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    Hi guys,

    I'm here to ask your help and suggestions because I'm really struggling right now. I have a 1st class BEng from Lancaster (tho from what I've read in this forum a first don't mean much these days ) and currently working in a German uni as a research assistant. Unfortunately it's a temporary job

    I'm afraid I might be suited to an academic career (like to work alone, be independent, read, interested in pretty much everything). BUT I've been told over and over that it's a bad career choice because of the low wages AND it takes such a long time to advance. I'm already 24, almost 25. If I do MSc + PhD I will be at least 29/30 by the time I'm in a position to get a post-doc. And I'm a woman, I want babies before I'm too old!!

    I can squeeze it in a bit quicker in the UK because I can try to go straight to PhD. (It's impossible in Germany, you need the Masters, it's a formality). But I don't want to live in the UK anymore, it's so much cheaper in Germany, I pay £230 a month for my own flat, all in!!

    Anyway I'm going a bit off-topic. My question really is: should I waste - Sorry - "invest" another 1/2 years of my life doing an MSc? 1 year MSc would be in the UK, 2 years in Germany (tuition fees are tiny here and there's a good chance of relatively generous funding).

    I don't want to study anymore because I am just so sick of not having any money, not having my own place, moving around, blah blah blah. But I don't know what else to do.

    (I already tried grad schemes of utility companies in the UK, I always fail the ^!£$ management roleplays or group projects or whatever. I'm just not a people person, and I DO NOT want to be a manager or a salesperson!!! My next plan of attack would be an agency - dunno what you guys think of them? Do you know a good one?)

    So basically, long and boring rant/story short. Option 1: just get a job. 2. go for MSc. 3. go back to UK and try to go straight to PhD (but I don't want to be in England anymore)

    I also am in a panic about which subject to study but that's another story altogether.

    Basically, should I just suck it up and be broke for 1 or 2 more years to do an MSc, and/or go back to UK for PhD?? Or is there something I can do in academia with just the Bachelors? Or another type of career that has a similar working environment to academia? Or maybe I'm asking the wrong questions and there's some other option I haven't thought of?

    I am totally on my own here, my supervisor told me not to go into academia because the pay is so low and there's too much competition for jobs so he's not exactly helped me (why do academics try to tell you not to follow in their footsteps!!!)

    Any ideas or advice is appreciated, any guidance, sources of advice I could go to, anything at all. Thanks for reading, please tell me your views!!

    KG
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    (Original post by kilogranules)
    […] I'm here to ask your help and suggestions because I'm really struggling right now. I have a 1st class BEng from Lancaster (tho from what I've read in this forum a first don't mean much these days ) and currently working in a German uni as a research assistant. Unfortunately it's a temporary job

    I'm afraid I might be suited to an academic career (like to work alone, be independent, read, interested in pretty much everything). BUT I've been told over and over that it's a bad career choice because of the low wages AND it takes such a long time to advance. I'm already 24, almost 25. If I do MSc + PhD I will be at least 29/30 by the time I'm in a position to get a post-doc. And I'm a woman, I want babies before I'm too old!!

    I can squeeze it in a bit quicker in the UK because I can try to go straight to PhD. (It's impossible in Germany, you need the Masters, it's a formality). But I don't want to live in the UK anymore, it's so much cheaper in Germany, I pay £230 a month for my own flat, all in!!

    Anyway I'm going a bit off-topic. My question really is: should I waste - Sorry - "invest" another 1/2 years of my life doing an MSc? 1 year MSc would be in the UK, 2 years in Germany (tuition fees are tiny here and there's a good chance of relatively generous funding).

    I don't want to study anymore because I am just so sick of not having any money, not having my own place, moving around, blah blah blah. But I don't know what else to do.

    (I already tried grad schemes of utility companies in the UK, I always fail the ^!£$ management roleplays or group projects or whatever. I'm just not a people person, and I DO NOT want to be a manager or a salesperson!!! My next plan of attack would be an agency - dunno what you guys think of them? Do you know a good one?)

