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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 01:55 AM   #41
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Originally Posted by Milton
Alec - cho oyu's reference to European doctorates was surely intended to mean continental degrees, not British ones (no knowledgeable person would suggest that a D.Phil. or PhD. from Cambridge, LSE, Imperial, UCL, Oxford, Durham, etc. was not fully equivalent to any North American doctorate). Doctoral graduates in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, countries of the former USSR, etc., are required to complete a habilitation before they are eligible for faculty positions.
Thanks for the additional info. I haven't had any English post-docs to work with, so I am not as familiar with the UK system as I am with continental Europe. I'm glad I put the caveat in my previous post
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 02:06 AM   #42
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Originally Posted by FIRE'd@51
I think you will find that, on average, a theoretical physicist receives his PhD in less time than the average PhD physicist. I believe the correct number for a theoretician is more like 4 years (of full-time study) after a bachelor's degree. Theoretical physicists, on average, tend to be brighter than experimentalists. They also don't have to spend years building and testing equipment to provide the necessary environment to do their research (e.g. low-temperature work).
Ack. Give me a break. The self-selected survey population in LOL!'s post even gives an average PhD conferral time of approximately 6 years.

Some theorists get out earlier, some experimentalists get out earlier. Breaking down the theory into simulation and first principles, my experience has been that simulation can (depending on the availability of backbone coding) be faster. First principles, except for that amazingly exceptional few, takes longer. I think two far stronger correlations are school and advisor.

As to your premise that theorists tend to be brighter than experimentalists? I suppose I could offer up the unfounded premise that theorists are inveterate klutzes or that they have no concept of how to correlate empirical evidence with theory soas to to thrive as an experimentalist. But what's the point? Some experimentalists are brighter, some theorists are brighter. Why does it even matter?
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 02:16 AM   #43
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Originally Posted by Nords
My master's thesis quenched my thirst for higher education.

So many retirees claim that they're going to go back to school or pursue professional certifications. I have no problem chasing down the knowledge required to get those sheepskins, but the sheepskins themselves seem worthless outside the context of employment.

I enjoy the process of learning but not the testing & certification. I much prefer the effort becoming an educated investor-- feedback is prompt, and the better you get the more gratifying the feedback!
I certainly respect that opinion. I do think that a philosophical doctorate is a bit different than either a professional doctorate or a non-thesis masters (I don't know whether you did a coursework or thesis masters, so take this all with a grain of salt). Again, I'll be slanted towards science and engineering in my statements - it should make sense for a nuke, though

For several years, there aren't any tests, there aren't any courses, there isn't any certification. There is a lot of excitement at being at the cutting edge of science, you get to work with incredibly intelligent and dedicated people who are often the best in the world at what they do (and become one of them yourself), and you should have the chance to challenge your mental capacity on a daily basis. On the other hand, there is also lots of depression, lots of burn-out, and the question of why anyone with a remnant of mental capacity would allow themselves to enter into an unknown number of years of indentured servitude.

I don't know that I could do it again, but it is definitely an experience that can completely alter one's worldview.
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 05:50 AM   #44
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Originally Posted by LOL!
I have often wondered where all the PhDs go after they earn their degree. Most of them certainly do not become university professors. I know that some of them sell life insurance, some of them are homemakers, some go to work painting houses (remember The Three Philosophers house painting company?), etc. But many of them work in industry, government and academia. Very few become professors.
My brother-in-law, who has a Ph.D. in Theoretical (Astro) Physics, works for a large Defense contractor in Southern California. I remember he was working on A.I. (Articial Intelligence) several years ago. I have no idea what he is working on now, all of his work requires extremely high security clearances. Prior to receiving his Ph.D., I recall him mentioning that he had absolutely no interest in teaching or becoming a professor.
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 06:13 AM   #45
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Originally Posted by cho oyu
Ack. Give me a break. The self-selected survey population in LOL!'s post even gives an average PhD conferral time of approximately 6 years.

