Pursuing a higher level degree (PhD, MBA) after many years away from academia?
Has anyone gone back to school for a higher-level degree after a significant length of time (for me, 14 years) away from the regularity of university?
Over the last year I've moved the direction of my career away from a technical focus and have become heavily involved in the business side- business development, contract negotiation, more strategic-level thinking.
I'm really enjoying it and I have learned a TON. But I'm starting to think about even more.
I see two paths- 1) continue in a business-focused job but go back for a science-focused PhD, or 2) continue down the business path with an MBA.
thoughts on doing a higher-level degree while working? Do you feel it enhanced your career after all this time, or was simply a "bunch of cool letters to put on your business card, after a hell of a lot of work".
I have two small kids (4 and 2), and a horse I'm greatly enjoying and riding a lot. Am I crazy to add a huge undertaking like this?
Basically I'm interested in hearing the thought processes of others. I know the ideas/ perspective I'm kicking around in my head, but would love to hear other's experiences.
There are many MBA programs that are designed around the working professional so there shouldn't be an issue in locating a program.... but the time required is a demand that has to be honored.
From what I learned and use the most are the provisions contained within the Sherman Antitrust and Clayton Acts.... basically the dos and don'ts and where the lines in the sand are located which many businesses wonder across, back and forth continually jeopardise their futures.
As for can it be done, my wife who never went to college entered a nursing program at 55, she has two semisters to complete and has a 4.0 gpa
I went back for my masters about 14 years post-undergraduate. You'll find that you are hardly alone in your peer group. The one good thing about being a "mature" student is that you tend to work smarter in balancing your time and are more goal oriented. I got my degree in 2.5 while working FT. However I was kidless and horseless, too.
I can't advise about the kind of degree to get, but recommend talking to others who are further in their career progression...mentor figures that may or may not be a mentor. In some fields a PhD is the way to go, but there are good arguments for a MBA, too. Most of us change career focus a number of times over our working life, so versatility helps.
I've never worked in the field my masters directly relates to, but that degree has definitely gotten me interviews that lead to job offers. It was worthwhile for me.
You are probably significanly younger than I am but for the most part I would say go for it.
I was an "early over achiever" and graduated vet school as the 2nd youngest in my class. But after some yrs in private practice I went back to a residency, then a masters. Then back to practice. After some time out of all that I finally got coerced to actaully take my boards for the specialty my residency was in. By now I was no longer s spring chicken--I was over 40. I passed them (hence the letters in my COTH name: DACVA). Then got the wild idea I would like to do a second residency but as a non-traditional. These are a bit trickier to do. But I did it. And I sat those board exams in 2003 or 2004. Didnt' pass them I made myself a promise I would give myself until the age of 50 to get thru them. After than I figured having more letters behind my name than in my name was pretty useless in my big life plan. (I would wind up with: DVM, MS, DACVA, DECCVA if I passed them.) I am now well over 50 and have decided that I know I have the knowledge even if I don't have the extra 6 letters to "prove it". But I also don't plan to move jobs to where those extra 6 letters will make any significant difference in my job or salary.
So, if the extra letters will benefit you (in whatever way) then do it. Personally I pick the MBA. Easier to do while working and more marketable than a PhD. Maybe not as cerebrally satisfying if you are as science based as you sound (lke me) but the MBA will be challenging too.
I would think seriously about the time commitment. I pursued a PhD in a highly technical field straight out of undergrad (skipped the masters) and finished it in 4 years. I wanted to work my @$$ off and be done with it. I saw most people finishing in 5 years (that was about the average) and some taking 6 years. It's not always a fixed thing which is a part of the problem. If you have a great project and thesis advisor who is accessible and on top of things it can be easier to finish in a reasonable amount of time. However, I've seen others suffer through really long PhD's when they weren't receiving the guidance they needed from their advisor. Then there are some advisors who just want to get that one more paper (or two...or three) out of their students and keep them longer.
On advantage of an MBA is that it will be a lot easier to figure out when you will be finish since you aren't doing a thesis. It's a matter of taking the classes and passing.
In my field a PhD is a HUGE advantage more so than the MBA so I'm very happy I pursued that path. There are other areas where an MBA might be more useful though, so you should look at what is the norm in your area. I think you should look at where you might want to go with this degree and look at what background people in those positions have.
There are a lot of underemployed MBA's out there overhanging the market, especially after 2008.
A PhD in science requires much more time and offers far less flexibility in terms of doing the work, than an MBA. But when combined with the right work history and experience, probably will afford you a more reliable industry career path. There are comparatively few R&D types who have much practical business background, but those who do are genuinely appreciated by the other functional areas because they can keep focused on the needs of the business rather than being caught up in intriguing theory that adds little commercial value, and maintain a sense of urgency.
"Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein
“So what’s with the years of lessons? You still can’t ride a damn horse?!”
My husband, who has a JD which he started on about 9 years after his BA, is now finishing his masters at 50. He is now researching schools for his PhD. It is never too late if you really want to do it.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
¯ Oscar Wilde
Thanks everyone for the insight. I'm torn a little with which direction to take. I have all these ideas for the future and many of the paths look bright and promising, but they cannot all be taken at the same time!
I've been thinking of starting my own company too, and had some really positive conversations with some partners over the past few days.
Clearly, I need to figure out how to squeeze even more hours into the day.
I started a science/medical PhD program 10 years after receiving my BS. At the time I had two toddlers and a full-time job, although after the first year I got a fellowship so didn't have to work anymore.
I found school much easier as an adult than when I was an undergrad. I was more organized, more focused, and much less distracted by, er, social concerns.
It was a great experience and well worth the effort.