Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

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Bwlonge
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Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Bwlonge » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:37 pm

Looking for some help here, because I've been going back and forth on what to do for YEARS now and I feel the need to settle on a plan!!!

Main Goal: get better at what I've been doing for a few years (educational data collection and analysis/leadership) now and thus increase my earning potential.

Single, age 31 in Feb., currently have an M.Ed. Current job pays well and is fairly niche and not a commonly carved out position; its in a young organization where job descriptions change depending on who is there and what they can do. I also own a duplex.

Couple ways to achieve that:
-Self-study and find/create projects to apply myself to
  • Pro: cheap, can still get a lot done
  • Con: subject to self discipline, not sure of payoff if I can't convince employers that I know my stuff, may have hands tied when I want to try a new project
-2nd masters degree, with a quantitative/research tilt to complement my current degree
  • Pro: ~$25k, can do online part time while working and maxing retirement accounts, may be able to use tax credits, 2 year commitment
  • Con: Won't qualify me for the jobs requiring/asking for a PhD, expenses are out of pocket, may not actually lead to higher pay than what I'm currently making, wouldn't really be able to save much extra while paying for school unless I take out loans
-PhD program in my field
  • Pro: can go for "free" through department funding, would be a satisfying thing to do, buffet pick of 100k+/yr jobs
  • Con: wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime away
This whole situation is complicated by my current earnings. If I were to stay where I was vs. the PhD, it would take me about 18 years before I have made more with the PhD since I'm effectively making nothing for the 5 years I'm doing it. I'm currently on the path to be modestly financially independent in 20-25 years, bit PhD I might make an additional 50k by the time I'm 55. Not enough to get me a beach house.

The 2nd masters seems like a decent middle ground- but I'm not sure earning potential will actually increase significantly from what I'm making now. But then, at that rate, why not do the self study and build a portfolio I can market as equivalent to the degree? That might not be possible.

See why I'm stuck?

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willthrill81
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by willthrill81 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:48 pm

I've got a Ph.D., and it was the best career move I ever made by a very long shot. I'm now a professor and living a very, very good life. Aside from teaching my classes and attending meetings, my work can be done any time I choose, day or night. And I'm able to accomplish most of that work significantly faster than many others can, so my total hours worked in a typical week are shockingly few. Sometimes I'm a bit swamped, but those times are seldom.

Aside from the fantastic lifestyle, I now work under multi-year contracts (not quite tenured yet but that's almost guaranteed now), and as long as there are adequate students for me to teach (no problem there in the foreseeable future), I'm not going anywhere. I am very well compensated by professorial standards, and the benefits are very good.

It took four years of hard work to get my Ph.D., but it was worth every minute of it. It's certainly not for everyone, and many of my fellow professors in other disciplines are paid far less and work far more than me.
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jayk238
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by jayk238 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:51 pm

Bwlonge wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:37 pm
Looking for some help here, because I've been going back and forth on what to do for YEARS now and I feel the need to settle on a plan!!!

Main Goal: get better at what I've been doing for a few years (educational data collection and analysis/leadership) now and thus increase my earning potential.

Single, age 31 in Feb., currently have an M.Ed. Current job pays well and is fairly niche and not a commonly carved out position; its in a young organization where job descriptions change depending on who is there and what they can do. I also own a duplex.

Couple ways to achieve that:
-Self-study and find/create projects to apply myself to
  • Pro: cheap, can still get a lot done
  • Con: subject to self discipline, not sure of payoff if I can't convince employers that I know my stuff, may have hands tied when I want to try a new project
-2nd masters degree, with a quantitative/research tilt to complement my current degree
  • Pro: ~$25k, can do online part time while working and maxing retirement accounts, may be able to use tax credits, 2 year commitment
  • Con: Won't qualify me for the jobs requiring/asking for a PhD, expenses are out of pocket, may not actually lead to higher pay than what I'm currently making, wouldn't really be able to save much extra while paying for school unless I take out loans
-PhD program in my field
  • Pro: can go for "free" through department funding, would be a satisfying thing to do, buffet pick of 100k+/yr jobs
  • Con: wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime away
This whole situation is complicated by my current earnings. If I were to stay where I was vs. the PhD, it would take me about 18 years before I have made more with the PhD since I'm effectively making nothing for the 5 years I'm doing it. I'm currently on the path to be modestly financially independent in 20-25 years, bit PhD I might make an additional 50k by the time I'm 55. Not enough to get me a beach house.

The 2nd masters seems like a decent middle ground- but I'm not sure earning potential will actually increase significantly from what I'm making now. But then, at that rate, why not do the self study and build a portfolio I can market as equivalent to the degree? That might not be possible.

See why I'm stuck?
What exactly is your job entail? Ie if you were to explain to me your goals and objectives (from one m. Ed to another!) what would they be?

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whodidntante
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by whodidntante » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:52 pm

I say Ph.D. as long you don't make me call you doctor. You can take advantage of those low income years by fully funding a Roth IRA and doing Roth conversions to top of bracket.

