Returning To Graduate School after Hiatus

Returning To Graduate School after Hiatus

Are you contemplating furthering your education but think too late to return to school?  Many potential students see a long hiatus from school as an obstacle to furthering their education.  You always planned to complete that master’s or doctoral degree, but life happens—career, family, obligations.  Things have changed and you’re ready to take that next step.  You want that graduate degree, but is it possible to return to graduate school after a long hiatus?

The idea of attending college as an adult after a hiatus can make anyone anxious.  Seasoned students who took time off from school often have unique academic concerns; however, making this decision doesn’t have to keep you up at night.  When you make the choice to return to graduate school, you are not alone. 

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Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s before a Doctorate, Part 2: The Pros and Cons of a Master’s Degree

Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s before a Doctorate, Part 2: The Pros and Cons of a Master’s Degree

Is the time and money of a master’s worth it? If you are considering going to graduate school, you are most likely pondering which degree to get. There are pros and cons to earning a master’s degree before pursuing a doctorate. Master's degrees are more career-oriented and doctoral degrees focus more on research. If all you want is a raise, pursuing a doctorate is probably not the route to choose. If you love learning and you want to pursue a career in education or research, then the work required for a doctorate may be worthwhile.

When considering the advantages of each program, remember that masters and doctoral programs will give you in-depth training in a specialized field and the usefulness of each degree depends on your academic and career interests/goals. When carefully considered, graduate school earns you more than just another fancy paper to go on your wall.

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Pros

There are numerous benefits of a master’s degree. There is a reason so many people return to school after working for a few years. A master’s program narrows your field of study and delves you deeper in to the field, forcing you to master the subject. While it may be difficult to consider more schooling, consider making graduate school your next step, especially if you want a job that requires more training or a higher starting salary. Unlike your undergrad degree, there are no general studies requirements in graduate school, which is ideal for those with a thirst for knowledge.

A Master’s Degree will introduce the Process of Graduate Study

Graduate work is on a different level than the work you did as an undergraduate. A master’s program will introduce to you the process of graduate study. Students coming straight from an undergraduate program will probably be surprised at how theoretical the material in a doctoral program is. People coming in with a master’s degree will have already learned some of this, and are less surprised at the content of doctoral courses. Typical college courses present a broad overview of a subject. Graduate school can be very competitive and is a lot of work. Many students who floated through undergrad are surprised to find that graduate programs require a much greater commitment, and it is not until students immerse in a field that they truly come to know the depth of their interest.

Although most undergraduate degrees allow students the opportunity to choose subjects of interest, a Master’s degree does this to a greater extent, where you will conduct independent research in order to develop your thoughts and ideas. For many students with passionate academic interests, there’s little need to question the value of a Master’s degree; the experience itself provides plenty of satisfaction by attending extracurricular activities and meetings, hearing from guest speakers and lecturers, and one-on-one supervision.

A Masters May Help Admission into A Doctoral Program

Become an expert in your area of interest. If you’re intent on contributing to the world, professionally or academically, you will need to know your field inside and out—starting with a master’s degree.

Not all college graduates are competitive doctoral program applicants right out of undergraduate school. A master’s program can help you improve your academic record and show that you are committed, interested, and qualified in your field of concentration.  As a master’s student, you will have contact with graduate faculty who teach in the doctoral program, as well as doctoral students (who often take many of the same classes as master’s students), which will give you a chance to get some insight from current graduate students on what life is like in a doctoral program. However, admission to a doctoral program is not guaranteed.**

**Before you choose this option,
be sure that you can live with yourself if you don’t get accepted.**

 

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10 Moments all Grad Students Know: Featuring illustrations from Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics illustrations

10 Moments all Grad Students Know: Featuring illustrations from Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics illustrations

Every grad student faces the pains and struggles that only we can understand. Sure, our lives may look beautiful to professionals in the real world or undergraduates; but what the outside world does not know is that is there is college, and then there is grad school. College is fun. Grad school is hard. Read the list below to get a laugh, relate, and realize that others know what you’re going through in the daily life of a graduate student.

1.    Your life is summed up in one word: research.

http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=286

2.    You are still trying to perfect the impossible balance between research, school, and studying.

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Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s Before a Doctorate Part 1: What’s the Difference?

Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s Before a Doctorate
Part 1: What’s the Difference?

Are you ready for graduate school? As a potential applicant to graduate school, you have quite a few decisions ahead of you. If you are considering a graduate degree, you might wonder what the differences are between the Master’s and Doctorate, or which one is right for you. When you enroll in a graduate degree program, be prepared for a different experience from undergrad.

Eddie Machek describes the three types of higher education degrees perfectly: “At a bachelor’s level, you are going to go out and do what’s been done. At the master’s level, you are going to be in charge of the people who are doing that stuff. In a Ph.D., that's a whole other thing because you are doing the new stuff. You are in a lab.”[1] When considering the merits of a master’s versus a doctoral program, remember that both will give you in-depth training in a specialized field. However, as I stated in my How to Deal with Grad School Competition blog, the usefulness of each degree depends on your academic and career goals.

