Why a PhD? (Or Any Other Degree)

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Rich Douglas, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Active Member

    As I mentioned in my last post, I might post something important (I think, anyway) from time to time.

    We often get asked about which doctorate (or other degree) to pursue, but very often not why. But it is the latter that is the much more important question. I'll use a particular failure on my part as a case-in-point.

    Longtime readers will recall the MIGS situation, as well as my involvement in it. (For those who do not, please search the archives, although you might draw enough from this post to suit you.) After being out of Union's Ph.D. program for a very long time, I had a yearning to complete my Ph.D., but didn't realize I could go back to Union to finish. Instead, I caught myself up in the MIGS situation, which was a personal disaster despite my good intentions.

    Why would someone who knows a great deal about this field (nontraditional higher education) subject himself to an operation that (a) had a shaky and suspect connection to an accredited (equivalent) Mexican university, (b) was run by someone (Danzig) with a track record of scamming, (c) had little in the way of resources to run its operation, (d) and seemed to be merely "renting" a foreign school's accredited status in order to operate a U.S.-based school? Very simply, because I was (sadly) obsessed with getting the Ph.D., and I was willing to cross a lot of lines to do it.

    Oh, sure, there were tons of reasons to rationalize the decision. MIGS was operating under the authority of an accredited Mexican university, although that school didn't even offer the doctorate. MIGS got listed by the widely recognized International Handbook of Universities. I could get in on the ground floor and do my studies for free. I could build a good committee to supervise my studies. Blah, blah, blah, blah. And once it became clear MIGS was not going to run things legitimately, I contacted the Florida authorities and got the ball rolling that contributed to the death of MIGS. ("Contributed," because Steve Levicoff's legal battle with them was the real killer of MIGS, and rightly so.) But why?

    Again, an obsession with getting the degree. A focus on the degree, but not on the reasons for getting one. So.....

    I encourage anyone reading this and considering another degree to ask "why?" What is it you intend to do? What path will you take, and where will the degree take you? You see, I didn't consider these things, which led me into trouble. I managed to extricate myself from MIGS, but I still failed to answer the question, which is why my Ph.D. from Union has been only tangential to my career success. (Having the doctorate is great, but I don't really do work in the area in which I specialized.)

    If you're considering a degree, please consider why you want the degree and what you're going to do with it. Obtaining that next degree isn't the answer; it is just another platform from which you can begin to explore.

    For you future Ph.D. students, be sure you know what you intend to research and how it will lead your professional life. It is your opportunity to have a real impact on your profession and/or academic area--don't throw it away by being focused only on getting the degree. If you do, your sights are far too low.

    Again, I love having a Ph.D, and it has done wonders for my career. But I wish I'd been more careful about aligning it with what I would do in the future, either by (a) choosing a degree that would fit my career path or (b) striving for a career along the lines of my degree. I did neither. While I certainly benefit financially from the degree, if I had it to do all over again, I would have created the alignment I'm talking about.

    More on that next year. Until then, Happy Trails to all.

  2. Delta

    Delta Active Member

    Personally, I think the PhD and many other doctorates are overrated!

    I know many folks who hold masters degrees and went back for an associates degree in a technical area that provided much more utility, job marketability and satisfaction rather than go on for the doctorate. My piece of advice is to do your due diligence before you waste time and money with a potentially fruitless pursuit just because people think it is the "norm" to progress vertically in academic degrees.

