Considering a Doctorate

Going to graduate school is an important step in a person's life plan. It involves a major commitment of time, money and hard work. You want to be sure that it is the right step for you.

Of the four statements listed below, choose the one that best describes why you are considering a doctoral program. Check the corresponding answers section to see if graduate school is your best next step.

Statements to Consider

  1. I am pursuing a career that requires an advanced degree.
  2. I want to know more about my subject of study.
  3. I need to buy a few years while I figure out my career.
  4. I want to earn more money.

Answers

1. If you chose #1, you are preparing for a career that requires advanced education (e.g. college professor, psychologist, marine biologist, lawyer, researcher, doctor, sociologist). These are examples of careers that require an advanced degree as an entrance requirement. If you are considering such a profession, then graduate school is the right path for you.

2. If you chose #2, you have a passion for a subject that is compelling you to learn more. You simply cannot imagine going through life without knowing everything there is to know about medieval history, the evolution of the reptile, or supply and demand. Whatever your passion might be, your master's degree has only whet your appetite and you simply need to learn more. If you need to pursue your passion for education, then a doctoral program is probably the right path for you.

3. If you chose #3, graduate school may be a poor choice for you. A doctoral program is an expensive and time consuming endeavor. Rather than paying thousands of dollars per year for the privilege of being confused, why not get a job and have someone pay you? You can still go back to graduate school later if it turns out you need or want to, and you will be a much better student once you know why you are there. Meanwhile, come to Career Services to utilize our career planning resources and talk to a counselor about potential options.

4. If you chose #4, you are probably barking up the wrong tree. Companies pay employees not by how much education they have, but by the work they do. An administrative assistant gets paid the same salary regardless of whether s/he has a BA, an MBA, or a PhD. While it is true some jobs that require an advanced degree pay more than some that do not (see #1 above), jobs that do not require advanced degrees generally do not pay employees more for having them. If salary is a concern for you, you can research salary on sites such as www.cacareerzone.org and www.salary.com in order to determine if a graduate degree makes sense for you. Or you can visit www.phdjobsusa.com to look for jobs for Ph.D.s outside of academia as well as salary surveys for Ph.D. job candidates. Most of the positions on the site seem to lean toward research and development in the fields of science and engineering.

Other questions to consider:

How will you manage the financial and time requirements? Is there a chance that a future employer might pay for you to attend graduate school?Do you have a strong GPA? Do you have the interest and ability to succeed in a graduate school program?Are you willing to relocate to continue your studies?Are you emotionally ready for three to seven more years of academic work at a rigorous level?

In deciding whether to pursue a doctoral degree, talk to other individuals as well. Select people who have a differing prospective and background. They can be a valuable source of information. The following people might have helpful input:

Current doctoral students who are at different phases of graduate program.Professors in the program you plan to pursue.Industry professionals and prospective employers.

Thinking through the reasons for applying to a doctoral program will help you make an informed decision about continuing your education.