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Working While in Divinity School?


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I know that most divinity schools provide generous tuition packages. I also know that stipends for MTS programs are rare, and even when offered, they are not enough to live on (the largest I've heard off is a 10,000 dollar stipend at HDS). If I went to divinity school, I would not be taking out loans and would be working essentially full time to live and pay my bill (assuming I get full tuition somewhere). 

Is this feasible? Obviously it would be more difficult to work many hours than not, but it is even realistic? Has anyone done it, or know someone that has done it?  Can it be done successfully?

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It's hard to make assessments based purely on anecdotal evidence, but I can say that I have not heard of or seen anyone working full-time and still maintaining a full course load. The people in my program who work do so primarily in part-time campus positions, etc. My sense is that you would find it quite difficult, if not impossible, at least at the school I am at. 

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I agree with @918Philosophizer. During my time in divinity school people entirely fell into one of these categories:

1) They took out loans entirely or in addition to their stipend.

2) They worked full time and attended school part time.

3) They worked part time.

4) They had a spouse that worked full time and they made it through on their salary.

I know of no one, nor have heard of anyone, that made it through school solely on their stipend.

Fun fact: I don't know a single PhD student in my current school that is surviving on their stipend. Most have some kind of side hustle: Moonlighting at a community college/online school, summer teaching, and/or part-time job. Some take out loans, others have a full-time working spouse. For what it's worth, I didn't know a single PhD student at VDS surviving on their stipend. There was a Chronicle of HigherEd article from several years back after a fairly exhaustive survey where they speculated that less than 10% of all PhD students are able to actually solely survive on their stipend. I'd believe it too.

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If you have a job that is 8-5 M-F, then I think it will be extremely hard if not impossible, as you would not be able to attend classes. However, if you can work evenings, nights, and weekends, then it is possible but will not be easy. Also, you should see if you can get a job where you can study during work time, i.e. library desk job, security, etc.

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Is this feasible? Obviously it would be more difficult to work many hours than not, but it is even realistic? Has anyone done it, or know someone that has done it?  Can it be done successfully?

I did it, and got excellent grades, but the experience burned me out and I was chronically low on sleep with zero social life. I have now dropped down to part-time work, and will drop down even further in order to focus on my PhD. 

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1 hour ago, Averroes MD said:

If you have a job that is 8-5 M-F, then I think it will be extremely hard if not impossible, as you would not be able to attend classes. However, if you can work evenings, nights, and weekends, then it is possible but will not be easy. Also, you should see if you can get a job where you can study during work time, i.e. library desk job, security, etc.

I did it, and got excellent grades, but the experience burned me out and I was chronically low on sleep with zero social life. I have now dropped down to part-time work, and will drop down even further in order to focus on my PhD. 

Good to hear it is at least possible. I worked full time as an undergrad while balancing a full time course load. It was difficult demanding but possible. My fear is that the possible would erode with the academic demands of graduate work.

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I was able to work full-time (40 hour work week) while pursuing my MDiv and an STM (Master of Sacred Theology) full-time (four courses a semester). 

Prior to pursuing my MDiv, I had already been working the same full-time job for a year and was able to demonstrate that I can finish my work while I'm studying. In my experience, this will be the largest barrier to being able to accomplish this feat. Most employers don't typically allow flexible hours, but I made it my goal to demonstrate my reliability in getting any of my work done while committing 2-3 hours of a typical workday to classes. I worked as a full-time paralegal for a financial services company.

My schedule consisted of going to class whenever and wherever they are (typically in an afternoon block so it's from 1PM-4PM) and going to work either before or after. On days that I have class, I would commit evenings to making up for any work that I was not able to do. I spent weekends on readings/classwork. In short, you won't have a lot of personal time. And as others have pointed out, don't expect to be at the top of your class. There were weeks where I was not able to do the readings and there's always one class per semester where my final paper was very shoddy due to tight deadlines and me not being able to meet them. 

I think your mindset of not wanting to incur loans is the right one (which is obviously the one I adopted). Unfortunately, there are way too many difficulties associated with the double full-time workload for me to properly advise anyone else to take this route. PM me for more details, but best of luck!

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