Should I, an ABD, do an MA in Methods while waiting for job market horizons to open?
January 10, 2010 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Would it be better to publish or to get an MA in methods while I am ABD?

You're not in my field. You're not my advisor. I'd still like your feedback.
I'm in a mostly quantitative social science PhD program. I'm ABD. I probably won't get a job this year if my rejections to-date are any indication. I'm losing funding next year. With the economy, no one in my program is getting over 4 years of funding. I can submit my diss this year, but I'd prefer to submit it next year.

So, Plan B: I've done the math. I need to maintain my student status because there is no short-term job that would make paying for daycare worthwhile AND loan deferment is a good thing. It'll be $1000+ month to pay off loans if I stay with my current payment plan. Even with the income dependent loan payoff plan, it would still be $400/month. I also have my own expenses. It'd be doable for my SO to cover all of this if we didn't pay for daycare, but still tight.

Anyway, I have 2 options if I self-fund next year:
1. Self-fund, take out loans, pay my own tuition and fees and take empty dissertation writing credits. Do 2 part-time RAships of 20 hours a week total (part-time doesn't cover tuition and fees). Do 3 days/week of childcare to do RAships - most of those days would be filled with RA work. Work on publishing my work in evenings/weekend. Finish dissertation. Apply for jobs again.

2. Self-fund, take out loans, pay my own tuition and fees. Do 1 part-time RAship of 5-7 hours/week (as I am now + a TAship). BUT do an MA in Research Methods. (A different department is offering an MA in Methods. I have already completed 6 of the 8 required classes. I didn't count those classes for my PhD. I'd need to write a methods-y thesis, but hopefully it'd be publishable. I am certain I could do this all in 1 year.) Do 4 days/week daycare. Still work on publishing, but focusing most of my efforts to getting this MA done in a year. Work on dissertation. Reapply for jobs.

So, academics of MeFi, considering that I'd be self-funding anyway, do you think that it would be better for my overall package/CV to have an MA in Research Methods or to focus my energies on making money as an RA and trying to publish more?
posted by anonymous to Education (6 answers total)
I am a physical not a social scientist. I think focusing on getting more publications would be more useful than an extra MA, unless there is some extra factor like a really well connected adviser or really good idea you've got.
posted by pseudonick at 5:37 PM on January 10, 2010

I feel your pain regarding the academic job market. In my field, we're seeing a backlog of students from last year, lots of assistant professors on the move, and very rich schools pulling jobs or hiring only experienced candidates. This trend suggests there's probably going to be an even worse back-log next year so I think publishing, publishing, and publishing are the best options.

Good luck!
posted by eisenkr at 5:47 PM on January 10, 2010

In the humanities -- Plan 1 - writing for publication is also my advice. The pubs will attest to your mastery of methods more than the master's degree would by itself, raise your name recognition, and show yourself more as the research colleague you need to be to potential hiring departments.
posted by Rain Man at 6:26 PM on January 10, 2010

How about a middle ground? Do the course work for that you would do for the MA but not the thesis. Publish as much as you can. The advantage here is that being more methodologically savvy will make your marketable, but you don't necessarily need the additional credential itself. Turn yourself into an awesome quant jock who's published a bunch. Don't forgo publishing to get an MA.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:35 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Publish, for sure. I'm not seeing what any MA could give you that an article or two plus PhD won't top.

But don't publish in lieu of working on your dissertation.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:02 PM on January 10, 2010

I'm a quantitative social scientist, but my experience with the US higher-ed system is incidental (I'm guessing you're in the US - apologies if that's wrong). If you already are pretty strong on the methods front, then I'd be inclined to maximize publications. My guess is that search committees would see that you got your PhD from a quant-oriented department, and would assume you have some solid training in that respect -- especially if your coursework & publication record backs that up. The MA probably wouldn't substantially change the impression that you've had good training, but won't address any nagging doubts that the committee might have about you personally, rather than the pedigree of the degree. In contrast, a bunch of extra papers could help differentiate you from other applicants, and show evidence that *you* have the skills, not just that you came from a good stable. But of course, it probably depends a lot on who you're trying to get a job from, specifics of your field, etc, etc, so YMMV.
posted by mixing at 7:03 PM on January 10, 2010

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