In an earlier article, I cautioned against getting unaccredited degrees. In this article, I am going to try to answer the question of the “best” route to go in getting advanced degrees as a Christian intellectual. Please note, however, that this is mostly general advice, will often vary from field to field and person to person, and that I am hardly the definitive source for this information. I personally have a bachelor’s and master’s degree, I’m working on another master’s degree, and I hope to be in a PhD program within two years (Lord willing).
What should the Christian intellectual do with respect to higher education? Well, for starters, get an accredited degree. Second, if you have not already done so, I’d recommend taking the best undergraduate degree into which you can get for your major field. Please note, however, that if you want a PhD in Theology, you’ll likely need to get an MDiv. If this is the case, you may as well get your undergraduate degree in a workable trade, or related discipline (to theology), since you’ll get what you need for theology at the master’s level. Getting into the best undergraduate programs for your field helps with academic references for grad school. What if, for whatever reason, you can’t get into one of the recognized best programs?
Get into the best grad school program you can. This could entail a lot of searching, solid writing samples (depending on your field), and academic references. You also don’t want to “put all your eggs in one basket;” apply to several different schools. Often, grad programs are combined MA/PhD programs: you work toward a PhD, and about halfway through, you get an MA for your trouble. But even if you don’t get into such a program, doing a terminal MA can help you to get into a good PhD program.
The idea behind all of this is that you want to be able to teach or otherwise be a recognized scholar in your field (or something closely related to your field). You’re much more likely to get that done going the route of doing the “best” possible program for you. If you don't, while it's still possible to gain a teaching position, the competition is already fierce enough. Having a so-called "substandard" resume will eliminate you before you can even interview.
Whenever I pick this series back up, I’m going to examine online education!