Some theorists get out earlier, some experimentalists get out earlier. Breaking down the theory into simulation and first principles, my experience has been that simulation can (depending on the availability of backbone coding) be faster. First principles, except for that amazingly exceptional few, takes longer. I think two far stronger correlations are school and advisor.
I recall my brother-in-law (who has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics) mentioning that it is often the Advisor who has the strongest effect/influence as to when you complete your Ph.D.. I believe the subject matter of his doctoral dissertation was highly complex, but his Advisor (world renown physicist) also had a reputation of being very difficult to work with, which can slow things down quite a bit.
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 08:02 AM   #46
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Originally Posted by cho oyu
The self-selected survey population in LOL!'s post even gives an average PhD conferral time of approximately 6 years.
FYI, the data was not self-selected. It comes from all US Physics departments who granted a PhD. These departments report the data. The actual person who earned the degree did not report the info.
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 08:23 AM   #47
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Re: anyone with a phd?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cho oyu
Ack. Give me a break. The self-selected survey population in LOL!'s post even gives an average PhD conferral time of approximately 6 years.

Some theorists get out earlier, some experimentalists get out earlier. Breaking down the theory into simulation and first principles, my experience has been that simulation can (depending on the availability of backbone coding) be faster. First principles, except for that amazingly exceptional few, takes longer. I think two far stronger correlations are school and advisor.

As to your premise that theorists tend to be brighter than experimentalists? I suppose I could offer up the unfounded premise that theorists are inveterate klutzes or that they have no concept of how to correlate empirical evidence with theory soas to to thrive as an experimentalist. But what's the point? Some experimentalists are brighter, some theorists are brighter. Why does it even matter?
I stand by my premise until you present data that actually refutes it. I think you will find, on a shool-by-school basis, that within a particular university the average theorist is smarter than the average experimentalist, and takes less time to finish his PhD. Of course, an experimentalist at Princeton may well be smarter than the theorist at Podunk U, who couldn't get into Princeton. In most cases, within a particular PhD candidate population, the students who write theoretical dissertations are smarter and better students within that population. Of course, there may be exceptions. That's why I said "on average".
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 10:43 AM   #48
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Re: anyone with a phd?

The notion that one class of physicists is smarter than another is ridiculous, as is this whole off-topic conversation. The very definition of inteligence is too fuzzy to make that distinction. It would be more productive to talk about the relationship between hair color and intelligence.

Finally, who cares about such fine distinctions, even if they could realistically be made? I've been in so many rooms packed with so many physicists. They are ALL extraordinarily smart. But more importantly, I find them to be extremely engaging, interesting people who care about the arts, philosophy, politics, the world and yes, science.
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-16-2007, 06:28 PM   #49
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Re: anyone with a phd?

I always thought I wanted a PhD and eventually pursued it. I only applied to one program, which was one of the top in the country and the closest to where I physically lived. They recruited me heavily and fully funded me in a research assistantship. I attended for 2 years and completed all of my coursework. During that time I met and married my husband and my priorities changed. I no longer had interest in original research and I went back to working full time. I hadn't had nights and weekends to myself ever (due to grad school, my first two jobs, and then the PhD program), so the world was suddenly very different. So now I'm ABD, and I don't regret it at all.

In my line of work (higher education administration), the higher up the food chain you climb, the less student contact you have. Even if I had completed the degree, I wouldn't want a different job than I have now.
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-17-2007, 10:59 AM   #50
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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I have a Ph.D., and I am also a Professor.

First, Robert the Red's commentary is right on the money.

I have students come to me all the time who want to earn a Ph.D. The first thing I ask is "why?" The second thing I ask is "what will you hope to do afterwards?" The typical answer is something like "well, I've always wanted one," or "my father has a Ph.D.," and it trails off from there.

There are only two good reasons for going for a Ph.D. The first and most important is that you have a burning, unquenchable desire to learn everything there is to know about some topic. Not because you think it would be “rewarding,” but because you are completely driven. The second is that you wish to enter a profession (due to the first reason!) that requires a Ph.D. The latter, for most people, means that you wish to join a research University. Almost all other reasons are for the sake of vanity.

It is noble to wish to explore ideas and questions, and so you are approaching an adequate reason for wishing a Ph.D. However, if you came to my office and told me what you included in your post, I would gently suggest that you are not a good candidate for a Ph.D.

