Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Get a PhD?

Why should a writer explore a doctorate? Why would anyone? These are very important questions considering that university teaching jobs in the humanities are scarce (numerous applicants for the same few jobs) and the time and energy required for such an endeavor. It's not a small thing.

Here are my caveats to pursuing the lofty and ultimate degree:
  1. A doctorate is only worth doing if it is fully funded. Anything less, considering the job climate (and the mountain of debt most potential candidates already have from previous degrees) is just stupid.
  2. Besides university jobs, there has to be some list of backup options. My own, are related to writing and...other things.
  3. It must be something a person really wants to do. For me, it is one of my bucket list items. I've always wanted to sign things "Dr. Alexis Donkin" which I know would confuse people even more about my sex (Alexis is a masculine name in most of the world and I've been called Mr. in more than one mailing.). This, while a small thing, always puts a smile on my face.
  4. It helps to genuinely love school. Spending at least five more years of life on another degree isn't everyone's cup of tea. It takes work, dedication, and perseverence.
  5. It should help a person achieve other life goals. A doctorate can be an end, but it should also be a means. Anything that takes that much time and energy should be a "twofer" as it were.
 For me personally, there are additional fringe benefits:
  1. I get to connect with likeminded people once more, both experienced and fledgling.
  2. I gain credibility, something that opens doors in many directions - corporate, non-profit, and educational.
  3. I further hone my craft. There's nothing like regular meticulously researched writing to develop a person's abilities.
  4. I will likely have the opportunity to teach while obtaining my degree (and thereby honing this craft as well). I love to teach and I look forward to teaching classes in subjects I love.
  5. I will have swaths of time off throughout the week where I can spend time with my son (especially because I am a very efficient worker). This is a big plus.
  6. I will get away from Santa Barbara and be independent once more (another big plus, despite the loss of regular free child care).
It is for these reasons I have conclusively decided to pursue a doctorate. As it is, I will be chronicling my application process on this blog. The process is not easy and it takes up all my spare time (in between my son's waking periods). Necessarily this forces me to take a break from all fiction writing. At the moment my time is devoted to studying for my upcoming GRE exam on September 29th. I am rusty in many aspects of standardized test-taking (and all those pesky math formulas!) which means all I'm doing these days is studying (admittedly I sometimes play Monster Busters. So sue me...). Wish me luck and send me positive vibes! I'll take all the support I can get!

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