Bwlonge
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Bwlonge » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:00 pm

whodidntante wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:52 pm
I say Ph.D. as long you don't make me call you doctor. You can take advantage of those low income years by fully funding a Roth IRA and doing Roth conversions to top of bracket.
That's a good point about the conversions.
jayk238 wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:51 pm
What exactly is your job entail? Ie if you were to explain to me your goals and objectives (from one m. Ed to another!) what would they be?
I'm an administrator at a middle/high school, handling all kinds of data collection and reporting and advising others in leadership roles. I have a really jigsawed background from teaching to non-profit evaluation. I like it a lot, but somewhere along the line I got "addicted" to looking upwards. Hard to say what I'll do when I finally do get over the 100k mark!

coachd50
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by coachd50 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:05 pm

Do you want to do the jobs that require the PhD you seek? I realize this is the personal finance section, but from just a human needs viewpoint, will you value those jobs? I know that I have a disdain for the work (and yes..often the people) in "education" that is outside the classroom.

jayk238
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by jayk238 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:22 pm

The risk to consider is whether those jobs are going to pay off only to find out you cant find one and spent all those years in academia struggling w low pay instead of building equity in the ‘real’ world

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BolderBoy
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by BolderBoy » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:35 pm

Would the PhD be about the money or would the PhD be about personal fulfillment?

I'm lukewarm about seeing you do it for the money.

I did mine for the personal fulfillment and the money just happened to be a secondary (BIG) side effect.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

overthought
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by overthought » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:38 pm

My experience is that the PhD gives job stability---both in the sense of not losing jobs you wanted to keep and in finding new jobs quickly when you do decide to move on. But that strongly depends on the field: If the degree leaves you overqualified for your work then it can be a net negative when the economy stutters and employers are looking to cut costs.

Also: is it *really* zero pay? Normally PhD studies come with a modest stipend, I think I was getting $22k/year ten years ago, net of tuition and fees. It's not tons, but it's also not "wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime." Especially when you consider the stipend is mostly tax-free, vs probably 22% tax bracket for what you're making now.

But yeah, definitely the desire to do the things a PhD enables is the most important. If you're only in it for the money, stop at the masters.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by ellvizzle » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:52 pm

Speaking from personal experience (completed PhD 5 years ago and now work in education data management and analysis) just be certain you really do, heart and soul, want to go through the process and commit these years of your life. It's a pretty grueling experience that a minority actually complete, you'll be stressed for at least a few years without reprieve, and despite passion for a topic, it will nearly be extinguished. On the bright side, though, once you survive it, you'll have increased your knowledge/skills immensely, and it can certainly open doors and will increase your credibility, so to speak, in your field.

In terms of increasing earnings, personally I've not yet reached 100k in a western metro area, but the field of education is not typically incredibly lucrative...there are certainly other credentials that would be more efficient toward that goal, plenty of data out there to review on earnings outcomes by credential/major...but of course if you're not paying for the degree then your cost is more so your time/life and a few years of lost/lower income. It's certainly feasible to work during it, I was pretty much both full-time employed and full-time student, so maybe that colors how grueling I think the experience is ha.

Not sure if any of this rambling on was helpful, but I would leave you with the recommendation that this is a decision you should definitely make sooner rather than later so that you can benefit from the credential during as many years as possible of your working life.

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triceratop
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by triceratop » Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:15 pm

BolderBoy wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:35 pm
Would the PhD be about the money or would the PhD be about personal fulfillment?

I'm lukewarm about seeing you do it for the money.

I did mine for the personal fulfillment and the money just happened to be a secondary (BIG) side effect.
There is a lot of truth and wisdom here.
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by flyingaway » Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:31 pm

I am also a professor and got my Ph.D. at 34. I do not encourage people to do a Ph.D. for financial purposes, certainly not for early retirement. However, as willthrill81 pointed out, there are advantages, life styles, job security, and prestige with a Ph.D. degree, especially with an academic career in the future.

My elder son with just a bachelor's degree and makes more money than my wife and I combined salary (both with advanced degrees), 2 years out of school.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Shikoku » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:19 am

triceratop wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:15 pm
BolderBoy wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:35 pm
Would the PhD be about the money or would the PhD be about personal fulfillment?

I'm lukewarm about seeing you do it for the money.

I did mine for the personal fulfillment and the money just happened to be a secondary (BIG) side effect.
There is a lot of truth and wisdom here.
I will second that.

OP: If money is the goal, you will do far better by simply doing an MBA on top of your M.Ed. It will take two years to complete. Make sure to select a reputable program. If you go for PhD for the money, those five years will be very long. If you do PhD for the personal fulfillment, you will not realize how quickly those five years have passed. I also consider PhD as a lifestyle as I know many PhD holders who can work just 10 hours/week and draw a full salary.
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by qwertyjazz » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:58 am

Education PhD marketability varies tremendously based on what skills you develop and the market for them. If you become a top notched psychometrician, the pay is pretty good. If you like education theories or administration stuff, it can vary. You mention that you are interested in the data analysis side. What sort of a PhD were you loooking at getting and then what were your post PhD plans?
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by FrugalProfessor » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:53 am

I finished a phd last year at the age of 35. I don't think it makes financial sense over a master's in most fields other than a couple.

Attrition is high in many PhD programs. We lost 50% of our students for various reasons (half walked out and half kicked out).

I received a 25-30k stipend which certainly helped in exchange for RA/TA work. But time is scarce and it's hard to find time to work, do classwork, and research. Those were of the most stressful years of my life but a long shot.

Reach out and talk to soon-to-graduate students in your desired field. Understand what it really is like as a student as well as the job prospects.

Good luck.
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DoTheMath
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by DoTheMath » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:01 am

The real question is what you'd like to be doing in 10 years and why. I would look to model yourself on people who now have jobs similar to what you would like to have in the future.

