Should I complete this masters program?
October 16, 2011 8:07 PM   Subscribe

LifePlansFilter: I’m currently enrolled in graduate school in a masters of secondary education in art program. I enrolled as a way to explore my creativity in studio classes, and also as something to do during unusual life circumstances. Being in this program will continue to be an option for me for a limited time. Should I take the requisite courses I need to complete the program or should I keep taking whatever classes I want and drop out of the program when I leave? Many details within.

I am a 31-year-old female in the USA.

Background (trying to keep it short): Two and a half years ago (in 2009), I moved (along with my now-husband) across the country for what I believed was my dream job that I would have forever. Six months later, it ended (rather badly/in an upsetting way). We moved out of town quickly with absolutely no plans (now-husband had yet to find a job in our new city, and there was no reason for us to stay; also we couldn’t afford to stay there). We set up temporary house in a recently-deceased relative’s empty house in an extremely small town in a very rural area in another state and tried to figure out WTF to do next. I was mentally and emotionally squashed by the trauma of all this, and I told now-husband that our next thing would have to be chosen by him. He decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of his: to earn a BFA in visual art. He began school at a small, inexpensive state school here in TinyTown (recently-deceased relative’s town), and because we couldn’t find a place to rent, we bought a house with inheritance from recently-deceased relative. (We also have savings we are using to live, and we are getting by ok.)

When Husband is finished with his degree, we are planning on leaving TinyTown. We prefer a more urban setting, or we would consider a different rural situation that wasn’t oppressively conservative (we’re in the Bible Belt – specks of blue in a sea of red – it’s just not a good fit, plus the weather’s horrible). He will probably finish up in spring 2013.

As I began to put myself back together after the trauma, I also decided to enroll at State School. I wanted to take some art classes with Husband, plus I was interested in taking some music classes and other stuff. I already have an undergraduate degree, so I figured I may as well enroll as a graduate student in the one arts-related masters program State School offers, which is a masters of secondary education in art.

I’ve never studied art before, but I’ve found myself falling in love with making fine art, and often I’m even pretty good at it. I like teaching adults (this was part of my previous career), but I have no designs whatsoever to become a high school art teacher. I could maybe be a college professor, I guess, or teach recreational classes to adults – but I don’t really see how a MsEd in secondary education would help me do that? Or would it?

Or perhaps I might like to pursue an MFA in visual art. Would holding a MsEd be a help or a hindrance to being accepted into an MFA program? Is it horrible to have dropped out of a masters program?

I also have some ideas about an independent project I’d like to do (this is what I was about to start working on before I got my job in 2009), which is making a website related to my former field (that the job was in). I could be using some of the time I might otherwise spend taking classes to develop and execute that idea, and I might be able to blend some of my art-related work into it, too. The website idea *could* generate income, ultimately. (Not a guarantee.)

Also. State School’s art program happens to be really good, but its academic classes are… not so impressive. The education classes I’d have to take to complete the degree will likely be torturous and boring. I can still do it, if it’s a good idea, but I am not sure.

I’m asking now because the spring schedule will be coming out soon, and if I’m going to complete the program, I need to start taking some of the required courses.

Husband is similarly flummoxed with regard to career planning. We don’t know where we will go or what we will be doing; we just know we will be leaving here.

I am not so concerned with how I will make a living after this (it will become an issue ultimately, but for now, I want to focus on my personal fulfillment). I know these are challenging economic times, put please refrain from judging my choice to pursue artistic endeavors instead of being job-focused. I do realize how exceptionally lucky I am to have these kinds of options. But I am concerned about judgment being attached to my MeFi username, plus there are some identifying details in this post, and I’d rather not share my angst about this stuff with IRL acquaintances, hence the anonymous question.

Sorry for writing such a long post, but I’m trying to include as much relevant info as I can. I’ll watch the thread for any additional info you guys would like me to send to the mods; also feel free to email me: Throwaway at
posted by anonymous to Education (5 answers total)
You could take a leave of absence from the program rather than dropping out.
posted by yohko at 11:32 PM on October 16, 2011

Since looking for a job is something you will ultimately have to do, I would take the required courses to complete the Masters. You will both complete your degrees around the same time I think (in my country an MFA is a one or two year programme and you have already begun). The value in a Masters to an employer is not only that you learned the course material but that you applied yourself to something that was at times not very fun but you were able to prioritise tasks and complete both long and short term goals within a structure that someone else created; kinda like pretty much every job out there. Otherwise to an employer you will appear to be a bit of a dilettante for leaving at your dream job (even if both sides say you leaving your job was mutual it was for only six months) to then take random art classes for two or three years. I think it would also be good for your personal fulfillment to get the external validation for doing something hard.
posted by saucysault at 3:45 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you enjoy teaching adults, an MSEd in Art would absolutely qualify you to teach at the community college level. Adjunct jobs are much easier to come by than tenure-track jobs, and the pay is abysmal, especially in rural areas. But if you're planning to relocate to a more urban area, it may be that you could put together a schedule that would contribute to your family's bottom line and allow you to explore higher ed as a career option for you.
posted by kellyk801 at 9:38 AM on October 17, 2011

If it's costing you money and probably won't make you money, quit. You don't have to go to college to make art and will be setting yourself back in the long term unless you can live in a free house forever.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:59 AM on October 17, 2011

I think you should finish the degree. Seconding what saucysault says above. You never know when it might come in handy and it will look good on a resume if you ever have to apply for jobs in any kind of educational setting.

I teach one of those education classes in a small rural southern state college - not yours, no grad programs here- I enjoy teaching it, and I'm pretty sure my students are enjoying the class. They range in age from 20 to 40 and come from backgrounds and hometowns much more varied than I would have expected, given the location of the college. You, too, might be pleasantly surprised.
posted by mareli at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2011

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