To PhD or Not To PhD

I’m a PhD candidate, and have completed almost all the requirements to be able to walk with a Master’s. And I have to admit, I’m very seriously considering it.

I love grad school – I honestly do. Despite the stress it causes, I actually really do love being a student. I love class, I love learning, I love the discussions. So it’s not an issue of me not liking the program. I love the program I’m in, and the faculty, and my classmates.

Here are the main issues:

  • I have a specific career trajectory in mind, and I don’t need a PhD to get to where I want to go. (I’ve done a lot of research on this.)
  • I could overqualify myself out of some of the jobs I want. (I talked to someone who regrets her PhD for this reason and encourages others to stop at the Master’s level.)
  • By my estimate, I’d be 77K in debt by the time I finished. I have way less student loan debt than that now, and enough cash on hand to pay for the last few credits I’d need to walk in June of 2019 with an MA.

Here are the side issues:

  • I’m a much better writer than I was years ago, and I want time to focus on my essays and fiction. Having time this summer to focus on my own writing has made me want to dive back into it now that I’m older, wiser, better, and more stable.
  • Because I already have an MA in Literature, coupling that with an MA in Research Methods means I could focus on writing non-fiction and will have the educational credentials that will make agents and editors pay attention, and I’m very, very tempted by that idea.
  • I have a chronic illness that’s unpredictable and exacerbated by stress. I can’t escape stress because life is stressful, but puttingĀ  myself through completing a PhD I don’t actually need may not be the best thing for my health.

To PhDo or to PhDon’t is the question. A big part of me wants the PhD. But I think I want it for the sake of wanting to be able to say I earned a PhD. I don’t need it, and it could become roadblock in my career rather than a door opener – it would qualify me for jobs I don’t want, and possibly overqualify me out of the jobs I do want.

I have a few more things I need to complete whether I get the MA or the PhD, so I’m going to work on those things. They’ll be done by next spring, and I could be, too. It’s very likely that I will stop at the MA, but I’m sitting with the idea. Letting it simmer. Continuing to gather feedback and data, because that’s what I do.

But at some point, I’ll have to declare my intentions, and for some reason, that has me a bit rattled. I need to get to the bottom of these feelings.


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