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Is it a good idea to go PhD program from professional master's program?

I am a graduate student in a professional school. I began the program envisioning being a product manager, but I realized that I wanted to be a scholar than working for a business. Do you think it is wise to pivot my career and throw the investment that I made at the professional school and start over again?

#graduate-school #college #phd #academia

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Kim’s Answer


Let me ask you a question. Do you have any professional work experience (not counting internships)? I ask this, because, it is really hard to know what you want to do if you haven't done it. I recommend a solid two years of doing something, anything, before going on with the expense of an education. I have seen WAY too many people get to the end and realize they made a mistake. On top of that, the material presented in higher ed programs will be more meaningful to you if you have a frame of reference to relate it to, AND, you could find an employer who offers tuition assistance, which, of course, would be awesome!

I don't say all of this to be mean. It's just you should be sure of your career choice before pursuing a PhD. What exactly is your Master's major? Is there any way it can help you to transition to the newly chosen area? If not, there is no point in staying in it.

I hope this is helpful. I'd like to discuss this further, if you have questions or comments. Getting started in life is not easy!


Thanks for your prompt response, Kim. I have years of professional experience in design and program management. I am in an integrated design Master's program. As I exposed to different technologies thanks to the program where I am in, I became interested in AI system and potentially received an offer from the professor to work together. I need money, but I also want to pursue my dream to get a Ph.D. I am passionate to study more about AI system... People told me that if I have a Ph.D., and although I change my mind to go back to the industry later years, I will be a strong candidate with AI-related Ph.D. Hannah M.

Whew! That's great! This is way out of my field, so, I hope someone else weighs in with advice. I will add only this: don't let the potential offer to work with the professor color your judgment. Those offers can in fact work out. They can also fall apart, in so many different ways. Kim Kim Igleheart

Thanks, Kim! I can't agree with you more about the professor's side story. Yes, it should be my own decision. Thanks again! Hannah M.

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yanfeng’s Answer

I would like to chime in this topic though other people provides great insights about Ph.D vs industry.
1. what is your career dream? academia vs industry?
if academia, Ph.D degree are mandatory. if industry, Ph.D is a plus.
2. When to pursue a Ph.D?
time matters, age matters, finance matters. It depends on your stages/status. If time/age/finance allows, the earlier , the better.
3. What you can gain from Ph.D?
Finance consideration definitely counts. but it is not the only thing. you gets deeper insights into theories, learn advanced analytical thinking, participate high-end discussions, meet area experts and so on. You will be a more rational decision maker.

Thanks, Yanfeng. Your advice really helped me to make a decision forward. Hannah M.

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Robert’s Answer

Hi Hannah,

I would like to echo some of the great advice that Kim provided you. I think its a great idea to work for about 2 years before committing to go back to school, especially for a lengthy commitment like a PhD. Sometimes when you spend a lot of time in academia, you develop a certain comfort in that space, but its hard to know learn about what you like and do not like without trying it in a professional setting. I think you will have minimize the chances of any regrets if you grow in a professional setting for a couple years.

I have a 6 years of industry experience and multiple MS degrees. I also have some technology skills (machine learning/AI). They skills are highly valuable in the work place. You can probably find a very interesting research or product management role in the industry, which will help you gain more clarity on whether you want to get your PhD.

Best of luck. Feel free to ask follow-up questions.


Thank you, Robert! I have professional experience in a different field, so I thought it might be a good idea to dive into Ph.D. directly from MS. Age matter at my personal standpoint, but I do agree with you that I will have fruitful insights if I work in the field of AI with MS before I make a big commitment to pursue Ph.D. Thank you again! Hannah M.

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Brett’s Answer

Hi. You should most definitely enter PhD program if that's your desire. Spend the time now in school, even if a few more years are added. It is really hard to leave and return. Good luck.

Thanks, Brett. Hannah M.

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Will’s Answer

If becoming a professor is your goal then yes it is a good idea. While I think it's beneficial for professors to have real world experience you can get this through consulting with your PHD before you focus on teaching. Most universities require professors to get phd's.