I get this question all the time in one form or another. The short answer is simply no. Below is a longer edited answer I gave to a young man via email when he asked me the exact question: “I was also thinking about going to graduate school, obtaining a Ph.D., and then joining. What do you think of that?”
In answer to your vocations questions, let me offer some suggestions and thoughts for you to bring to prayer as you continue your discernment. When the idea of priesthood and religious life enters the mind of a man, it is prudent to pay attention to those thoughts carefully and to realize that God may be calling you to give your life over to serve Him and His people in a radical and profoundly countercultural way. This is no small idea and should not be treated as such. Place yourself in the Sacred Scriptures. What would you do if you were there when Jesus asked Andrew and the others to “Follow me”? Would you hesitate? Would you tell him you would think about it for a year or two? What would you do?
This is my constant response to men when they tell me they want to go to grad school or get a Ph.D. before entering religious life. What that is is a less than serious response to a call from Jesus Christ! You may think that you are doing God and the Church a favor by getting a graduate degree in some field and then you can bless the world with your great intellectual gifts within the Order and the priesthood. In my opinion, this is actually a profound exercise in narcissism and self-fulfillment. It is looking at the Lord Jesus Christ and saying, “You can wait for a few years, I have something better to do.”
What I am saying to you, friend, is if you are serious about your vocation you will contact me about a visit and begin real discernment without reference to delaying your call. If you believe the thoughts you have about religious life and the priesthood are real, then get serious about it!
Now, here is my disclaimer: I do not care if you join us or some other community or enter the diocesan priesthood or even enter the noble vocation of marriage. I just want you to be authentic and responsive to what God is asking of you. I can help you sift through the questions and all the confusing stuff. But if this call is real, you better focus on it now and not give God the backseat in your plans.
Also remember that we (and many other orders) are an academic Order. Many of our men go on to further studies and Ph.Ds. If you have the ability and desire, you most likely will go on at some point. But what is more important is you discovering the way you will work out your salvation and how you will give God your complete and undivided attention as you seek Him alone!
When you think you have heard the call, you need to work that question out first. It is THAT important!