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Princeton Theological Seminary vs Duke Divinity School for Later PhD Work

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I've been accepted into PTS and Duke Divinity. I'm pretty familiar with the theological framework of each institution, and what kind of quality of life I'd expect in each city. I've also received an 80% tuition scholarship and grant from PTS and 33-25% tuition grant from Duke. The standard need-based stuff from each school.

My question here is: will either school do a better job preparing (perhaps qualifying) me for eventual PhD work in theology? I'm still figuring out what I'd like to do my PhD in but it would likely would be in theology (creation, anthropology, or eschatology) or early church history. I have an interdisciplinary interest in AI and music as well. 

The main thing that's holding me up now is that the PTS degree won't be coming from Princeton University, whereas the Duke Divinity degree will. I'm not sure that makes difference in the long run, but that's where my head is at.

Any insight would be helpful! 

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Ultimately a PhD from Duke will open far more doors for you than PTS. Some of this will depend on what kind of school you want to teach in but even then, Duke will open more doors, and a larger variety of them, than PTS.

Every school is facing problems with their graduates landing tenure track jobs out of the gate or within 1-2 years. That said, I know of about half a dozen recent PTS theology (PhD) grads that were doing 2-3 postdoc programs* (so anywhere from 2-6 years) before they landed a tenure-track job at even virtually unknown schools. Three of them "gave up" and moved to the UK to work at large universities that cater to conservative students that come for the DPhil and return home, generally to a church job.

*Some of these were official postdoc programs. Others were designed to run for 1-3 years and then you're expected to move on but weren't officially classified as seeking postdocs.

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Speaking as a current M.Div student at PTS who plans to pursue PhD work, I would advise that you go to Duke if your aspirations lie solely in the academy. At the end of the day, PTS is a seminary that focuses on preparing pastors. While the faculty are top notch in almost every field, most of them understand their job is to equip future ministers, not academics. To Xypathos’ point, it’s less about PTS being inadequate preparation and more about Duke being a widely recognized T1 school.

I cant speak for Duke but I would imagine they are less concerned with pastoral formation. My main qualifier is this: you generally increase the odds of being accepted to a given PhD program by attending that school for your masters. So if you’re priority school for PhD work is PTS or even PU, then the masters  at PTS seems worth it. Otherwise, Duke seems to better fit your interests.

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Speaking as a PhD student in theology at PTS I agree that a PhD from Duke University (unclear if this applied to ThD through the Divinity School) will likely set you up to be more marketable than say a PhD from PTS. PTS has a decent placement record at smaller Christian liberal arts college and at seminaries (in fact we're #1 in placement here, https://www.ats.edu/uploads/resources/publications-presentations/documents/tenure-and-other-faculty-facts-part-2.pdf). A Duke PhD would likely do better in applications, particularly at less religiously affiliated place places like a state university or a religious studies department at a liberal arts college (yet PTS's theology department does have relatively recent grads at R1 places like Yale Divinity School and University of Chicago Divinity School). But the bigger issue is that there simply aren't many jobs in theology, regardless if your doctorate is from Yale, Duke, or Princeton Seminary. The R1 school is likely not going to be hiring a theologian regardless of where the degree is from. If you lurk the job boards for theologians, they're primarily postdocs, schools such as those in the UK, or small virtually unknown schools. 

You should weight the various factors concerning location, academic fit ecclesial affiliation, but also financial matters with this in mind: no matter where you go, the prospects of getting into a PhD program are slim and the prospects of getting a job on the other side slimmer.

8 hours ago, JDD said:

I cant speak for Duke but I would imagine they are less concerned with pastoral formation. My main qualifier is this: you generally increase the odds of being accepted to a given PhD program by attending that school for your masters. So if you’re priority school for PhD work is PTS or even PU, then the masters  at PTS seems worth it. Otherwise, Duke seems to better fit your interests.

5

This is good advice, but I'd question a little how much less Duke is concerned with pastoral formation here (as an outsider here so likely to be wrong). A large part of their theological identity in recent decades has been an emphasis on the church and its practices as the context for theological discourse. I also would put money on them being the most pastorally focused divinity school, but I could be wrong here; at the end of the day they're still a United Methodist seminary with a considerable investment to this mission and identity in addition to being part of R1 Duke University.

Edited by Rabbit Run
clarity

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If you are or think you will largely remain in the field of theology (I admit I'm not entirely sure what that means), then PTS being more "seminary-y" could be a good thing; my experience is Duke Divinity is more or less similar to PTS in that regard. Duke's Graduate Program in Religion (PhD) is a different animal entirely; there is room for interest in 'theology', but most of the subfields (my own included) have absolutely zero interest in 'theology'; we consider ourselves historians, classicists, etc., but most of us, as most folks in religious studies PhD programs elsewhere, consider 'theology' something unfit/inappropriate for non-seminary degrees. But, really, my .02 is put most of that out of your mind. Your interests will certainly change wherever you go; and not only that, but the job market is so hilariously bad in all subfields of higher learning in the humanities that there is no real way to prepare yourself. Excluding money et sim., you should just go where you feel comfortable. In the end, the academic route will probably not work out for you, just as it will likely not for myself and most others; but you might as well be happy and enjoy your learning environment while doing so.

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Thank you all for the advice. There is some truly great insight here. I ended up choosing PTS for a variety of reasons. 

Although not the deciding factor, what @sacklunch said below is something that has been rattling around in my mind for the past 18 months. Either way, I really enjoyed visiting both schools and the debt vs. no debt factor kept coming up. I'm leaving a great job with full benefits, vacation, etc. for this. If I can be well prepared for church work, the a PhD program, and graduate with little to no debt, it seems like the way to go. 

20 hours ago, sacklunch said:

the job market is so hilariously bad in all subfields of higher learning in the humanities that there is no real way to prepare yourself.

 

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