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Old 09-18-07, 11:31 PM   #1
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Career avenues for those with a PhD?

After seeing how utterly useless my BS in Math is, I was thinking about going back to sk00l. Unfortunately, I tend to space if the subject matter doesn't move at a fast enough pace, and my grades are mediocre at best, so I'll likely need to go to a California State uni for my MS since I've already taken most of the subject matter needed for the degree at the UC I went to. Aside from that, the CS system is nice since it's pretty much the same thing from the POV of a MS, but is wayyyyy cheaper. I was thinking about getting my MS in Math, and taking some MS level physics, CS, Chem, CogSci, etc(?) if I could worm my way in, to keep from getting too boreded. Now, the problem is, even if I get a MS in Math with some supporting classes and I'm able to get into a PhD program at a decent Uni, I may still end up with useless degree wrt to a career. What multidisciplinary career paths would require PhD level math coursework along with the current load? No more useless degrees for me, I needz to getz sum werkz.
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Old 09-19-07, 01:07 AM   #2
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What about a Masters' in some form of engineering? The mom of a grade school friend did that. She had a BS in Math with a teaching certificate. She couldn't find a job, so she got a Masters' in Industrial Operations Engineering. (There was work in that field in Detroit during the '90s.)
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Old 09-19-07, 01:35 AM   #3
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Flipping burgers.
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Old 09-19-07, 01:44 AM   #4
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Flipping burgers.
or IT.

same thing.
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Old 09-19-07, 02:57 AM   #5
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After seeing how utterly useless my BS in Math is, I was thinking about going back to sk00l. Unfortunately, I tend to space if the subject matter doesn't move at a fast enough pace, and my grades are mediocre at best, so I'll likely need to go to a California State uni for my MS since I've already taken most of the subject matter needed for the degree at the UC I went to. Aside from that, the CS system is nice since it's pretty much the same thing from the POV of a MS, but is wayyyyy cheaper. I was thinking about getting my MS in Math, and taking some MS level physics, CS, Chem, CogSci, etc(?) if I could worm my way in, to keep from getting too boreded. Now, the problem is, even if I get a MS in Math with some supporting classes and I'm able to get into a PhD program at a decent Uni, I may still end up with useless degree wrt to a career. What multidisciplinary career paths would require PhD level math coursework along with the current load? No more useless degrees for me, I needz to getz sum werkz.
Maybe you should take an English class first.

But seriously, think about what you'd like to do afterwards, before you commit to a PhD. Engineering? Nuclear physics? Research?

On another serious note: studying in Europe can cheap or free. Don't know about your chances with "mediocre" grades, though.

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Old 09-19-07, 03:46 AM   #6
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Maybe you should take an English class first.

But seriously, think about what you'd like to do afterwards, before you commit to a PhD. Engineering? Nuclear physics? Research?

On another serious note: studying in Europe can cheap or free. Don't know about your chances with "mediocre" grades, though.
correct.
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Old 09-19-07, 05:43 AM   #7
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I have a Masters in Mechanical Engineering...

SO...Specifically, what kind of math problems do you like to solve?

A route in physics will involve more theory and fewer practial applications as you would need to use in engineering.

Engineering will probably get you the most pay for the time you put in.

If you want to teach math at the university level, you will need a PhD. Be prepared to publish A LOT.

As one of my favorite engineering professors said during our Engineering Orientation for new students: "If you are looking to make a lot of money in engineering, then leave now, and go up the street to the business building."

I didn't take his advice...

So...see what kind of work you would be doing in economics...that's kind of the "physics" of business.

If you are good enough in math to be considering a PhD, I envy you

There are a lot of good career paths in several disciplines, if you have good math skillzorz. Look around and see what suits you.
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Old 09-19-07, 05:52 AM   #8
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I
As one of my favorite engineering professors said during our Engineering Orientation for new students: "If you are looking to make a lot of money in engineering, then leave now, and go up the street to the business building."
Some universities (or at least the University of Virginia) offer combined ME/MBA's. That could be an option.
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Old 09-19-07, 06:02 AM   #9
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Some universities (or at least the University of Virginia) offer combined ME/MBA's. That could be an option.
Excellent advice. Too many people also overlook the need for business training as well as management (including how to manage people). It's one thing being a technical expert but that gets you only so far. Business and people skills are needed to get past that initial level.

