Monday, November 10, 2008

I dream of PhD


The issue of a PhD (or EdD, or D.B.A.) has come up many times in recent years. After I graduated with an M.B.A. and I applied for the M.Sc. program the question was "why don't you go for a PhD?" I thought about it, but I didn't really find something that satisfied my intellectual curiosity.

Once I got my M.S., and I applied for an M.A. and an M.Ed. the same question became even louder from friends, family, and faculty members who really wanted me to strive for something larger. I decided to apply for the M.A. and M.Ed. programs anyway, satisfy my intellectual curiosity in those subject matters (and while at it apply what I learned to my day job) and I made myself a promise to look into a doctorate.

Truth be told, I would love to get a doctorate, but there are two issues at hand. First there is the obvious economic issue. Most doctorates are full time ventures. If you are a family person, with regular expenses such as a mortgage or a car payment, you can't just quit your day job to get a doctorate. After all, even the most generous of stipends would not cover our basic living expenses. This means that I am looking for a school that allows me to be a part time PhD student while working full time - not an easy task.

Second thing to look out for the the distinction between a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), a EdD (Doctor of Education) and a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration). The jury is still out on a verdict on which one I should pursue. Younger advisors (who have a doctorate) tell me that so long as I get a Doctorate, the actual designation doesn't matter. What matters is what I focus on and the work I do.

The other side of the coin is the older, more experienced faculty, who are already tenured or just retired. They advise me to go for a PhD because an EdD or DBA won't be very useful if what I want is to teach (which is what I want to do). Even if I do phenomenal work, if it's not a PhD, my doctorate will be stigmatized on some way. I don't know who is right and who is wrong, but the proponents of both sides are about equal in number.

Finally the third thing to consider is the topic of the PhD, the structure of the program and the faculty. After all there is no reason to get invested in a program if you don't like it. My initial foray into PhD research lead me to some renowned Business Schools in the Boston area (DBA and PhD). Personally I found them kinda 'blah'. They seemed kinda stifling for my kind of intellectual curiosity and they didn't fulfill the previous two conditions.

I then looked at an EdD with a utilitarian motivation. It was part time, it was from a school that I think has good credentials, and its affordable. Win-win! Well, not so fast. While it satisfied conditions one and two, the purely utilitarian aspect of it meant that I might not necessarily like the experience, which seems like a pretty rotten reason to pursue a doctorate.

In any case, I've discovered that my interest does not lie in one subject which complicates things a lot because schools seem to want PhD candidates to have some narrow focus to their research interests. I have discovered, though linguistics, instructional design, education and business that I am a multi-disciplinarian. I don't want to focus on one narrow sliver of knowledge that I then make my life for the rest of my career.

There is a PhD which seems to tickle my fancy - but we'll explore that in another post...
blog comments powered by Disqus