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To PhD or not to Phd? Prospects after just an MS? - (Oct/04/2011 )

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All those who already have PhDs (or those who deliberately decided not to get a PhD), your advice will be very valuable.

I have a MS in Biology and almost 6 years of research experience. I have been teching in academia since I graduated - could not pursue PhD due to some personal reasons. I feel the stifled and my "career" has stagnated. I am great at what I do, but always have fear of getting left out of a publication even though I give significant intellectual input.

I have decided to go in for a PhD - as that seems like the only way to move up. I mean is there any way to 'actually' contribute to science, rise up (in academia or industry) and may be at the end of the day get some respect and a feeling of satisfaction that what I did mattered. I am aware of the pros and cons, I have listed some below:

PhD Cons:
-- Long and arduous road. It takes an average 6 years, I am 32.
-- I am 32
-- I am female
-- Add another 4 yrs of postdoc after PhD- (not sure if a Post Doc is a must for an academia job)
-- Not sure of job prospects after PhD, without doing a post doc OR even after doing a post doc
-- If industry is where I end up after 10 years, what if I end up doing the same job as what they offer a MS? I know of some PhD who had to take up jobs initially meant for MS, as the PhDs just couldn't find a job and it was difficult to live on a post doc's salary.
-- Again, if industry is where I end up being after 10 yers of PhD+PostDoc, then can I do the same with my MS by switching to Industry now?

-- It will take me shorter to do a Phd since I already have 6 years exp?
-- I can finally 'move forward' in profession.
-- Finally get some respect that I deserve?
-- Make meaningful contribution to science?
-- Maybe make little better money?
(Right now I make only 43K even after 6 yrs of work ex. I am not sure what I would be making if I were working in Industry today with a MS)

Anyway, making money is not the reason why I want to do a PhD. But if PhD will not give me what I am hoping it would, then I might as well cut my loses and switch to Industry without going in for a PhD. That way, at the very least I can at least make some decent money and and have a better job title than a "technician"

PhDs and those working in industry with an MS , please share your experinces.
It wd be great if you could give me your opinion
Magic Mouse

-Magic Mouse-

...PS: Is age a barrier in getting a PhD? As in do the Professors in the admission committee look at my age as a negative?

-Magic Mouse-

Magic Mouse on Wed Oct 5 01:42:08 2011 said:

...PS: Is age a barrier in getting a PhD? As in do the Professors in the admission committee look at my age as a negative?

i know a few people who got their PhDs late in life (40's, 50's and 60's). no apparent problems with the admission committees.


mdfenko on Wed Oct 5 13:44:47 2011 said:

Magic Mouse on Wed Oct 5 01:42:08 2011 said:

...PS: Is age a barrier in getting a PhD? As in do the Professors in the admission committee look at my age as a negative?

i know a few people who got their PhDs late in life (40's, 50's and 60's). no apparent problems with the admission committees.

Thanks, but did they do PhD in Biomedical Sciences or other fields at that late age? Can u tell me anything else about their career profile, as in what did they do upuntill their PhD? why did they do it so late etc?

-Magic Mouse-

I don't t know if the example I'm about to give to common but...I work in a chemistry/biosceinces department and looking around the office I'm in, 3 of the 16 PhD students currently here went straight from undergrad to PhD. The rest, myself included, came back after working. The three main reason for the people in this office had for coming back 1) they were always going to do a PhD and just taking the time to get to know what they wanted to do before starting, 2) they came back after reaching a point in their career and needing more qualitfications to progress, or 3) (in a couple of cases) were teaching acadaemics in their home countries and were told get a PhD or you are out. Many have partners and children, and most are in there 30's with a few in their 40's.

I would also note in your list of pros and cons you say about getting finished sooner because your experienced. This is definately not the case. You are more likely to make a more efficient start but the project/supervisor/your own personality and personal circumstances (money/family/PT work) will dictate how long it takes, not experience.... the worst cases I've seen of people have long PhD'd have been mature students (but noteable some of the shortest PhDs have been mature student's too). It depends on the individual circumstances and sometime you can't predict the changes that might come.


I started my PhD at 28.......(in Microbiology).....


leelee on Thu Oct 6 06:58:01 2011 said:

I started my PhD at 28.......(in Microbiology).....

mind to tell how old are you now?

-Adrian K-

Haha, not at all, I actually started my PhD a little after turning 27 (now that I think about it) and I'm turning 30 in Feb. I am hoping to have submitted just after my 31st birthday. Fingers crossed.

This is my road to PhD.....

After high school, worked for 2 years in non-science related work (retail, reception, admin etc). Decided that I hated it (actually it was excessive amounts of filing in my reception job that pushed me over the edge, geez I hate filing).

Started a BSc in 2002, part time for the first year (worked to pay my own way) then full time for 2nd, 3rd year and honours. Graduated in 2006 with honours.

Got a job as a research assistant for 2 years, then finally decided that a PhD was the right decision for me (I really missed the "thinking" side of science working as an RA).

For the most part I am enjoying my PhD (but the strain on our finances is quite tough, luckily my husband has a fairly stable job so we are getting by, with a little help from our mates VISA and Mastercard! )


Thanks leelee. Do you mind giving me some more details such as:

--what were your GRE scores?
--Did you need to take the subject GRE?
-- Are you in the same University where you were an RA?
--Did you have any first author publications before you joined?
-- What is the approx US news ranking of the school you are in right now?
-- how many schools did you apply to and how many did you get in to?

-Magic Mouse-

- we don't have GRE in Australia, to qualify for PhD project you must have an honours degree with a score of 2A (or equivalent), I have a first class honours degree

- yes I am studying at the same university and in the same department as where I was an RA

- no first author papers when I applied for PhD, but one paper where I was 2nd author (from my work as an RA)

- I don't know how US ranking works, but the uni I am studying at is 189 in the world ranking table

- I only applied at this one university as I had already chosen my lab and supervisors (you need to have a supervisor, lab and project lined up before you can apply, this forms part of your application)

(we don't do any course work for our PhD in Aus, it is purely a research based degree)

I was also awarded a scholarship (Australian Postgraduate Award) to do my PhD, it pays my tuition, and a weekly living allowance/stipend.

Hope that helps you :)

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