When is getting a PhD or MS a better fit for job purposes? How do you decide?

posted 3 years ago in Career
Post # 2
Member
42 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: October 2014 - The Wayside Inn

I’m getting my PhD, although in the humanities instead of the sciences. It might be differnet for you, but the kinds of jobs I can consider applying for with a PhD are worlds apart from what I could get with my MA. They’re completely different job markets, basically. But I’m hedging my bets by using summers to gain different kinds of work experience. Maybe you can work out a similar strategy? 

Post # 3
Member
2052 posts
Buzzing bee

I dont have a PhD, but my mom does and her issues with looking for work were a lot of places wouldnt hire her because they thought she was “overqualified” and assumed she would quit once she found a job that better fit her qualifications. 

She found something eventually but it took a lot longer than I feel that it should have. 

Post # 4
Member
4817 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

I’m assuming you’re talking about industry jobs, so in that case, definitely a PhD, especially if the master’s is not funded and the PhD is. Sure it may take a while to get a job (it took me about 3 months), but you’ll get a much better job with a PhD than a master’s. There are a lot of jobs that you just cannot get to with a master’s, and then others that you can, but you have to work up from a lower-level job. I would stick with it, and it really should will pay off.

If I only had a MS, I would probably be doing some sort of lab tech or research assistant job making ~$45K. I feel like there is a lot of respect for PhDs in industry, and you are given a lot of responsibility and freedom because of your degree. I got several interviews for great jobs that required a PhD and got two of them. I can’t think of any drawbacks to getting a PhD other than being in school for a long time. Yes, you are overqualified for some jobs that you probably don’t really want, but you will be able to find a better job anyway. 

Post # 5
Member
1160 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2012

candy11:  I have a PhD but I’m in a different field than you are (still hard sciences though–neuroscience) and I think that it’s very field-dependent, so maybe take what I say with a grain of salt. What I was told when I was applying for graduate school 6-7 years ago is that if you have any desire to go into academia some day, a PhD is 100% worth the extra time. But if you’re only interested in being in industry, then an MS might be totally fine. With that said, I don’t often find that I’m overqualified for any of the types of jobs I’m looking for, even in industry. And fwiw, I work in a lab and have a TON of person-to-person interaction, I think that notion of research is a bit antiquated, at least in the biomedical sciences. Honestly, I say go for the PhD. Extra education is never wasted, the only drawback is the extra time/effort.

ETA: I do agree with RunnerBride13:  that it might be EASIER to get a job in industry with an MS, but the job you’ll get will be better with a PhD. Kind of depends what you’re looking for.

Post # 7
Member
1160 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2012

RunnerBride13:  Yay neuro!! Yea I totally get that, I also felt like I was so done after defending and needed to get out of the lab, but I actually wound up in a postdoc (very long story!) about 8 months ago and I’m shocked that I’m really loving it.  Not to threadjack, but do you mind telling me what you’re doing now?

Post # 8
Member
444 posts
Helper bee

candy11:  Another PhD student, but in a ‘soft’ science.  Obviously my experiences will be different from yours.  I guess this depends.  Does your program allow you to graduate after your quals with the MS?  If you can do that and so not have to pay for your education, that might not be a bad idea.  I don’t know what the physics world is like, but in my field you don’t really pursue a doctorate unless you expect you will want to continue with research or stay in academia.

Are there many applied research opportunities where you can do research but also get involved outside of the lab?  Is that something you’d be interested in?

Post # 9
Member
4817 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

littlegraykitten:  I did a postdoc and quit after 3 months  I am now a medical writer and I love it (and make twice as much as I did as a postdoc!).

Post # 10
Member
7203 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

candy11:  I’ve worked in a university, and I think PhDs with teaching to quite a bit of personal interaction. In fact some complain that they hardly ever get time for research.

I’m a little surprised that your husband’s MS is a disadvantage. I work in a technical field and I don’t think I’ve known an employer to consider an MS to be overqualified. PhD perhaps, but even then companies I’ve worked for have taken on PhDs for non-research positions. For “good” technical jobs, from my perspective I don’t think a PhD is ever bad. (Though I do know one person who felt he was passed over for some jobs because of it – but still always had a good job as far as I know).

I’ve also known people to go back and successfully do PhDs later on, so I don’t know if I’m really answering your question.

Post # 12
Member
4817 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

candy11:  Hmmm ok yeah that makes it a little tricky. What kind of job are you looking for? I will tell you that I have done zero neuroscience in my job, but just having the PhD in a medicine-related field got me in the door. Is your physics research environmentally-related at all?

Post # 14
Member
180 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: February 2015

I would think about what kind of job you want to be doing, then look up job postings for it. Do they want a PhD or an MS?

I’m one dissertation chapter away from my PhD, and I almost regret getting a PhD. The types of jobs I am looking at really only require an MS and experience. I could have finished my MS 3 years ago and been working in industry this whole time. Plus, as a PhD student I wasn’t allowed to work outside of the university, making me even less desirable as an applicant because I lack applied experience. Still, I only *almost* regret it because my PhD was free, and there are certain non-academic jobs in my field where having a PhD is a must (but they are in areas of the country that I don’t want to move to!)

Post # 15
Member
146 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: October 2014

If you are not sure about your interest in physics and find your interests evolving, do not go into a PhD program for physics. Physics PhDs are notoriously long, at least judging by my friends, and it is a really long slog. Why not consider a PhD in another area, such as a biomedical field? Even if you have been in physics for a long time, you could easily switch– you bring an amazing skill set to another area, where other people lack that perspective, so you have the opportunity to really do something new. You also could consider a policy/science hybrid MS program (I’m thinking things like the Technology and Policy(TPP) program at MIT) or an master’s in public health.

There are just SO many options out there, and really, unless you want to go into academia, a PhD in physics may not be worth it. 

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