Well, Dear Readers, I've decided to go with Plan B. No, not that Plan B. Plan A was to get a philosophy PhD and then get a job teaching philosophy (that's the highly abridged version, btw). I've been working at Plan A for some time now, yet have decided to switch to Plan B. Plan B is to work with animals, most likely as a veterinary technician, and preferably in a veterinary hospital, veterinary specialist, a shelter or in a research lab (i.e., a lab working on vet drugs, not a lab testing human drugs on animals).
A number of factors went into this decision; I'll just do a brain dump here.
- Time: It will take a long time to get the PhD. I'm working on a MA part-time now; that will take a couple of years. The PhD takes 5 years, at a minimum. We're looking at at least 8 years before I can look for a job. Edited to add: If we take into consideration the speed at which I've been progressing, we're looking at >8 years.
- Financial: My MA is self-funded. One course = $2,500. I have to take 8 or 10 courses for the MA. At 8 courses, that's $20,000. (The PhD programs are generally funded; it's unwise to pay for a PhD yourself, unless you have $100,000 to spare; job prospects and pay are not so good as to warrant taking on $100,000 in loans).
- Job market: As mentioned above, there are quite a few more candidates than there are jobs.
- Qualification: Because the job market is so tight, I could expect that most and best jobs go to graduates of the top institutions. Most people use The Philosophical Gourmet Report's ranking of PhD departments. (There are certainly disagreements about The Report.) So I'd want to be a graduate of a top institution. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to get into 3 institutions on the Report's list of the approximately 50 top departments. Unfortunately, all the offers were unfunded. I don't expect that I will do any better in the future; i.e., I think that's the closest I will get to securing a funded PhD position.
- Chance: I've often read/heard people talk about the role of chance in philosophy PhD graduate admissions and job hiring. E.g., I've heard the former described as a 'crapshoot', a 'roll of the dice', etc. I have no idea how much chance has played a role in my experience, if at all, but I'll put it out there as something the possibility of which I would need to accept if I were to continue.
- Personality: I'm not sure I'm a good fit for academic philosophy. I sense an atmosphere of competitiveness; I think I'm ill-suited to such an environment. I'm quite content competing with myself; I have no interest in competing with others. Years ago, in my corporate life, one Big Shot Exec asked Another Big Shot Exec (they had very different styles) if they thought the firm benefits more from competition between employees or cooperation between employees. Another Big Shot Exec was quite certain that competition was more beneficial (and that was reflected in his style), while One Big Shot Exec was quite certain it was cooperation (and that was reflected in her style). I agree with the latter and, fortunately, I was working for her at the time. I'd much rather work with someone else as opposed to compete against them. There has been some discussion about the field's atmosphere, so let me be explicit about:
- My comments reflect my experiences and perceptions only.
- My comments do not describe the entire field, departments, sub-departments, etc. To be sure, there are great collaborations in the field. And I have met many wonderful people; some have been exceedingly helpful and generous with their time and advice; others are perpetually interesting; some are flat out just great people; and many are all kinds of good things put together.
- So, while I am delighted to note the very positive experiences I have had these last few years, I must also admit that I do not feel as comfortable as I would like to feel, especially if I'm going to be doing this for the rest of my life.
- Bottom line re: these caveats: It's not you, it's me.
- Fun: The fun parts, for me, are reading and thinking about stuff (which is basically done alone) and talking with other people. I do not imagine myself enjoying certain other responsibilities of the academic philosopher. It's a rare person who enjoys every aspect of their job, however, I think that working at the less enjoyable aspects within an environment to which I am not well-suited is a recipe for significant and recurring unhappiness. I don't need/want that. I think I may be better suited to the life of an armchair philosopher, rather than an academic philosopher.
As to why go into veterinary work:
- Time: It will take approximately 2 years to complete 70 credits (see here for one program's curriculum). There are a lot of courses, but most are <2 credits. Also, some programs are online (see the linked curriculum). NJ has two vet tech programs. One is at Camden Community College. That would be really far to drive on a regular basis and, sorry Camden people, but Camden is, shall we say, less friendly than optimal, so I wouldn't go there for personal safety reasons. The other one is at Bergen Community College. That's also a bit of a haul to drive on a to and through a very congested area on a regular basis. True, I used to drive to classes before a couple of times a week, but I imagine that drive was much simpler than the drive to Bergen. Now, IIUC, the program there is some kind of joint program with other county colleges, including the county I live in. They probably offer some of the requisite courses there and that's about a half hour drive away. Thing is, the Bergen program has probational accreditation and that makes me a little nervous. I'm totally open to going to school online. The program at Purdue looks interesting. Now, they do say that online students typically take longer to complete the program bc they're working full-time and/or have family obligations (probably why they chose to do it online in the first place), but I don't think those factors are as significant for me as it is for others. And I'll guess that I have any humanities requirements well covered.
- Financial: Well, I thought it would be less expensive than a philosophy MA, but 70 credits at $255 each = $17,850. Hmmph. I certainly expect to be able to work more while following the online program so that should help financially.
- Job Market: Excellent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Earnings aren't great, but a) they're more than I'd make as an unemployed philosopher (although some have found other ways of making a living); b) I live in one of the highest paying areas of the country so I'll earn toward the higher end; and c) if I specialize (which I expect I'll want to do, maybe oncology), I'll earn more.
- Qualification: I really don't expect to have much problem completing the program. I hope I don't end up having to remove both feet from my mouth.
- Personality: I think I'm a good fit for the veterinary field. I'm very comfortable with animals; I like animals and animal people; it strikes me as more of a team effort (note, however, that, as someone pointed out to me, 'There's no team without ME') and I'm very good in cooperative efforts. I've also had the opportunity to be a consumer of advanced and unusual veterinary services, what with the various illnesses of our cats, and I think it's fascinating.
- Fun: I expect that I will enjoy veterinary work more than I would enjoy the life of an academic philosopher. When I imagine myself doing the different types of work, I imagine more enjoyment and reward (which, for me, produces enjoyment) from veterinary work. In fact, I find myself smiling at many prospects. Of course, I could be way off; I hope I'm not.
- Edited to add: Physicality: I like doing stuff with my hands, as readers may have noticed from posts about cooking, knitting, doing stuff around the house, gardening, etc.
Now, this isn't a done deal bc I do need to do some more research on the veterinary side of things. I've done some preliminary research, but I want to make sure I have a complete picture of things before I go hurtling down that path. I do have some misgivings about making this switch, but that's a whole 'nuther post. Right now, I have to have lunch, do some other stuff and head off to work.