MS? PhD?

Susan L Forsburg susan_forsburg at
Thu Jan 27 14:59:22 EST 1994

In article <2i6l88$2vj at> MEGAN IGO,
igo at biovx1.DNET.NASA.GOV writes:
>	The next decision I have to make is whether to finish this 
>quarter with a Master's and get a job in industry, or to find a new lab 
>and get a PhD, which was my original plan.  I am 25 and have spent 21 of 
>those years in an academic environment, so I really don't even know what 
>the "real world" is like.  I recognize that there are compromises with 
>either decision, such as a limit on earning potential if I leave with an 
>MS, and a limit on how much of my time and my life is mine if I continue 
>with on the PhD track and do the postdoc thing, etc.  I would greatly 
>appreciate input from people out there who have experience in either 
>area (or both!!)
>	Megan            igo at uclabio.bitnet or igo at
>	UCLA Bio Dept

Megan, first of all if you are only in your 2nd year, dont panic about
switiching labs.  Graduate school is hard enough, and if it isnt working
out in your lab in your 2nd year think what it would be like in your 5th.
  You are early enough in your graduate career so it shouldnt hurt you
time wise.  Not every person gets along with every other person,and some
students like more nurturing than others; quite okay and good for you
figuring out what you need!

Second, don't make a flash decision about the MS/PhD question.  You are
feeling a bit burned out, so give yourself a chance to regain your
balance before any irrevocable decisions.

That all said, here are some thoughts on the subject.  
The MS vs PhD question really asks what sort of science you want to be
doing.  What do you want out of it?  Where do you think you would like to
be in 10 years?  If you want to run a lab, direct people, and have the
responsibility of the over-arching "big picture", whether in industry or
academe you will probably need a doctorate.  If your biggest buzz comes
out of doing benchwork, and solving problems there, then an MS may be a
good choice. 

The attitude inculcated into us all, that we must run an academic lab and
if we dont, we're a failure, is not only wrong but actually harmful. 
There are a lot of options out there and a lot of ways of doing science. 
Yes there is Industry, which is a lot broader than just that word makes
it sound.  It includes directed research and pure research, small
start-ups and big corporations.   Teaching, policy, government service,
law, lots of other ways and ideas for a PhD to be used.  And, of course,
there is still academic science.   My suggestion to anyone contemplating
this issue is to think long and hard about what is important to you about
doing science,   be open minded about the ways you can do it, and explore
your options with the same thoroughness that you design your experiments.
 Be realistic about your abilities, but DON'T sell yourself short....
women too often do.   Good luck!

speaking for myself,


Susan L Forsburg
Molecular Biology and Virology Laboratory
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
email:  susan_forsburg at
        formerly forsburg at

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