Graduate School

As graduation approaches, I find myself thinking more and more about graduation. I find myself looking at the schools and programs that I would enjoy and wondering whether I should go. There’s a large part of me that says that since I’m capable and interested, there’s no reason for me not to go. I go in and out of phases of “I don’t think I’ll go” and “I should think about taking the GRE/GMAT so I can apply.”

I’ve known many women at BYU who had kids while getting their masters and PhDs. Whenever I ask them how they did it, it usually gets down to having a supportive spouse who believed in their career and believed in them. They say that it was tough, but worth it. I do have a supportive spouse–Kyle has told me that if I want to go to graduate school he will support me and go with me to wherever I need to go. Because I’ve known a number of women who have done it, I do feel like I can get a graduate degree or two and have kids–I can have my cake and eat it, too.

But then I wonder if I just want a graduate degree to have it. Because I think that because I’m smart enough, I should get it just because. That seems like the wrong answer and if it’s the reason I want one, then I shouldn’t go through the pain, money and effort of it. In other ways, what’s better than to get a graduate degree because you want it? It’s a better reason than getting one because you have nothing else to do with your life.

I enjoy research. I love ideas. As time goes on, I love teaching more and more. I think I would make a really great professor. I could sit in my happy world of learning and literally be paid to be an intellectual. I would also get summers off. How cool is that?

In many ways, I have all the time in the world to sort through how I feel about graduate school. I can work for a few years and then go back to school if I want. I’m not constrained by a system that won’t allow me to return to get the degree I want. But I have been pondering it.

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2 thoughts on “Graduate School

  1. Why should I even try to pipe in when your dad is full of good advice, which I am sure you weigh highly.
    I just want to tell you two things: 1 – As a mother. It will be easier to get your education now then trying to go back. As hard as it will be with little kids, it will be even harder with older kids. So do it now, or don’t plan to do it until your kids are out of the house. It will be wise to go straight into the work field right after graduating with graduate degree, as your school will help place you. And if you plan to just get your degree and then sit on it, it will be pretty out of date by the time you go back to the workforce (which is more pertinent with graduate degrees then undergraduate degrees)
    2- As the wife of one with two graduate degrees. If you are not planning on working, it will not be worth it to accrue the debt it will take to get your degrees. So I don’t think the question is really should I get a graduate degree? but Does the Lord want me to be working mom? Which He may. It seems He is getting more liberal these days. :)

    All that being said. There is a national trend right now because of the economy of more people going to more school and more professionals trying to find work, so it may be to your advantage to wait.

    Sinking under LG’s student loans, I will tell you this. I refuse to go back to school until I can pay for it out of my pocket. I wish we would have weighed the prophet’s advice more wisely of avoiding debt (even if ours was for education). I also think that the advice given at Conference about not postponing children is timely and true. I wish we would have been more proactive in figuring out how to have our children and avoid debt and get educated at the same time.

  2. There is graduate school, and then there is graduate school. For example, search for books on Amazon.com with titles like How to Survive Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Graduate School. The Ph.D. is overvalued in MOST fields, and unemployment is rampant, even if you’ve completed an addition three-year post-doc.

    That said, if you choose carefully, you can have a great career. For example, a Ph.D. in marketing, finance, or accounting would open many doors, as would a Pharm.D. like Matthew is going to get. Ph.D.s in engineering also lead to jobs, as well as computer science. Ph.D.s in the basic sciences, like chemistry or physics or math, lead to more years as a post-doc and, ultimately, a higher probability of unemployment in your chosen field. And the humanities and social sciences are even worse. In business, not only are there jobs after graduation, you get to do some really fascinating research AND you get to teach. As Val Larsen once told me, “I love to teach. Teaching marketing is just as rewarding as teaching English, with a lot fewer papers to grade!” And a much higher salary. If you go through all the pain to get a Ph.D., you might as well get a degree in a field that will pay you $150,000 per year instead of $50,000 per year (if you can even get a job). You will work just as hard either way.

    I struggled with the decision to get a Ph.D. in French literature (I am very good at French!), but I am extremely grateful I never went down that path. The Ph.D. in marketing that I got allows me to teach, research, and travel, and I am just as satisfied teaching and researching in Marketing as I would have been in French. I actually get paid to read, write, and travel!

    Plus, Ph.D programs in business will likely pay you to get through school. You can minimize your debt. Think very carefully about going to graduate school; many programs are just not worth it. You come out, years behind your peers, with a pile of debt, and no job prospects. LeGrand Gold’s experience is far from unique and is not all that uncommon. What is your goal and purpose for going to graduate school?

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