Thursday, January 28, 2010

 

Ask the Administrator: Second Master's, or Ph.D.?

A new correspondent writes:

I have a dilemma. I currently writing my thesis for a MS degree (industrial management). My committee has the rough draft to evaluate. Expected graduation was the end of this spring but summer or fall is a becoming more realistic. I intend to go on for a PhD (Business Administration w/ a operations/technology management specialization), and then pursue a academic career (teaching and/or administrative). I am considering pursuing a second masters degree (MBA) with a dual specialization before the PhD. Why a second masters?
To pick up two related additional specializations (computer science/MIS and finance) to expand my skill and teaching set and increased potential for different industry positions. OM areas, both in academia and industry, often use computer science and financial skills and modeling in problem solving/teaching. I realize it may or may not be difficult to land a full time academic job and will likely have to work as an adjunct, primarily online, while maintaining a job in industry until I can make the formal transition into academia. Additionally, I have a liberal arts BA, but have worked in industry for more than a decade and have several professional certifications (ASQ)-primarily in Quality, and am under the impression that the additional specializations/courses would strengthen a lack of a technical undergrad foundation and possibly bring more to the hiring table, primarily for academic teaching.
So you may still be wondering why a second masters over graduate certificates? My next school offers 18 credit hr (6 courses) graduate certificates in the above noted specializations. There is no tuition discount of any sort for the graduate certificates alone, but if the specializations are part of a degree program, then tuition discounts are applicable. I would receive the schools highest per credit hour discount for government employees, since I work as a village trustee part time. Taking 2 graduate certificates alone would cost about the same as and MBA with a dual specialization. Also, to take the graduate certificates, a completed masters degree is required; whereas, I could potentially start the MBA while finishing my MS thesis.
My second concern is about the number of credit hours in a PhD specialization. My next school has a 51 credit hr PhD w/ 18 hrs/6 courses (5 electives + 1 capstone) in a given specialization. I was considering taking 11/12 courses in the specialization for the following reasons: 1. Interesting courses I haven't seen @ other universities. 2. I've learned most schools require 12, 15, 18 or 24 hrs in a given area to teach, with 18 being the magic number. 3. Thought it, very current courses/topics, may bring more to the hiring table for academic positions, besides intrinsic learning value.
So could you offer your advice about the second masters before the PhD. Is it a worthwhile pursuit, meaning that it can achieve what I think it could achieve, over kill an just more student loan debt, or it's not necessary since I intend to pursue the PhD? If you don't think it's a worthwhile pursuit, how else can I build skills/branch out/move into related areas primarily for teaching (and possibly industry positions).
Could you also offer your advice about taking more course in my intended PhD specialization than is required. Is it worth it or not, meaning just finish and get the degree? Was my line of thinking correct as for
hiring purposes or is my impression misinformed.

There's a lot here, so I'll just focus on what I take to be the core question.

If you have two master's degrees, or three, or four, you've achieved the Master's level. If you have one doctorate, you've achieved the doctoral level. A second (or higher) master's keeps you at the master's level. It can give you greater breadth, but that's not the same as greater depth. It's also not the same level of credential, especially for administrative positions, which often require a doctorate.

I'm no expert in your field, but I can say that when we hire Business faculty, we look for both the master's (at least) and some industry experience. A second master's wouldn't mean much, unless it gave you competence in an entirely different field. One master's plus industry experience would be better than two master's. Of course, a doctorate plus industry experience would be even better.

Once you have a strong graduate credential, your undergraduate major really doesn't matter. I wouldn't worry about that.

I've seen positions posted that ask for a master's in one area, and at least 18 graduate credits in another. The problem with those is that they're tough to predict. In my observation, they're usually at very small schools that can't afford specialists in every area, so they look for utility infielders. From your description of your fields, it doesn't sound like you'd be targeting very small schools.

In terms of extra coursework before the doctorate, I'm skeptical. If it's for the sheer love of learning, whatever. But doctoral students often bog down at the dissertation stage, getting stuck in ABD limbo for years and years. Adding coursework would take an already-too-long program and make it even longer. Although one could argue that ABD is higher than master's, most of the time, you either have the doctorate or you don't. The worst finished dissertation is better than the best unfinished one. As an old grad school professor of mine liked to say, a dissertation is just a plumber's license; it lets you go fix pipes. You either have the license or you don't. I wouldn't advise doing anything that could get in the way of finishing. Love of learning is well and good, but a Ph.D. is a professional degree first and foremost. Don't do it unless you're serious about finishing; if you're serious about finishing, don't let yourself get distracted with extra coursework.

Certainly if you want to move into administration, you frequently won't be able to go above the department chair level without a doctorate.

One admin's opinion, anyway. As always, your mileage may vary.

I'd love to hear from those wise and worldly readers who went for two master's degrees, rather than a doctorate. Did it help? Did it help as much as a doctorate would have?

Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.

Comments:
It depends....

In my world, double masters degrees are more common. For instance, a person may hold a BA in history, pick up a Masters of Education in Social Studies Education (to be able to teach), then a Masters in Educational Administration (to be able to become a principal), then a doctorate to become a faculty member. Their ENTIRE background would come into play as this person sought a position in higher ed. The two masters degrees are highly specialized and tied to state licensure requirements.

So, it really depends on the norms for the discipline and/or professional school. Context really "is all" on this one.
 
stop all the schooling! Just go get a job already!
 
Dean Dad is right. A person has a doctorate or he/she doesn't. Like being pregnant-you are or you aren't. Get the doctorate. Get a job. Then when you have the job, think about more graduate work if you want a different job.

Get the doctorate first.

I have one. It is not as easy as taking classes and writing a thesis paper. It's more like giving birth. You spend years doing what is required to have a strong wonderful baby (dissertation), then when you complete it, you defend it (labor pains) and if you are successful, it is born. And it will be alive far beyond your life.

Get the doctorate. What you learn about yourself during this never leaves you. You will have confidence and belief in yourself all out of proportion to anything you can imagine. After defending that dissertation, you will never again doubt that you can speak in front of anyone successfully.

Get the doctorate. Then the job.
 
If you are finishing an MS in industrial management, then you already have the master's-level credential that most business/management programs would consider to be adequate for an academic job(especially so now that more and more MBA programs are employment/practitioner focused rather than research/academic focused).

If you want to do the MBA just for the love of it, more power to you, but in terms of academic job preparedness? Go straight to the Ph.D. Don't bother with the second master's.
 
It's AN academic career, not A academic career....
 
First, make up your mind whether you want an academic career or a business career.

If you want an academic career, why waste your time on those extra masters degrees? All a university cares about is whether you hold the "highest degree offered" in your field, which would be that PhD. If they care whether you happen to have taken courses in a subject area before assigning you to teach it, they will only care about a course or two, not whether you got a masters in it.

If you want to teach at a CC, you are already qualified for "business" classes but should have a CPA to teach our accounting classes.

If you want a job on the business side of a CC, you are not looking for an academic career. You are looking for a job where experience matters more than grades. I have no idea how many jobs in the business world require a PhD, but I would suggest you do your homework to see if there is a payoff there that exceeds the payoff of the N years of work experience.

Second, make up your mind whether the goal of earning a PhD is worth enough personally that you will do it even if you end up in the business world where job experience and skills matter more than a sheepskin. If so, I found my uncle's advice to get the degree now rather than later to be extremely valuable.
 
So, what did you go for? Did you go for a second Master’s, or PhD? Well, whatever you chose, you certainly excel on it. But, if it was me, I would take a second master before going for a doctorate. That way, I can gain more knowledge about the topic and it would be easier if I get a PhD.
 
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