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Hey Mamas

I'm a currently F/T working mom with middle management position at an independant medical college. I'm enrolled in the MA program for bioethics and while I love it and I'm starting to get the itch that the MA might not satisfy my career goals. I have a passion for birth activism and I'm concerned about the level of prenatal, and maternal/fetal care in this country in regards to birth outcomes and infant mortality rates.

The college I work for has a public health PhD program (4-5years), full tuition scholarship & living stipend.

My question is - what should I look for in a PhD program, what are the questions I should consider before thinking about applying to the program, what is it like to pursue a PhD, is it harder that working F/T with a moderately disgruntled group of people?


Any suggestions, tips or etc. would be most welcome!
TIA

Kate
 

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I am in the social sciences, so perhaps my experience is not relevant to you.

When I got my Ph.D., I would have to say that at times it was harder than working full time, but many times it was MUCH easier. Most of that is because it is so much more flexible, and I was able to work whenever I wanted to - not be tied down to a 9-5 (actually, that is what I love about being a professor now - that and the fact that I am basically my own boss, provided that I can manage to get tenure). I think with LOs (I had no children at the time), getting a Ph.D. would be attractive because it is so flexible. It was sometimes harder because it was so stressful - much more stressful than a full time job. I had years of sleepless nights, and when I finally got to sleep I literally dreamed of regression analysis.

Some things to consider, are: Are you going to be able to move after you get a phd? Assuming you want to be a professor, you will likely have to move out of state - faculty jobs are hard to come by. Can you drag yourself away from those cheese curds?


You may also to think about if there is somebody in the department willing (and interested) in taking you on as a student - somebody with similar research interests helps a lot. I had nobody in my program with too similar research interests, and I managed to finish my dissertation and get a job at an R1... but my colleagues (now) who had a closer relationship with their advisor were able to publish with them as a student, making them much more marketable (I published as a student, but it was very difficult to do on my own at first).
 

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I am just a few months from graduation, and I have a lot to say about this topic, as several of my friends have been interested in Ph.D. programs now. In this economy, going back to school seems like the right thing to do, but a Ph.D. program is so much more all-consuming than a Master's program.

Pros:
Fulfilling work
Meet other students with smiliar interests
Finding a mentor
Prestige
Respect from the general population
The degree looks good on a resume/CV even if you don't pursue an academic job
Job flexibility and decent pay

Cons:
The market is saturated with Ph.D.s in some areas (mine is one of them but you may be different--research this first before putting years of hard work and money into a degree)

Will you be able to complete the dissertation? This a good soul-searching question to ask. One becomes ABD status (All but dissertation) when one completes the comps exams, (sometimes) defends a prospectus, and passes the oral defense of said prospectus THEN one must write the dissertation. (Check the catalog for your program to see specifically what is required for your degree. You'd be surprised how different each program can be.) Only about half of the people that get to ABD status will complete a dissertation due to the fact that you must be self-motivated enough to write diligently on your own time. It can be a real struggle and often leads to burn-out. Are you capable of such a big, dedicated project? (If you wrote a Master's thesis, this might help you decide, on a smaller scale, what it will be like.)

Now, I must reiterate that I am in the Humanities, and it is a field that is saturated. I applied for jobs in my field and received responses stating that they received "over 400 applicants" for one job. Then again, receiving "over 50 applicants" for one job is a large amount to combat. If your program is well known, then you will stand out more on paper, but if it is at a school that only has a mediocre reputation, then you might be competing for jobs with people that have more presigious degrees, and here is the downside: The job process for Ph.D.s (unless you are in private industry) is quite hierarchical. Figure out exactly what your job expectations are post-graduation, and look into the current hiring figures for that position. Things could be better down the road when you graduate, but they could be worse, as, again, more and more people are considering higher degrees during this bad economy.

All said and done, I am happy that I did it. It took a lot of commitment, tears, sweat, sacrifice, and juggling. You might feel isolated if no one in your friend circle or family has an academic background, as was the case for me. They will not quite get what it is that you do. It helps to having a loving significant other, but it isn't necessary. I can't tell you how many times people would say things like, "When are you finally going to graduate?" as if writing a book, basically, is something that can be done in a short amount of time.

I hope I answered everything, and if I remember something else, I'll get back with you. Also, I apologize in advance because our situations are not necessarily the exact same, as Humanities is known for being saturated, and your field might be just the opposite, which would make half of what I said pointless. Good luck with your decision! I really do hope that you get the answers you need.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by SouthernBette View Post

I applied for jobs in my field and received responses stating that they received "over 400 applicants" for one job. Then again, receiving "over 50 applicants" for one job is a large amount to combat.
When I finished (5 years ago), I applied for every academic job in my field in the US, Canada, and Australia - about 150 CVs sent out - and I got just 4 interviews, and one job offer. AND, I already had a book and a decent amount of other publications, and went to a good school.

That was when the market was much better too. It is really tough out there.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by rcr View Post
When I finished (5 years ago), I applied for every academic job in my field in the US, Canada, and Australia - about 150 CVs sent out - and I got just 4 interviews, and one job offer. AND, I already had a book and a decent amount of other publications, and went to a good school.

That was when the market was much better too. It is really tough out there.
I suppose I should mention, too, that I am so disillusioned after being through the job wringer this year that I am leaving academia for a few years while I work on getting my dissertation published in book form, so, yeah, it is more than just getting the degree. There are so many other factors to consider, and I don't even know for sure if I am willing to pursue academia any further. It will take some soul-searching for sure.
 

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rcr & SouthernBette - This is exactly what I am looking for in terms of thoughts about pursuing a PhD. Knowing the job market is slim is tough, as I am very used to having a unique skill set and being able to go anywhere I would like. This would be a huge change for me, and moving ... well we're only in this bucket of cheese curds for a while and then we did have plans to go back to the PNW if possible.

My background is with Sociology & biology, so this public health is more a slant to the sociology vs. one of the sciences (biology, chem, phys). Funding I think is always a huge issue anywhere in academia along with publishing & doing research.

There are 2 thoughts I have about additional schooling to get where I think I need to be for re-crafting myself into a different career: finish the current MA program I am in and then go for either a MPH or a MSW, but again where will that get me professionally or going for a PhD which would carry more creditability.

I have several friends who have attended various post-graduate programs, PhD, JD & MD so the support and knowledge of what I would be going is there, but again it would be a huge change. I have several collegues here at the college who have their PhDs and I think I might talk to them about issues they've run into, thoughts about going for their PhD and etc.
 

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One of my closest friends is a WI native, and she brings me back cheese curds for my birthday every year upon return from her summer visit home. I'm not sure I would be willing to leave that behind! Delicious!

That being said, really you just need to decide what you want to do post-school. If academia is your goal, then I would say shoot for the Ph.D.. If not, however, then any of the other programs might be a better bet, and any real-world experience is also good. If you do want to be a professor, also check your program to see if they have teaching assistantships. I was able to gain nearly five years of college-level teaching experience while getting my degree, and that is at least something to fall back on. I would say that if you could get a good scholarship for nearly full funding, then you have nothing to lose. It is better than clammering for a job right now. If, however, your program will put you in deep debt and there are no clear job prospects--that's me!--then you might reconsider your decision.
 
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