Jobs, graduate school, etc.

Elizabeth Becker 541-6970 (BECKER%SSIDW1@RCC.RTI.ORG)
Thu, 9 Jun 1994 10:14:26 -0400

Hello, Anthropologists.

The recent discussion on job opportunities has prompted me to come out of
my lurking stance. I have been very interested in reading other people's
opinions and thoughts on this topic, especially since one of the reasons
I joined this list is because I'm considering going back to graduate school
again for a Ph.D. in Educational Anthropology (somewhere).

Anyway, just to put a new twist on the discussion. . . I have a Master's
in Special Education (and managed to retain an anthropologically-oriented
tone througout grad school). I taught for a few years, and then got offered
a job with a not-for profit company that does mostly contract research.
We often joke that we are "research prostitutes" and it's really true;
give us money and we'll research it. Sometimes I've worked on projects that
are at least tangentially related to my areas of interest. More often,
however, I work on whatever project needs a warm body. For instance,
I just finished working on a project that focused on postsecondary financial
aid. It was a multi-million dollar large scale survey and in no way related
to anything I'm remotely interested in. So. We become methodologists.
The problem, it seems, in working for companies like mine is that if you
ONLY have a Master's degree, you will never rise to a position where you
can call your own shots. Instead, you will always do the grunt work (e.g.
project accounting--YUK!) for project directors with Ph.D.s. I've been
told a number of times that I'm extremely talented and that the sky's the
limit for me here. However, when it comes right down to it, my duties, and
the duties of others in the office with only Master's tend to require more
persistance than brains. The person with the most clout has a Ph.D. in
English (she also has an encyclopedic knowledge of vocational rehab), and
others have just as far-flung degrees. So, over the last few years I've
realized that if I ever want to be in a decision-making position, I too
will need a Ph.D. (Also, though, I really miss the academic world).
I figure that I might as well do it in an area in which
I am also very interested, even if I don't get to use it here. Then, if I
keep my eyes and ears open I might get a job at a university someday and
can then teach and concentrate on my interest areas (which, contrary to
the focus of my job, tend toward contributing-to-the knowledge-base and let's-

Anyway, I suspect that this post sounds a whole lot more cynical than I mean
it to. One point that I was trying to make was that just having a Ph.D.
can really open doors, even if you find yourself in a career for which you
have little training. I guess that's sort of a utilitarian view of things.

All Best.

Elizabeth Becker
Research Triangle Institute