    So basically, long and boring rant/story short. Option 1: just get a job. 2. go for MSc. 3. go back to UK and try to go straight to PhD (but I don't want to be in England anymore)

    I also am in a panic about which subject to study but that's another story altogether.

    Basically, should I just suck it up and be broke for 1 or 2 more years to do an MSc, and/or go back to UK for PhD?? Or is there something I can do in academia with just the Bachelors? Or another type of career that has a similar working environment to academia? Or maybe I'm asking the wrong questions and there's some other option I haven't thought of?

    I am totally on my own here, my supervisor told me not to go into academia because the pay is so low and there's too much competition for jobs so he's not exactly helped me (why do academics try to tell you not to follow in their footsteps!!!) […]
    The best option seems to be to take a masters degree in Germany, then decide whether or not you are suited to a PhD. If you decide you are not you have a first from a great university and a masters degree from one of the best engineering countries in the world; the job market should be for the taking, so to speak. If you do decide to take a PhD, then the time spent in Germany – as well as the research position - will be looked upon favourably by everyone.

    Good luck!
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    I'm 23, soon to be 24, and I too have my heart set on academia. Except for the not having any money thing while studying, I'm excited to be going back to uni to do a MSc! And excited about doing a PhD afterwards! For me, it's about the intellectual freedom within a structured environment to pursue something I'm passionate about for another 4 years. If the thought of 4 years of study is not calling to you, why exactly do you think you would be suited to academia?

    If you decide it does, then you could either do what the previous poster suggested, or investigate other countries that will allow you to enroll in a PhD with a first class - there's a few of them out there.

    Unless you do a PhD you will not get a good position in academia though. You will stay a research assistant, maybe get some casual teaching here and there, etc, but a PhD is an entry prerequisite these days in the 'marketplace' of the university.
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    Reading between the lines , it seems that your motivation to do further study is at least partly because you haven't found a decent job. It sometimes seems that in the absence of achieving the real goal, doing something like another degree puts you back in control of your life. I've found it does to a certain extent but if you would much prefer to work and get paid for it then it many simply cloud your judgement.

    How about a part time/distance learning Masters while you continue to look for that great job that is out there somewhere? This would give you the flexibility to ease off the study when you do find that job and still complete your degree within the six years or whatever.

    Oh and another point for the mix: the German lurve qualifications, certificates and bits of paper....
    Oh and yet another: the Germans recognise professional engineers and they lurve them too...

    TBD
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    People will always warn you about going into academia, it's a long route of study, the job opportunities are limited. Thats all fair enough but you need to ask them "whats the alternative". If there is a great career path laid out for you otherwise, then going into academia is a sacrifice. If its a case of working in low level jobs for the rest of your life then there's no difference anyway except at least in academia you are doing stuff you are interested in.
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    The best win-win option appears to be the Masters in Germany from both a financial and academic standpoint. The soft-skills that you feel make you well suited for academia could also be served well in the world of work once you've gained your qualification. If your tutor is very close to you and knows you personally, it may be a hint that he thinks that your personality actually isn't as suited for academia as you may think. Or he thinks you could enter the world of work and do just as fine, and be paid more and advance much quicker to the best of your abilities. It's fair enough that you feel that your poor performance in certain recruitment exercises may be a red flag. But perhaps some career classes or personal adjustments isn't as much as a price to pay than years more of academia and adjusting to the teaching/research/administrative time-sappers that full-time academic work entails.

    If you want to go on to do a PhD, you've got two assured academic markets for PhD apps (including Germany) if you go for the cheaper German MA. And seeing as you're already working as a research assistant at a German uni, you may be more comfortable in that location academically. It appears that finance is much on your mind and I see no issue, apart from completion time, that would make a German PhD that much more unattractive than a UK one. And it has the added value of being cheaper!