If the goal is to increase your earning potential and career opportunities, then there are much less arduous ways then earning a PhD. As someone else suggested, an MBA from a well regarded program would be an easier and more effective option. A second masters could make sense, depending on the circumstances. Is this something your employer could help pay for?

A PhD is for someone who has the desire and motivation to do a hard-core, deep dive into their subject. If that doesn't interest you for it's own sake, or isn't clearly necessary for your career/life trajectory, then I'd skip it. It requires a huge amount of internal motivation. If you don't have a clear idea why you are there, the chances of making it through to the end are small.
“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains...” -- John Muir

Bwlonge
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Bwlonge » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:07 am

Shikoku wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:19 am
OP: If money is the goal, you will do far better by simply doing an MBA on top of your M.Ed. It will take two years to complete. Make sure to select a reputable program. If you go for PhD for the money, those five years will be very long. If you do PhD for the personal fulfillment, you will not realize how quickly those five years have passed. I also consider PhD as a lifestyle as I know many PhD holders who can work just 10 hours/week and draw a full salary.
DoTheMath wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:01 am

If the goal is to increase your earning potential and career opportunities, then there are much less arduous ways then earning a PhD. As someone else suggested, an MBA from a well regarded program would be an easier and more effective option. A second masters could make sense, depending on the circumstances. Is this something your employer could help pay for?
I thought about an MBA, but I question whether the subject matter interests me the same as program evaluation and educational research. Improving profits doesn't do it for me the same as improving people and programs does. I also don't claim to understand anything about what people with MBAs do, haha.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by German Expat » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:19 am

My wife did her PhD many years ago and is now a tenured professor (at a business school). I am not too familiar with your field and can only compare it to people working in her field.

For her field a PhD when you do not stay in academia is usually not worth it. She likes her job but by no means does she work less then me (I am in management), it is just that she is a lot more flexible and can work from home a lot more but also works a lot on weekends if a paper is due, new prep work to be done, doctoral seminars to prep for etc.

Job security for her is much better and I have the feeling that her job is now less stressful then mine (maybe I am also getting old and worn out :happy ). But getting tenure was a very stressful process and required a couple job (and location) changes.

I would have a very good look if a PhD would add much in your field if you don't stay in Academia and also consider the 4-5 years break from your career you are taking.

student
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by student » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:27 am

As others have pointed out, it is not clear whether you want to be in academia. If you do, here are the faculty salaries by field.

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/201 ... discipline

ThriftyPhD
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by ThriftyPhD » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am

No you shouldn't get a PhD.

You get a PhD when you fall asleep dreaming about a certain type of research/work you want to do, day dream about it, just can't get it out of your head. Can't imagine doing anything else but this research, and the ONLY possible way that you can do it is to first get a PhD.

It doesn't have to do with money or 'status', it's "I can only imagine myself in career X, and the ONLY way to do career X is to have a PhD."

You're not there.
Main Goal: get better at what I've been doing for a few years
A PhD doesn't get you better at doing a job you've been doing for a few years, it gets you set to do a job that you were unable to do before. The best way to get better at doing a job you've been doing is to keep doing it.

A few comments pointed out job security that comes with a PhD, and that is true to some extent. But keep in mind that PhD jobs are also less common. So if you're working at a K-12 with a PhD in education, and they cut your position, you will likely be able to find another job, but it could be 5 states away. It's not like every school is looking for a PhD in education. Plus, at the point where you get a PhD, your skills are highly specialized.

For example, people don't hire a PhD Biologist. They don't hire a PhD Biologist with a specialty in fish. They don't hire a PhD Biologist with a specialty in zebrafish. They hire a PhD Biologist with a specialty in using zebrafish to study the neurodevelopment process and understand how changes in hormone cascade timing lead to developmental abnormalities. If that's your specialty, great, you're likely to get the job. If not, move along.
Con: wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime away
A PhD isn't a set amount of time. It takes as long as it takes you to complete a body of work that results in a dissertation that your committee agrees is worthy of granting a PhD. That might be 5 years. It might be 9. IT MIGHT NEVER HAPPEN. I know people who walked away in year 6 without the PhD because they realized they weren't close to done. Sometimes it is the work ethic of the student, sometimes the project was doomed from the start, sometimes funding runs dry and the project ends, sometimes the professor you work for gets a job offer in a different country and leaves when you're in year 2, sometimes there is a hurricane that floods the lab killing the mice you've been breeding for 4 years ending your research project.

Perhaps your field is different, but in STEM you don't plan on walking out with your newly minted PhD and getting a $100k job. Typically the only options are PostDoc positions that pay ~$40k. This can last 3-6 years. I have many colleagues who are 5+ years out of the STEM PhD still making well below $100k. And even if it IS different for an education PhD, keep in mind that it will take you 5+ years to get the PhD, and during that time the job market will change DRASTICALLY. New recession, new political climate, new laws, or any other changes can completely upend your job prospects when you come out.

This is why people who go for the PhD for the $$$ often leave without the degree. The ones who do well have such a passion for the work that the job prospects become secondary, and they're able to finish.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Bwlonge » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:22 am

ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am
No you shouldn't get a PhD.

You get a PhD when you fall asleep dreaming about a certain type of research/work you want to do, day dream about it, just can't get it out of your head. Can't imagine doing anything else but this research, and the ONLY possible way that you can do it is to first get a PhD.

It doesn't have to do with money or 'status', it's "I can only imagine myself in career X, and the ONLY way to do career X is to have a PhD."

