As my friend Brian put it, I’m now a “seminarian*” — the asterisk means I’ve completed all my courses but not yet graduated. Commencement is next Saturday, May 16. So as I look at it, I have about a week to reflect on this whole Master of Divinity thing before I get the paper that acknowledges, officially, that I have in fact mastered all things divine (Or as Megan looks at it, I have a week to pack.)
As the situation has it, I have the fun of task of searching for non churchy jobs with a M.Div. degree on my resume. For you pastor types out there, this may not seem difficult since we pastor types tend to think the M.Div. is a pretty tricky generalist degree that takes at least three years to earn (sometimes four depending on the seminary and denomination). Those lawyers spend three years and get a Juris Doctor, but we can spend four and get a piddly masters! That means the M.Div. is a big worthy respected masters degree. And on the one hand, that’s right. The M.Div. covers a huge amount of ground and is a formidable masters degree.
Let’s consider. In the last four years I’ve taken classes in Greek and Hebrew; read and practiced the latest in counseling methods; taken multiple courses in public speaking, rhetoric and public relations (we call them “preaching courses”); learned to analyze systems and communities; studied conflict management; investigated a variety of budgets large and small; gained a boatload of critical thinking skills; and learned to be more self-aware than, I dare say, most other masters degrees require.
Sure, the M.Div. as a generalist degree is very broad and very handy for life. I haven’t for a minute ever regretted my studies at Columbia Seminary, and Columbia especially has proved a darn good place to undertake them.
On the other hand, however, the M.Div., because of its generalist nature, does not really translate well into much outside the church. Sure, it sets a solid foundation for many activities, professions, and contexts, but it doesn’t quite order great respect in the marketplace. The M.Div. feels like another liberal arts degree — I loved to earn it, but I’m left with a bit of a let-down feeling when flipping through job postings. I think: I know I could do that job and that job — well, in fact — but the letters after my name don’t exactly back that up. The M.Div. is a hint in the right direction for many positions, maybe a wee nudge towards an interview, but it’s not a key that will magically open any door outside a church.
So as a seminarian* I’m really looking forward to graduation and earning my Master of Divinity degree. One day, perhaps, I’ll frame it and put it on my office wall. In the meantime, I’m wondering a lot about what that office wall will look like: a cubicle? a delivery truck? a church study? a classroom? an evergreen? Maybe plain old plaster or sheet rock.
So if you’re a would-be employer reading this, wondering if I’m qualified for your position even though I have an M.Div., simply ask me and I’ll explain. I dare say the M.Div. has taught me to be more self-aware than, say, online masters degree programs like those of MBA programs online. Oh, and my studies included lessons in persuasion as well.