The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Itchy Thoughts

Posted by Seeking Solace |

Every now and again, I get this itch to go back and get my PhD.

I am not sure what causes me to starting thinking about it or the thought process behind it. It just comes up. I starting thinking about whether or not I should go for it.

  • I wonder if it is too late for me to do it. I am 41 years old. A full time program would take 2 1/2 to 3 years to complete, not including the dissertation. At minimum I would be 45 years old when I finished. Then what? Can I get a job in my "field"?
  • I wonder about the cost. I am not going back into student loan debt. I just paid off the last round before my 40th birthday. I would need an assistantship and/or grants. I could pay for the fees and other stuff out of pocket. That's the only way I would be able to afford it. (Husband is very supportive of my going back, so long as we don't go into debt for it. )
  • Then there's the stamina factor. Do I have the stamina to go back to school and be the "student" again. There's that whole student mentality that I am not sure I am willing to embrace again. Plus, how weird would it be to go from being the professor to being the student. (I probably should read New Kid's posts about her law school experience). What role, if any, does my RA have in this?
  • On the positive side, I would love the intellectual challenge. I love learning and embracing new ideas. It would be exciting to tackle something new and different. I am not sure what I would study; I am leaning toward something in education. I have Masters, but I have no interest in continuing in that field. I have not found anything in closely related fields to law like sociology or political science that interest me. There are no criminal justice PhD. programs in Target area. I would have to go through on of the on line universities for that.
  • I wonder if it would only enhance my cred as a professor. We all know the hassles I've had with my JD being an inferior terminal degree.
After wrestling through all of those thoughts, I just end saying "forget it" and move on.

But with all the new changes in my life and the new adventure I am about to take, I wonder if it is worth a serious look.

What do you think. Would you go back?


Propter Doc said...

I don't think you'd slip into the student mentality as much as you may fear. If you treated it largely as a professional job, particularly if you were TAing, you'd have a distinctly different attitude to straight from law school students.
Do you have a dissertation topic in mind? I suspect you'll never lay this to rest until you look into it properly.

I'd go back and do another PhD if I had the chance.

Seeking Solace said...

Ragey: That is an excellent point. If I were TA-ing, I would treat the whole thing very differently.

I have some thoughts, but it would depend on what area I would pursue. That's a tough decision. It would be nice to combine my law background in some way.

Arbitrista said...

No! Ah! Don't do it! Okay, maybe I'm reacting too harshly, but the debt/burnout factors are important, and what would you really do with the PhD, anyway? Are you really interested in becoming a research academic?

If you're interested in the intellectual challenge, it's a relatively easy matter to begin studying a subject on your own, without formal guidance from instructors. There are like a million grad school syllabi on the internet that would give you a place to start.

Just my 2 cents.

Seeking Solace said...

Arbitirsta: I see your point too. The debt thing would suck. That's why I would have to have someone else pay for it. And yeah, what happens after I get the sheepskin??? Will it make a difference?

Roundhead Lady said...

Not only "would I." I DID. I started a Master's program at age 40, and didn't get PhD until I was 48. Was it expensive? After all my experience as a high school teacher, etc., my GRE scores were high enough to earn a full ride plus stipend through whole program at a top-rated school. Everyone said I wouldn't get hired because I was to old. I did--a TT job at one of the top 50 LACs in the country. The same "everyones" said I wouldn't get a book published ( I did, twice)or get tenure, but I did that, too, right on time. I retired at age 65 with a 15-year teaching career behind me, and I've never regretted a moment of the experience. You CAN do whaat you really want to do.

Seeking Solace said...

Roundhead Lady: That is so inspiring!!! You go girl!!!

I don't think I would get a scholarship based on GRE scores. I am a terrible test taker. I took the Bar exam a couple of times!!!

I wish I could avoid the GRE!!!

BrightStar (B*) said...

