PhD vs entering a job market

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Teger, Feb 8, 2012.

  1. Teger

    Teger Senior member

    Messages:
    21,936
    Likes Received:
    6,593
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    Dear BC&E forum,

    I'm in my second semester of a funded two year MA program in History, and I need to start deciding what I want to do after. My two current "options" (that are reasonable are);

    1. continue onto a PhD program. I feel I have an ok shot at getting into a top program - I have good grades, I'm working in an in demand/growing subject field (America World War I history), will have good conference and academic experience by the time I graduate and can get excellent recommendations.

    or

    2. start working for my university in a salaried university positions. I've worked and networked very hard to put myself into a position where I feel I can be competitive in getting a job at my university. The benefits (as I see them) would be: not living on a graduate stipend, excellent (and I mean excellent) benefits - which is very important to me, the option to continue taking classes in any subject I want for free, and a good upward mobility track into university administration.

    what are people's thoughts?

    (of course everything might change and I end up doing nothing! ahhh)
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  2. SLeiber32

    SLeiber32 Senior member

    Messages:
    157
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Personally I would go for my PhD and consider working for the university afterwards. The career option may pan out, but I have also never heard anyone say "Gee, I wish I hadn't gotten my doctorate."
     
  3. Teger

    Teger Senior member

    Messages:
    21,936
    Likes Received:
    6,593
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    I guess my concern with getting the PhD is having decent health insurance and living at sub poverty level for another 4-6 years.
     
  4. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

    Messages:
    5,299
    Likes Received:
    2,447
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Just make sure you know the specific numbers re: placement in your particular field and in the programs that you get into. Also, not to be a downer, but PhD programs have been *glutted* with applications in the last few years.
     
  5. Connemara

    Connemara [URL='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jST2Sv63WQ']

    Messages:
    39,486
    Likes Received:
    1,721
    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2006
    You will be competing with people from the absolute top programs. And you will be competing for jobs at minor public colleges in Iowa and Alabama. That is the reality of academia when it comes to history.
     
  6. Teger

    Teger Senior member

    Messages:
    21,936
    Likes Received:
    6,593
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    

    I know, but fortunately American history is slightly better than English. I've already been through the PhD application process once (obviously unsuccessfully :() so I have good experience with the realities of it. The reason I'm 'somewhat' confident is that the professor I work most closely with is a pretty big name in his field, and he's successfully placed several students into top programs in the past. I get the impression that if he likes you -- and I hope he likes me -- he can make a phone call to a friend and really help you out.

    I also will hopefully graduate with a 4.0, I have great GRE scores, have a historiographically and theoretically "trending" topic (I basically am trying to study American doughboys from a social, postmodernist-esque perspective) and will have a couple of conferences under my belt.
     
  7. Teger

    Teger Senior member

    Messages:
    21,936
    Likes Received:
    6,593
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    

    yes I know what the deal with the application process is
     
  8. bringusingoodale

    bringusingoodale Senior member

    Messages:
    1,491
    Likes Received:
    48
    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2010
    Location:
    Disputed Zone
    Option 2 sounds like a now brainer to me; if I read it right? Are you basically sure you will be employed with said benefits or just hoping on a long shot? Even if you apply and phail can't you just then go the phd program?

    I am now realizing that the faster one enters the workforce in whatever capacity, the better ones odds are at improving.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  9. Teger

    Teger Senior member

    Messages:
    21,936
    Likes Received:
    6,593
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    well applying to a PhD program is expensive and I'd start the process next semester.

    I'm 'somewhat' confident in my ability to land a job. At my University there's a big 'student service' department which handles thing like student orientation, advising, etc., and I've worked at various jobs and in various capacities there for about 3 years. in doing so I've become friendly with several of the higher ups. I've always had this option in the back of my mind, so when I came to graduate school I approached my departments undergraduate advisor and basically asked to help, and created myself a position as the 'adjunct undergraduate history department advisor.' Other than meeting with and advising students, I've been working to develop a department "Career Week" - basically planning and organizing a program which will include speakers from libraries, museums, lawyers, etc. I met with one of the higher ups I know and explained this to her and my ambition of working in her department, and she basically said "I love what you're doing - my boss and I want to come and check it out - and its in line with how we want to develop advising. I really hope you can just walk into a job with us when you graduate, and what you're doing is really smart."
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  10. CYstyle

    CYstyle Senior member

    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    24
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Out of curiosity, whats the benefits of a phD other than title and degree? Say you were to work and get your phd, what would you do upon obtaining your degree? Would you go into teaching and become a professor? If you end up in the same place I'd skip the phD and take a masters and a salaried job.
     
  11. Teger

    Teger Senior member

    Messages:
    21,936
    Likes Received:
    6,593
    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    

    well I'd go to work as a professor, and if you want to work in university administration past a certain level a PhD is required
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  12. erdawe

    erdawe Senior member

    Messages:
    2,121
    Likes Received:
    15
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    TBA
    Am I missing something?

    Why not at least initially pursue both with an emphasis on getting the job (and securing it) 100% and you still have ~1.5 years left? And how bad do you actually want to become a professor? With poor odds with the number of tenure-track positions heavily declining, but adjunct positions increasing greatly? Are you content with adjunct salary hopping from university to university for a decade after spending years on your PhD?

    Your history department is separate within the same university you are applying for the position, how will the position know you've applied to graduate PhD schools your second year?

    How does a PhD in History give you marketable skills outside the university setting? At least with an MA and the type of soft-work you'll be doing at the university you can parlay skills into hopefully a decent private sector job should the university academic setting give out from under you.

    Ask yourself, what's my backup in private sector that needs a PhD in History that would be more beneficial than MA plus management and 'soft' skills with real work experience?

    There's far too many PhD's these days that are pumped out on a revolving door of adjunct work without much bright future for the academic gigs you see your professors have down the hall. I have 2 friends like this with PhD's working at a state university in subjects other than hard sciences. Hell, you might make more long term with a MA and work experience and the option to advance in education for free than you would after all the struggle during and after your PhD.

    PhD in History is not exactly PhD in Molecular Genetics. The idea that everyone needs one these days really waters them down. Not to mention all the changes in the bubble of academia that will likely take place in future.

    Think long and hard if that's what you really want... What does the PhD give you tangibly that makes it actually worth pursing? If you can't answer that soundly to yourself, you're much more likely to regret long-term than if you jumped into the job market.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  13. erdawe

    erdawe Senior member

    Messages:
    2,121
    Likes Received:
    15
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    TBA
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  14. thewatcher101

    thewatcher101 Active Member

    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    I am currently getting my PhD and I agree with erdawe's article. It is mostly for novelty reasons and it is probably better to start working and getting experience. The only thing I got from my PhD program is free time. It gave me a lot of free time to think about life and go after other hobbies and expand my personal development than a job would have allowed me. I think I made the best of my time and my financial debt was justified.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  15. Gibonius

    Gibonius Senior member

    Messages:
    11,165
    Likes Received:
    4,026
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Location:
    Suburban Sprawl Sector 3, Maryland
    As far as pursuing the PhD, you basically know the path you're walking. It's an extremely long grind to get the degree (humanity friend of mine said 7 years average, no idea on the validity of that). You'll be 30 or so when you even have a chance to start your career and the paths are murky there.

    I've heard some people doing some very strenuous second guessing, mostly humanity people. It's a loooong road.

    Hell, even hard science people need to make this calculation right now, especially life sciences. Engineers seem to be in good shape, but there are a lot fewer positions for newly minted science PhDs than there were and the pay premiums frequently don't justify the time spent. Everybody needs to learn the numbers for their field and make the decision.
     

Share This Page

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by