Author Topic: What to do with college money on the table?  (Read 6978 times)

panda

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What to do with college money on the table?
« on: May 23, 2014, 07:32:00 AM »
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« Last Edit: December 15, 2017, 10:13:04 AM by panda »

Cpa Cat

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2014, 08:08:38 AM »
I know from experience that a Masters of Accounting + IT background is a good combination. There is a lot of demand for that in accounting firms. It has some really solid career potential in a field that transitions well to self-employment/consulting.

I have no personal experience with a Masters of Finance, but I suspect that it's also a solid choice with the same sort of potential.

The MBA is more generic and if you have the option to do one of the other two, I don't see the benefit. But it may require less shoring up of prereqs than Accounting/Finance, since you're coming from a different background.

In the case of the MAcc or MF, make sure you discuss your plans with an advisor in the department. This is especially important for people coming at it from a non-business degree background. You may find that they can exempt you from undergrad requirements and tailor your study toward your interests.

I like business-school Masters degrees for non-trads because the schools tend to be more focussed on getting you out and into the world than Liberal Arts colleges. Business school admins tend to waste your time less than Liberal Arts admins because Business Schools hire fewer lifelong academics.

frugally

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2014, 02:54:48 PM »
If it's not going to be a detriment to your work-life balance, I'd give the Master's in History a shot.  What do you really have to lose?  I am kicking myself right now because I didn't complete my degree (also a Software Engineer), and a teaching position at my alma mater came up that I would take in a heartbeat if I had the qualifications.  All the FU money in the world doesn't matter if you can't do what you love.

ch12

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2014, 05:45:12 PM »
  • Masters in History - Something completely different and if I'm honest with myself if I was financially independent I'd likely want to do something on the side like teach college level classes and history is something I can ramble about long enough to actually teach a class. The catch is that there is a lot of remedial work I would need to do to get the degree since I don't have a background in it. As such, I'm not sure how long it would take or how much the degree would cost.


Go for your degree in history. It's a good alternative, and it's clearly something that you'd like to do.

I'd personally get the MBA (I will get my MBA in the next few years), but I also love money and many things about business.

grantmeaname

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2014, 02:45:57 AM »
A masters in history will probably not be enough to teach at the college level, given that dozens or hundreds of history PhD's line up every year to do it for approximately minimum wage. Have you really seriously looked into what the history MA will qualify you to do?

The biggest cost of college isn't the tuition, it's the 18 months of your life. If you have a career and you're going somewhere, don't feel like you have to drop it for a degree that even you feel has little use.

frugally

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2014, 12:00:34 PM »
Grant is right, it's unlikely to get you a professorship.  I had community college in my head, which you could almost certainly do with a MA (but you'd still want to check).

Argyle

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2014, 03:30:43 PM »
The market is glutted with History PhDs, and the jobs that require only MAs are swamped with PhDs, who often get preference.  The jobs you can get with only a History MA are relatively scarce and are getting scarcer.  In addition they would want a substantial background in teaching at the lower, community college level.  You may know that there are two types of college-level teaching: tenure-track (full-time, ambitious) and adjunct.  Adjunct pays around $1500-$3000 per course -- full-time would be 5-6 courses per semester, but adjuncts might only get one or two courses per semester.  So it's not something that brings in great money.  If you're aiming for it as a hobby, that's fine -- just be aware that you'll probably need a PhD.  And to get an MA you'll almost certainly need a BA in History, which would require a second BA.  A second BA is likely doable in a year, but then you have only six months of funding left.  All in all, I wouldn't think the MA in History choice is worth the trouble.

iris lily

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2014, 03:38:31 PM »
PLEASE get a realistic picture of you likelihood to get a teaching gig in history with ANY degree.

I think it's completely impractical.

grantmeaname

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2014, 02:22:53 AM »
PLEASE get a realistic picture of you likelihood to get a teaching gig in history with ANY degree.

