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To PhD or not to Phd? Prospects after just an MS?

PhD Career Choices MS vs PhD Salary Career Growth

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#1 Magic Mouse

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 05:40 PM

Hello,

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?


Pros:
-- 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
Thanks,
Magic Mouse

#2 Magic Mouse

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 05:42 PM

...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?

#3 mdfenko

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 05:44 AM

...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.
talent does what it can
genius does what it must
i do what i get paid to do

#4 Magic Mouse

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 12:28 PM


...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?
thanks

#5 Micro

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 05:06 PM

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.

#6 leelee

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 10:58 PM

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

#7 Adrian K

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 08:00 AM

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


mind to tell how old are you now? Posted Image
Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the lion not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.

..."best of our knowledge, as far as we know this had never been reported before, though I can't possible read all the published journals on earth, but by perform thorough search in google, the keywords did not match any documents"...

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#8 leelee

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 07:30 PM

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! Posted Image )

#9 Magic Mouse

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 06:36 AM

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?

#10 leelee

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 11:34 PM

- 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 :)

#11 mdfenko

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 12:31 PM

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?
thanks

one had a masters in chemistry, worked for the navy for 20 years and went back to school for a PhD in biology. afterwards became a professor in another university.

one was a holocaust survivor who went back to school for a PhD in her late 50's or early 60's. I don't know what happened to her after i left the school.

there were a few where i am now who obtained their PhDs later in life and are successful researchers. they were already working in the labs here.

some couldn't afford to go for it after completing undergraduate school, some raised families before going back, some decided later that they wanted more.
talent does what it can
genius does what it must
i do what i get paid to do

#12 gebirgsziege

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 10:36 PM

age should not be a reason in your decision - know some people who decided to do their PhD later in life who are successful researchers now.

I am not familiar with the US system, but if you did your PhD here in Austria your previous research experience and publications could greatly enhance the time needed for your PhD. In my field (biology) an average PhD takes you 3-4 years - but with some luck (getting publications quickly) and a lot of hard work you can be even faster (know people who did a great PhD in two and a half years time, however we have a mandatory masters degree to be admitted to PhD which also takes approx. 2 years).

As you have been working in the lab for quite some time you will have an advantage - you are used to the (often frustrating) lab work - which in my experience costs a lot of people an awful lot of time: when they lose their motivation and avoid the lab for long times when things do not work as they want them to. Many of these are - in my experience - too proud to talk to their supervisors about their problems as they think they are supposed to solve all problems alone.

As far as I have seen with our students those who decide to do their degrees later are usually much quicker because they know what they want to reach and are much more focussed than the first-hand students.

But: From my experience in Industry you will get the same job with a good qualification and a Masters Degree than you will with a PhD. Only if you want to become the head of a research group you will need a PhD, for most other jobs a good qualification will be enough. But this might get tougher during the next years as we are producing too many PhDs and they take over the jobs which are usually for somebody with a masters degree.....
A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. (Oscar Wilde)




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