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I've been admitted to a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction program in the USA. However, both my supervisor's research interest and mine are Education Policy. I also want to work in the field of Education Policy after graduation. So, are there any big problems when my program is named Curriculum and Instruction? If yes, how should I do to focus on the Education Policy topic when pursuing that program?

Thank you!

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    Another complication is that in the field of education there are multiple different doctorate degrees. Is the one you have been accepted to a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in Curriculum and Instruction, or is it an EdD (Doctor of Education) in Curriculum and Instruction?
    – shoover
    Dec 26 '21 at 17:09
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    It could make a significant difference what you intend to do with your degree. Do you intend to teach and do research about education policy at a university or thinktank? Or are you planning to work as a schoolteacher or administrator?
    – Buzz
    Dec 26 '21 at 19:47
  • @shoover I have been accepted to the PhD program in Curriculum and Instruction
    – Hung
    Dec 26 '21 at 21:36
  • @Buzz It's early to tell at the moment. However, my main plan is to stay in academia and try to become a professor (do the research and teaching).
    – Hung
    Dec 26 '21 at 21:37
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I have no insight into this degree but my experience is that it does not matter. People will care about what you do and what you have done, not what it’s called.

In addition, there is now a (deplorable IMO) trend to come up with fancy degree names so that graduates of this or that program are differentiated, perhaps giving them an edge in some hypothetical situations: gone are the days of plain old vanilla physics degrees. As a result, there’s considerable public confusion into what a specific degree is. Thankfully, professionals are rarely fooled by this kind of masquerade, so it is highly likely that the actual name will have no impact except if you need to impress someone unfamiliar with your field.

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  • Thanks for your answer. I have concerns about my case because Curriculum and Education Policy is different from each other and both under the "Education" term. If the degree is named "Education", it can cover both the Curriculum and Policy minors.
    – Hung
    Dec 26 '21 at 12:53
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I suspect this may vary between fields, but in my personal experience, the name is completely irrelevant. For instance, my PhD is officially in "Life Sciences", a title as vague as it is meaningless. In reality, my general field is bioinformatics, and my PhD was focused on comparative genomics and evolution of a specific family of genes. In my CV, I say I have a PhD in bioinformatics, and that's how I present myself in real life if it comes up.

This is not lying, it is the honest truth: my PhD is in bioinformatics no matter what it may say on the official diploma. All of my published papers are about bioinformatics, that's what my PhD work was about, and my career has been spent working in this field. My classmates in the PhD program in Life Science I was enrolled in worked on a very wide variety of life science related fields, from molecular biology, through ecology, to bioinformatics. I doubt any of us would describe our PhD as being in Life Sciences, we would all give the specific field we were actually working in since that is what we really have expertise in.

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  • Thank you for your answer! I just have a minor question. Is "Life Sciences" a broad term for "Bioinformatics"? In my case, Curriculum is different from Education Policy, and both of them are under the "Education" term. In other words, a PhD degree named "Education" can cover both Curriculum and Policy minors.
    – Hung
    Dec 26 '21 at 12:51
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    @Hung no, Life Science is a blanket term that would include anything from nursing, through medicine, to pharmacology, biology and all of its subfields etc.. "Life Science" is so broad as to be essentially meaningless. It literally means any remotely scientific discipline that has something to do with living things.
    – terdon
    Dec 26 '21 at 14:20
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I would think carefully about this and talk to several people in your direct field (especially your letter writers, etc.). I think there are disciplines where the exact degree can matter as a signal when on the job market. The reality is that there are 100s of applicants for a position and it is best to come from a well known and clearly aligned program. I know folks who graduated with education policy dissertations in public policy programs and had a tricky time applying to education policy departments. There were just better aligned applicants.

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In the short term it might matter somewhat, but in the long term you are in control.

To have a career in education policy you have to get hired, probably by some school of education or department of education within a school. For some places the specialties will be silo-ed to some (maybe a great) extent, and for those places your initial job would probably have expectations that you can produce in curriculum and instruction. If there are no silos, such as a general department of education, then you might just get hired to produce in education generally.

In the long term, however, if you can get tenured, then you can define pretty much what you do, especially in research, though you may be expected to teach courses outside your specialty, as most people must.

There are, I'm sure, plenty of places that don't have strict subfield silos. If your job search is focused there, then it might not matter at all, either short or long term.

I'm assuming that the general research process in the two fields is pretty much the same: gathering data and using statistics to analyze it. Something similar is likely required to produce good curriculum and to produce good policy. It would be harder if the process were very different, though still not entirely impossible. Math and history are pretty far apart in process for most things.

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