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I currently teach part-time at a Canadian technical college. Over the past few years I've applied to full professorship openings in my department, while they require at least a masters degree preference is given to PhDs.

Each time I've been beaten out by PhD applicants, including those who are fresh out of school, and upon speaking with HR they've said that there is a lot of pressure on them to hire PhDs, and that if I have any PhD even loosely related to my field then they'd be happy to make me a full time offer.

Taking 4-6 years off of my academic career, and my full-time work seems like it would be a huge set back, and a huge financial burden. But, I can't seem to find any part-time or distance education PhD's that do provide funding/research funding/TA work.

I thought I'd see if anyone here has any insights or advice?

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The MA glass ceiling is real.

I can't talk specifically to the situation at a Canadian technical college, but the same thing happens in the DC policy world I work in. A lot of think tanks and policy shops have researchers with years of experience who can't get promoted above a certain point that is practically entry level for incoming PhDs. Some places are starting to address this, recognizing that a PhD is not better than years of successful research experience, but it's still a wide-spread phenomenon.

So, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out you don't have any recourse. If anything it's likely to be a harder ceiling since you're actually at an academic institution.

As for whether taking the time off to do a PhD is worth it, which I think is the root of your question? That's hard to answer. You could run down some hypothetical bullet points:

  • If I did the PhD, and then got the SAME job at the same pay after, would it still be worth it? That is, would the accomplishment on its own be gratifying?
  • If I did the PhD, and then got a better job but no more money, would it still be worth it? That is, would getting through that glass ceiling be enough of a motivator?
  • How much more money would I expect to make after my PhD, and how much money would I be giving up by leaving the job market for 4-6 years, and would I be coming out ahead? Also account for whether you can get funding for your PhD or would have to self-fund it all. In other words, the pure economics of it (you say it would be a financial burden, but that's not necessarily so in the long run).
  • All other things aside, am I willing to make the sacrifices necessary? You would likely have to temporarily give up lots of things to do this, like having disposable income and the ability to relax on nights and weekends. If you have a family that can be a hard adjustment, though lots of people do it, myself included.

Good luck! My overarching piece of advice would be that if you're not passionate for the subject you shouldn't do a PhD in it. But if you can tick that box off, the rest is up to your preferences.

  • Really appreciate the thought out answer. I guess the root of my question is if it is worth it, but also the affordability of it. Given those I have to support living on a grad student budget could be challenging which is why I've been hoping to find a part-time PhD that still has funding so I could work a bit as well. Good points on asking if its worth it given what job I'd get afterwards. I'd certainly love the job security of full-time! – A. Alias Oct 31 '16 at 15:05
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    If your family will give you the moral support to take the pay cut, I'd say go full time, in person, with a TAship. In the U.S. you'd qualify for lots of stuff, such as free or reduced lunch (and possibly breakfast) for children in school, "scholarships" for extracurriculars such as soccer. Don't know if Canada is similar in this regard. – aparente001 Nov 1 '16 at 2:45
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    To add to what aparente001 said, my university has a bunch of programs for students-with-children, including reduced-price child care, swap-meets (where people can donate gently-used clothing/child accessories like strollers and whatnot), work-life grants (basically a boost to your TA stipend), and so on. Before applying to schools, check out what they offer in these areas. – tonysdg Nov 1 '16 at 14:00
  • Thanks - helpful tips. I didn't know there were so many types of support systems out there. – A. Alias Nov 2 '16 at 17:29
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Taking 4-6 years off of my academic career, and my full-time work seems like it would be a huge set back, and a huge financial burden. But, I can't seem to find any part-time or distance education PhD's that do provide funding/research funding/TA work.

If you have published in your field of expertise, you could compile publications that come around a common theme into a thesis for a PhD by publication.

Saves you the career break and make the most of your work so far.

  • From what I've seen this is extremely rarely granded and the few programs that do (nearly all in the UK) are more aimed at awarding PhD's to their long time staff who have a track-record of publication. Doesn't seem to be many for outside sources. – A. Alias Nov 2 '16 at 17:28

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