You're not there.
Main Goal: get better at what I've been doing for a few years
A PhD doesn't get you better at doing a job you've been doing for a few years, it gets you set to do a job that you were unable to do before. The best way to get better at doing a job you've been doing is to keep doing it.

A few comments pointed out job security that comes with a PhD, and that is true to some extent. But keep in mind that PhD jobs are also less common. So if you're working at a K-12 with a PhD in education, and they cut your position, you will likely be able to find another job, but it could be 5 states away. It's not like every school is looking for a PhD in education. Plus, at the point where you get a PhD, your skills are highly specialized.

For example, people don't hire a PhD Biologist. They don't hire a PhD Biologist with a specialty in fish. They don't hire a PhD Biologist with a specialty in zebrafish. They hire a PhD Biologist with a specialty in using zebrafish to study the neurodevelopment process and understand how changes in hormone cascade timing lead to developmental abnormalities. If that's your specialty, great, you're likely to get the job. If not, move along.
Con: wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime away
A PhD isn't a set amount of time. It takes as long as it takes you to complete a body of work that results in a dissertation that your committee agrees is worthy of granting a PhD. That might be 5 years. It might be 9. IT MIGHT NEVER HAPPEN. I know people who walked away in year 6 without the PhD because they realized they weren't close to done. Sometimes it is the work ethic of the student, sometimes the project was doomed from the start, sometimes funding runs dry and the project ends, sometimes the professor you work for gets a job offer in a different country and leaves when you're in year 2, sometimes there is a hurricane that floods the lab killing the mice you've been breeding for 4 years ending your research project.

Perhaps your field is different, but in STEM you don't plan on walking out with your newly minted PhD and getting a $100k job. Typically the only options are PostDoc positions that pay ~$40k. This can last 3-6 years. I have many colleagues who are 5+ years out of the STEM PhD still making well below $100k. And even if it IS different for an education PhD, keep in mind that it will take you 5+ years to get the PhD, and during that time the job market will change DRASTICALLY. New recession, new political climate, new laws, or any other changes can completely upend your job prospects when you come out.

This is why people who go for the PhD for the $$$ often leave without the degree. The ones who do well have such a passion for the work that the job prospects become secondary, and they're able to finish.
Nice post, thank you.

This with a lot of the other posts make me think at most that 2nd master's in applied educational stats, research and evaluation would be the way to go. Of all the things I can't decide on, I do know that I see this as an instrument to my career and producing for an employer in exchange for money, not a sacred commitment to doing research for research's sake.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Watty » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:46 am

ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am
A PhD isn't a set amount of time. It takes as long as it takes you to complete a body of work that results in a dissertation that your committee agrees is worthy of granting a PhD. That might be 5 years. It might be 9. IT MIGHT NEVER HAPPEN. I know people who walked away in year 6 without the PhD because they realized they weren't close to done. Sometimes it is the work ethic of the student, sometimes the project was doomed from the start, sometimes funding runs dry and the project ends, sometimes the professor you work for gets a job offer in a different country and leaves when you're in year 2, sometimes there is a hurricane that floods the lab killing the mice you've been breeding for 4 years ending your research project.
Another biggie is that you get in a relationship or have kids and your priorities change.

You didn't mention having a spouse so I would assume that you are single and if that changes then your plans for the PhD or a second masters might change too.
Bwlonge wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:00 pm
I'm an administrator at a middle/high school, handling all kinds of data collection and reporting and advising others in leadership roles. I have a really jigsawed background from teaching to non-profit evaluation. I like it a lot, but somewhere along the line I got "addicted" to looking upwards. Hard to say what I'll do when I finally do get over the 100k mark!
I don't know what the pay would be but I know someone that needed to make some career changes in his late 30's. He went through a formal training program and got certification in the SAS statistical software and that allowed him to get what seems to be a good job even though he did not have any direct background in that field. In addition to his first job with that certification he also seems to have a lot of advancement potential.

You mentioned self study or getting advanced degrees but a third option to consider would be to get training that leads to certification in something like that which could help take your career to the next level.
Last edited by Watty on Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

Stormbringer
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Stormbringer » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:46 am

Personally, I would start with the question "what do I want to do with my life?" and go from there. Once that is settled, you can figure out the money part.
"Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe." - Albert Einstein

Bwlonge
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Bwlonge » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:01 am

Stormbringer wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:46 am
Personally, I would start with the question "what do I want to do with my life?" and go from there. Once that is settled, you can figure out the money part.
Be financially independent and live on the beach..

crap, now what :P

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Watty
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Watty » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:12 am

Bwlonge wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:01 am
Stormbringer wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:46 am
Personally, I would start with the question "what do I want to do with my life?" and go from there. Once that is settled, you can figure out the money part.
Be financially independent and live on the beach..

crap, now what :P
Many people with Phd's want to do that until they are in their 80's.

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Watty
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Watty » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:14 am

Another thought. Why not find a school district to work for that is on the beach?

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by stoptothink » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:40 am

BolderBoy wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:35 pm
Would the PhD be about the money or would the PhD be about personal fulfillment?

I'm lukewarm about seeing you do it for the money.