 Comparison Chart of Basic Differences between Masters and Doctoral Degrees 

 

Master’s

Doctoral

Types and examples

Academic or research (MPhil), Professional (MPA, MSW), Terminal (MFA, MBA)

Academic or research (Ph.D., Ed.D)
Professional (M.D., J.D.)

Why get this degree?

To research, is necessary for profession, is an intermediate step before doctoral, broaden your knowledge of an issue/subject area, increase your skill set for a job

To research, teach at the university level, is necessary for profession

Time to complete degree

1-3 years, full-time.
Longer, part-time.

2-8 years, full-time.
Longer, part-time.

Chart taken from “What's the difference between a masters and a doctoral degree?”, LinkedIn 2015, URL: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-difference-between-masters-doctoral-degree-shelldreams-overseas

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What are Masters’ Degrees?

A master’s degree is the first level of graduate study and typically takes one to three years to complete. Master’s degrees are also considered more versatile than doctorates as they tend to be more career-oriented. Upon completion, program graduates are expected to have advanced knowledge within their specialized field including how to apply their newly acquired skills. Generally speaking, there are three types of masters programs:

Research Master’s

Although primarily used in the UK, the term Research Masters’ degree is the application of these types of degrees is typically for academic and applied research disciplines (e.g., Master of Arts in History or Master of Science in Biology). In some fields, earning a “research master’s” without a doctorate restricts professional options—as research jobs within government and industry labs are competitive, and tenure-track faculty positions are notoriously hard to obtain.

Professional Master’s

Professional masters degrees prepare you to do professional work by introducing the skills and frameworks for understanding the issues and services of that field. Professional masters degrees sometimes are also a means of qualifying you to practice in that field (e.g., Master of Social Work or Master of Business Administration).

Terminal Master’s

Most degrees considered terminal are doctorates, however, some master’s degrees “terminal” if the field does not offer a doctorate. Therefore, terminal masters degrees are the highest academic degree in their field (e.g., Master of Fine Arts or a Masters in Library Science). While some master’s degrees may serve as a steppingstone towards a doctorate, these are the highest academic accreditation in those fields.

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Karina’s Path to Grad School

Karina’s Path to Grad School

My name is Karina.  I am in my second year of doctoral studies and enjoying the learning process.  Being in graduate school has been my dream from the first months of college.  There were many college professors who challenged me to grow and think outside of my immediate culture.  Some of them started controversial class discussions, taught concepts using performance art and others were really patient teachers.  I wanted to teach like those inspirational professors, so I decided to pursue doctoral studies. {eblogads}

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Should you work towards a Master’s or Doctoral degree? Which is right for you?

Should you work towards a Master’s or Doctoral degree? Which is right for you?

If you are considering going to graduate school, you are probably wondering which degree to get. The choice should not be too difficult once you understand the differences among the two types: doctorate and masters. Graduate school is a lot of work and can be very competitive. Many students who floated through undergraduate work are surprised to find that graduate school requires a much larger commitment. Students who are taking a full course load as well as teaching or working other jobs often find themselves overwhelmed. The difference between college and graduate school lies in the ability of the student to focus on their field and areas of most interest.

When considering the advantages of each, remember that both will give you in-depth training in a specialized field and the usefulness of each degree depends on your academic and career interests/goals. However, the higher the degree, the longer it takes to earn and the more specialized the focus becomes. For that reason, here are some things to consider.

What is a Doctoral Degree?

The most common doctorate, and main focus of this post, is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Obtaining a Ph.D. degree means you have exclusive specialty in your field of choice. Bear in mind that one of the very important aspects of getting a Ph.D. consists in the ideal of creating knowledge. Ph.D. work requires original research that contributes new information. In order to earn your Ph.D., you will be required to pass comprehensive exams and a dissertation. What many students don’t know is that they can apply for a Ph.D. program directly after completing a bachelor’s degree, although some schools do require a master’s degree before entering a Ph.D. program.

Purpose and Uses of a Doctorate

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Part 3 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Part 3 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

What strategies can a doctoral student employ to maneuver the trials and tribulations of a dissertation committee?

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How to choose your PhD research topic

How to choose your PhD research topic

Choosing a PhD research topic is one of the most important decisions you can make when starting a doctorate. This is the topic you will be engulfed in for at least three years. It is the one thing that you need to be interested in to guide you through the days that are rough, when you want to quit and just can’t take it anymore. It is the topic that you really want to answer some questions about and to make a contribution to the scientific field. It has to be motivated by curiosity and it will become the reason you wake up in the morning.

There may also be additional reasons for choosing a particular topic. There may be a passion for research to gain knowledge and develop understanding. Or to be intellectually challenged and guided by a world expert in your field. For most people, a variety of reasons are present. Some candidates have already been involved in a research project that can be easily turned into a PhD project or a project is being offered with a topic already created with funding provided and the benefit of collaborating with a wide range of organisations and experts.

