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Should I just go for it?

(9 Posts)
cheapandcheerful Mon 11-Jan-16 19:41:06

Hi all,

I am considering applying for a Psychology PhD but I am really struggling to weigh up the pros and cons as there are lots of factors at play.

Pros:
- I love academic research and know I could hack it. I completed my MA whilst simultaneously teaching full-time.
- I have clear areas of interest and know the vague topic that my research will fall into. The faculty person who shares my areas of interest was one of my tutors from my undergraduate days.
- I enjoy teaching but I have never wanted to pursue a career in it. I feel like I need a way out and this seems like the best next step for me.
- I currently teach at a National Teaching school and the head has said that some funding would be available for me, an amount which the university could potentially match.
- My parents have also said that they would be willing to maybe cover any financial short-fall in order to allow me to pursue this.
- On a practical/timing note, my dd2 will start school in September 2017 so I will hopefully be able to squeeze part-time hours into the school day and still do drop-off and pick-up.

Cons:
- My employer would (I imagine) still require me to work the current 1 day-a-week contract that I currently hold with them. This may be one too many commitments to juggle. Also, would they have any right to dictate the content of my research proposal?
- I have been out of academia for a significant amount of time so not sure how meaningful my academic references will be.
- My subject knowledge is very out-of-date. I know it would take ages (years??) to get my research proposal together.
- I have no idea what the long-term purpose of doing a PhD would be. No idea what sort of career it would lead to. Or what sort of career I would want from it.
- Finally (and this is the biggest one for me), we are not sure whether we have 'finished' our family yet. I would like more dc, dh is less convinced, but I am concerned about taking maternity leave during what is already going to be a lengthy time commitment (probably 6 years part-time).

Sorry, that was lengthy. Any thoughts?

notmynameohno Mon 11-Jan-16 19:51:17

The stand out comment for me is "I have no idea what the long-term purpose of doing a PhD would be." So you want to put yourself & your family through this for the sheer fun/hell of it? Chase your dreams but maybe also look at opportunities outside academia? I bet you could walk into an NHS vacancy.

Booboostwo Mon 11-Jan-16 20:34:23

Part time PhDs are very tough and require an enormous amount of commitment. They are relatively easy to start but I have seen too many students become distracted by family and work life and fail to submit which can be devastating. I think you should only do this if you really want to and related to this thought is the importance of feeling really engaged by your subject matter which I am not sure is the case here.

I would also worry about future career prospects. Would a PhD tie you to academia? This is a tough work environment at the moment with a lot of graduates failing to find jobs and is not well suited to having a young family (lots of temporary contracts all over the country).

MedSchoolRat Mon 11-Jan-16 22:16:33

I don't understand the pathway out of teaching being via a Phd. You need to explain.

I did my PhD PT over 3 yrs, so doable ime. But it did knacker my health, so maybe scratch that.

I'm a contented career RA but others on MN say it's very impossible & difficult to be a career RA (except for the long list of other career RAs I know like me in many disciplines), so presumably you don't want to be a Dr. RA, what is the path the PhD takes you on?

cheapandcheerful Mon 11-Jan-16 23:18:31

OK - thanks for replying!

I'm really sorry but I have no idea what a 'career RA' is blush

A bit of back-story which might help:

After graduating with a Psychology degree, my intention was to pursue a career in Educational Psychology. At that time, the requirements were this were a Masters, teaching qualification and 2 years teaching experience. The year in which I obtained my Masters in Education, the requirements changed. As such my Masters, teaching qualification and teaching experience are apparently now deemed unnecessary for a career in Educational Psychology; it now requires a PhD instead.
However, having remained in teaching for a number of years (part-time whilst I had my dc), I have realised that I don't want to be an Educational Psychologist as such, but that I have a real passion for understanding how classroom practice can and should reflect what is known about how children learn.
So with a BA in Psychology and an MA in Education, and considering my area of interest, any PhD I pursue will inevitably take a very cross-disciplinary approach.

So, in short, I suppose I don't really know what path it would take me on. I went to a PhD open day recently and didn't even know which talk to attend, as Psychology fell into 'Sciences' and Education into 'Social Sciences'.

I suppose if my research could eventually inform educational policy in some respect, then a career in that sort of thing might be good. But I don't even know if jobs like that exist! Or if I am shooting waaaaaay above my station!

MedSchoolRat Tue 12-Jan-16 07:30:13

RA = Research Associate. Career researcher in universities who isn't (usually much) involved in teaching Uni students.

Here is an RA position for a PhD-bearer in psychology.

Another in education.

But yeah, I would think there are plenty other job opportunities with that proposed PhD, advising policy institutes maybe. IPPR, etc.

jclm Tue 12-Jan-16 12:55:53

>>However, having remained in teaching for a number of years (part-time whilst I had my dc), I have realised that I don't want to be an Educational Psychologist as such, but that I have a real passion for understanding how classroom practice can and should reflect what is known about how children learn.
So with a BA in Psychology and an MA in Education, and considering my area of interest, any PhD I pursue will inevitably take a very cross-disciplinary approach.
I suppose if my research could eventually inform educational policy in some respect, then a career in that sort of thing might be good. But I don't even know if jobs like that exist! Or if I am shooting waaaaaay above my station!>>

Unfortunately academic research (at least in my area) has a very poor track record of being disseminated to and used by 'the outside world', and PhD theses normally just get dusty on library shelves. If you want to have an impact, apply for policy officer jobs in relevant areas.

It is a shame the entry requirements for the Educational Psychology were changed when you were almost finished. But it sounds like your interests still surround learning and children in schools, which would fit with a career in educational psychology. Could you not keep trying to get on to an Educational Psychology PhD programme?

Have you considered careers in allied professions which surround learning/children/schools? E.g. occupational therapist? Speech therapist? Special needs teacher? (the first two careers have funded degree courses and lead directly to jobs).

If you were thinking of entering a career in university teaching (e.g. teaching on the PGCE), this may need a PhD and several years' experience of research contracts. You'd probably need a long list of publications to your name. The situation in academia is incredibly competitive at the moment, with most people with PhDs struggling to find permanent posts. There are a few jobs as research assistants but these are fixed term contracts and require you to move up and down the country as jobs arise. This is okay for single people but once you have a family it becomes impossible.

Hope this helps - let me know what you think of these suggestions x

possiblefutures Fri 22-Jan-16 14:29:00

Unfortunately academic research (at least in my area) has a very poor track record of being disseminated to and used by 'the outside world', and PhD theses normally just get dusty on library shelves. If you want to have an impact, apply for policy officer jobs in relevant areas.

Happily, this is not necessarily the case in the area the OP wants to get into. Check out, for example, the working paper pages at these universities - working papers (and journal articles) can be published during your PhD, and are often actively promoted through media / social media to the public and policy-makers.

(Nb not all in each list below are psych / ed, but some are, and that combination falls into the remit of these institutions.)

www.iser.essex.ac.uk/research/publications/working-papers/iser

www.bristol.ac.uk/cmpo/publications/papers/

sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CASE

www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/page.aspx?sitesectionid=939

On a completely different note, you could also look into government social research...https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-service-analytical-fast-streams/civil-service-fast-stream-government-social-research-service

cheapandcheerful Mon 25-Jan-16 13:11:50

Thank you everyone!

I think that I have decided to keep pushing doors until it becomes clear that it's a no-go. And you never know, I might even make it all the way before that happens :D

Thanks for the links - there's a lot to chew over! The Civil Service Fast Stream thing looks very interesting...

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