I did mine for the personal fulfillment and the money just happened to be a secondary (BIG) side effect.
This. Exact same boat. I went into it with a strong belief that it wouldn't benefit me career-wise; fortunately I was wrong, but understand that it won't necessarily improve your career-track and may in-fact be a detriment. FWIW, I loved undergrad and my MS program, getting my PhD was a relative nightmare which completely turned me off to academia as a whole. That being said, deciding to pursue it and finish was probably the best decision I ever made outside of marrying my wife.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by RudyS » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:29 am

Bwlonge wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:37 pm
Looking for some help here, because I've been going back and forth on what to do for YEARS now and I feel the need to settle on a plan!!!
...
  • Pro: can go for "free" through department funding, would be a satisfying thing to do, buffet pick of 100k+/yr jobs
  • Con: wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime away
...
Besides all the great comments you have already received, consider what happens to the "free" funding if you DO NOT FINISH the program and actually get the PhD? Do you have to give back the money? Or?

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by CppCoder » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:56 am

ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am
Perhaps your field is different, but in STEM you don't plan on walking out with your newly minted PhD and getting a $100k job. Typically the only options are PostDoc positions that pay ~$40k. This can last 3-6 years. I have many colleagues who are 5+ years out of the STEM PhD still making well below $100k.
That is true for academia, but not necessarily for industry. At mega corp research lab, we only hire STEM PhDs; starting salaries exceed $100k. That's not unique to my mega corp. I didn't know anyone in my graduating class who was even offered an industry position with a starting salary that would not be six figures today after inflation adjustment.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by stoptothink » Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:27 pm

CppCoder wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:56 am
ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am
Perhaps your field is different, but in STEM you don't plan on walking out with your newly minted PhD and getting a $100k job. Typically the only options are PostDoc positions that pay ~$40k. This can last 3-6 years. I have many colleagues who are 5+ years out of the STEM PhD still making well below $100k.
That is true for academia, but not necessarily for industry. At mega corp research lab, we only hire STEM PhDs; starting salaries exceed $100k. That's not unique to my mega corp. I didn't know anyone in my graduating class who was even offered an industry position with a starting salary that would not be six figures today after inflation adjustment.
It totally depends. I am a director-level employee in a pretty niche health products industry (at ~4,000 employees, we are the largest player in the game). I have 4 STEM PhDs on my staff, myself not included, and I am the only one making six-figures and two of them are quite a ways from hitting that milestone and likely never will despite being good at their jobs. In general, my employer tends to be a bit conservative when it comes to compensation, but I have had two of our largest competitors try to get me to migrate in the last year so I know quite well what is available out there.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Afty » Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:42 pm

stoptothink wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:27 pm
CppCoder wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:56 am
ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am
Perhaps your field is different, but in STEM you don't plan on walking out with your newly minted PhD and getting a $100k job. Typically the only options are PostDoc positions that pay ~$40k. This can last 3-6 years. I have many colleagues who are 5+ years out of the STEM PhD still making well below $100k.
That is true for academia, but not necessarily for industry. At mega corp research lab, we only hire STEM PhDs; starting salaries exceed $100k. That's not unique to my mega corp. I didn't know anyone in my graduating class who was even offered an industry position with a starting salary that would not be six figures today after inflation adjustment.
It totally depends. I am a director-level employee in a pretty niche health products industry (at ~4,000 employees, we are the largest player in the game). I have 4 STEM PhDs on my staff, myself not included, and I am the only one making six-figures and two of them are quite a ways from hitting that milestone and likely never will despite being good at their jobs. In general, my employer tends to be a bit conservative when it comes to compensation, but I have had two of our largest competitors try to get me to migrate in the last year so I know quite well what is available out there.
I think this is very dependent on your field. Given CppCoder's username, I would guess he is in comp sci. I am also in comp sci with a PhD. I can confirm that starting salaries at Megacorps for fresh comp sci PhDs are well above $100k. Comp sci is probably the exception rather than the rule here.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by The529guy » Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:47 pm

Bwlonge wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:07 am
Shikoku wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:19 am
OP: If money is the goal, you will do far better by simply doing an MBA on top of your M.Ed. It will take two years to complete. Make sure to select a reputable program. If you go for PhD for the money, those five years will be very long. If you do PhD for the personal fulfillment, you will not realize how quickly those five years have passed. I also consider PhD as a lifestyle as I know many PhD holders who can work just 10 hours/week and draw a full salary.
DoTheMath wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:01 am

If the goal is to increase your earning potential and career opportunities, then there are much less arduous ways then earning a PhD. As someone else suggested, an MBA from a well regarded program would be an easier and more effective option. A second masters could make sense, depending on the circumstances. Is this something your employer could help pay for?
I thought about an MBA, but I question whether the subject matter interests me the same as program evaluation and educational research. Improving profits doesn't do it for me the same as improving people and programs does. I also don't claim to understand anything about what people with MBAs do, haha.
If you think "improving profits" is all you'd learn from an MBA, I recommend that you do more research. There are plenty of MBAs in social impact organizations "improving people and programs."

Honestly, it seems to me that hordes of people pursue PhD programs in education in an attempt to get the job you have today.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by PVW » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:04 pm

RudyS wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:29 am
Bwlonge wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:37 pm
Looking for some help here, because I've been going back and forth on what to do for YEARS now and I feel the need to settle on a plan!!!
...
  • Pro: can go for "free" through department funding, would be a satisfying thing to do, buffet pick of 100k+/yr jobs
  • Con: wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime away
...
Besides all the great comments you have already received, consider what happens to the "free" funding if you DO NOT FINISH the program and actually get the PhD? Do you have to give back the money? Or?
I'm familiar with engineering graduate programs and from what I know of those, funding isn't contingent on finishing the degree.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by PVW » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:13 pm

Bwlonge wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:37 pm
This whole situation is complicated by my current earnings. If I were to stay where I was vs. the PhD, it would take me about 18 years before I have made more with the PhD since I'm effectively making nothing for the 5 years I'm doing it.
It might not be this bad. Don't compare your total current earnings vs. a greater income 5 years from now. In terms of saving for your financial independence, attending grad school only has the effect of removing those years of savings (and earnings on those savings). During grad school, presumably your lifestyle and expenses will match your lower grad school income. When you become employed again, your new savings rate might exceed your pre-PhD savings rate, so that it won't take 18 years to make up for the lost saving years.