There's way too much emphasis placed on advanced degrees, especially if someone is just starting out in their career. The only reason I think pursuing a PhD makes sense is if someone wants to be a teacher.

The most practical route for most people is get some work experience and decide what type of occupation is for you. Most employers offer assistance with education so you can get a Master's of PhD on a part time basis with employer's financial help.
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Old 09-19-07, 08:37 AM   #10
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or IT.

same thing.
Except the money I make a little more than 8$ an hour haha
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Old 09-19-07, 09:42 AM   #11
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You can get a Masters in Library Science like I (a current Math major) plan on doing.

I LOLed when you wrote "wrt"
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Old 09-19-07, 10:03 AM   #12
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As a PhD, I have to ask- why the hell do you want it? It's not just an "advanced masters" and it's definitely not necessarily a ticket to a high-paying career. In fact, the PhD is a liability for many- I know quite a few people who've actually hidden their doctorate so they'd get a (usually high-paying) job. The only thing a PhD is good for is getting you in the door to a job that actually requires one- generally in research, teaching,sometimes in industry-related R&D, etc. A PhD is essentially a union card for these types of jobs.

A couple of things (OK, four, actually) to keep in mind:
1. A PhD can be a very, very difficult thing to achieve, but not because of the the intellectual stuff. The coursework part is a snap, but when you're shopping for a dissertation subject and you have to deal with the politics within and outside of your department (and believe me, you will), it's a 10-mile 20% grade. It can be done, but it takes perseverance like you've never known before.
2. Pursuant to #1, the PhD rewards dogged persistence, not smarts. We're not brighter than anyone in particular, just not able or willing to give up.
3. Doing the PhD is a socialization process- every step of the way, from coursework, deciding on a topic, taking your qualifying exams, taking your oral exams, assembling a committee, defending your proposal, doing the research, writing the diss, and defending your diss, is all about making you substantively different from anyone else who's not going through it. It's very similar to professional school, but extremely different. medical and law school are about training- lots of skills acquisition, etc., whereas the PhD is about becoming an independent researcher.
4. Pursuant to #3, the PhD is a research degree. While we do pick up all sorts of arcane skills along the way, the fundamental characteristic of the doctorate is research and the philosophy of research (hence the Ph part). In reality, a PhD isn't needed to teach, even on the college level, but it is required, because nearly all of us have to support ourselves with research dollars, at least in the sciences, and especially in health sciences, which is where I am. I have to fund 90% of my salary with grants- only 10% comes from teaching, and this is very typical for medical school faculty.

All this said, if you are really, really committed to working in a career (note- not a job, but a career) that requires a PhD, by all means go for it. But before you invest four to seven years of blood, sweat, and (plenty of) tears in the process, make certain it's what you really want to do. And if you are certain, and you finish, be prepared for incredible competition to 1. get a job and 2. hold on to it. But also be prepared for what could be the most rewarding career you could imagine!

Good luck- if you want to talk more about this, PM me.
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Old 09-19-07, 10:07 AM   #13
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Meteorology (atmospheric modeling is complicated) or statistics.
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Old 09-19-07, 10:10 AM   #14
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It seems to me you are asking the wrong question. You should ask yourself "What do I want to do for the next thirty years?"

If you can figure that out, you will know the answer to the question about going back to school. Of course, many folks go back to schools to postpone having to answer the first question.

When I was in graduate school, lots of the students I talked to said they were there to figure out what they really wanted to do...an expensive place to think about the future, especially compared with the beach.
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Old 09-19-07, 12:40 PM   #15
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Old 09-19-07, 12:43 PM   #16
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Except the money I make a little more than 8$ an hour haha
I didn't, and I was doing network administration and programming.

Christ I was so taken advantage of right out of high school
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Old 09-19-07, 01:38 PM   #17
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What about a Masters' in some form of engineering?
I was thinking about that, but based on my experience and observations, engineering, especially EE , was just mind numbing. I swear it felt like I was going to ITT. No in depth look at the material, it was mostly lab work involving some convoluted proprietary software. I ended up bouncing around between a few majors and settled on math because it was interesting and challenging, at least compared to everything else I had bothered with up to that point. In my undergrad analysis class there were two former/current engineering students, IIRC one had a PhD in CE and the other had a MS in EE, so it seems that engineering isn't very math heavy IME. But... This may just be something local?

