In two of my scholarship applications, I have had to write down my reasons for wanting to pursue a Phd. In both, I wrote that I want to further my research and passion in the field and that this was largely fuelled by my interest and experience teaching students at the University level.
I have to say though, that my academic/ career path into a Phd programme is somewhat un-conventional (at least to what I know of, in the US, AUS and Japan). I did not follow the strict BA-MA/ MPhil/ Phd route before the age of 30, in succession. In fact, I took some time out in between the BA-MA to work in a related field and then became a mother. I currently work as a lecturer/ tutor and have some work published with a reputable publisher (though the work itself in my humble opinion, is not substantial). I would also, have under my belt fingers crossed, a book (see my previous post), all before completing my Phd programme.
So I guess I could have just stayed where I am without pursuing a Phd. And honestly, in the slow economic downturn in both countries where I call home, it almost feels like an indulgence to embark on this with no guarantee of a job at the end.
But these are my own reasons and the timing is right on my schedule now. So why is a Phd the next step for me?
Get Better at Research. If I had all my current academic papers evaluated, they would come back with this statement…”needs further development at the Phd level”. I feel I have hit a block at how to take my research and writing further and I feel extremely frustrated with that. And this is why a focused, immersive, rigorous Phd programme with the seminars and peers will take me there.
Be Credible. Those letters after your names, I thought, were pretty darn important after all. I think a Phd demonstrates the rigour, skills and expertise that someone has in the said area of expertise. Unfortunately, even if you had spent a lot of time reading and writing which I did during my years of work, I found that often, journals or conferences would ask for your affiliation. And I was not affiliated with any school then as a graduate student. That closed off many opportunities for me, both with submitting to speaking and attending conferences. There were many an occasion too, when I had overheard this in my industry, “but she/ he doesn’t have a phd”. That said, I don’t necessarily think a Phd equates to intelligence. I think it is more a direct equation in tenacity. And one that definitely helps to open doors.
Focus. During my MA, I juggled that while being a mother (aka main caregiver in the absence of a family network), holding down a full-time job while taking on adjunct lecturing for first and third year students. I am no superwoman so this meant that I had to just get through my MA, not fail at my main job and put in the best for my students. It really felt that overwhelming being spread across so thinly. I’m most looking forward to being a full-time Phd student so that I can just focus on honing my skills. Thankfully, the scholarships forbid any other employment so I have but no choice to focus on my Phd without the tempting distractions of taking up adjunct lecturing positions. Oh and of course, not forgetting my family 😉
Be employed. As the scholarships come with a stipend, I view that as a source of employment and zero income loss. I am very grateful that we have very little financial debt or large expenses that it is possible for my husband’s salary to support our little family. But I have always worked so I feel uncomfortable to have no income for a few years. While the stipends may not be comparable to the salary I would receive had I continued working, it isn’t zero income and it helps pay my bills.
I want to continue research, writing and teaching. I love what I do. And I would love to do it on full-terms and work for a long time doing this. I enjoy the writing process, coming up with hypotheses, arguments and sorting through primary material like a humanities-detective. I like presenting and opening up new worlds for students. Most of all, I want to publish books on my research.
These are the reasons why a Phd is the next step for me. The end goal is to resume teaching at the University level and I hope that having to go through the programme would make me better-equipped for both undergraduate to graduate students.
If you are considering your next step in graduate school, or have started. I would love to hear from you!