However, I agree that money should not be the primary driver for pursuing a PhD.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by triceratop » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:29 pm

PVW wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:13 pm
Bwlonge wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:37 pm
This whole situation is complicated by my current earnings. If I were to stay where I was vs. the PhD, it would take me about 18 years before I have made more with the PhD since I'm effectively making nothing for the 5 years I'm doing it.
It might not be this bad. Don't compare your total current earnings vs. a greater income 5 years from now. In terms of saving for your financial independence, attending grad school only has the effect of removing those years of savings (and earnings on those savings). During grad school, presumably your lifestyle and expenses will match your lower grad school income. When you become employed again, your new savings rate might exceed your pre-PhD savings rate, so that it won't take 18 years to make up for the lost saving years.

However, I agree that money should not be the primary driver for pursuing a PhD.
It is also possible that savings during your PhD will continue, if you choose a commensurately less costly lifestyle. There is no rule that because one is a student one must be living paycheck to paycheck.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by getthatmarshmallow » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:50 pm

I have a PhD. Whether it makes sense to get one depends on your field and what you hope to do with it. It would not make sense to get a PhD in my field as professional training for anything except the academy, and I have the rough sense that that's true in most fields: if you're just trying to stay competitive and get more money, the ROI on degrees usually tops out at a master's. But you know your field (or should, and if you don't, think about it before you embark on a doctorate!), and can judge whether the degree is necessary to do the work you want to do. I'd be making more money in many other careers that suit my talents, but the autonomy and lifestyle I have as a tenured prof is to me worth the tradeoff.

If your PhD program is a good fit for you, you probably will pay no tuition and receive a small stipend. If you're not offered a tuition waiver, in my field, that would be a sign you shouldn't pursue it -- know the norms of your field. But as far as income accumulation goes, I lived beneath my means in grad school (annual income between 22-27K for years), and graduated with savings (if I'd known anything, I'd have put it into a Roth, but still -- LBYM makes up for a lot of investing naivete.)

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by CppCoder » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:15 pm

Afty wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:42 pm
stoptothink wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:27 pm
CppCoder wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:56 am
ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am
Perhaps your field is different, but in STEM you don't plan on walking out with your newly minted PhD and getting a $100k job. Typically the only options are PostDoc positions that pay ~$40k. This can last 3-6 years. I have many colleagues who are 5+ years out of the STEM PhD still making well below $100k.
That is true for academia, but not necessarily for industry. At mega corp research lab, we only hire STEM PhDs; starting salaries exceed $100k. That's not unique to my mega corp. I didn't know anyone in my graduating class who was even offered an industry position with a starting salary that would not be six figures today after inflation adjustment.
It totally depends. I am a director-level employee in a pretty niche health products industry (at ~4,000 employees, we are the largest player in the game). I have 4 STEM PhDs on my staff, myself not included, and I am the only one making six-figures and two of them are quite a ways from hitting that milestone and likely never will despite being good at their jobs. In general, my employer tends to be a bit conservative when it comes to compensation, but I have had two of our largest competitors try to get me to migrate in the last year so I know quite well what is available out there.
I think this is very dependent on your field. Given CppCoder's username, I would guess he is in comp sci. I am also in comp sci with a PhD. I can confirm that starting salaries at Megacorps for fresh comp sci PhDs are well above $100k. Comp sci is probably the exception rather than the rule here.
Nope, I'm not a computer scientist. I'm a chemical engineer by training working in the energy sector as a computational scientist. Wages are similar across all engineering degrees whether doing computational science work or more traditional engineering research. My experience with fellow graduates long ago were in finance, energy, semi-conductor, chemicals, and applied math jobs. All had traditional engineering degrees. In fact, when I entered the job market, CS was not nearly as desirable as it is today.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by RudyS » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:24 pm

PVW wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:04 pm
RudyS wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:29 am
Bwlonge wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:37 pm
Looking for some help here, because I've been going back and forth on what to do for YEARS now and I feel the need to settle on a plan!!!
...
  • Pro: can go for "free" through department funding, would be a satisfying thing to do, buffet pick of 100k+/yr jobs
  • Con: wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime away
...
Besides all the great comments you have already received, consider what happens to the "free" funding if you DO NOT FINISH the program and actually get the PhD? Do you have to give back the money? Or?
I'm familiar with engineering graduate programs and from what I know of those, funding isn't contingent on finishing the degree.
Guess I was confusing funding from an employer with funding from the school/department. So, never mind.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Shikoku » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:30 pm

Watty wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:12 am
Bwlonge wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:01 am
Stormbringer wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:46 am
Personally, I would start with the question "what do I want to do with my life?" and go from there. Once that is settled, you can figure out the money part.
Be financially independent and live on the beach..

crap, now what :P
Many people with Phd's want to do that until they are in their 80's.
+1