I think it's completely impractical.
That was my knee-jerk reaction upon reading this thread, too, but when I looked into the statistics a little bit I found it wasn't as brutally awful as I had assumed. Here is a decent summary of how PhDs do in the job market.

grantmeaname

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2014, 02:25:36 AM »
Indeed, however, the plan if I was FIRE would be teach at a college somewhere and if I wanted to teach history the minimum is going to be the Masters degree. I'd likely have to go back and get the PhD at some point, but it would be easier to get admitted into a program with a background in history versus coming from a different field all together. This kind of comes from the standpoint of "If someone paid for your degree and your career is sorted, what would you study?"
Have you actually talked to a PhD program's admissions staff/faculty about this idea? In every field that I've looked into a PhD for the general opinion has been either "we don't want you to get a master's degree", "a terminal master's degree is of no use to us", or "you can get it if you want but you'll take all those classes over again as the first year or two of your PhD program so why bother". It could be different for history, but I'd say you should actually verify that before you accidentally throw away eighteen months of your life on a useless MA.

Argyle

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2014, 04:06:12 AM »
Grantmeaname, note that the page you linked to reveals that 53% of those who earn PhDs went on to get a tenure-track job.  Many of these had their PhDs from "highly ranked institutions," which is code for the Ivy League.  17.8% had non-tenure-track jobs, i.e. they were adjuncts.  24.2% were in "other employment."  So those are the odds for someone with a History PhD: 53% (many of them Ivy League grads) get those well-paid and supported teaching jobs, and another 18% have adjunct jobs.  But those are for the PhDs.  The MAs are competing for the community college jobs with all those PhDs.  Odds are not good.  Of course everyone thinks they'll be the exception.

grantmeaname

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2014, 04:18:42 AM »
Some people move into the tenure track after some time at a community college, and some people never wanted a professorship anyways (such as my coworkers at the historical society/state historic preservation office/state archive). Even without that, though, 53% is about double what I would have guessed based on comparing history to anthropology, where the numbers are much worse. So I guess it's a matter of perspective? I think 53% is certainly good enough for a why-the-hell-not thing to do when you're FI.

Argyle

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2014, 06:27:53 AM »
But the 53% is the employment rate for people who have put in the long-term full-time work of going for the PhD, most likely at an Ivy League institution.  That may not be the OP's situation.  And it's a very long and arduous slog to get a PhD, taking 5-7 years of full-time study, just to pick up some adjunct teaching.  However, if the OP wants to try, and has some free college classes to do so with, more power to him.  An MA will give a good taste of whether academia is something he wants to explore further.

Daleth

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2014, 09:09:23 AM »
Grantmeaname, note that the page you linked to reveals that 53% of those who earn PhDs went on to get a tenure-track job.  Many of these had their PhDs from "highly ranked institutions," which is code for the Ivy League.  17.8% had non-tenure-track jobs, i.e. they were adjuncts.  24.2% were in "other employment."  So those are the odds for someone with a History PhD: 53% (many of them Ivy League grads) get those well-paid and supported teaching jobs, and another 18% have adjunct jobs.  But those are for the PhDs.  The MAs are competing for the community college jobs with all those PhDs.  Odds are not good.  Of course everyone thinks they'll be the exception.

Just popping in to point out that the link is to statistics from 1998-2009. I don't think the tenure-track job market for history PhD's has improved since 1998, so my guess--subject to further research--is that those stats are at least slightly more positive than the real stats are right now. Long-established college professors (i.e., ones who have been off the market for 15+ years) have been saying forever that plenty of jobs will open up when the current profs retire, but as we've seen in the last few years, more and more universities are closing down tenure lines or even closing entire departments... NOT hiring new profs to replace the old ones.

And of course, those stats don't tell us how long it took for the 53% to FIND tenure-track jobs. Many of them probably bounced back and forth across the continent on one or two-year visiting professor positions. That's a difficult position to be in even if you're single, much less if you're not--especially since you spend those years not knowing whether you're EVER going to get a tenure-track job.

The single best place to get advice on the job market for any given PhD (or MA--but an MA in history seeking college teaching jobs will be crushed by the number of history PhD's seeking the same jobs) is the forums at the Chronicle for Higher Education (chronicle.com/forums). Radicaledward, have you been there?
« Last Edit: May 26, 2014, 09:12:08 AM by Daleth »

keepitsimple

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2014, 11:24:50 AM »
+1  Huge demand for this, some schools are even offering combo master's programs now for IT/Accounting.  Perfect for consulting.

