Safety nets

The zomg grad school carnival!!!1 is now posted over at 49 Percent, so head on over and read all the wonderful posts that Samia has collected for us.

One issue that I’ve been ruminating on for a while is whether or not to get a job or start a Ph.D. program next year. I am sure that I could get a job with my M.S., but with the job market being as it is, I’m not sure I could get one that would satisfy me and make me happy. I know that delaying the inevitable is never a good reason to start a graduate program (although unfortunately many of us do it anyway), but I also feel like I’m not ready to be done with my education. There are so many other areas of physiology that I want to explore, especially endocrinology or nephrophysiology. I have my eye on a physiology Ph.D. program (nested in an umbrella biomedical sciences program) that looks fantastic, and I intend to apply to it. Worst comes to worst, I can always turn down the offer if I get accepted, right?

One thing that people always ask me is why I applied to an M.S. program if I intend to get a Ph.D. One of the answers is because I basically had the lab work for an M.S. done before I even started because of my involvement with my current lab as an undergrad. I figured that if I’d already done the crime, I might as well do the time. But there’s more to it than that, which Hielochica somewhat reflects in her carnival post:

I will give one piece of advice that might not work for everyone, but has helped me this year. Have a Plan B. Mine is knowing that I would be happy with a career as a middle or high school science teacher, or as an outdoor educator. Whenever things got particularly challenging this year, or I really felt like I was in over my head, I just told myself that no one is forcing me to be here, and if I decide I really hate it, I can always get a job as a science teacher that would be rewarding and probably fulfilling. Obviously Plan B would feel like a let down, and I would undoubtedly be very disappointed in myself if I left my program. I have no plans to do so (that’s why its not Plan A). However, simply having a Plan B takes the pressure off, and allowed me to keep the stress level relatively low this year.

I know that it seems foolish to get an M.S. first and then switch programs completely to get a Ph.D., especially when straight-from-undergrad-to-doctorate tracks are so prevalent right now, but that just didn’t seem to fit to me. I wanted to get a taste of graduate school before I make a six-year commitment (give or take) to higher education. I’m not in a rush to get to the end of the academic rainbow, and I’m not concerned with being a science superstar. I’ll get there when I get there, and that’s always been my take on life. In addition to that, I really like the idea of having a backup plan. I know I can get a good job with my M.S. if it turns out that doctorate study isn’t for me, and knowing that makes it easier for me to take that leap into a new program. I think it’ll actually make me less likely to quit. I’m kinda weird like that, I guess, but I’m a huge scaredy-cat, and knowing that I have a safety net makes me a lot bolder than I otherwise would be.

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One Response to Safety nets

  1. worldin1450 says:

    >I disagree. I think having a back up plan is definitely something everyone can benefit from, for the exact reason you have. I was stressed out during Junior year of college because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after graduation, and taking time off and look for a job just wasn't as option because I didn't like the idea of pausing your education and go back again.And even after I decided that I wanted to pursue a PhD and started applying, I was still terrified because I was afraid of the prospect of making such a big commitment. I think I would have been much bolder and happier with the whole process if I had a back up plan that I could go to if the worst happened. I'm happy being in a big umbrella bio program which meant I didn't have to pick a very specific thing to stick to. But eventually I would have to pick a lab that I have to stay with for 4 or 5 years. And that's scary because I don't like cornering myself to such a commitment, even if it's something I really like.And it's so refreshing to hear you say that you don't want to be done with education yet. I feel that even if there are a lot more people who feel that way, we don't say it enough because it might make us uncool or something. But the truth is that you really never stop learning, even if you stopped going to school. And if it's something you really like, you should embrace that nerdiness :)

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