I plan to continue working until they had to take me out in a stretcher! It is fun, and I am enjoying my work everyday.
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by triceratop » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:36 pm

CppCoder wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:15 pm
Afty wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:42 pm
stoptothink wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:27 pm
CppCoder wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:56 am
ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am
Perhaps your field is different, but in STEM you don't plan on walking out with your newly minted PhD and getting a $100k job. Typically the only options are PostDoc positions that pay ~$40k. This can last 3-6 years. I have many colleagues who are 5+ years out of the STEM PhD still making well below $100k.
That is true for academia, but not necessarily for industry. At mega corp research lab, we only hire STEM PhDs; starting salaries exceed $100k. That's not unique to my mega corp. I didn't know anyone in my graduating class who was even offered an industry position with a starting salary that would not be six figures today after inflation adjustment.
It totally depends. I am a director-level employee in a pretty niche health products industry (at ~4,000 employees, we are the largest player in the game). I have 4 STEM PhDs on my staff, myself not included, and I am the only one making six-figures and two of them are quite a ways from hitting that milestone and likely never will despite being good at their jobs. In general, my employer tends to be a bit conservative when it comes to compensation, but I have had two of our largest competitors try to get me to migrate in the last year so I know quite well what is available out there.
I think this is very dependent on your field. Given CppCoder's username, I would guess he is in comp sci. I am also in comp sci with a PhD. I can confirm that starting salaries at Megacorps for fresh comp sci PhDs are well above $100k. Comp sci is probably the exception rather than the rule here.
Nope, I'm not a computer scientist. I'm a chemical engineer by training working in the energy sector as a computational scientist. Wages are similar across all engineering degrees whether doing computational science work or more traditional engineering research. My experience with fellow graduates long ago were in finance, energy, semi-conductor, chemicals, and applied math jobs. All had traditional engineering degrees. In fact, when I entered the job market, CS was not nearly as desirable as it is today.
+1. I'm an applied math / computational science student and this is broadly my understanding of how the industrial-type job market is.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Shikoku » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:39 pm

RudyS wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:29 am
Bwlonge wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:37 pm
Looking for some help here, because I've been going back and forth on what to do for YEARS now and I feel the need to settle on a plan!!!
...
  • Pro: can go for "free" through department funding, would be a satisfying thing to do, buffet pick of 100k+/yr jobs
  • Con: wipes out 5 years of my earning lifetime away
...
Besides all the great comments you have already received, consider what happens to the "free" funding if you DO NOT FINISH the program and actually get the PhD? Do you have to give back the money? Or?
I am not aware of any graduate program that requires students to return funding if they do not finish their degree. If there is any, that should be considered as an exception, not norm.
"I don't worry too much about pointing fingers at the past. I operate on the theory that every saint has a past, every sinner has a future." -- Warren Buffett

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by ThriftyPhD » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:45 pm

CppCoder wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:56 am
ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:04 am
Perhaps your field is different, but in STEM you don't plan on walking out with your newly minted PhD and getting a $100k job. Typically the only options are PostDoc positions that pay ~$40k. This can last 3-6 years. I have many colleagues who are 5+ years out of the STEM PhD still making well below $100k.
That is true for academia, but not necessarily for industry. At mega corp research lab, we only hire STEM PhDs; starting salaries exceed $100k. That's not unique to my mega corp. I didn't know anyone in my graduating class who was even offered an industry position with a starting salary that would not be six figures today after inflation adjustment.
I also work at a mega corp, and thankfully pay here is very good. However, they don't often hire newly minted PhDs into permanent positions. New mints would get hired on as postdocs, making quite a bit less than six figures. Many of THOSE postdocs are also on their second round as a postdoc after a stint in an academic postdoc position. Most of the permanent positions are seeking a minimum of 3-5 years experience, hence the large number of people working 3-5 years as a postdoc. Similar holding patterns exist in government and academia.

In government, a newly minted PhD, if they can get the job right out of school, would typically come in at the GS12 level. That's ~$70k/year in a lower cost of living area, ~$85k in a higher COL area. With a few years experience post-PhD you might enter in at the GS13 level. 2018 locality pay for an entering GS13 is $99,927.28/year in Manhattan. These are sought after positions, not an aberration.

Postdoc salary at the NIH for a new mint PhD was $47,484 in 2017, and that's to live in the Bethesda MD area. It looks like UCSD and UCSF are paying their postdocs a similar amount to live in San Diego or San Francisco. Many schools will match the NIH number, since they get most of their funding from NIH grants, but some have a much lower salary floor than the NIH rate.

So, salaries for new mints are not low just in academia. Pay is probably higher in compsci, and postdoc positions less common. On the science side of STEM, even after a 3-5 stint as a postdoc, many I know are taking jobs in the $60-90k range. The people who assumed they would make $100k+ the day the graduated were sorely disappointed.

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Shikoku » Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:01 pm

ThriftyPhD wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:45 pm
On the science side of STEM, even after a 3-5 stint as a postdoc, many I know are taking jobs in the $60-90k range. The people who assumed they would make $100k+ the day the graduated were sorely disappointed.
This true for the natural sciences side of STEM. Usually majority of engineering and computer science side of STEM PhDs who join MegaCorp just after graduation starts with $100K+ salary. Those graduates earn less if they go to academia but no postdoc is necessary. That is what I have found from the search committees I have served.
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by William4u » Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:06 pm

My wife and I are tenured professors with PhDs in two different fields. I am familiar with the PhD for a wide variety of fields (due to friends and family with them). Most PhDs do not lead to more money, just a different career. Personally, I would not worry about money. You will make more than enough money to live a comfortable life either way. If your goal is to max your wealth, then get an MBA or somesuch. Get a PhD if you want to do something different with your career, and learn a ton.

