Ph.D Dilemmas

In a recent post on, I talked about the possibility of pursuing a Ph.D with a focus around diversity and inclusion in the modern workplace. The post was really just conceptual, floating the idea without getting into too many specifics. But trust me, there are lots of specifics that I have in mind, and it’s time I vent a bit of the mental whirlwind.

There are so many factors to consider, my head is spinning.

First, there’s the question of whether to leave work and pursue a Ph.D full-time, or pursue a part-time-while-working approach.

Going to a traditional Ph.D program would be a phenomenal undertaking. It would require being out of work for 4-5 years as I focused full-time on school, research, and even a little teaching. It would pay a small stipend for living expenses and some more for teaching or research assistantship, but I would still have to take out several tens of thousands of dollars a year of student loans just to pay my bills. Considering the large amount of debt that I have, that’s not a pleasant consideration.

Assuming I did pursue a Ph.D in residency, I’m not entirely sure where I’d go to school. NYU has a well respected Ph.D program in Management with a specialty in Organizational Behavior. And of course, there are lots of other NYC-based options as well. UF (where I did my MBA) has a Ph.D program in Management with specializations in Organizational Behavior or Human Resources (among others), both of which would appeal to me. There are a few different choices in Charlotte, which would be great — I loved living there, and I have a ton of close friends in the Queen City. I’m not necessarily as passionate about any of those options, but it certainly is a place I could happily call home if I had to move out of New York.

There’s also the possibility of pursuing an online Ph.D, but I have mixed feelings there. The benefits are easy to check off: I could potentially continue working (which would save me a tremendous amount of money), I could live pretty much wherever I wanted, I could study on my own schedule and from home (where I’m used to working now anyway), and so on. I’m also very skeptical about an online Ph.D program, as I worry that so much of the traditional Ph.D experience (particularly doing some student teaching of undergraduate classes) would presumably be missed.

Online programs also have steep tuition expenses, compared to in-resident Ph.D programs where they not only do not charge you, they give you a small stipend to help with living expenses while you’re in school. (Not that a stipend will come anywhere close to making up for lost income, but still, it’s better than having to pay to attend.) The tuition at an online university (University of Phoenix, as an example) is certainly cheap when compared to the lost income of attending a full-time resident program on campus somewhere, but you have to weigh the cost/benefit of being able to dedicate yourself full-time to your program as a resident.

And there’s a certain stigma in some circles when it comes to online degree programs. Sure, the more reputable ones are fully accredited by the same organizations that accredit traditional on-campus programs, and yes, the world is moving to a virtual environment. Keep in mind, a few years ago someone like me who worked from home full-time would’ve been looked at very strangely… these days, it’s increasingly common and folks in my situation scoff at “old fashioned” managers who haven’t joined the new millennium yet. But I still can’t get past my initial thought that an online Ph.D just wouldn’t be viewed as favorably.

Lots and lots on my mind, clearly. And as usual, when there are big topics swirling around in my head, I look to my friends for advice. So tell me, readers: what do you think? What are your experiences with Ph.D programs, with hiring Ph.Ds, with balancing student debt with career happiness, with juggling online classes while working, etc. etc. etc.

Give me your perspective, however it relates to this topic. Reply below!

One Response to Ph.D Dilemmas

  1. Kevin, I have considered going this route myself. I love school and seem to be in a pattern of having a strong desire to go back after 2-3 years of being out. I’m now at the 2 year mark. 🙂

    For me, leaving the workforce for that long isn’t an option. I also worry that I would be boxing myself in to a limited number of job opportunities in the future by having the PhD.

    The last few weeks I have been seriously considering pursuing an MA in Communications from a local program in the evening. I feel like I could gain the education I need in this area and fulfill my desire to go back without making quite the level of commitment.

    I’m curious to see what you decide. Good luck with your decision.

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