Change is painful. For our parent’s generation, a college education was a path to a career. That isn’t a given anymore. In fact, if all you want is an interesting, high paying career with excellent job security, I would strongly recommend:
Many skilled trades can have salaries above 70k, and if you start your own company (as many of my friends have), you can easily clear $100,000 a year. All without going to college for a traditional liberal arts degree. The economics are simple – these trades remain in strong demand and there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill them.
But as was pointed out earlier, not all educational decisions should be made based on a straight return on investment. In fact, if the educational system moves this direction our society will miss out.
It may be helpful to frame the pursuit of a Theological Education in these terms. The value of a theological education is critical – I want and need my personal spiritual leaders to be properly trained. But if you’re pursing a Seminary degree ONLY for the future employment opportunities it will offer, this deserves critical thought. The larger social landscape (church attendance, tax law, freedom of religion, etc.) will determine the number of clergy employment opportunities and there is a strong possibility that this could limit the economic value of your seminary degree.
It doesn’t mean there will be less ministry opportunities – in fact probably just the opposite. That’s why I believe so strongly in the value of a theological education. But the economics of the social landscape may cause future ministers to pursue bi-vocational or other alternative funding models to traditional pastoral ministry jobs.
As our title article articulated, for a full generation student loans were an easy sell because a liberal arts education was worth $1 million more than a high school diploma. But as the math of that equation starts to erode, it makes sense to be very diligent about limiting the debt burden of pursing higher education. This is one reason I strongly recommend pursing your theological seminary education with as little debt as possible.