Considering that you can teach college with your current qualifications, if I were you, I wouldn't go get a PhD unless you truly want to conduct research in a particular field. If you have a passion for a field and you want to learn to conduct research in that area (as well as teach in that area), then go for it!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

The standard advice to people in my field/the humanities generally is not to enter a Ph.D. program *unless* they're paying for you to do it - and I think a lot of programs out there expect to fund their students and don't even accept people they won't fund. (I have no idea where you're going to be, of course, so don't know if this is true of any of the programs in the area.) So I don't think you should go into debt, but I also don't think you'd have to - I think you'd be a strong applicant, especially depending on the program (for instance, I'd think education programs would love your real-world experience).

Ph.D. programs are much less obsessed with test scores than law schools. Good GRE scores are helpful, but bad ones aren't all that much of an obstacle if you have good grades and other accomplishments - I think you'd be a very attractive candidate. One of the most important things would be to be able to articulate what you want to study and why it's significant and what you bring to studying that topic, and why you'd want to do it at that program (not saying you have to have a diss proposal all worked out, but some focus is good, even if you make it up. ;-D).

One difference that I think it would make - you mention it enhancing your cred as a professor: I do think it would be easier for you to get positions with a Ph.D. - or more accurately, I guess, positions at a wider range of schools. (Depending what you got the degree in and what field you wanted to teach, of course.) And if you ever wanted a tenure-track position at a non-community college, you would probably have to have a Ph.D.

Now, I have no idea if you want to teach at schools that would prefer a Ph.D., or have any interest in a tenure-track position outside the cc context, and I'm not remotely suggesting you should, either - plus, there are always exceptions, but generally, that's how I understand it.

Anyway, good luck deciding! Sometimes I find being a student again really hard, but it's harder learning the culture of a new profession than actually doing the work, and I think my adjustment in that respect is bigger than yours would be.

I tend to be sort of anti-Ph.D. in a lot of contexts; I sort of feel like there's no point in doing one unless you know for sure you want to be a tenure-track professor, and it's soooooo hard to break into that gig, it's not a wise move. But when I say that, I'm mostly thinking about people coming straight out of college who will pass up a lot of other important career development opportunities by going after the Ph.D. But I think someone who's had a career in a couple of fields would be in a much better position to do a Ph.D., get what they want out of it, and then deal with the career options when they're done. I mean, you'll always still have the J.D., you've already been getting teaching gigs, so even if the Ph.D. didn't end up adding to your career opportunities, you'd still be well off.
(And I should add that my perspective is all from the impractical humanities perspective. I think some of the fields you suggest provide way more practical opportunities, which would change things up a bit.)

Anfa said...

I went back at age 48 and re-did all my sciences full-time at night(while working full-time as an executive in a non-profit org). At age 49 I was accepted into an accelerated PharmD program, and got my doctorate at 51.
If you want something badly enough, you will leverage everything in your life to achieve it. When you have so much at stake, failure is not an option and you will focus hard to succeed.
As a single parent with 4 kids, it was a huge risk, but it paid off. My salary is now quadruple what it was when I worked in the non-profit sector, and I still get to work with challenged populations.
Start with a list- all the pros and all the cons. I use that method to make all major decisions.

Nels said...

My guy is in a PhD program now, starting when he was 44. The factors that decided it for him? When I told him he'd be the same age when he finished the degree as he would be if he never even tried, he stopped talked about age as an issue. We're all getting older (hopefully). Also, he would only go back if he got funding, which he did (and is often typical for PhD programs in the humanities). He puts all of his assistantship money into his savings account and has figured out that he's actually making a profit by earning the PhD, but he is still an attorney as his main job. Finally, he has no intention of applying for academic jobs. He went into it not wanting a job and hasn't changed his mind. He wants the degree. He wanted the education. For him, the education itself has been more important that what he would "do" with the education. He wants to remain an attorney who just has a PhD. Why do we always have to get the standard job after getting a degree? Why can't the degree be an end in itself? I say this as someone who is thinking of getting another degree myself (or two).

Rev Dr Mom said...

I think if it is something you would find stimulating and something you want, do it.

I started college at 31, got my Ph.D. at 41, taught for 8 years, got tenure, and then started seminary at 49. You're never too old!

And as someone else said, most Ph.D. programs should offer support--stipend, tuition remission, etc.