Since you are not in my office, and I feel you may be making a mistake, let me offer some fairly brutal comments and advice. I would invite you to consider that:

* You may not wind up studying the ideas an questions that you are actually interested in. You could easily wind up working with an advisor that has entirely different things in mind. He or she, not you, would likely set the agenda. You would feel pressure to consent or else spend a few years in the wilderness before giving up.

* You would come close to abandoning your family for 4-6 years.

* You and your family would suffer chronic penury during that time.

* You, like so many before you, may well suffer years of intense fear, loathing and every other negative emotion ever felt by man.

* You could spend a few years of wasted time before failing your preliminary exam and being ejected, or your qualifying exam, or your defense, or just plain having your advisor give up on you, etc.

Also, do you really want to move your family and subject them to all this so you can pursue your own rather vague sounding dream? You should think very carefully about whether this is an escape fantasy of yours or whether you - and your family - are fully committed to 4-6 years of toil, poverty, humiliation and potential failure.

Finally, publishing is a necessity. We at least hope that Ph.D. students are able to write reasonably well. Well, can you, punk?

My advice? Don’t try it! But best of luck if you do.
Geez, you phd types sure are a sunny bunch? Funny, I just got off the phone with my friend who is also a professor and said many of the same things...sheesh!

luckily i have time on my hands and will continue to talk with friends, people in the dept etc. also am looking at more professional masters programs if i can get the logical/ER part of my brain up and functioning again.

thanks for the honesty -
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-17-2007, 03:25 PM   #51
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Thanks rich -

i know what i want to study - and will be contacting my old prof's to talk about what it is really like.

i know politics all too well! just hoping it will be more motivating to deal with them for personal benefit then just a salary - although perhaps all the more stressful huh?

i have heard of very crazy advisors, committees etc. so that is why i want to get the inside track from people who are currently studying there...

i could pursue a phd or masters track that is more lucrative economically - but alas that does not have any appeal for me at the moment.

everything lately has been about pursuing your passion so i think i'm finally coming to the point where i will be brave enough to give it a go! but again i have the time to explore it all before diving in and making any hasty decisions...
How would you like having your research stolen? I have heard two such stories, one from a colleague who's now doing her MBA after getting out of her biomedical Ph.D. and one from my uncle who has a Ph.D. in computer science. You'd be surprised how desperate people can get when they have no money and their entire hope for the future hinges on their getting their Ph.D.

I see the same desperation in my fellow MBA students. They always ask why I don't seem all that worried, and I just smile...
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-17-2007, 03:47 PM   #52
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Re: anyone with a phd?

i actually had heard something similar too. a friend had her advisor steal her thesis and made her come up with a new one...i guess business schools aren't the only ones in need of ethics courses...

ok, i'm getting depressed...
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-17-2007, 04:50 PM   #53
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Originally Posted by FIRE'd@51
I think you will find that, on average, a theoretical physicist receives his PhD in less time than the average PhD physicist. I believe the correct number for a theoretician is more like 4 years (of full-time study) after a bachelor's degree. Theoretical physicists, on average, tend to be brighter than experimentalists. They also don't have to spend years building and testing equipment to provide the necessary environment to do their research (e.g. low-temperature work).
Point Number One: this silly debate reminds me of the arguments I used to hear in university about which was the more difficult engineering programme: applied mathematics, or engineering physics. As the arts students' newpaper said, this is like arguing over who has the uglier girlfriend. :P

Point Number Two: Who cares? The original poster was clear that he or she was considering a doctoral programme in one of the social sciences. That's a very different path/experience from physics (theoretical or otherwise).

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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-17-2007, 05:00 PM   #54
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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Originally Posted by Milton
Point Number Two: Who cares? The original poster was clear that he or she was considering a doctoral programme in one of the social sciences. That's a very different path/experience from physics (theoretical or otherwise).
I agree that it's probably not worth caring about. However, please note that I was not responding to the original poster, but to another poster who claimed that theoretical physicists, on average, take three years longer to finish their PhD's than the average physicist.
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-18-2007, 02:50 PM   #55
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Re: anyone with a phd?

