Do I go back and get the terminal degree or not?
I’ve been trying to answer that question for the better part of the last decade. Continuing education is a regular requirement of keeping up the credentials for the job I do. There is an annual requirement, a two year requirement and a five year requirement for CEU’s, clock hours and credit hours. Since receiving my Master’s degree, I don’t even know if I can count all of the hours I’ve earned, or whether it would be possible to put any of them into a sensible sort of order and count them toward a doctorate.
During the course of the past decade, I’ve sat in classrooms and conference rooms in many different places, and have heard lessons taught from different philosophical perspectives. And trust me, there are different philosophies of education out there, and they are, in some cases, polar opposites. From a Christian perspective, and having been trained in a distinctively Christian philosophy of education, I more or less expected to be able to tell the immediate differences between Christian and humanist, or secular philosophy. And that’s pretty obvious most of the time, to the point where some non-Christian educators will make a distinction as well as Christian educators do. The differences between various universities, however, were somewhat surprising. There are some obvious perceptions, but differences in presentation and in outcomes were fascinating. Over the course of two consecutive summers, I attended two different symposiums on learning and brain development, one at Texas A&M, one at Rice University. The two schools are 90 miles apart in distance, but worlds apart in approach and emphasis on this particular subject area. On the other hand, aside from a few doctrinal perspectives, the similarities in the philosophical approach to education between the Southern Baptist seminary I attended, and Moody Bible Institute, where I have attended several seminars and symposiums, are remarkable.
So, at 55 years of age, I am at the point where I need to decide if I want to go for the Ph.D. or leave it alone. At the level I’ve reached, career wise, the advantages of an advanced degree are directly related to salary and benefits, as well as level of responsibility. The disadvantages are that, in Christian education, the advantages are not significantly large enough to compensate for the cost in terms of time and money that it would take to get the degree. Remarkably, there are limited options for distance or on-line education even at the doctoral level, but there are few cost advantages to doing it that way, and I’ve discovered, from previous experience, that on-line learning doesn’t match up well with my personal learning style. I can do it, but I don’t like it. The advanced degree might also open the door to some alternative career options, including moving into the college and university level, but again, from a financial perspective, ten to twelve years of a career in the education field is not going to compensate for the additional cost.
The Pittsburgh area does offer a wider range of possibilities, especially for graduate assistant positions, than most other metro areas of its size. It would take a pay cut to make it happen, but it could be done. So its worth taking a look to see what might develop.
If not, there will still be learning experiences upon learning experiences. Degree or not, keeping up with the pace at which the world is advancing is tough work, and requires staying alert and well trained. It’s either keep learning or experience the growing fear that you don’t have control over where you are and what you do.