For a variety of reasons, it wasn’t until I turned 30 that I started my undergraduate education. Of course, by that time, I was married with two kids.
So, while supporting my family, I worked very hard at getting my B.A. in physics from the University of Colorado. My boys were babies when I started and I missed much of their infancy because I was studying all the time.
I was able to support my family by getting scholarships and student assistant positions. In my junior year, I was hired as an associate scientist at NCAR and things got a little easier financially. Getting that job was no small feat since I hadn’t gotten my degree yet and the job required it (one of the conditions of my employment was that I MUST graduate).
I worked and went to class during the day, tried to spend time helping to raise my young family, AND I was studying my ass off doing problems sets late into the night. It came as no small relief when I finally graduated and was able to concentrate on just my job and family like most people my age.
Needless to say, when it came time to think about graduate school, I paused. I was sick of studying long hours and doing physics problems. I was ready for some real work doing real science at a real job.
I asked myself, did I really want to continue studying? I knew the life of a graduate student, and it was about the least appealing thing I could think of going into at that point.
I talked with many of my mentors to get advice and after some careful consideration, I decided against applying for graduate school. While I have always wanted a PhD in astrophysics, at that point in my life, I simply wasn’t up for it.
That was almost 10 years ago. Now, I’ve been working in the field for a while, I’m making good money (more than many PhD’s I know) and I’m reconsidering that decision.
Furthermore, my boys have grown older and require much less of my time and attention, I’m starting to reach the top of my career path, and I’m in a financial position to think about making a change.
I’ll be turning 45 this June 5th and I’m thinking of applying to graduate school. Well, no one can ever accuse me of following traditional paths I guess.
I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the past decade and in the next two posts, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned and what I think about getting a PhD. From talking with scientists and mentors who’ve had lots of experience, I’ve come to the opinion that there are lots of reasons for NOT getting an advanced degree, but only one good reason FOR getting one.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts. What do you think of going for an advanced degree later in life? Have any of you done it? If so, please share your experiences in the comments, I’d be extremely interested in hearing from you.