1. Why did you decide to get your doctorate?
I knew that earning the degree would give me new career opportunities, but I didn’t realize just how many. Initially, I just wanted to be able to teach college. I found out later that teaching in higher ed was just the beginning. More than anything else, I like research, but I didn’t really know where to begin. I had some background in research from my Master’s program, but I wanted to learn more. This was the intrinsic motivation that got me through it. This is a really important question that you should ask yourself before embarking on a three to five year journey into the world of academia. Sure, you’ll probably get a raise and students will think it’s “cool” that they have a Dr. as a teacher, but those are generally extrinsic motivators.
2. What is your degree?
My degree is a Ph.D. in Education. Officially, it’s called Instructional Management and Leadership, which essentially is a fancy way of saying education. At first thought, I wanted to get my Ph.D. in Literary Criticism. My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and my master’s degree is a Master of Education in English, so continuing my English studies seemed like the next logical step. However, when researching degrees, I quickly discovered that the Ph.D. in English wasn’t going to work with my life at the time. Classes for the English degree didn’t work around a full-time teaching schedule.
That’s when I started looking into doctorates in education. These programs are created with the assumption that students are full-time teachers or administrators, so they work around a teacher’s schedule, and they tailor the course study to what you already do, teach. I soon found that this degree was the right choice for me. As much as I love learning English, teaching English is my niche. I wanted to conduct research about teaching English, not English itself. Catch the difference? Here’s an example: researching zoomorphism in Of Mice and Men sounds interesting, but I’d much rather research ways to make zoomorphism in Of Mice and Men accessible to high schoolers. With this degree, I learned how to focus my research on making teaching more effective, and the result is research-based curriculum resources that can help a whole lot of teachers and students.
3. Was your coursework online, hybrid, or in person, and why?
4. How did you manage the time commitment?
5. What are the writing requirements?
6. What was your dissertation about?
7. What was the defense like?
8. How did you pay for it?
Though I did a ton of research before starting my program, I’m definitely not a financial expert. I can only give you ideas for programs that I looked into, but should definitely look into them too.
- Are there any incentives at your school district? Some districts will pay, or partially pay, for your graduate studies. I suggest checking here first. If they don’t, there are other options, you can look into.
- Will you qualify for the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program? I highly suggest looking to this program. You have to make sure you have the right loans and the meet all of their qualifications. If you do, you can choose an income-based repayment plan, which lowers your monthly payment. Potentially, you could have your balance forgiven after 120 qualifying payments.
- Are there scholarships for students in your program? My cohort’s gift to the university was the creation of an endowed scholarship. Each university is unique, so this pay a factor in which program you choose.
- Are there graduate assistant opportunities at your university? This is how I paid for my Master’s degree. Graduate assistantships often include a full tuition waiver, so it’s worth looking into. Though it is important to note that this was before I started teaching, so I was a full-time student at that point.
9. What are the benefits?