PhD vs PGCE

(16 Posts)
MovingBack Tue 16-Jul-13 12:29:56

I'd love some thoughts/insight into my current situation please.

I have a Masters degree in law and I'm trying to decide whether to complete my PhD (2 years left) and try to become a University lecturer OR whether to study some Open University English modules and switch to PGCE Secondary English (would also take me 2 years, one for OU, one for PGCE). My heart is in the second option but I'd love some input from others so that I ensure I've considered all the pros and cons.

Thank you in advance if you can offer any advice.

Woodhead Tue 16-Jul-13 12:46:58

Hi there

I have a PGCE and a PhD but wasn't trading them off at the same time IYSWIM.

Why is your heart in the OU+PGCE option?
What is your current PhD status? (Have you got funding, have you completed 1-year of research or is your Masters the first year and the 2-more years seperate in some way? - I don't know what's typical within law)

I did my PGCE straight after undergrad, was a secondary school teacher for 5 years, then went back to Uni, did a PhD and am now a lecturer. The jobs are very very different (or at least have been for me); what attracts you to secondary school teacher vs lecturer?

rubyanddiamond Tue 16-Jul-13 12:57:55

They are quite different jobs I think, with very different challenges. I have a PhD, and originally was set on becoming an academic. This is a recent thread with lots of experiences of academia and the challenges:

http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/1781958-Not-news-to-anyone-here-I-know-but-scary-article-about-motherhood-and-academia

It's quite long, but has some good discussion of the career path and what's needed to become a lecturer.

Would a third option being to complete the PhD and then do a PGCE? I know a few people who've done this, but it does take longer and is more expensive.

MovingBack Tue 16-Jul-13 13:00:24

Thanks so much for replying and it's great to have the perspective of someone who has done both!

I think the crux of the matter is that I don't love my subject - I feel I did the wrong undergrad subject and then carried on to do the masters and the PhD because I did so well at undergrad (and I knew I wanted to be an academic rather than practise law). I've had a long break from my PhD since I ran out of time/funding and the 2 year period I refer to is the time I'm estimating it will take to edit it and submit/do the viva etc. I'd love to be a lecturer but I'm not sure I want to be one in law! Hence I'm considering becoming a secondary school teacher in the subject that I do love.... but I'm not sure about the school vs university setting?!?!

MovingBack Tue 16-Jul-13 13:05:18

Thanks rubyanddiamond I'll take a look at that now and come back.

Yes a third option would be to do the PhD and then the PGCE - in theory that would be best for me because I hate not finishing things....but I just don't know if I have it in me to finish the PhD when my heart's not in it and it's not taking me where I want to be...but then I'm plagued with guilt about not finishing it, especially because I was funded, even though my research was trumped by an international body publishing a seminal report in the same field!!!

Woodhead Tue 16-Jul-13 13:15:44

Have you finished most of the research you need for the PhD? If you are still able to make a submission with it (and haven't exceeded your maximum registration period), then I'd try to complete as that keeps your options open. There won't be a time limit on doing OU modules/PCGE, so couldn't you potentially do those later?

If you've done most of the work, and what you need to do is editing and getting it submitted it seems a shame not to finish the PhD and then you can move into school teaching if that's what you would enjoy.

If however you are utterly sick of the PhD and want to justify ditching it to yourself; then of course there is no obligation to complete a research degree just because you started one.

Have you got some form of funding/support for the next 2 years? (Or at least for the 1-year for the OU). Are you working and doing either of these options part-time?

If you'd love to be a lecturer, being a secondary school teacher isn't really very similar. I loved my subject (when I was a teacher), but whilst there were aspects of the job that I really liked, ulimately teaching very basic stuff didn't appeal for very long. Have you thought about volunteering in a school to see if you like it?

kalidasa Tue 16-Jul-13 13:34:02

I think if you what you enjoy/are attracted to is essentially teaching then it probably doesn't make sense to pursue the lecturer route, even though that sounds odd since it's called "lecturing". A lot of the weight of the job these days - at least in terms of profile, prospects, getting a job, getting promoted etc - is on research rather than teaching. If you didn't really enjoy the research for your PhD and don't really look forward to going back to it or moving on to a different project then probably you are always going to struggle with the research side of an academic career, at least in law. Quite soon it may become possible to be a "teaching track" academic with less research pressure/expectation but at the moment it's quite difficult to set yourself up as that because university funding is closely linked to research performance. (Though perhaps there are some exceptions to this re: law schools.)

I am an academic and I love teaching and wouldn't be without it - i.e. I would never take a pure research post - BUT I couldn't "just" teach either, I really need the mixture of research, teaching and the admin/pastoral stuff. I considered secondary school teaching but felt it really wouldn't suit me for that reason.

