Interesting article on finances for Grad School

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by sonny_jr, Jan 31, 2007.

  1. sonny_jr

    sonny_jr New Member

    Is this really what happens in the real world? Seems like these situations are a bit extreme.....!

  2. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    For one thing, if you're applying for a job where your graduate degree would be a liability rather than an asset, simply leave it off your resume. People who get PhDs for reasons of personal rather than professional interest this all the time.

    But it's true that education is an investment like any other, and that some investments offer a better rate of return than others. One should do a cost-benefit analysis before starting a graduate program. That's one reason why I'm looking abroad for a doctoral program -- U.S. based ones just don't measure up as well when I do the numbers.

  3. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Interesting, Steve. However, I would have to counter with the notion that offshore doctorates provide no real value to a job search within the North American University system, so they should be avoided. An offshore doctorate could have some value to an individual who is already employed with a university, but you still can't shake the "Couldn't get one here?" effect. Please realize that there are many, many folks with doctorates from here who are underemployed or undercompensated already.

    I would have to say that the road to earning a mid-career doctorate is a road to financial ruin. You do it because you love teaching or research, but there is barely enough money in college teaching to eke out a living. (Okay, everybody, jump in here and tell about that unicorn you once saw, or I mean that well-compensated associate professor who was hired as an assistant professor and achieved tenure. Also, all his/her research grants were funded and life is not hand to mouth to get publications.)

    I have seen a few friends who already were well-entrenched gain value from a mid-career doctorate, but they are rare.

  4. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    As a person that collected degrees for some time; I must say the the return of investment is pretty low for graduate school. However, I discovered that schools actually pay you according to your level of education so I used all my degrees to teach at the College and University level.

    Besides teaching, graduate school can be a problem as you are considered an expensive asset. Must people see an MBA as an asset on a resume or even an M.S in engineering, but when they see a PhD you fall into the "academic" or "very expensive" category.
  5. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I don't know if I agree with this. College and University teaching is not the highest paying career but you can make a decent living out of this. A college professor makes around 70-80K and some even more if you do consulting.

    An offshore doctorate is not going to give you the edge in a teaching job but neither an online doctorate or a school with low reputation. It gives you the check point when applying for a position and you get paid more in the education business.

    In my last job interview, the hiring committee didn't even ask about my education as most of the interview was based on teaching experience. Granted, it was not a tenure track but once you are in you can always show your abilities and go for a tenure track.

    If one wants to teach at Harvard, offshore or online US doctorates are not going to do the job. If you want a pay raise and the ability to teach graduate courses and have more marketability then it is a good option.
  6. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I realize that many Americans think the world stops at the border, and that in many segments of academia there is a lot of competition and not much in the way of pay. Even so, I think that your statement is a bit broad. I'm not interested in a tenure-track faculty position, but instead in administration and consulting, where the flag my alma mater flies will be less important. Besides, my wife and I ultimately plan to return to the West Indies anyway, where this will all be irrelevant.

    There's also the matter that I don't yet consider myself to be at mid-career. ;)

    I think I realize what you're saying, though, and I agree that were I interested in a tenure-track position at a university in a livable city that this would probably be a mistake.

  7. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    How many individuals who have switched into a college teaching career in their 30's or 40's are doing this? I think you are talking about exceptions. Most everyone I know is already hired or slugging it out as an adjunct until their network pulls them out of it.

    Look, I want to believe in unicorns, too, so I'm sympathetic to the urban legend of the intrepid middle aged assistant professor and newly-minted Ph.D., but I just can find many or any to speak of who are making a go of a real academic career. Go ahead; tell me I'm wrong...

  8. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    You are not wrong, there a lot of PhDs graduates from traditional schools that cannot make the cut. However, in my case the doctorate opened doors that otherwise would be closed.
  9. Jeff Walker

    Jeff Walker New Member

    My wife simply treated grad school as a job. A low-paying job, but with fellowships, TA, and RA support, she was cash flow positive every year of grad school and funded her Roth IRA. That can be very hard to do in the humanities, but should be doable in the sciences for everyone.
  10. fortiterinre

    fortiterinre New Member

    This article is completely realistic to me. Someone who begins grad school the same dilettante he or she was in college likely will pick up a degree he or she will never use, with debt to go with it. The NYU story is especially sad, because the prestige of the school is so great that one would think jobs would be possible if not easy. But even prestige school are offering highly esoteric degrees like "electronic publishing" that simply do not feed into an existing job market. WHAT the degree is in is important even if it is a prestige school.
  11. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I agree, the issue here is that you should get a degree when you feel you need it and not get it and then find a use for it.

