Masters vs Phd

So I’ve recently had to re-evaluate the whole, should I get my PhD after all, or should I settle for a Masters?

I have in the past wanted a PhD for the social prestige, the social power, etc, that I thought it would afford me. And sure, there is an element of respect and credibility gained from holding a doctorate degree, but that’s isn’t a good reason to go for a PhD.

So, I’ve begin wondering more, what is it that I want out of life?

Well, I want to be happy. What does that entail? Well, creating, so writing, and traveling, and going places, and trying new things, and having wonderful relationships. and a career. But I’ve noticed career is ranking a bit less than it used to. Now, I’m more starting to focus on, what will bring me ultimate happiness.

And part of all of this is, I don’t know what will bring me ultimate happiness. I feel like it’s one of those things that I take one day at a time to figure out.

I think having a job that I love will bring me a degree, a measure of happiness. But more, the things I get to do regularly, like travel, and trying new things. And writing. Writing fantasy. And having good relationships with people, like my friends, my SO, my family.

In terms of a career, I honestly want one that’s 9-5, not like a boring office job, but a 9-5, go do my thing, have fun, be frustrated because I’m problem solving but frustrated in a good way, then go home and do things I enjoy, like studying languages, or reading about Buddhism.

Basically, I want a job that won’t consume me or my day. Unless it’s writing, then it’s fine if it consumes my day; I love it that much. I love how anything and everything becomes my characters, my plot, when I’m in the throes of a creative fury. It’s the best feeling, being overtaken by a dash of creative madness, it’s all-consuming, all-beautiful, all-powerful. It’s wonderful.

Sadly, research does not do that for me, or it hasn’t, so far.

And I’ve been thinking, if I did research as a career, I’d still write.

And in thinking about that proverbial question, what would I do if money didn’t matter? I’d write and travel. That’s what I would do!

So I should probably do that, huh.

But I keep thinking, I still want at least Masters so I can get a challenging job besides writing, because honestly, I want to leave the house and have this outside-schedule. Mostly for the social aspect of having colleagues I can have occasional dinners with, or have happy hour with. So I want an outside-the-house job for the social aspects it will afford me.

So, I can get a job with Masters. BUT, I was thinking, the first two years of Masters or PhD programs, at least in neuro research, are about the same: take courses, do some lab rotations, so research. The difference is that Masters is 2-3 years, while PhD is 5-7 years. With Masters, you gather your data and write your thesis and defend it, and same with PhD. So, what’s stopping me from getting a PhD?

Well, the time. But then I think to myself, well, i’m going to be 30-something regardless. So if I get this degree or that, I still age, ya know. And it’s like, after 2-3 yrs of a PhD program it’s like a 9-5 job anyway: no classes, no exams, just research. Go into lab in the morning, leave in the evening. Except after your 5th-7th year, you write then defend your thesis. But is that so different from a Masters? After 2-3 yrs with a Masters, you go find a 9-5 job. It’s the same, isn’t it?

The only sucky thing is as a PhD student, you don’t make that much money. Like less than 30k/year. That’s not much to live on, especially my super-expensive area I live in…

But, with good budgeting, it’s doable, and you’d still get to travel. I mean, not all the time, obviously, but you couldn’t with a regular outside job, anyway. Unless your job entails traveling. In which case, lucky you, and can you get me an application to fill out…

So it almost seems to me that getting the PhD makes the most sense, except when counting fiscal elements, because you don’t get to build up your savings, retirement funds, etc. as much.

So, it comes down, in some ways, to money…either get Masters then get a 40-50k paying job. Or get a PhD, then get a 50-100k paying job. And you’re not even guaranteed 100k, or even 90k or 80k. So, in essence, long-run, you’re probably losing out in savings, etc, compared to those who got “real jobs” when they were 24 or 25, jobs that paid like 40-50k, and they began building up their 401k or whatever…

To get a Masters or a PhD, that is the question…

Let me figure out costs..ok, so let’s say after 2-3 yrs, you get your Masters. Say I’d be 27-28. Let’s say 28. I then get a job that pays about..mmm, let’s say 40k.
That’s about $3300/month. So with taxes, etc, let’s just say net is about $2800/month

Let’s say housing costs: $1250/month
Food/monthly expenses/general expenses: $350
Gas for car: $100/month
Car payments/insurance: $300/month
Total: $2000

That leaves $800. So out of that $800, $300 goes to your travel fund. That brings you down to $500. That $500, you put into savings.

And let’s figure after a decade…
so age 28-38: $500/month x 10 years: $60,000.

Let’s say you get a PhD, and then start a “real job” when you’re 31. This job pays about mmm, let’s figure…$60,000/ year. So that’s $5000/month. But with net, it might be closer to, let’s give a guess of about…$4000/month

So using the same monthly expenses as before:

Let’s say housing costs: $1250/month
Food/monthly expenses/general expenses: $350
Gas for car: $100/month
Car payments/insurance: $300/month
Total: $2000

That leaves $2000…
So, $300 to travel fund, that leaves $1700 put away to savings every month.
Now, you’re 31. So from age 31-38, that’s 7 years…
So: $1700/month x 7 years: $142,800.
$142,800-$60,000=$82, 800.

Yea, you’d still save more with PhD. BUT, you’d also probably start a family then, and from my understanding, babies are the world’s most expensive alarm clock…

Unless you don’t have babies and keep renting an apartment when you’re 40…

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