    While a UK PhD may be more attractive with its 3-year stated duration, I've seen more and more PhD students going beyond this 3-year time period. The 3-years may just be the actual research time and a 4th year would be needed for the Abeyance/writing up period; which is a very stressful process as well. If you need to take part-time work during your PhD such as Teaching Duties or other Research Assistantships, it could really eat up into your personal research time further extending those 3 years. So it's something to think about as there are no assurance for time or funding which such a rigid plan. Personally I wouldn't jump into a PhD straight; and at this job market it appears that people are having knee-jerk reactions of running to the safety of academia when they'll have to re-enter the job market years later in anycase. I'm sure just a Masters would suffice if you're in an employment bind and you don't have to go as extreme to apply yourself in achieving a, PhD as well.
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    (Original post by kilogranules)
    (I already tried grad schemes of utility companies in the UK, I always fail the ^!£$ management roleplays or group projects or whatever. I'm just not a people person, and I DO NOT want to be a manager or a salesperson!!!
    tbh, in general, if you want to get anywhere in modern academic science (I presume this is what you want to do) you will need to be a people person. You will not get the best jobs or research grants unless you are known about and have a reputation and part of that process involves talking to people, doing the conference rounds, and generally shouting about how great your work is. I am not big on doing this kind of stuff either but it's just something I've gotten used to doing.
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    Hi guys,

    Thanks for all your helpful replies!

    @evantej - I actually hadn't thought about how Germany is regarded in engineering. But now you mention it, it seems so obvious thanks!

    @goewyn - Working in academia isn't the same as studying... Lecturers/researchers do plenty of other things too... I guess what you mean is that I should be passionate about my subject. Well - ok you got me - I'm not, and I never have been. I am interested in everything (hence I ended up taking the BEng not a "pure" science) and the thought of having to specialise is like being buried alive. Maybe this means I'm not suited to academia, but I was hoping with the new buzz around interdisciplinary research groups I would be able to have a reasonably flexible range of work. But I fully accept the fact that I don't want to specialise may be a deal-breaker, especially when it comes to doing the PhD.

    Which other countries do you know of apart from the UK where you can go straight to PhD??


    @TBD - Yeah, you're right I have absolutely no clue I had thought about part-time study too. But the problem with that is finances - I haven't got any :P if I already had a job and could afford the fees then yes, it could even be fun to do it that way =]

    @MagicNMedicine - that's a logical way of looking at it. You're so right. Thanks.

    @WaltzvWendt - my supervisor here doesn't know me at all. I think he just is resentful of his own choices... In fact my supervisor and my tutor at Lancaster both tried very hard to persuade me to stay for an MSc. You're right about the time, doing the German MSc route would only add an extra 1-2 years on, and it's not like I'll be getting much better paid once I graduate if I stay in academia, right... so I don't need to rush...

    @shiny - Yep!! I'm like you, I can do the people stuff when I have to. Believe me, I have worked on it a LOT over the last few years. But I think it's true that no matter how hard a person works on his or her weak skills, they will never turn into strong skills. I think to really excel a person has got to play to his or her natural strengths (I was inspired by "What colour is your parachute" ).

    Of course you guys are right, academia may not be the right career for me. I'm totally open to options right now. I simply have no gut feel either way, and it's a hard place to be in.

    I could do something totally different - like starting a business or just being a beach bum, maybe a combination of the two.... - but I don't want to be 5 or 10 years down the line living on the breadline looking back and saying "oh god I wasted my life why didn't I do an MSc and get a proper job".

    I guess I'll just plough on with the MSc applications and see what happens... :/

    Thanks again for all your comments, you are much appreciated

    KG
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    (Original post by kilogranules)
    @goewyn - Working in academia isn't the same as studying... Lecturers/researchers do plenty of other things too... I guess what you mean is that I should be passionate about my subject. Well - ok you got me - I'm not, and I never have been. I am interested in everything (hence I ended up taking the BEng not a "pure" science) and the thought of having to specialise is like being buried alive. Maybe this means I'm not suited to academia, but I was hoping with the new buzz around interdisciplinary research groups I would be able to have a reasonably flexible range of work. But I fully accept the fact that I don't want to specialise may be a deal-breaker, especially when it comes to doing the PhD.

