the relationships you create with your professors, and, more importantly, with your peers. The your degree program and the classes you select determine in large part the type of social network you will build, and an MDiv network will have different utility than an MTS one.

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  • 1 month later...

I have an MDiv from HDS. It's an amazing, life-changing experience. I wanted to point out that a lot of students enter on one program and switch to the other. The one major difference IMO isn't the thesis, its Field Ed: MDiv requires two of them, and it's a big deal (you'll be spending about 20 hours a week on one, and the the other one is either a full time summer position or another year-long placement). It can be a great opportunity to get experience in something related to your field. I know people who went into a PhD from either program, although I do think MTS is the more common path. I saw a lot of my classmates continue seamlessly into a PhD at Harvard -- my personal opinion is that it's probably the best way to get into a PhD at any school, to start in masters and build a relationship with the person who will be your PhD supervisor. But like I said, MTS vs MDiv is not quite as big a decision as it seems going in because a lot of people change from one program to the other after they get there and see the difference and get a feel for the school.

I also want to add -- be prepared for it to be intense (especially the language classes). It's 100% true that HDS is what you make of it (and I was honestly surprised how much I was on my own to design my program) but it's amazing how much people grow and change in a few short years.

Edited by OmniscienceQuest
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Don’t worry about the thesis part of it. The consensus from (YDS) faculty I have known is that almost every student is better served by taking another semester of a language or doing another seminar with a professor who could write a LOR or where they could perfect a writing sample. Master’s theses tend to be too long to be publishable papers or writing samples but too short to be the equivalent of a dissertation, so most of the faculty discussing it advised against. But of course your own faculty will have their own opinions. 

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