    The article clearly states that those that got a degree and never used were never in those fields to begin with.

    If one wants to get a PhD to teach, my suggestion is first to teach and then get the PhD when you feel you need it for promotion or better opportunities and not get a PhD and expect that teaching jobs will be waiting for you.
  12. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    True, but the urban legend surrounding the academic unicorn is slightly different. Is there anybody who is middle aged, earned a DL doctorate (or even a brick and mortar doctorate) and moving from adjunct teaching to a full time tenure track position (i.e., the elusive academic unicorn)? They are rare.

  13. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Ah, you've spotted the academic unicorn! Was this a brick and mortar or DL unicorn? What discipline? I'm curious. (Yes, there are rumored to be many unicorns in the social sciences.)

  14. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    What is your definition of middle age? Most assistant professors in business schools are on average 35 if you consider that the average MBA requires two years of post bachelor's experience before admission and the PhD requires about 4 to 5 years of full time study. In addition, it is not uncommon to see professors with a MBA and a Master's in other discipline of specialization as the MBA is a general degree.

    I would say that more than 90% of the full time teaching faculty that I have met started as adjunct and moved full time later when a position became available. As a matter of fact, many contractual agreements give preference to part time teachers with certain seniority when a full time position becomes available. At least this was the case at few place where I taught, the more you taught the more your chances to get a full time gig.

    Yes, it is not easy. But again, what is easy in life? Have you ever been married? Not easy either but doable.
  15. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    How many are middle-aged or second career individuals? Are these full time tenure track positions with full benefits and academic rank/voting or renewable one year contracted faculty. Out of the context of the school ranking, size of department, and teaching disciplines, it is difficult to evaluate whether the "90%" supports your assertion. Would you venture a guess how many adjuncts intentionally move to full time tenure track positions at your school or any school? Still, I'll think you'll discover they are rare indeed; these academic unicorns who are headed for meaningful academic careers are nearly nonexistent. I hope they exist though!

  16. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Just to update some of your info... Many MBA programs (especially part-time and DL) require no post-baccalaureate experience. The business Ph.D. can be done in three years of full time study at many brick and mortar institutions, but often requires more part-time study to complete the dissertation if the student takes a full time tenure track position. Most professors in business faculties list one or no masters degree at all. The modern MBA is often not a general degree, at least for the last twenty years, with many specializations now available.

  17. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    The 12 credits that most of MBAs offer as specialization are hardly seen as a "real specialization". Most of schools require at least 18 graduate credits in the field of specialization, you can get those at the PhD level but many get a second master's in a specialization field (At least I did this) just to satisfy the requirements to teach a subject.
  18. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Notice that I said "have met" and never generalized this for the full population. This is my personal experience, most full time (yes with benefits) that I "met" started as adjuncts and moved up as full time lecturers or tenure track assistant professor. This makes a lot of sense to me as you get to know the people in the hiring committee and they get to know your work. Why is so hard to believe that an adjunct will become a full timer? Are you saying that a hiring committee would rather hire a total stranger than someone they know and has a good teaching record and experience?

    I have never conducted a study in the matter as I really don't think would be a use for it. Most of the full time teaching positions require teaching experience, how can you get teaching experience if you don't adjunct first?

    I guess my last 7 years of teaching experience at business schools are worth nothing when applying to full time teaching positions and all people would care is your are under 30 and with a PhD from a top tier.

    Good luck!
  19. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Perhaps the ones who have difficulty believing that an adjunct can get a full-time tenure-track position are the same ones who have trouble believing that a lady of the evening who has sold herself too cheaply can find a client who wants her for a wife.
  20. Jeff Walker

    Jeff Walker New Member

    Brick and Mortar. R1 school, in fact. Biology (ecology) as the field. I get the impression in the sciences, however, that student loans are completely unnecesaary, unless a very specific standard of living is required, or you have children. Funding certainly wasn't a problem at this school unless you took 8 years to get your PhD (which happened).

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