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On another serious note: studying in Europe can cheap or free. Don't know about your chances with "mediocre" grades, though.
Reading comprehension newbz. Learnz it! Like I said in my initial post, I will likely go to a CS to rehabilitate my grades and it isn't entirely unattractive since the cost of tuition is much lower. I've heard that Universities encourage cross pollination so to speak, but I believe my version of cheap or free may be less than yours. I'm also likely limited to the southern CA area, at least initially.

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SO...Specifically, what kind of math problems do you like to solve?
I tend to like Algebra and most of the related stuff, like Algebraic Geometry. Analysis and Topology were o.k. too, and pretty much anything else.

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It seems to me you are asking the wrong question. You should ask yourself "What do I want to do for the next thirty years?
I want to do something interesting and challenging while being able to do something besides flipping burgers. Doesn't matter what, as long as it keeps me engaged.
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Old 09-19-07, 01:38 PM   #18
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Law degree? As a true bar member I am pretty sure its almost impossible to ever not find a job somewhere. It may not be with a big firm, but every company and organization needs an attorney to look over contracts.

Yes, its two years, and lots of memorization, but once you pass the bar and become a full fledged member, you can never not find a job, from what I know.
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Old 09-19-07, 02:36 PM   #19
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Circuit, math simulators. Formal verification of circuits is very math heavy. CS, algorithms research is again math. Computational fluid mechanics maybe?

But I personally found these things very slow, but loved EE :shrug:
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Old 09-19-07, 06:23 PM   #20
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As a PhD, I have to ask- why the hell do you want it? It's not just an "advanced masters" and it's definitely not necessarily a ticket to a high-paying career. In fact, the PhD is a liability for many- I know quite a few people who've actually hidden their doctorate so they'd get a (usually high-paying) job. The only thing a PhD is good for is getting you in the door to a job that actually requires one- generally in research, teaching,sometimes in industry-related R&D, etc. A PhD is essentially a union card for these types of jobs.

A couple of things (OK, four, actually) to keep in mind:
1. A PhD can be a very, very difficult thing to achieve, but not because of the the intellectual stuff. The coursework part is a snap, but when you're shopping for a dissertation subject and you have to deal with the politics within and outside of your department (and believe me, you will), it's a 10-mile 20% grade. It can be done, but it takes perseverance like you've never known before.
2. Pursuant to #1, the PhD rewards dogged persistence, not smarts. We're not brighter than anyone in particular, just not able or willing to give up.
3. Doing the PhD is a socialization process- every step of the way, from coursework, deciding on a topic, taking your qualifying exams, taking your oral exams, assembling a committee, defending your proposal, doing the research, writing the diss, and defending your diss, is all about making you substantively different from anyone else who's not going through it. It's very similar to professional school, but extremely different. medical and law school are about training- lots of skills acquisition, etc., whereas the PhD is about becoming an independent researcher.
4. Pursuant to #3, the PhD is a research degree. While we do pick up all sorts of arcane skills along the way, the fundamental characteristic of the doctorate is research and the philosophy of research (hence the Ph part). In reality, a PhD isn't needed to teach, even on the college level, but it is required, because nearly all of us have to support ourselves with research dollars, at least in the sciences, and especially in health sciences, which is where I am. I have to fund 90% of my salary with grants- only 10% comes from teaching, and this is very typical for medical school faculty.

All this said, if you are really, really committed to working in a career (note- not a job, but a career) that requires a PhD, by all means go for it. But before you invest four to seven years of blood, sweat, and (plenty of) tears in the process, make certain it's what you really want to do. And if you are certain, and you finish, be prepared for incredible competition to 1. get a job and 2. hold on to it. But also be prepared for what could be the most rewarding career you could imagine!