I know from experience that a Masters of Accounting + IT background is a good combination. There is a lot of demand for that in accounting firms. It has some really solid career potential in a field that transitions well to self-employment/consulting.

I have no personal experience with a Masters of Finance, but I suspect that it's also a solid choice with the same sort of potential.

The MBA is more generic and if you have the option to do one of the other two, I don't see the benefit. But it may require less shoring up of prereqs than Accounting/Finance, since you're coming from a different background.

In the case of the MAcc or MF, make sure you discuss your plans with an advisor in the department. This is especially important for people coming at it from a non-business degree background. You may find that they can exempt you from undergrad requirements and tailor your study toward your interests.

I like business-school Masters degrees for non-trads because the schools tend to be more focussed on getting you out and into the world than Liberal Arts colleges. Business school admins tend to waste your time less than Liberal Arts admins because Business Schools hire fewer lifelong academics.

historienne

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2014, 01:06:17 PM »
Indeed, however, the plan if I was FIRE would be teach at a college somewhere and if I wanted to teach history the minimum is going to be the Masters degree. I'd likely have to go back and get the PhD at some point, but it would be easier to get admitted into a program with a background in history versus coming from a different field all together. This kind of comes from the standpoint of "If someone paid for your degree and your career is sorted, what would you study?"
Have you actually talked to a PhD program's admissions staff/faculty about this idea? In every field that I've looked into a PhD for the general opinion has been either "we don't want you to get a master's degree", "a terminal master's degree is of no use to us", or "you can get it if you want but you'll take all those classes over again as the first year or two of your PhD program so why bother". It could be different for history, but I'd say you should actually verify that before you accidentally throw away eighteen months of your life on a useless MA.

As my username suggests, I'm a historian.  A few thoughts.  First, about half the people in my Ivy-level Ph.D. cohort had masters degrees, including me.  We still had to take the same classes as everyone else.  What a masters degree can do is to prove your capacity for graduate-level work in the field, which is particularly useful if your undergrad record wouldn't show that.  Regardless of your undergrad degree, if you have good grades and strong recommendations from a top-tier masters program, you could potentially be a viable candidate for a Ph.D. program. If you don't want to go for the Ph.D. eventually, though, this is all irrelevant. 

Second, your ability to teach college-level classes with a masters degree will vary substantially depending on where you live.  Look at the bios of current instructors at community colleges in your area - do you see anyone with a masters teaching there?    In big cities, you usually need a Ph.D. even to adjunct.  In rural areas, there is often less competition, so a masters degree might be enough.  As you seem to realize, you are very unlikely to be able to teach at anything other than a community college, or to get a tenure-track job (even at a community college) without a Ph.D. 

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2014, 09:05:46 AM »
Thanks for the update: I was just reading this now and was going to post two comments:

1. I have a friend who, after ten years of hard work, just landed a plum college professorship (he's actually a law historian with both JD and PhD). He feels that the job market problems are overstated and you can still get a job if you are smart, network, work your ass off, etc.--not just coast through a program.

2. Another option for the academically minded is teaching in a private school. No teaching credentials required. If you can coach a sport and have no expectation of personal privacy, teaching in a boarding school is kind of a gravy train. (Pay isn't that high, but free housing, free food, free international trips with students, conference funding, etc., etc.

rocklebock

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Re: What to do with college money on the table?
« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2014, 09:43:21 AM »
There's some failure of imagination here with respect to the OP's software background and his interest in history. There are really, really cool things you could do as a software engineer with an MA in history, both in academia and in public history. An example some might be familiar with is historypin. I work in cultural heritage, have an M.A. in art history, and if I had a software background, my plan in FIRE would be to run a social entrepreneurship project that merges those areas. I'm actually thinking about doing the reverse of the OP by taking some programming classes eventually.

Start by browsing around in the field of digital humanities to see get an idea of what people are doing and if it appeals to you. Depending on how you play your cards, there could absolutely be teaching opportunities, though probably not a tenure-track job.