Qualifications for Teaching at a Small Christian College

Here is a lightly-edited example of the many e-mails I have received of this sort:

A friend of mine showed me your blog entries on PhD work (“Thinking about a Ph.D” was particularly helpful; thanks), and I was wondering if you had any advice specifically for someone who wants to teach at a smaller, Christian school (I love to teach, and while I enjoy it to a degree, research is definitely not my goal, especially in top-tier academic settings).

I am finishing up my BA in Liberal Arts and Culture at X College in Smalltown, USA, and am seriously thinking about getting my MA here as well. However, this is not a very attractive resume for PhD work, so I’ve emailed admissions at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), and they didn’t seem to think an MA from my college would be too detrimental to admissions into their PhD program (I would just need to take a few classes to get myself up to MDiv equivalency).

That’s TEDS, though, and I realize with this background I probably wouldn’t have a chance getting into universities like Duke or Princeton. So, do you think a PhD from a place like TEDS would be good for me, if I’m only wanting to teach at a small, Christian school? I’ve heard that teaching jobs are very scarce, so I don’t want to leave myself with a PhD and no job. At the same time, though, I want to teach in more conservative, evangelical circles, so it seems doing my coursework there would get me the connections I’d need for a job.

Also, should I be considering a degree from Aberdeen or Edinburgh, over a place like TEDS (or Calvin or Wheaton)?

Finally, what do you think of the doctorate program at Regent? I looked at it not too long ago, and it seemed more geared toward people already employed; would it be worth looking into given what I’m wanting to do? Thanks.

– – – –

What do small Christian schools want? Well, the best thing to do, of course, is to ask them, not me! This is probably the best academic advice I ever give, so I’ll give it again. If you want to find out what a prospective graduate school or employer is looking for, don’t just ask pundits like me: ask them.

How do you ask? You can ask directly. In the case of admissions to a graduate program, e-mail the admissions people and, if possible, a professor in your field. In the case of a prospective employer (which is what the rest of this post is about), write to the academic dean or the head of the department closest to your interests.

You can also search their website and see whom they have hired, especially recently.

Any other advice is anecdotal and highly perspectival. So here’s mine.

Some small Christian colleges (SCCs) hire from places like TEDS. And so they should: TEDS has some fine professors, including several friends of mine whom I esteem highly indeed. SCCs also hire from their own denominational schools quite often, so that can be another reason to study at them rather than at the Big Time Universities (BTUs).

Otherwise, however, you’re competing in the academic marketplace of “all against all,” so to speak, and degrees from BTUs just do show up on the c.v.’s of employed professors a lot more than do degrees from other, even quite good, schools.

As for Regent’s doctoral program, we don’t have one. That is to say, Regent College, where I teach in Vancouver, Canada, offers only master’s degrees. If you’re looking at a doctoral program with “Regent” in the title, you’re looking at the former CBN University who, the story has it, once wanted a new name and decided to take ours! It’s a quite different place: Pentecostal/charismatic and American and . . . well, quite different–as my friend Amos Yong, who teaches there, I’m sure would agree!