I have a good buddy and former classmate who is a theroretical physicist. Definitely not a field to get into if you like money. Maybe fame if you get lucky.

I was accepted for the PhD program at Berkeley but decided to get a job instead. Whereas I am now a retired IT executive, my friend will be a theroretical physicist until he dies...
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-18-2007, 08:47 PM   #56
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Re: anyone with a phd?

I have a PhD in sociology. I pursued it because it was a passion. I found that I thoroughly love research methods and finding answers to those puzzling questions. But I also anticipated that it would lead to a livelihood. That didn't happen for a long time. My dissertation was broad for the field, a little "off-center" from the traditional topics, my experience was based on applied research, which didn't sit well with some of the snobby universities when it came time to apply for jobs, and I ended up fighting for survival for several years after the PhD. The teaching part is not nearly as glamourous as it sounds--especially as the education system has moved toward multiple-choice standards testing and away from critical thinking and basic writing/grammar skills.

But am I glad I have the PhD? YES. Partly, it's a measure of survival. I'm proud to be Dr. .... I now have a research-based career that makes an impact at local and national levels. The work I do makes a difference in the world, or so I'd like to think.

Yet pursuing a PhD is a personal decision. No one on this forum can tell you what to do. I remember a professor telling me, after I had completed all course work and the necessary exams, that if I moved, I would never finish. Well, I did move, and I did finish. So there are no rules that apply to everyone.

By the way, I had a full scholarship/assistantship and then went on to full-time employment--left graduate school with a debt under $3,000 and that was for an IBM 286 computer! But I also didn't have a spouse/child and witnessed a lot of divorces among my peers. The bottom line--if it's your passion and you are doing it to build a fulfilling future, go for it. If you think it's going to pay off financially, turn around now.

Good luck!
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-18-2007, 08:57 PM   #57
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Re: anyone with a phd?

Sociology absolutely fascinates me. If I had another life. . .


I am very curious as to your dissertation topic. PM me if you are willing to share.
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-19-2007, 11:26 AM   #58
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Re: anyone with a phd?

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But I also anticipated that it would lead to a livelihood. That didn't happen for a long time. My dissertation was broad for the field...
My friend with the PhD in theoretical physics delivered phonebooks as his first gainful employment after getting the degree. Then Post-Doc fellowships. Finally a modest consulting business.

But he has spent his whole life doing something he loves. The work is its own reward. Plus he owns both his office and his home (which they run as a B&B).
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-19-2007, 12:34 PM   #59
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Re: anyone with a phd?

maybe the theoretical guys can test their theories on the experimental guys and see who can break the time continuum first? or they can consult for shows like heroes... :

physics is an awesome discipline but it gives me a gigantic headache
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Re: anyone with a phd?
Old 05-19-2007, 02:12 PM   #60
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Re: anyone with a phd?

Basis for my opinions: both my wife and I have PhD's in the humanities from Ivy/major universities. We both had tenure track academic jobs but left to go to private industry 8 years ago and wish we had left earlier.

An ER forum is a very strange place to ask about getting a PhD in the humanities. It is perhaps the worst possible route to ER I can think of other than community theatre acting. Our net worth went from near zero to 3 mill in the 8 years since we left academia. My suggestion: earn a bundle outside academia, and then enroll in the PhD program of your choice once retired and research to your heart's content without worrying whether your advisor or review committee agrees with you as you struggle to support a family. I believe the ex-CEO of IBM is earning a degree in Chinese Archeology once he retired from IBM.

I have to ask: why do you want a PhD in the humanities? Do you wish to teach at a university? That is the only real reason to want one. What do you think university teaching in the humanities is actually like?

The reason that PhDs in the humanities typically take 6-10 years now, is that the publishing requirements to get a tenure-track entry level job interview now rival those needed to get tenure 30 years ago. It takes the extra years not to get a mere thesis, but a sustained body of reviewed and published work, that can enable you to even get an interview at a legitimate university. (I know several academic theoretical physicists, and it is the same there.) The reason has nothing to do with intelligence, and everything to do with the dearth of tenure-track jobs in those areas.
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