    Which other countries do you know of apart from the UK where you can go straight to PhD??
    Hi Kilogranules, I've worked in academia: I'm currently a researcher on an interdisciplinary project, and teaching in the degree I used to study. Research, at least for me at this stage of my career pre further degrees, is somewhat like producing university assignments, except you are generating them for a wider and more critical audience in publishing this work than for just your own lecturer. And of course that you get paid for it, and you don't get to choose the topics/projects until you're more advanced in your career! I love teaching, but it involves knowing your subject through and through, to anticipate questions and issues the students might raise. If you're not passionate about the subject, how could you enjoy the work this involves? Because I love my subject, I've found it an intellectually hugely stimulating experience.

    In terms of interdisciplinary work, the whole point is to bring together different specialists to work on one project so the research outputs reflect different expertise. For example on my current project, we have an architect, a sociologist, two economists, and a designer on the team. So yep, academia is about specialisation. You know the whole point of a PhD is to advance human knowledge slightly forward in the one tiny area in which you are working? And that for a few months or a few years or whatever, you are the foremost expert in the world in that one spot of human knowledge? Its beauty and downfall.

    In Australia you can go straight to a PhD, otherwise I'm gonna let you do the google work to find out where else
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    You can go straight PhD in the US. Though I wouldn't exhaust the majority/plurality of your app money (The app itself + GRE general and sometimes subject tests + Foreign Uni accredation translation services,if applicable). There are a lot of people out-of-work people rolling the dice in this economic climate and a few of my friends have "struck out" last year . But if you have a reasonably competitive app glowing references and a high GRE-score, once you get an acceptance, you usually get free full-funding alongside it too!

    I think Canada lets you apply straight as well.
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    ^^ PhDs in the US are great, but they can take a long time, and have lots of extra course requirements and exams - which can be really annoying if you've been studying 4 or 5 years already and just want to do some ****ing research. Great academic environment though.
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    This is such a romantic review of PhD research that it sounds very tempting, even for a person that prefers practical to theoretical. It think it appeals to ones ego: being the world expert, even in one tiny area is very attractive - for a short time until your supervisor steals credit for your work prior to publication and you tumble into deep depression

    TBD

    (Original post by goewyn)
    You know the whole point of a PhD is to advance human knowledge slightly forward in the one tiny area in which you are working? And that for a few months or a few years or whatever, you are the foremost expert in the world in that one spot of human knowledge?
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    hiya being broke is bad im bored out me head
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    (Original post by TBD)
    This is such a romantic review of PhD research that it sounds very tempting, even for a person that prefers practical to theoretical. It think it appeals to ones ego: being the world expert, even in one tiny area is very attractive - for a short time until your supervisor steals credit for your work prior to publication and you tumble into deep depression

    TBD
    I'm a romantic, what can I say? And one can be as theoretical or applied as one likes/can be in a PhD. Depends on where you want to go and where you set yourself up. My plan is to get a supervisor who does not even write in the area I want to publish in order to pick his/her brain about the stuff I don't know rather than the stuff I do. I can't imagine your sad scenario ever happening in my case. I think people need to be a little savvy and find a supervisor who will be a mentor rather than a competitor...
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    Hi guys,

    just thought I'd update you on my decision - well I've woken up and smelled the coffee / read the writing on the wall which is that academia is just not the right "fit" for me. It was the comment about "what's the alternative" that got me thinking some crazy thoughts. Basically I've given up trying to make a plan (anyone else read Daniel Pink? an American writer who's written some pretty interesting stuff on the "new world of work") - I'll finish my placement in Germany then see what happens. Oh and I'm still learning Modern Greek and doing crochet - these things are equally important to me as how I earn a living. (I read a book on "Scanners" by Barbara Sher, which is about people who are interested in lots of topics, not just one, and it really resonated with me - I've been trying to "find my passion" since I left school without success - well it turns out I've already found mine, and it's called "learning about lots of different stuff, all at the same time". )

    So thanks for all your comments, everyone

    K
 
 
 
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