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grad school talk

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

With so many on education and either in or going through grad school i had some ?'s

i'm so highly interested in going to grad school for my masters in art history. Its a few years down the road. I then am interested in being a Professor at a university or working at a museum.

Those already gone through or going to grad school, any advise? Also looking for any advise from those teaching at universities.

I was thinking who could i ask about the positive/negatives. Then so many said they did grad school or talked about being teachers i figured i should just ask you ladies about it.

How is the general pos/neg and how is it with kiddos? Easy to manage and still be around then a lot?
post #2 of 11
Well...I was in grad school for five years, then dropped out after finishing all my coursework for my PhD but before writing my dissertation proposal. My husband got his PhD and now is a professor. I can't speak to your specific field (I was in the English dept, he's in Math) but I can maybe give you a few things that you might want to think about. Keep in mind that all of this is coming from someone who disliked grad school enough to drop out, so someone else might have a different perspective to offer.

First, you will probably want to make sure you have a realistic idea of what the job prospects are likely to be for your field. For the most part, academic jobs are very hard to come by, and there are people who spend years getting an advanced degree and then are unable to find a good job. As an example, my DH applied for jobs at about 150 different schools. From those applications, he got about 20 preliminary interviews and four on-campus interviews. He got four offers, and we considered ourselves very, very lucky to have that many places to choose from. Of those four offers, one was a postdoc for a very low salary, one was a postdoc for a decent salary but would only last two years, and one was a tenure-track offer in a place we didn't want to live. Quite a few of his classmates only had one job offer, so they had to take what they could get. These were people getting their PhDs from a top-ranked program. So--make sure you know what you're getting into before you invest time and money in getting a degree. Also, if you want to stop after your master's, make sure that you won't need a PhD to teach or work in a museum. In many fields, a master's isn't worth all that much and will at best get you a job teaching at a community college.

Second, there is usually a lot of relocation involved in getting a degree and then (if you're lucky) getting a good job. Most people move to wherever they got into school, then move again at least once to wherever their job is. This was part of the reason I dropped out--if I was lucky, I might get a good job, but it almost certainly wouldn't be in the same place as my husband's job. Then we both would have had to keep job-hopping until we could end up in the same place.

Third, going to grad school can be very taxing on one's emotions. When DH was applying for PhD programs, the brochure from Yale literally said, "Graduate school is a time of trauma and self-doubt." That isn't the case for everyone, but it was for me and DH. This was the biggest reason I dropped out of school. If you are more emotionally stable than I was at that point in my life, or if you choose not to go to a top-ranked program that involves a lot of pressure, your mileage may vary.

Basically, I think the key is to make sure that you understand all the negatives, then if you still want to do it, go for it.
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
thank you! and most of those things I have no clue about. However, I am already in contact with a prof where I got my BA who is the head of the art history dept. Later this summer I'm goi8ng to meet with her to sit down and pick her brain about much of what you brought up.

For me art has been my passion since I was very young. I always wanted to do something in art and to be a mother. I'm a mother, I love being a mother, but still want my other passion not to never be realized.

I look at my life and love being a SAHM, but think what will I do when the kids are in school? I want a career, but want something I will enjoy, not just bring home some money. I don;t want to be stuck doing something I hate and something that barely pays any money.

I was talking to dh tonight about it. I feel like I give and will give a good majority of my life to raising my kids. Though it's enjoyable, it leaves me out of a job market for maybe 10 years (depending if we have more kids). And I have a degree, but you can do squat with a general art and art history BA. I've been thinking if I do want to go to grad school, I need to prepare myself now for down the road.

DH pretty much told me no...I can't begin to explain my frustration but that's another issue completely...

I'm going to meet with the prof and still see what she says. I mean there is no harm in talking. I'm not comitting myself to anything.
post #4 of 11
I did it without kids or husband, so it was very different. It was hard, hard work, but it was fun. That's what I remember most, that I was doing what I loved and it was fun.

As to timing--just for inspiration, if you will. My mom got her graduate degree and started a new career at 49. In the years prior, she worked in *jobs* unrelated to her eventual degree, but she'd done a lot of volunteer work in her field (library and information services). So that's something to think about as well. What could you do in the meantime, that would fulfill you NOW and feed into your dreams for the future? Things that come to mind: docent, teaching art or art appreciation for kids or community.
post #5 of 11
For the most part you can't teach at the university level other than lecturer/adjunct positions without a "terminal degree" (PhD for an art historian). So getting an MA in art history may be essentially an expensive waste of time, though if you love it and the money isn't an issue, no reason not to do it. Also, while many people can get funding for their PhD (I am not paying any tuition or fees for my entire degree, and if I'd been more flexible and been able to attend a private institution back east I might even be getting a pretty decent stipend the whole time- as it is I've been on stipend support so far for 3 of my 5 years, and hope to have my 7th year also on stipend). That is not usually the case for MA students. I like graduate school and I am excited to have this opportunity to do independent research and writing. I also want to be a professor, I like teaching, and my husband is willing to relocate with me (within reason). However, I think as Bodhitree says, its really important to look at, 1) what do you actually enjoy doing, and 2) what are the long-term goals for your job and life before deciding that a grad program is the way to go. It is a lot of work, and a big chunk of your life, so if its not worth it in both of those regards, I wouldn't recommend it.

