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It’s a terrible job market for new college graduates. Lots of companies aren’t hiring at all this year. Many companies that are hiring have seen their reputations tarnished recently. And not everyone is self-motivated enough to follow Seth Godin’s advice.

That explains why a surprising number of college students are looking for (government / religious) jobs. Applications to graduate programs in (“public policy” / religion) are up substantially over previous years:

Though Attridge identified declining job prospects as a potential motivator for students to continue their education, he pointed to a crop of contemporary moral and (political / religious) issues as a key influence on students seeking [to] study (public policy / religion).

Among those relatively new issues are global climate change and “gross immorality in the financial sector,” Attridge said, which may have inspired students to take a more (command-and-control / command-and-control) approach toward community service.

“There are questions about whether the fundamental moral fiber of the country is corroded,” Attridge said.

The explanation resonates strongly with Stephen Blackmer, who will begin studying for a master of (public policy / divinity) at [Yale] this fall. Blackmer, 53, had worked in conservation and sustainable development for nearly 30 years before answering a call to join the (government / ministry).

Blackmer said his experience has taught him that the main obstacle to slowing climate change is not technological or economic, but (political / spiritual).

“Climate change is in effect a (political / spiritual) problem, because we’ve developed the technologies to protect the world from climate change, but not the (authority / wisdom) to use them,” he said.

Blackmer, who said he hopes to join an “environmental (lobby / ministry)” after graduating, said the slumping economy made his decision to attend (policy / divinity) school easier.

In fact, people like Blackmer are overwhelming graduate programs, who are seeing record numbers of applicants. Probably, though, there’s nothing to worry about:

Attridge and Aleshire take a positive outlook to the future of (political / theological) education, and both said they expect the applications to continue to rise.

“We’re at a cultural moment when there’s a lot of concern about the common good,” Aleshire said. “(Politics / Religion) is a social force.”

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Economic times are tough. Maybe you’re working for a bloated auto company that makes expensive cars no one wants to buy. Maybe you’re a schoolteacher without enough seniority to avoid the latest round of budget cuts. Maybe you work for a Canadian company losing business from “Buy American” provisions in the stimulus bill. Or maybe your job just sucks.

Well, according to the New York Times, you probably shouldn’t consider joining the clergy:

The anecdotal evidence collected by the Association of Theological Schools, which covers 250 graduate institutions in the United States and Canada, has found job listings for ministerial positions down by about one-third at major seminaries serving both evangelical and mainstream Protestant denominations. The Jewish newspaper The Forward reported last month that Jewish seminaries accustomed to placing nearly all their newly minted rabbis were finding jobs this year for only about half.

Also the pay isn’t that good (unless you run a “prosperity gospel” scam), and you have to wear a funny costume.

But if you’re really intent on being a religious leader, there is one option:

Only the Roman Catholic Church, with a well-known shortage of priests, has more openings than applicants. And that, in turn, has led to a round of mordant jokes among seminarians about converting to get a job.

Of course, they don’t bother to tell us any of these jokes, forcing us to speculate. I’m guessing they’re along the lines of

  • Sure, the Catholic Church may be The Great Whore of Babylon, but they do offer a steady paycheck!
  • I don’t agree with their boy-touching policies, but I do agree with their clergy-paying policies!
  • I bet if you pretend you work in a toll booth the days just fly by!
  • The celibacy sucks, but the exorcisms more than make up for it!
  • “WILL TRANSSUBSTANTIATE FOR FOOD”
  • Taking marching orders from a crazy ex-Hitler-Youth might be cool, just like in Apt Pupil!
  • Maybe I’ll get a free trip to Rome out of the deal. I hear the pizza there is amazing!
  • Come on guys, it’s not like any one of these crazy religions is any less false than all the others!

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