Academia or "Hello there, Dr. Germy"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

While I was in MTY in October, I went to talk with one of my absolute favorite teachers of all time. One of the few "role models" I encountered at my Uni, he was a prime example of responsibility, intelligence, respect, great attitude, good physical height and he wasn't too shabby in the looks department. Definitely my fave.

Chatting up with him, I mentioned that getting a Masters was one of my future goals, primarily because I wanted to someday become a University teacher. It's something I have been pondering for a while now. I was a lab instructor for an entire semester right before I graduated, and it was an enlightening and rewarding experience. I actually liked helping stuck-up kids learn new stuff. Whenever it seemed I was actually getting through to them, it felt really good. Cool. Plus, you just can't beat the vacation time you get as a teacher, haha.

Anyways, my "role model" teacher told me that if I wanted to seriously become a university teacher in the future, I would most probably need to go for a PhD, aside from my Masters. Wow. I had never really considered that idea. I'm not sure I want to spend that much time back in school in the future. But the idea seems exciting. At least to ponder. To actually contribute to knowledge. Neat.

Getting a masters and a PhD are two very different things. Granted, it depends on the degree and the school, but this is what Germy found out in one of my patented "5 min Google searches": getting a masters degree means you want to know more about a certain area of knowledge (i.e. software development, wireless communication systems, law, criminal psychology, 18th Century British poetry, etc). It's like college, but much more focused and specific. You actually can end up doing research (depending on the nature of the degree), but that's not always necessary. The programs last from 1 to 3 years usually (full-time), depending on the area.

Getting a PhD means you're interested in actually contributing to an area of knowledge, which means you will primarily do original research to extend knowledge in your field. They last anywhere from 3 to 6 years.

Want to know more? There is a fantastic PDF by Mor Harchol-Balter called Applying to Ph.D. Programs in Computer Science. Yes, it's for CS PhD hopefuls, but the first part talks about what a PhD rally is and why you would want to earn one. Fascinating.

After reading it, it made me think a lot about what it is I wanted out of graduate school. Part of me would love to go the Humanities route and study theater or literature and do it just for fun. Another part of me wants to get better training in software engineering and become better in that field and also gain qualifications to become a teacher. But I just don't think a PhD is for me. Luckily, I have plenty of time to think about it, I don't want to go back to school anytime soon, haha... I'm having a splendid time right now. And cheers to that. ;-)

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