undecided between MS and PhD

C. J. Fuller cjfuller at mindspring.com
Thu Jun 8 07:28:23 EST 2000

In article <393DB9A0.B1BA84FB at ix.netcom.com>, Jane Harper
<jharper at ix.netcom.com> wrote:

>I've been reading this ng for some months with great interest.  I'm a
>second-career person in transition -- I started a PhD in nursing almost
>ten years ago and had to drop out because there's no financial support
>in that discipline.  Now I'm retired disabled from nursing and need to
>retool for another career, and I'm torn between doing an MS in biology
>and getting a job in biotech or finishing up my PhD, only in hard
>neuroscience science rather than in neuroscience nursing (quite a few of
>the courses overlap).  I'm wheelchair-dependent, but that shouldn't
>matter in a lab (or would it?); the greater influence is the fact that
>I'm 48 years old.

Jane-We've had grad students in our program in their 40's and 50's.  When
I was in grad school there was a student in another dept who was over 60. 
Age matters less and less these days.  Particularly in this "full
employment" economy, grad schools who use age as a barrier wind up filling
slots with less qualified students. 

In an ideal world, the wheelchair shouldn't matter in the lab.  The
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed 10 years ago and
(theoretically) public institutions should all be in compliance.  In
reality, the wheelchair may pose a problem.  Most labs are so cluttered
that negotiating a wheelchair through them is risky business, especially
if you use an old fashioned boxy chair as my brother does.  The scooter
types are a little more maneuverable, but it can be hard to get close
enough to the bench to do work without encroaching on another student's 6
square feet of space.  That said, accomodations MUST be made for you in
the lab lest the institution wants an ADA lawsuit on its hands.
>What would you all advise, the MS or the PhD?  Or the MS THEN the PhD? 
>Or will my disability and/or my age make either one exceedingly
My first grad student stopped at an MS.  She now works at NIEHS and almost
singlehandedly runs the DNA microarray lab.  Several other folks on the ng
stopped at MS and are doing well.  Much depends on what you want to do
with your life after the degree.  If you want to go into biotech, probably
an MS is sufficient.  If you want to teach or do independent research, the
PhD is needed.

Good luck!

C.J. Fuller
<mailto:cjfuller at erickson.uncg.edu>
<mailto:cjfuller at mindspring.com>

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