    I'm an example of a person that has two master degrees, half way through a doctorate and went back and got another associates degree because the discipline was fun as heck and put food on the table.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 22, 2010
  3. obecve

    obecve New Member

    I moved 450 miles the first time I wanted to start a doc. I found a new job and moved my family, but never made it to the first day of class. Family crisis and other factors interfered. It was another 10 years before I looked again. In my profession you don't have to have a doc, but it gives you advatages if you are seeking leadership roles. For me, the doc gave me new skills, particularly research and data skills that have become important. More importantly it challenged my critical thinking skills on a daily basis. I had a choice between a Ph.D. 9 miles away and an Ed.D. 90 miles away. The school with the Ed.D. had the program and people I wanted to study and study with. It was worth the drive and it has been worth it in my career. More important, it has been worth it to me. It made me different in the process because of the growth I experienced.
  4. AUTiger00

    AUTiger00 New Member

    While not pursuing a doctorate, I for one continue to seek out degree programs because I work at a university and the benefit is there. I guess it is the business person in me, but if an employer will pay tuition and you don't take advantage of it you're leaving money on the table. Beyond that, I feel I could make substantially more money working in another industry, but having a 35 hour work week, 4 weeks vacation and the ability to study the things I want at little costs to me outweighs the tradeoff of making an additional $25k while having to out in 70-80 hours a week and very little time off. Taking advantage of the tuition benefit let's me feel like I'm making up for some of the pay I'm missing out on by not working in corporate America.
  5. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    No worries about MIGS, Rich... people have been scammed by the perpetrators of regionally-accredited doctoral program scams as well.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2010
  6. Cyber

    Cyber New Member

    ...scammed by perpetrators of regionally-accredited doctoral programs? Or by regionally-accredited online doctoral programs? I personally don't see anything wrong with online doctorates from internet-only schools run out of office spaces. I just have a serious problem with paying $50k to get one.
  7. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    I think you mean 50K plus to have a 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 chance of earning an online RA doctorate... the problem is that the student intake for these online RA doctoral programs is so enormous, that the graduation rate is much lower than traditional doctoral programs.
  8. truckie270

    truckie270 New Member

    Why is that neccessarily a problem? I understand your issue with the profit motivation of online schools creating programs without the infrastructure to support graduation, but doesn't a low graduation rate in these programs add value to the accomplishment of those who happen to finish? Online education as a whole has provided access to higher education for many that would/do not thrive in traditional programs.
  9. dcullen

    dcullen New Member

    Are you saying that since the intake is so large with online/DL Doctorate programs, the percentage of graduates is lower due to lower barriers to entry? Or are there other major contributing factors?
  10. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    No, because they weren't trying to graduate any of those students anyway; they graduate their favorites early and leave everybody else to pay tuition until they quit. It is fraud.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2010
  11. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Yes, lack of ethics. Excessive greed.
  12. cravenco

    cravenco New Member

    What!!!!!!!!!!! :shocked1:
  13. cravenco

    cravenco New Member

    Indeed, Dave, indeed!!!
  14. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly

    Really? That's how it works in all these different schools? That's quite a claim. If you want it to be taken seriously, I think a citation would be helpful.

  15. cravenco

    cravenco New Member

    Sweet option, Michael.
  16. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    I'm already receiving a great benefit from my doctoral studies. It seems like every class I take offers a number of things that improve my teaching ability or widen my perspective as a teacher. So even if I fall into what DW is talking about, where I never actually receive my degree, I will not be sorry for what I have accomplished.

    Another cool thing about my program is the fact that I can bail out at the roughly half way point, take only one extra class, and end up with an EdS. So at the halfway point, I will reevaluate my decision and decide whether to go on. I know Liberty is not unique here, but it is comforting to have this option.

    I weighed my motivations very carefully before undertaking my doctoral program. Most of my motives are practical; it will open the door to promotion, it will give me a pay increase and it will qualify me to take on some other teaching ventures that would otherwise be unavailable. Then there is also the vanity of having a doctorate, I admit.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2010
  17. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    The desire for prestige and ego gratification are certainly legitimate reasons for pursuing a doctorate.
  18. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    I have to admit to some of that too.
  19. jaer57

    jaer57 New Member

    I'm applying for the "Master of the Universe" program at Grayskull University to satisfy my ego... :rambo:
  20. truckie270

    truckie270 New Member

    OK. Make sure nobody tries to take your tin-foil hat to cover up their Thanksgiving left-overs tomorrow.

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