Most all the above advice is good. Getting the PhD can be very stressful. A 50% attrition rate is typical, even at top places. In your first day of your PhD program, expect only half of your cohort to get the PhD. And those who do usually will not get the job that led them to enter the program in the first place. But if you go to a good program (top 10, say) you will get some job that utilizes your new skills.

There are books for people considering a PhD program. Read them ASAP. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D. is one. Here is a list of other such books... http://www.onlinephdprograms.com/14-boo ... ing-a-phd/

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by birdy » Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:49 pm

My spouse was in similar dilemma. He was a computer programmer. Went back for Masters and instructors tried to get him to get his Ph. D. He thought that the higher degree would price him out of programming jobs without even getting an interview. (he had no interest in being a teacher) He researched about what additional benefit the degree might have to his career, and decided not to pursue the degree (or the debt).
You have to do the same. Weigh the potential higher income with student debt.

birdy

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Shikoku » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:33 pm

The529guy wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:47 pm
Bwlonge wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:07 am
Shikoku wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:19 am
OP: If money is the goal, you will do far better by simply doing an MBA on top of your M.Ed. It will take two years to complete. Make sure to select a reputable program. If you go for PhD for the money, those five years will be very long. If you do PhD for the personal fulfillment, you will not realize how quickly those five years have passed. I also consider PhD as a lifestyle as I know many PhD holders who can work just 10 hours/week and draw a full salary.
DoTheMath wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:01 am

If the goal is to increase your earning potential and career opportunities, then there are much less arduous ways then earning a PhD. As someone else suggested, an MBA from a well regarded program would be an easier and more effective option. A second masters could make sense, depending on the circumstances. Is this something your employer could help pay for?
I thought about an MBA, but I question whether the subject matter interests me the same as program evaluation and educational research. Improving profits doesn't do it for me the same as improving people and programs does. I also don't claim to understand anything about what people with MBAs do, haha.
If you think "improving profits" is all you'd learn from an MBA, I recommend that you do more research. There are plenty of MBAs in social impact organizations "improving people and programs."
OP: Many MBA programs will allow you to partially customize your plan of study with a focus on improving people and programs, the areas that you are passionate about. As The529guy has pointed out, it is also possible to find MBA programs that already have those components in-built. If money is the goal, an MBA will save at least three years of your life and will probably provide more career prospects than a PhD. I also believe, in general someone has a higher chance of finishing an MBA than finishing a PhD.
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by BolderBoy » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:49 am

William4u wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:06 pm
There are books for people considering a PhD program. Read them ASAP. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D. is one. Here is a list of other such books... http://www.onlinephdprograms.com/14-boo ... ing-a-phd/
There's a movie, too: "Piled Higher And Deeper The PhD Movie 2011"
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by triceratop » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:53 am

BolderBoy wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:49 am
William4u wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:06 pm
There are books for people considering a PhD program. Read them ASAP. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D. is one. Here is a list of other such books... http://www.onlinephdprograms.com/14-boo ... ing-a-phd/
There's a movie, too: "Piled Higher And Deeper The PhD Movie 2011"
Funnily enough, my roommate was the lead in that movie (and the sequel). I am not making this up. It's amusing because he is now doing a PhD himself (was a frosh during principal photography); so, the film didn't scare him. :wink:
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by Shikoku » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:55 am

OP: Have you explored the differences between Ph.D. and Ed.D.? They have different focuses. Many people get an Ed.D. after their M.Ed. So why Ph.D., not Ed.D.?
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Re: Considering PhD...but so much to consider...

Post by msk » Fri Jan 19, 2018 4:27 am

I did a PhD in Physics, aiming for a research job in industry. Bad timing! Most of my PhD cohort ended up teaching in Junior Colleges. Stuff happens. I was lucky. Rode out the major PhD job slump (early 1970s post the Moon landings PhD lay-offs) through 2 post-docs and ended up in industry. Only do a PhD if you enjoy your subject as a hobby. With luck, you may end up in an academic career that you also enjoy as a hobby. Money should never be the motivator, especially for those aged 30+ at start. My buddies who came in at that stage in life dropped out... When you re-enter the job market again at age 35 nobody cares what paper qualifications you have (except in academia), but they only look at your actual job skills/experience (I did a lot of hiring during my career at a Fortune 10 multi-national). Even an MBA so late in life has dubious value. Why would I hire a geologist with an MBA when I can get a younger one with a PhD? When I am interviewing for a manager position, I need to see an actual track record in management. The additional qualifications which do bring more income are those professional qualifications that signify certification, e.g. Accountancy, Engineering, Law, Medicine, etc. One of my kids tripled her income at age 29 by simply obtaining an accountancy certification, even though she already had a BCom while working in the finance department since age 21. Talking of hobbies. She retired at age 31 and then did an MA in religious studies. I still have to figure out that one. Enjoy your job. More important than the $. Beach life? My youngest daughter is starting an MSc in coral reef biology and conservation next semester, to be followed, as per her planning, by becoming a dive instructor for tourists at some remote island in the South Pacific. The Master's degree is simply part of her life plan towards saving the planet if and when she feels the need for a real job. Methinks she is ideal for a PhD :beer

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