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I have a background in Psychology and Fine Arts. My passion lies with doing scientific research and making art. So ideally I would be able to do both, or use one to support the other. However, I've found that finding a job in the social sciences is pretty difficult, if not impossible without work experience (pretty much a vicious cycle).

But since finding a steady income with a degree in fine arts is even more difficult, I would very much like to provide a steady income for myself by working in the social sciences. I've had countless bad jobs to support myself through both of my degrees, and I don't see myself becoming very happy doing that my whole life.

At this point, I have several options, and I would like some advice on what you think would be the best way of proceeding (the points are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and if you have a better idea, please, do suggest it):

  1. I could further specialize myself: do a masters (or even a PhD) in a field which aligns with my academic and research background. However, this could risk another worthless degree with no job and waste of time and money

  2. I could move to another geographic location, where a degree in my field is in higher demand, get a job and support my other passions.

  3. I could freelance to build experience but this is usually as taxing as a normal job minus job security and pay.

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Could the individuals who voted to close provide some rationale or advice? The question is too localized as it stands, but it probably could be improved to get at the one general quest at its heart. –  Ben Norris Apr 10 '13 at 11:23

4 Answers 4

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The question you have to ask yourself is what is the "opportunity cost" of the different options:

  • You can apply for jobs without first relocating to the new area, if you're willing to spend some money on travel for the interviews before accepting a job.

  • What are the costs of getting a new degree, versus the improved likelihood (if any) of employment with the advanced degree, compared to the lost income while acquiring the degree.

  • Could you make enough money freelancing that you can keep yourself relatively financially stable while you're organizing something else?

I'd certainly think that starting out freelancing while you figure out a "Plan B" would be the logical, low-entry-cost route. After you've done that for a while, you can decide if either of the other routes make more sense for you.

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In general I would counsel against further study. I have seen many people finish an undergraduate degree, look for a job they like/a job, and when they have no luck go back to study. This has almost always ended badly. In most cases they have no understanding of how a further degree will allow them to get the jobs they are interested in, and are merely spending a lot of money to prolong (or make worse) the problem.

If you are incredibly passionate in an area go for it. However the fact that you are posting this/reading this suggests that you are not.

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The advice given by some is misleading. A PhD is psychology is almost always a paid position. So while you may be earning less than you would in industry, you will earn a stipend (albeit often minimal) while you complete your degree. A Masters degree in psychology, on the other hand, is typically paid for out of the student's pocket. If you are interested in doing research, as you say, I would be hesitant to get a Masters unless you are very confident in a specific career path that requires an MA (and not a PhD).

That said, all of the criticisms that others have raised still apply. For social psychology in particular, I would not recommend applying for a PhD without having a decent amount of research experience. Consider applying for a research assistantship at a university. The purpose of this is two-fold. Most importantly, it's to know what you're getting yourself into and make sure you would enjoy doing research full time for several years. Additionally, it greatly improves your application when applying to mid- or top-tier universities. They want to know that you are both capable of doing research and enjoy doing research.

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What you ultimately need to ask is why do you want the MFA, MA or PhD.

For a long time I didn't want these. I saw the MFA as something that many of my friends got with no real objective except to avoid the so-called "real world" and get to stay in a studio as long as they can. I can't do that and it sounds like you can't either.

So then the question is what reason should you get the advanced degree?

The answer is simple: I want to do advanced research in (topic).

If your answer is anything but the above then it isn't for you. So I can teach is not a strong reason for an MFA or PhD. So I can get a higher paying job is not a strong reason for an MFA or PhD. It is a research degree and ultimately that needs to be your reason for pursual.

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