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Offline 511keV

opportunity to get a PhD: risks and rewards
« on: Dec 11, 2010, 12:33 »
I've got a masters degree and I've just about met the experience requirement for the CHP exam.  I'm having a horrible time finding the work I want though, sometimes even being called in to interview for positions I never applied for and that would be a serious step backwards in career progression. 

I've got a job right now on the academic HP side, so one of the benefits is tuition.  I've talked to a few professors about research and I've got no problems there.  The dept is quite eager to get me on board the PhD program. 

Admittedly, I'm hesitant.  If work is this elusive at the masters level, will having Dr in front of my name really change anything?  Is more schooling really going to solve anything?  How often do you interact with PhD level HPs/RPMs/RSOs? 

I appreciate any words of wisdom.  Thanks.

co60slr

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Re: opportunity to get a PhD: risks and rewards
« Reply #1 on: Dec 11, 2010, 12:55 »
I'm having a horrible time finding the work I want...
I've got a job right now on the academic HP side, so one of the benefits is tuition.  I've talked to a few professors about research and I've got no problems there. 

The dept is quite eager to get me on board the PhD program

I appreciate any words of wisdom.
You said them yourself.   Tell me....how can you lose here today?

I've never met anyone that said they "wasted their life continuing their eduction".   And at someone else's expense???

Offline 511keV

Re: opportunity to get a PhD: risks and rewards
« Reply #2 on: Dec 11, 2010, 01:36 »
Fair point, but I would argue opportunity cost.  It seems to me there is a differential for a year of experience vs a year of education.  A simple example is the CHP; a masters degree counts as one year of experience, despite taking two years to complete typically, and the situation is far worse for a PhD (5 to 6 years to complete and only counts as 2 years experience).

If I spend 5 to 6 years at a job that has no real opportunities for career advancement simply so I can go to school for free for a degree that I'm not convinced has enough additional value to justify the time expense; I'm NOT spending 5 to 6 years in a job that is really advancing my career by providing me with the challenges and experiences necessary to really grow as a professional.

Right now, I really only see one clear advantage to having a PhD and that is having a career option for retirement; lecturing at a university.  The other advantage that I hope exists, but am unsure about, is whether that PhD will make finding an ideal job easier or harder than with only a masters.  

If we look at the salary survey for CHPs. . . all CHPs have a mean/median close to about 116,000/year.

CHP with Masters: 111,000 to 121,000 for the different categories.

CHP with PhD: 118,000 to 122,000 for the different categories.  

So at best, about a 7k possible salary difference vs only a masters.  Lets say that remains over the course of a career.  Five years for a PhD fulltime study = five years without earning 111,000 dollars or a loss of half a million in income, to earn an extra 7000 for 35 years (assuming a 40 year career) = 245,000 recovered of the 500,000 lost (admittedly, I've failed to account for the time value of money over a 40 year period, but in general losing 500k today is far worse).




Offline UncaBuffalo

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Re: opportunity to get a PhD: risks and rewards
« Reply #3 on: Dec 11, 2010, 01:41 »
Fair point, but I would argue opportunity cost.  It seems to me there is a differential for a year of experience vs a year of education.  A simple example is the CHP; a masters degree counts as one year of experience, despite taking two years to complete typically, and the situation is far worse for a PhD (5 to 6 years to complete and only counts as 2 years experience).

If I spend 5 to 6 years at a job that has no real opportunities for career advancement simply so I can go to school for free for a degree that I'm not convinced has enough additional value to justify the time expense; I'm NOT spending 5 to 6 years in a job that is really advancing my career by providing me with the challenges and experiences necessary to really grow as a professional.

Right now, I really only see one clear advantage to having a PhD and that is having a career option for retirement; lecturing at a university.  The other advantage that I hope exists, but am unsure about, is whether that PhD will make finding an ideal job easier or harder than with only a masters.  

If we look at the salary survey for CHPs. . . all CHPs have a mean/median close to about 116,000/year.

CHP with Masters: 111,000 to 121,000 for the different categories.

CHP with PhD: 118,000 to 122,000 for the different categories.  

So at best, about a 7k possible salary difference vs only a masters.  Lets say that remains over the course of a career.  Five years for a PhD fulltime study = five years without earning 111,000 dollars or a loss of half a million in income, to earn an extra 7000 for 35 years (assuming a 40 year career) = 245,000 recovered of the 500,000 lost (admittedly, I've failed to account for the time value of money over a 40 year period, but in general losing 500k today is far worse).

I totally agree with your logic.

If all you are worried about is the money AND you can find the job you want now...start working.

If you love school or can't find a job you like...stay in school.

Good luck!  :)


(To answer your original question:  In commercial power, I have only worked with one guy that made a point of putting 'Dr.' in front of his name.  I've worked with several in DOE.  They seem to place more stock in degrees on the DOE side, possibly because the pace is so slow that it's harder to advance solely on ability?)
« Last Edit: Dec 11, 2010, 01:49 by UncaBuffalo »
The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days. -Ray Wylie Hubbard

Offline 511keV

Re: opportunity to get a PhD: risks and rewards
« Reply #4 on: Dec 11, 2010, 01:46 »
To be clear everyone, when I say I almost meet the experience requirement, I've nearly hit 6 years (just a few months to go) at the professional level.  So a lack of experience shouldn't be holding me back from a solid "early career" professional position that I've been seeking.

etm

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Re: opportunity to get a PhD: risks and rewards
« Reply #5 on: Dec 13, 2010, 11:30 »
Before you make a decision, consider what area of health physics you wish to practice.  I've got a MS and my CHP and anything more than that in operational HP and one begins to wonder.  If you want to do any kind of research, then the PhD would be required.  Dosimetry and D&D have different requirements.  Already been pointed out, there isn't a huge salary difference.  Another consideration is your family status -- there is a lot of sacrifice required to get that PhD and a spouse and kids may not be so appreciative. 

Don't need 6 years of professional experience to sit for the exam if your Master's is in a relevant field.  If it isn't, does it really count?

What jobs are you going for?  Given all the positions posted and the many that aren't so readily advertised, not sure why you are having such a problem finding a job.  HPS has more than 50 positions posted this morning. Might be time to look at your resume again.  What I have noticed in reviewing a lot of resumes is that there is little field application.  If you got that, make sure that your resume reflects that and your answers to interview questions can back you up.

Offline 511keV

Re: opportunity to get a PhD: risks and rewards
« Reply #6 on: Dec 14, 2010, 06:19 »
You posed several good questions.  As for HP, my goal was to approach it PM style and go after big projects.  D&D type stuff seemed to be a sure thing on old units with the nuclear renaissance providing new reactors.  Obviously, the economy has changed the game quite a bit. 

Which leads to why I have trouble finding work.  I wish I knew, because I'd correct it.  During my masters (in the recession), career services spent a huge amount of time and money on those of us that were struggling to find work.  I had 4 resume formats (on-campus, off-campus chronological, off-campus internet/search engine, and off-campus "functional") and the school had hired a consultant to work with all of us and make sure our resumes were perfect.  Net result: I still have unemployed friends.  I'm one of the lucky ones to have found work (after a long difficult search).





 


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