I know several people who work in museums (for example: a friend who is a conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the director of membership at a museum here in SD, my aunt is the executive director of a historical museum and previously was the same for a children's museum. Also my husband has worked at several museums including the American Museum of Natural History). Museum work for the most part is not particularly well paid, not particularly well-respected, so its got to be something you really want to do! None of the people I personally know who work in museums actually have graduate degrees in art. Perhaps it would be better to think about what sort of work it is you want to do, and find out how people who have those jobs got to their current positions? Your old profs may have advice in this regard, but then again, they may not since they don't actually work in the museum field. Also, you could probably begin to work in a museum in a part-time capacity when your kids are a little older, and see what is required for career advancement w/in an institution you already like. I think my friend who is the director of membership services at a very nice museum here in town has only a BA and I don't even think its in art. So, not to say grad school can't be great, but it may not even be required for the jobs you are thinking of.

My department may be unusual b/c we have quite a few moms (and dads) who are grad students (PhD candidates). We are a top-ranked program nationally. Its tough to make it through w/ kids but people do it. Some professors are supportive of us, others are fairly dismissive. Ditto our fellow grad students (most do not have kids). Our support staff are very helpful and understanding (a lot of working moms in our office!) and we have things that help like subsidized family housing, state-subsidized health insurance, and subsidized full-time childcare (which I've not used). Most of our grads who finish get tenure-track academic jobs but yes, it is not uncommon for them to end up getting offered only one job, and to feel lucky if they are choosing between two. Two of my friends who are moms just graduated and got tenure-track jobs this year, and both are going right to the region/city they wanted to live in, so it happens.

The hardest part of grad school for me is the many years of being so poor, which puts a lot of stress on my marriage, etc. This is because my income is quite a lot lower as a grad student than it would otherwise be and we are stuck here in a town where my husband just can't make much money (he works full time in nationally known theaters building props that get bought up for productions opening on broadway, and we qualify for state assistance. its pathetic).

Anyway, I hope these ramblings are helpful. I didn't know a lot about grad school before coming, and I feel that I really lucked out. You are smart to start your research early.
post #6 of 11
I agree on most things with the PPs. Making it through graduate school has a lot to do with passion and stamina, and if you have both, you'll be fine. It's fun, but in a somewhat masochistic way. Also, professors are probably among the most underpaid workers in the U.S. (unless you're in law or economics), especially if you consider the time it takes to get a Ph.D.

That said I know a lot of people in graduate school who have kids of all ages. They are probably in the minority in their programs, but there are always some mothers who go back to school at one point. And graduate school, unless you're in an applied science and have to spend lots of time in labs, does allow you the flexibility to be there for your children if necessary. But it is a lot of hard work, and it does also require you to be able to set aside significant chunks of time to keep up with classes early on, go to conferences, and to finally conduct and write up a major research project.

In terms of researching programs, try to find ones that match your interests and that have a great job placement rate and provide sufficient funding for their students. I graduated from a small but top-ranked interdisciplinary program at a land grant university in the midwest. Not a great location, but great funding (I managed to be fully funded for 8 years thanks to TA-ships, fellowships, and so on) and an excellent placement rate, which in my field means that you find a tenure track position in a related discipline within 1 year of graduation. Most importantly, do not consider paying for grad school yourself or taking out loans to pay for tuition.

Since you live in OH, I would guess that you both Ohio University and Ohio State offer terminal degrees in your field, meaning you would not have to relocate if you can get into either of them. Both should have good programs and a decent placement rate as well as some sort of funding for grad students. Check those out if location matters.

If you're more interested in museum work, you may also consider getting a degree in museum studies, which is more practically oriented than art history. Alternatively, consider looking into other interdisciplinary programs that allow you to combine your background and training in art history with other skills and training because it may allow you access to a greater range of jobs.

Finally, remember that even if you decide to go to grad school and get a Ph.D. (or even an M.A. first), you do not have to stay in academia. There are many other jobs that you can work in and that require some of the skills that you develop in a graduate program.
post #7 of 11
Originally Posted by FischK View Post
professors are probably among the most underpaid workers in the U.S. (unless you're in law or economics), especially if you consider the time it takes to get a Ph.D.
...though museum work may be even lower pay...

FischK is right- you should NOT be paying out-of-pocket for a PhD. For a professional program though, you may have to.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
well that's kinda depressing

Just from what you guys have said I don;t think i could do grad school. I think I could, but I would have no support from my husband. Then I would have to get a phd to be able to teach at college level. I did see I could teach at the community college with just a MA.