It sounds to me as if the PGCE would be a good route for you, but it would be sensible to find out a bit more about both options first. I would suggest that you try to do any of the following things that you haven't already done: arrange an appointment with your old university's career service, especially if they have someone who specialises on advising people finishing PhDs; see if you can arrange a meeting with an academic in a relevant field (preferably your old supervisor) who can give you some advice on how quickly you could realistically finish up and submit, given what you already have; and arrange some time in a school or preferably a few different sorts of schools doing some teaching observation. I think the PGCE application would probably want you to have done that anyway. Good luck with deciding!

UptheChimney Tue 16-Jul-13 13:42:47

Thing is, the two options are like chalk and cheese.

And really, the "finish PhD and get a job lecturing" is nowadays fairly unrealistic in most fields.

Generally, post-doctorally, you'll need to do a couple of years "in the wilderness" unless you have a sparkling PhD (no corrections, submitted in 3 years) plus publications and/or book contract, plus some university teaching experiences. And plans for bringing in external money,or external money already achieved.

If what you want is teaching, then go for the PGCE.

If you feel uncertain/ashamed/anxious/whatever about leaving a PhD halfway through - don't be. Sometimes, stopping doing a PhD is the better decision.

WouldBeHarrietVane Tue 16-Jul-13 13:45:06

Getting a job in lecturing is often now so hard that my supervisor said to me I should only do it if there was nothing else I wanted to consider. If you live your other option I would go for that. You can always do a phd later in a subject you actually like.

WouldBeHarrietVane Tue 16-Jul-13 13:45:24

Not live but love blush

UptheChimney Tue 16-Jul-13 15:10:31

As HarrietVane says, your heart has to be really really really in it. It's too hard otherwise. Take a cool look at what it's like to be a university lecturer nowadays, assuming you can get a job. Have a browse of some of the threads here, and there's one in Chat about academic life.

MovingBack Wed 17-Jul-13 20:16:39

Thank you all so much for taking the time and trouble to respond to my posts, I really appreciate it. I've printed all the responses so that I can mull them over and try to make a decision. At the moment I'm in favour of a hybrid model - finish the PhD AND do the PGCE - but time will tell!

MagratGarlik Wed 17-Jul-13 21:30:45

I'm an ex-academic, who whilst not a teacher has also spent a considerable amount of time in schools as part of my previous job.

I'd second those who say the two jobs are very, very different. Unlike the public perception, academia is very high pressure atm and not at all family friendly. You are unlikely to get a lectureship straight from PhD - in sciences the average is about 4-6 years post PhD and many posts are currently attracting ridiculous numbers of applicants. At the "old" universities, the focus of a lectureship is mainly research and the teaching you do is very different in style and approach to school-teaching (think large lectures to 200+ undergrads). Teaching at university is very undervalued. Research is very cut-throat and if you don't love your research, you won't be prepared to live and breathe it as you are expected as an academic. In my previous department, you were expected to produce at least 4 research papers per year and bring in a minimum of £100k of funding as principal investigator. This was on top of supervising PhD students, postdocs, undergrad teaching and any admin responsibilities. You will also be expected to travel extensively to conferences to present your work. In my last year I refused all but fairly essential travel and was still away for 6 weeks of the year. This can be very tough with children.

If teaching is what you want to do, go for it. Just make sure you spend plenty of time in a school before making your decision to ensure this is not a knee-jerk reaction to your PhD. Many people get a PhD slump whilst writing up or just before. It is part of having a lot to finish, but being a long way from the start. This may be actually what you are suffering with.

Woodhead Thu 18-Jul-13 09:43:27

Sounds like a good decision movingback. Unless finishing the PhD is going to make you miserable it is most likely worth finishing for its own sake, particularly if you think you might look back in ten years and regret not completing.

The last school I taught at, the kids were really interested in the couple of teachers who had PhDs so don't think there's no point in finishing it unless you stay in academia. (Some schools also really like having some PhD qualified staff).

Also, there are teaching only positions in HE, even in some of the old universities (I have one friend at Durham and a contact at Edinburgh with teaching only lectureships), and some of the post-92 universities are far more teaching focussed, with relatively lower research requirements (in terms of grant income expected). There's also FE lecturing to consider. Having both a PhD and a PGCE will keep your options open. I certainly don't regret having a PGCE, and it's a nice safety net if I ever want/need to move location as supply teaching is always an option.

KinkyDorito Sat 20-Jul-13 14:15:48

If you want to teach, get yourself into a school now and make sure it is right for you. Then remember it doesn't have to be PGCE; we have just recruited a salaried trainee for next year through School Direct.

lljkk Thu 08-Aug-13 13:44:42

To become a Uni lecturer you'll need something beyond PhD, I think, Masters in Higher Education practice? I haven't got my head around that, yet, either.

imho, PGCE if you'd love teaching & PhD if you thrive a bit on stress & especially love puzzle solving & admin (research).

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