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Deciding between PhD and MS

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Re: Deciding between PhD and MS

Postby Steven Z. » Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:35 am

I feel the pessimism is justified.

How often do we get the same story: I was smart and loved science throughout my schooling and was encouraged to go into science. I worked hard and got a BSc. I was told you needed a PhD to get anywhere in science and the offers I were getting were insultingly low with the BSc so I did the PhD.

I spent 5-7 miserable years with no life living stipend check to stipend check, my adviser was anything other than kind, supportive, and mentoring. I finally graduated and couldn't get a job.

So I took a post-doc then another, and I am now 35 and have never had a real professional job but can't let go now.

That is a pretty sad fate for someone with that level of intelligence and potential. Heck we have people desperate enough to hide the PhD as if it were a felony record to get a job.
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Re: Deciding between PhD and MS

Postby RGM » Mon Nov 07, 2016 3:39 pm

Steven Z. wrote: Heck we have people desperate enough to hide the PhD as if it were a felony record to get a job.


I knew someone that was trying to get a job in a certain sector that wanted "critical-thinking", not exactly consulting, but an office job. He did get some interviews, but always a "no".

Ultimately he believed he was getting turned down due to his PhD. SO he left it off his resume. The offers started to roll in. He's been gainfully employed ever since, good paying 6 figure job.

I don't know how he explained what he did w/his time during his PhD AND postdoc mind you.

There comes a point when one has to survive on the planet if you physically want to live. Do what you need to do in such a case.
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Re: Deciding between PhD and MS

Postby Deepanshi » Wed Nov 09, 2016 3:38 am

Doing a Ph.D is in essence telling your future employers that you've been trained in scientific research. This means that you have spent about 2-5 years working on a project independently and suitably publishing your results. It gives you the credibility to work and possibly lead research teams or teams of research assistants/programmers to a novel project. The pay starts off higher as well, since usually employers count your grad school years as working experience.

A master's degree is a higher level training in a certain area. Some masters are terminal degrees with no research part, just more classes that are more specialized and difficult. Others will have a small thesis option. The master's degree is quite flexible, in my opinion, and can be done in 1-2 years. It's a good way for someone to switch fields.

If you're wanting to do research, having only an M.S. may hurt you, but it's not unheard of to hear principal investigators that don't have doctoral degrees, although they seem to be rare. They are advantageous in that they do show you can do research and handle tougher material. People seem to look well upon M.S. degrees, and it's not automatically assumed that you're unable to function in the business or executive world, for example.

Having a Ph.D can close some doors for you. The general attitude and stereotypes about Ph.D holders are that they're uber academics/nerds who can't really function in the real world--this is an especially pertinent attitude to pay attention to in technical fields like engineering and science. So it closes some doors. You've also got less jobs to choose from, since you're vastly overqualified for many and you probably won't be able to find any good entry level positions because people will just assume you'll get bored and leave as soon as you find something better, so there is a cost to having everyone think you're a genius.
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Re: Deciding between PhD and MS

Postby RGM » Thu Nov 10, 2016 11:38 am

Deepanshi wrote: since usually employers count your grad school years as working experience.


What organizations do that, and in what countries?? I don't know a single USA organization that counts the PhD as work experience, particularly because one is a student.

There have been many discussions on here years ago discussing why employers don't count one's student training as work experience.
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Re: Deciding between PhD and MS

Postby Rich Lemert » Thu Nov 10, 2016 1:33 pm

Historically, a Masters counted for one year of experience - and a PhD counted for a second - toward one's registration as a professional engineer.
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Re: Deciding between PhD and MS

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Nov 10, 2016 1:34 pm

RGM wrote:
Deepanshi wrote: since usually employers count your grad school years as working experience.


What organizations do that, and in what countries?? I don't know a single USA organization that counts the PhD as work experience, particularly because one is a student.

There have been many discussions on here years ago discussing why employers don't count one's student training as work experience.


Agree with RGM. I have never in my life seen grad school training considered as anything but a prelude to work. It's just not "work experience."

Usually, searches are given to us with descriptors like "PhD and 8 years post-PhD experience in cell culture process development." Sometimes, people have actual work history before they go into their PhD, and those years are credited at about half value. In other words, if you had experience in a company for six years as a Research Assistant, it might be worth about 3 years of industry experience after the PhD.

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Re: Deciding between PhD and MS

Postby Dick Woodward » Thu Nov 10, 2016 5:19 pm

OK, just because I have a sense of humor (admittedly somewhat warped - ask Dave J), let me recount the other side of the PhD and how it is viewed by some groups.

My second consulting client was a company that produced down-hole chemicals for the fracking industry - this was well (no pun intended) before fracking was a household word. My client decided that we should attend the Society of Petroleum Engineers annual meeting and expo, and it turned out that it was cheaper to join the society and attend the expo than to attend as a non-member. So, I merrily filled out my application, and checked PhD as my highest degree (they didn't ask what in). A week or so later, I get a letter stating that my PhD is considered to be the equivalent of 6 years in the petroleum industry, and that I have been elected to full membership in the society. Meanwhile, the closest that I had ever been to an oil well involved putting gas in my car....

Just a brief moment of levity (I hope).

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