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Topic: Should I leave with a masters?  (Read 4910 times)

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Offline anon07

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Should I leave with a masters?
« on: July 27, 2012, 10:32:50 PM »
I am a chem PhD student just finishing my fifth year. Unfortunately, I have pretty much nothing to show for it but a string of projects with no results.  I don't see an end in sight and this stresses me out to the point where I get physical symptoms from it.  Needless to say, I want out.

I went into grad school thinking that I wanted to be a professor at a small undergraduate university but have now completely burnt out on research and don't want to run my own lab-so that doesn't really fit anymore.  However, I still want to teach either at the high school or community college level.  Neither of which require a PhD. 

My current train of thought is to leave with my masters and start a teaching certificate program- an intensive summer course followed by a paid student teaching position- after which I could get some experience teaching at high schools and then maybe move up to community colleges.

Money is not that big of an issue.  I have cheap tastes and my husband does well enough for the both of us.

My questions are- Will I regret dropping out?  Could I actually get a community college job with just a masters?

I would appreciate any insight.

Offline Dan

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Re: Should I leave with a masters?
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2012, 07:09:20 AM »
I think you should have a meeting with your supervisor to discuss it.

It probably depends on what you mean by "no results", you have to discuss with your supervisor and work out how much of what you have done so far could go into your thesis and get a rough idea of how much more you will have to do to get through it. Summarize your results so far and come up with a structure for writing it up, send it to your supervisor and request a meeting to really assess where you are. You may find things are not all that bad - you may not see an end in sight, but a good supervisor should be able to bring things into perspective for you. As you've already invested a substantial amount of time in this already, it would be a shame to drop it if you are fairly close to being able to start writing up.

On the other hand, you are not enjoying yourself. If you lack motivation to come to the lab every morning it's easy to get stuck in a rut and keep digging deeper. Sometimes taking up a new exciting side project can give you the booster you need to motivate yourself to be in the lab, to start thinking more creatively in general, and transfer the enthusiasm to a problematic project that's dragging on.

I don't think you can do research effectively if you're not enjoying at least some aspects of it, you need to do something that will get you out of bed in the morning. You need to consider whether sticking with it is really worth it for you, both professionally and personally. If you've lost your taste for research, are there other jobs that interest you outside this which require a PhD and would make it worth staying on for? If you stay on, how long is it likely to take to finish and would you be better off spending that time training for a different career?

I'm sure you would probably regret quitting, but you might regret putting yourself through another x years of a job you hate that is affecting you mentally for a qualification you don't need just as much. Don't stay on just for pride, if it does not benefit your career and you don't enjoy it then there is no shame in moving on to something more productive.

I will reinforce an earlier point though: Talk to your supervisor. It is very easy for everything to look worthless from the inside, but an outside perspective can really pull things back into place and allow you to move forward positively.
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Offline anon07

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Re: Should I leave with a masters?
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2012, 02:40:31 PM »
Dan- thanks for the input.  I have spoken with my adviser and he has been fairly supportive.  He's under the impression that I could get out in a year or so as long as a string of experiments work.  Unfortunately, I have been working on those experiments for over a year now with no success so I don't see those suddenly working.  He knows that I want to quit and isn't trying to convince me either way, he just wants me to make an informed decision.

I have been feeling like this for quite a awhile, but have put off confronting it because it is easier to just keep going.

Offline fledarmus

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Re: Should I leave with a masters?
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2012, 09:54:33 AM »
I did that myself, and have certainly regretted it at times. The teaching part didn't work out for me, because I found that once I had my teaching certificate, since I didn't actually have an education degree to back it up, it wouldn't transfer to other states, and even with a full year of high school teaching experience, I would have had to repeat the certification process once I'd moved. Also, as far as I know, there is no such thing as a paid student teaching position. However, with the Masters degree I earned, I was able to get into industry and am spending a long career in medicinal chemistry, although my job prospects are capped without the PhD.

Without a PhD, there are simply some jobs you will not be able to get. At one time, experience would make up for it, but now, that happens very, very rarely. If you never want the type of job that requires a PhD, there is no reason to get it and having one may make it hard to get other jobs; but if you can get one within a year, and you might want one of those jobs, get it now. Either way, you will have to re-dedicate yourself to your education. Take some time, think about what you really want to go for, and when you've made a firm decision, throw yourself into it and let the other pathway go.

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