Why I Don’t Regret Not Getting a PhD

I’m in the final stages of my Doctor of Ministry degree. I frequently get asked why I didn’t do a PhD since I seem to have an academic bent. That’s a good question.

I was originally in a Doctor of Theology program (equivalent to a PhD) at a different school that I’m at now. For a number of reasons, I voluntarily withdrew from that program and that school. It was then that I decided to apply to the Doctor of Ministry program at Acadia Divinity College.

Although the DMin is not considered by many to be as prestigious of a degree as the PhD, I don’t regret my decision. Before coming to Queen Street Baptist Church, I had the opportunity to wrestle with my calling. This included a fairly heavy teaching load. I absolutely loved that time of teaching but I also discovered that my primary calling is that of a pastor (although with a teaching emphasis). The DMin is designed more to equip me in my pastoral role.

One of the reasons that I don’t regret being in the DMin program is that Acadia Divinity College (unlike many other schools) requires biblical and theological courses in addition to ministry courses. During my studies, I had the opportunity to learn from such great scholars as Craig Evans, Larry Hurtado and Ron Sider. I definitely did not miss out on learning opportunities.

Generally, a PhD is designed for teaching and research. People who intend to teach normally seek a PhD. But in my case, I have had the opportunity to teach many courses (see my CV) with the degrees I have. In addition, I have had a number of articles published in scholarly journals. I’m not trying to brag but rather to say that such goals can be achieved with or without a PhD.

This is not an attempt to discourage people from PhD studies. I’m simply saying that I’m content with the opportunities that my education has provided. In addition to pastoring, I continue to teach two courses a year at Tyndale University College. Once my thesis is completed, I will likely be submitting more journal articles.

I love to bridge the gap between the church and the academy, but my primary burden is the church. For that, my DMin will do just fine.

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What is the Difference Between a PhD and a DMin?

PhDThere are a number of different doctorates that Christian leaders work toward but two of the most common are the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Ministry (DMin). As someone who is a DMin student, I frequently get asked, “What is the difference between a PhD and a DMin?” Here is my short answer.

There are some major differences in the format of the studies, although it is hard to summarize as different countries have different types of PhDs. In North America, PhDs have a major course component in addition to language tests, comprehensive exams and a dissertation. In Europe, it is mostly just a dissertation. A DMin includes courses, generally in a modular format, with a thesis. The DMin thesis is shorter than a PhD dissertation.

However, the main difference is in the purpose of the degree. Traditionally, people received PhDs to teach in universities and seminaries, as well as to research in order to publish academic books and journal articles. People received DMins, not to teach, but to equip themselves to be better pastors or leaders in Christian ministries. PhDs are supposed to be for professors and DMins are supposed to be for pastors.

Having said that, I am a DMin student and I am not a pastor. In fact I am an adjunct instructor at a Bible college and I publish academic books and journal articles. There are people I know who have PhDs who have not found teaching opportunities and so they become pastors. Confusing, right? The lines have definitely become blurred. (Please note that since writing this post, I am now a pastor and have cut back on my teaching.)

Should you seek a PhD or a DMin? I would suggest that you follow the traditional track. If your plan is to teach, don’t go for a DMin as a quicker way to get a doctorate. Get your PhD and then see what happens. If you are a pastor and you want to take your studies to a new level, I would suggest a DMin. Again, that may lead to teaching opportunities but that is not the purpose of the degree.

I also have written a post called What Theological Degree Should You Get? that you might find helpful.

If you are interested in a Doctor of Ministry, I would suggest Acadia Divinity College. That is the school where I am studying and I have found the school and the program to be excellent. It is definitely something worth checking out.


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