no seriously, is this masters worth it?
April 22, 2012 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Help me make a decision I keep circling over again and again -- interdisciplinary masters that lets me do some cool research now, or continuing to work/exist in desired city and a more professional and/or appropriate MA/PHd in the next year or two?

Option A: Interdisciplinary social sciences masters. This program is very much "you get what you put into it," but I've made some contacts and started doing some reading and realize this is an awesome opportunity to shift fields, take fascinating classes, and do the kind of research I want to do. I fought for half funding, which means, combined with an AmeriCorps Ed award and some parental support, I will only pick up a modest sized bundle of debt (9-12k) after the year program is over.

Option B: Currently I do AmeriCorps at a public library and work evenings/overnights at a homeless shelter. I love both gigs. I won't continue AmeriCorps because it isn't a sustainable way to be part of an organization for me -- the money, and also the lack of power/staying presence in a group gets to me, although I would take my job as a hired position in an instant. However, I am just getting into the swing of things at the shelter, and would love to stay on. There's a chance I could move from general shelter work to case management over time, which would be huge for me personally, as I'm trying to feel out a career in social work/counseling/possibly being a therapist?/etc. I could also work a fun or interesting part-time job (i've always wanted to be a barista, and i would love a little gig that has to do with writing or radio). this year has been super-rewarding but trying in terms of energy and money, and so the concept of having a second year that is a bit more settled financially and with more breathing room to explore is really really appealing.

So of these two options, what leaps out to you all? I know that I want to work with/for people, and that I'm happy if I'm being challenged a lot. I think something like a counseling psychology PhD might be really desirable in a few years, but right now, I'm still trying to piece together what "social' and "community engaged" means for me (do I want to be a librarian? I definitely love teaching classes at the library, and urban spaces in general). i know the general logic about MA's is that if you're paying for one and there's not a super-direct rationale, it may not be worth it. however, this MA would give me a lot of room to explore my interests and parlay some solid research experiences into one of several careers (sociologist?) down the line. perhaps a year of academic intensity would feel very good after a year of vocational intensity. on the other hand, i personally value self-learning and free learning highly, and part of me wants to delay expensive grad-school style endeavors until there's a real pragmatic reason (i.e. i do fall in love with social work and want my MSW, i decide i want to be a counselor or psychologist, etc.)

(the subtext to me writing is that i'm about 95% committed to the MA, but now i'm starting to think that i'm being a little unreasonable with myself and would be quite happy and productive staying here! but i have this anxiety about not pushing myself enough that's kind of messing with that)

thank you for any thoughts! sorry this is so muddled, but I hope this can be of value to others in a similar spot
posted by elephantsvanish to Education (5 answers total)
Can you defer your admission and your funding for the master's program for a year? Because that would be eating your cake and having it, too.

$12,000 isn't a terrible debt load at all for a master's degree. What would that be in monthly payments--$180? $200? If you really want the degree, go for it; if you do well, it might be your ticket into getting a fully-funded Ph.D. or MPA.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2012

$12,000 worth of debt is a huge price to pay for "exploring your interests."
posted by Wordwoman at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

To follow up on Wordwoman, $12k is an awful lot to pay for a program that is telling you that you onlyget out of it what you put into it. Honestly, what program isn't fundamentally "you get what you put in"? If they're telling you that up front, it makes me think that they're not going to be doing much to help you make contacts, to place you in PhD programs, or to help you with job placement--it's a way to explain to themselves why their graduates aren't doing well.

That said, I think you should only do this program if they can tell you--in specific detail--that they have a strong placement record and that their graduates are well equipped to go on to careers or further education. Otherwise, you're paying for the privilege of being a perq for the professors--a motivated, smart graduate student that they can work with after they're done with their bread and butter gen ed courses.

If you really do have a chance to get a little more financial stability over the next year, I think you should that.

Look, I love grad school, and I just signed up for another several years of it. It's awesome. But if you aren't doing a professional program, you shouldn't pay for it. If they awarded you half funding, then you're obviously a desirable student. Give yourself another year to get work, get more experience, make some more connections, and apply to a program that will really be good for your future.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:51 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I strongly agree with made of star stuff. The MA program seems like a waste of time and money for you at this time. A year isn't enough time to develop research skills anyway. Use that time in the real world gaining experience.
posted by vincele at 10:10 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Self-funding a master's with no direct, practical, planned application just because you think it will be interesting is a bad idea, if you ask me (which you did). Grad school is always going to be there. Stick with option B and figure out what you really want-- then, down the line, get your counseling PhD or whatever it is that you decide you want and wrap a master's into that.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:30 AM on April 22, 2012

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