The biggest difficulty, whatever the starting point, is to make sure that the topic will continue to motivate during the next three or four years. In reality, at some point you will question whether you chose the right topic. This is part of the process. The PhD process is a roller coaster of emotions and there are days when you will hate it despite the love of the topic you had initially. Although it is important that the topic chosen has been selected based on interest rather than just the interest of a supervisor or just to get a PhD, there are a variety of issues that will impact on the completion of the thesis.

Besides the interest required in the topic, the topic must be viable as a PhD project. Most candidates start their candidature with over ambitious projects and find it hard to choose their specific research question. The overall topic must be turned into a manageable research question. The job of a supervisor is to help the candidate to direct their topic into ‘bite size pieces’. But how do you turn your interest into a specific question that can be answered and tested in real life?

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You need to remember that a PhD requires flexibility, patience and humility. It is a fluid process as the research question can change during the course of your project, depending on what is found, how successful the data collection is and how the project is progressing. Even if the funding body has set the research question, the methods used to gather the data can be changed. The topic has to be kept at a manageable level, understanding that it is a process to gather knowledge on something that little is known about. It allows for growth and intellectual challenge. There will also be many obstacles during the project which requires flexibility. Perhaps the method you chose to collect the data is simply not feasible or too expensive, the apparatus you were counting on using cannot be accessed in time or you can’t contact those that manage its use. You may have wanted to compare three sites but could only access two or the weather has destroyed a site and you can’t access it. Being flexible in these cases requires intellectual strength.

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Part 2 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Part 2 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Choosing a committee can be a daunting task for a doctoral student.  We’ve already covered two strategies that can help you through this process. 

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Part 1 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Part 1 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

So you’re ready to pick your committee members; there are a few things to keep in mind first—after all, it is a 3–6 year process. It is essential that doctoral students take the time to reflect on who they will choose to guide and mentor them through the doctoral process and to eventually determine whether they have earned the degree. It should be said that I come from a social science background, so my perspective is tailored to my particular field, but the strategies I discuss in this series of posts can really be applied to any academic background. There is a lot to talk about so let’s start with the first two guidelines.

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Intro To Series on How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Intro To Series on How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Choosing the right defense committee can potentially be the difference between a smooth transition of receiving your doctoral degree or dodging bullets in an all-out civil war. Hyperbole aside, I’ve been particularly lucky with picking my defense committee members. However, I’ve had colleagues who have struggled, so it’s easy to be on either side of this tough choice. As a new blogger to this site, I wanted to contribute to other great blog posts here and here, so I thought I’d create a series about important decision for grad students.

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good guide, I will take into account. I am committed to helping students, if there are questions, then write https://domymathhome... Read More
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Things I Wish I Would've Known Before Applying to Grad School

Things I Wish I Would've Known Before Applying to Grad School

Looking back on my time in grad school is a bittersweet feeling. I had a lot of difficulties but I still treasure the hard work and tears (maybe that’s the cognitive dissonance speaking). I thought I’d share with you some wisdom from my time in grad school: the things I wish I would’ve known. If you understand and take seriously some of these things, then maybe you can avoid some of those tears in grad school (literal and/or figurative tears).

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10 Questions to Ask Yourself before Deciding to Get a PhD

10 Questions to Ask Yourself before Deciding to Get a PhD

Before deciding to embark on another 5-10 years of education, know the facts about getting a PhD (see my previous blog on myths of getting a PhD). If you’re still confident a PhD is the right path for you, ask yourself the following:

1. Can I afford it?
If you are considering student loans, mean graduate debt was $14,479 according to the Survey of Earned Doctorates (NSF, 2012). Also take into account the cost it takes to apply to multiple PhD programs. Can you afford moving to another region of the country? All these things add up before the first day of classes.

2. How much money could I be making during the time it takes to get a PhD?
In addition to thinking about out-of-pocket expenses, consider the opportunity cost of getting a PhD. Think of both time and money. Figuring your opportunity cost will help answer the question, “Is it worth it?” To know how much money you will make after graduation, you will need to ask yourself the next question below.

3. To what industry do I want to enter as a career?
This question will better target what kind of salary you are likely to make in the future. There are plenty of people with master’s degrees who rake in $90k+ a year. How did they do it? They went into industries that pay well. The degree you hold is not the only factor in how much money you will make.

4. Is it impossible to get my dream job without a PhD?
If the answer is yes, then you need to get a PhD. Be realistic about the type of job that you are likely to get upon graduation, as well. When choosing programs, ask what type of jobs people get when they graduate.

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7 Myths About Getting a PhD

7 Myths About Getting a PhD

Should you get a master’s degree or should you go on to get your PhD? If you’re considering getting even more education, be aware of some of these misguided assumptions surrounding the elusive PhD.

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