I'm considering doing a 1-yr MST program and teaching high school for a few years before I do a PhD. Setting aside the cost of the program, is this a bad idea? Reasons I'm considering it are

  • to solidify my interest in doing a PhD (I hope to use weekends to read widely and try to get a better picture of exactly what research topic I'd pursue in a PhD)
  • to leverage teaching skills for when I apply to PhD programs, as well as for when I apply to academic positions
  • in the event I can't get an academic job, I can fall back on high school teaching and will have the credential, since what I ultimately want to do is teach in some capacity (ideally college)

Reasons I'm worried are:

  • my resume will appear "stale" or lacking in direction if I apply to grad school 3-4 years out of undergrad, with a master's already
  • rec. letter writers will forget who I am (I hope to keep in touch)

Is this path common or feasible?

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    What discipline? Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 23:01
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    Don't get a PhD unless you are absolutely sure you want a PhD. Also have a plan for after your PhD. Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 23:17
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    "which is part of my motivation to taking time to figure out if the PhD is for me at all." I don't think spending time as a teacher would help with that at all, no matter how much reading you do on the weekends. Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 23:41

1 Answer 1


You have reason to be concerned about the reasons you give. It is possible to keep in touch. It is also possible to publish some things while you are otherwise working, but it is very difficult.

I doubt that teaching secondary school will give you any advantage in a doctoral program unless it is in a school of Education or in a program that is otherwise focused on producing teachers. Such exist, of course.

You can "fall back" to secondary teaching even without the prior experience, so that doesn't seem to be an advantage.

If your long term goals include a doctorate and you have the means to do so, then I think it is a (big) mistake to put it off unless there are other considerations not raised here.

Most places (not all) the cost of a doctorate is paid in some way. In the US, most students are TAs. In other places there are other arrangements. Also, in the US, you have some time at the start of a program to decide on a specialty.

You lose noting by applying and exploring the options directly, even if you do so in parallel with other possibilities.

But if your goal is really teaching secondary school, then an MST (Master of Science in Teaching) is a good choice.

  • Thanks for the reply. The only other consideration I can think of here is that all the deadlines have passed for PhD applications. And that with the MST I could have public schools open as a fall back, since typically certification is required. But you are probably right that it's better to pursue my first choice first.
    – snailguy23
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 23:07

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