Good luck- if you want to talk more about this, PM me.
+ Eleventy billion

As the long-suffering husband of an ABD, I can say this is absolutely the best advice I've ever read about the PhD issue, especially re: politics.
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Old 09-19-07, 06:37 PM   #21
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Law degree? As a true bar member I am pretty sure its almost impossible to ever not find a job somewhere. It may not be with a big firm, but every company and organization needs an attorney to look over contracts.

Yes, its two years, and lots of memorization, but once you pass the bar and become a full fledged member, you can never not find a job, from what I know.

Pretty much. There's almost always work, though it may not always be too sexy.

However, I wouldn't go to law school just to go to law school. For starters, if you don't really want to be there, first semester will **** you up. Also, despite what most people seem to believe, the 'average' attorney does not get rich. It's a bell curve: a few at the bottom end, a bunch in the mid-five figures range, and a few at the top. Obviously, it depends on a range of factors, like whether you work in the public or private sphere, whether you're in a firm or solo, where you live, what field you practice in, etc...but, as one of my profs was fond of saying, if you really want to make money, become an investment banker.
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Old 09-19-07, 07:46 PM   #22
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This is similar to what I was told by other people. Something to look forward too. yey!
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As a PhD, I have to ask- why the hell do you want it? It's not just an "advanced masters" and it's definitely not necessarily a ticket to a high-paying career. In fact, the PhD is a liability for many- I know quite a few people who've actually hidden their doctorate so they'd get a (usually high-paying) job. The only thing a PhD is good for is getting you in the door to a job that actually requires one- generally in research, teaching,sometimes in industry-related R&D, etc. A PhD is essentially a union card for these types of jobs.

A couple of things (OK, four, actually) to keep in mind:
1. A PhD can be a very, very difficult thing to achieve, but not because of the the intellectual stuff. The coursework part is a snap, but when you're shopping for a dissertation subject and you have to deal with the politics within and outside of your department (and believe me, you will), it's a 10-mile 20% grade. It can be done, but it takes perseverance like you've never known before.
2. Pursuant to #1, the PhD rewards dogged persistence, not smarts. We're not brighter than anyone in particular, just not able or willing to give up.
3. Doing the PhD is a socialization process- every step of the way, from coursework, deciding on a topic, taking your qualifying exams, taking your oral exams, assembling a committee, defending your proposal, doing the research, writing the diss, and defending your diss, is all about making you substantively different from anyone else who's not going through it. It's very similar to professional school, but extremely different. medical and law school are about training- lots of skills acquisition, etc., whereas the PhD is about becoming an independent researcher.
4. Pursuant to #3, the PhD is a research degree. While we do pick up all sorts of arcane skills along the way, the fundamental characteristic of the doctorate is research and the philosophy of research (hence the Ph part). In reality, a PhD isn't needed to teach, even on the college level, but it is required, because nearly all of us have to support ourselves with research dollars, at least in the sciences, and especially in health sciences, which is where I am. I have to fund 90% of my salary with grants- only 10% comes from teaching, and this is very typical for medical school faculty.

All this said, if you are really, really committed to working in a career (note- not a job, but a career) that requires a PhD, by all means go for it. But before you invest four to seven years of blood, sweat, and (plenty of) tears in the process, make certain it's what you really want to do. And if you are certain, and you finish, be prepared for incredible competition to 1. get a job and 2. hold on to it. But also be prepared for what could be the most rewarding career you could imagine!

Good luck- if you want to talk more about this, PM me.
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Old 09-19-07, 08:28 PM   #23
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Go to a terminal M.A. / M.S. program that funds its master's students. If you want to go on to a Ph.D. program after, you'll have the opportunity. After two years of grad school, you'll know whether or not it's the right thing to do and you'll have an advanced degree.
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Old 09-19-07, 08:37 PM   #24
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I want to do something interesting and challenging while being able to do something besides flipping burgers. Doesn't matter what, as long as it keeps me engaged.
You can do that without a PhD.

To finish a PhD you have to really want to do it-- it's no fun a lot of the time, and for the most part doesn't open up new career opportunities except in a narrow area of research. Most people who drop out partway through don't leave because they can't do it, but because they decide they don't want to or that it isn't worth the obsession that you have to develop.
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Old 09-19-07, 08:37 PM   #25
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Funny. I have a degree in math and found it to be quite useful.
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