I envy you ones that figured this all out before kids and marriage! I was so hyped about getting married I didn't think after getting a BA on what I really wanted to do. I just continued to do what I was doing.

There is a place close to get a MA from, but the place to get PHD are farther away and not really a possibility with marriage and kids.

How wold you not have to pay to get your phD?
post #9 of 11
How not to pay? Financial assistance. For me, at the doctoral level, it was a teaching assistantship that carried a tuition waiver and a small stipend. I still worked other jobs and had some assistance from my dad (expensive town). It's a struggle for departments to have enough funding for every entering grad student to have a "full ride." So sometimes, you get offered partial funding of one kind or another, including a package that might include student loans.

For my masters degree I had loans the first year. Subsequently, the department found support for me. The gamble at the time was that they would indeed find support once I "proved" myself.

Look, your bigger problem--as you know--is the lack of support from your husband. All else can be overcome, one way or another. In the meantime, if I were in your position, I'd look for every possible way to keep up with the field, through volunteer work if nothing else. Or as someone said, it should be possible to get a museum job without the degree...and then see how you like it.

My mom stopped at her MLIS because her interest was in public service and not in research (or teaching). Sometimes that's the difference between the work you can do with a terminal masters as opposed to going for the PhD--even working at a university (she ended her career in a "middle management" position (i.e. overseeing all of the public service end of things) at a university library).
post #10 of 11
Originally Posted by Murph12334 View Post
well that's kinda depressing

Just from what you guys have said I don;t think i could do grad school. I think I could, but I would have no support from my husband. Then I would have to get a phd to be able to teach at college level. I did see I could teach at the community college with just a MA.

I envy you ones that figured this all out before kids and marriage! I was so hyped about getting married I didn't think after getting a BA on what I really wanted to do. I just continued to do what I was doing.
I know this all does sound a bit negative and depressing, but you never know if there will be a way for you to do it when the time comes. And maybe at that point, your husband will be more willing to support you.

A good friend of mine has three children and went back to school when the youngest was 7. She's communting for over an hour to school 3 days a week and has been able to arrange a schedule that allows her to be there for her children and get a degree while also being funded as a TA. She first completed her MA and is now close to finishing her Ph.D. So, it's possible even when you're married and have children.
post #11 of 11
Sorry if I sounded depressing about grad school! Many women do go back into the workforce and get more education when their kids are older (my mom did!). Its not easy but that doesn't mean its not worth it.

I am very happy to be in grad school and excited to be getting my PhD in (hopefully) 2 more years and getting a good teaching job. Despite the "low pay" compared to the training required, I think it can be a great job. I am the child of a professor and it was a great life for me as his kid.

In my opinion having kids and being married should NOT be a reason you can't continue your education. It doesn't make it easy, but we don't have kids b/c they are easy and convenient! Though a husband who is unsupportive could be a real barrier- I am not clear if you mean that he wouldn't pay for your tuition or that he wouldn't want you to do it at all? But thats sort of between you guys, right? Its not specifically about school in that case.

I guess I should have said that its much *harder* to get financial support for an MA, most schools will fully "fund" their PhD students though your "salary" is apt to quite low unless you are in the natural sciences (still not rolling in dough but they do get paid a lot better than us in the humanities, arts and social sciences).

I am not paying for my PhD b/c I had full support (i/e tuition and fees paid plus a stipend paid to me as a salary) for my first 3 years, then for 2 years I've been teaching- TA positions for most of it and one instructor position, which means my dept also pays my fees, health insurance, and tuition, as well as a small salary to me (only about 15K per year for the 9 mos though). I will also be teaching as an instructor for all of next year, one class a quarter and probably at least one summer session course. Meanwhile, I will be applying for fellowship support for my last (7th) year. If I don't get an external fellowship I can still get one quarter of "writing fellowship" from each my department and the interdisciplinary program I am part of, leaving only one quarter to cover with teaching or just loans, or my husband's salary if we move to a place he can make more money.

I have had to take out some subsidized student loans to help pay my living expenses, as the ceiling for my husbands job in this town seems to be around 25K and we just can't make it on that. The cost of living in San Diego is quite high.

Sure you can teach in the community colleges with just an MA but its worth looking at the pay, benefits, job conditions (lots of night classes) and job security before you decide that is something you want to work towards. Most (not all) people I know who do that are doing it while they look for a better job. Some people do decide to teach at that level b/c they love working with that population of students, or because they have other reasons why they don't want to pursue teaching at 4-year institutions. All of those have a spouse who is the primary breadwinner in their family... that might be your situation so maybe that would work for you.

But as I said in the first post I wrote, I think you should really get your feet wet in the museums near you- yes, as a volunteer, part-time, etc. If you really love it and its the right thing for you, then you will figure out how to work towards a career in the field and it will probably be much clearer what you need to do to make that happen then from the outside.
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