Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

MA versus Doctorate Programs

I had lunch with Scott yesterday. He’s finishing up his PhD at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and has an MA through the Institute for Buddhist Studies. I’ve been considering getting an MA through them, there Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies, recently. I have previously considered getting a PhD through GTU.

Part of the barrier with the PhD is that I would not be able to work full time, especially during the first few years of course work, and pursue it. The fact that the program is in a private school combined with a lack of full time work means a lot of financial difficulties.

Scott and I spoke about this quite a bit since he’s living in this world right now. He works part of the time at GTU (IBS) and has taught classes but he didn’t pull any punches about the financial end of things.

One of the things that keeps coming up is what I would do with a PhD if I got it. Ideally, I’d like to teach but I don’t talk about that much because I know quite a few recent PhDs and one of the common things that they all are dealing with is a lack of positions, especially tenure track positions, for Humanities related disciplines. A lot of them are teaching as adjuncts at multiple schools with no job security if they are able to find work at all.

Technically, with my MA, I can teach undergraduate programs, especially in Humanities. Finding work doing such might be quite difficult though.

I love the idea of getting a PhD but I’m not sure I really want to financially “ruin” myself in order to do it. If I knew that I could still pay my bills while working on a PhD, I think I’d do it. There is no reliable funding for doctoral students at GTU and definitely nothing one could make a living doing. I need to decide in the next couple of months if I want to apply for Fall, 2008 for GTU for the PhDs programs.

Scott made it pretty clear that he didn’t think that there would be a lot of value in me getting a second Master’s degree by going through IBS. His advice seemed to be to go straight into the PhD program, leaving aside the financial issues. At this point, I’m agreeing with this. If I continue in school, it will be in a PhD program.

I am planning on signing up for Japanese courses during this next year. I need to decide if I want to go to a private program in San Francisco or try to take undergraduate Japanese classes if I can work them into my schedule.