Monday, July 16, 2012
Ask the Administrator: The Doctor of Arts Degree
I've been teaching college English as an adjunct for a few years (in addition to my full-time gig at a high school). I love teaching college and want to move into it full time. I have a BA and an MA in English right now. My question for you is, from a community college hiring perspective, is there more value in a PhD than a DA (doctor of arts)? I might get a DA in English, with a focus on composition, rhetoric, and writing pedagogy. I'm not looking to get a job at a big research institution. I'd love to work in a community college environment that values good teaching. So is this DA worth pursuing if I have that kind of end goal in mind?
I’ll open by clarifying that I’m writing as a hiring manager at a community college; my perspective may be entirely inapplicable to other sectors of higher ed. (Folks with knowledge of how this would play at research universities or striving four-year colleges are welcome to share in the comments.)
At this level, a degree in rhet/comp is more employable than a degree in literature. The field makes more difference than the level. In other words, a Master’s in rhet/comp could easily beat a doctorate in literature. A doctorate in rhet/comp might help, but probably not as much as years of teaching experience at the community college level.
In my neck of the woods -- the Northeast -- doctorates are common enough that they don’t particularly stand out. If you picked up knowledge or skills in the program that set you apart, that’s great, but that’s separate from the credential itself.
It’s hardly news that English is a particularly difficult field, even with its ubiquity at the community college level. Even a late-posted, fairly pedestrian position gets applications well into three figures, of which dozens or more meet every stated requirement. A doctor of arts may be a point of distinction, but what might really set you apart would be -- for example -- special training in how to teach developmental classes. That may be dispiriting, depending on your angle to the universe, but it makes perfect sense when you consider the needs of the institution. Institutions hire to solve their own problems. If student success at the developmental level is an issue -- and it is at most community colleges -- then a hire who could help with that is attractive. Whether that means a doctorate or not is another question.
Given that doctoral programs worthy of the name are long, draining, and expensive, I’d suggest looking first at Master’s programs in rhet/comp that would allow you to specialize in developmental areas, especially reading. That would probably get you most of the marketability of the longer program, but without giving up five to ten years of your life. And it would signal to prospective employers that you know what they’re dealing with, and that you would be handy to have around. That matters.
One admin’s opinion, anyway. I’d love to hear from any community college English folk out there on this one. Does this sound about right, or do things look different from where you are?
Good luck! I hope your eventual decision lands you where you want to be.
Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.
Even a PhD might not be worth all that much in the current environment. As I often quip--my PhD and a buck seventy five will get me a ride on public transportation here in Big City.
Higher ed is a sinking ship. Try something else.
That is certainly part of it, but I can't believe that's the whole story. What is happening (or not happening) in high school that so many kids end up remedial?
I am horrified and am also wondering what is going on in the high schools that all this remediation is necessary.
How low are we going to go?
Anonymous@5:20AM adds: That is certainly part of it....
No, that is all of it. If you are a middling student and only read what is offered in school, you are unlikely to develop a college-level vocabulary or the ability to process complex information. That goes double if you get by without reading the assigned material in school by using various resources. And if you don't read, you can't write.
I disagree with Edmund Dantes @6:24AM, because "social promotion" like we had when I was a kid in the 60s ended a long time ago, replaced with "high stakes" tests set at the State level. Those have not helped much, probably because the standards are fairly low and even they only apply to public schools.
The simple fact of the matter is that HS students and their parents have been lied to. The standards of a standard HS degree are not aligned (how I have come to love that buzzword) with college freshman standards.
This would be solved if there was a "college prep" degree with standards high enough to not require remediation at the level required by that athlete at Memphis who actually could not read.
But it might not be completely crazy to do without debt.
With debt . . . it becomes hard to see how it could ever work out well. Even if you got the position in the end, large loans are not fun to repay.
Why deliberately get a degree that will make you unemployable?
Do you really want to spend the rest of your adult life teaching adjunct?
The math, stats, and science courses required for a professional degree that will give you at least a shot at an interesting, reasonably stable, and decently paid job are just not that hard. Don't shoot yourself in the foot.
I speak as a retired English Lit Ph.D., amazingly well published, with 15 years of real-world experience and 20 in the academy.
MMS: Master of Medical Science.
It was to me, I guess.