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MS Degree from elite university. PhD from low university worth it?

Longhorns7686Longhorns7686 Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
BACKGROUND:

I received an MS degree from an elite engineering university (Stanford). I then started a PhD at that university but left the program after a job offer. Ever since then I always wanted to work toward a PhD but it was never feasible. I work as an engineer.

My current employer has given me an offer to pay for a Part-Time PhD at a local university while I continue to work for them. The reason is the research project intersects with my current work, so we can basically pick up a PhD while working on the project. Their are a number of other mutual interests between the company and university so it made sense.
Normally a Part-Time PhD is not feasible but my position is unique in which my work will intersect with research, and because I've worked for a number of years, becoming very good at my job such that I can take on another task.

PROBLEM:

The reality is that the only universities near me are low and/or unranked universities. My company has a very good relationship with these universities, allowing for many engineers at the company to work towards a PhD from them on a Part-Time basis. There is no elite university near by, with exception of one. And this elite university, just like most top universities, will not allow a part-time PhD enrollment. So the only feasible option is a PhD at a bottom ranked (or unranked) university.

QUESTIONS:

1) Is it counterproductive to add a PhD to one's resume if the PhD is from a substantially lower ranked (or unranked) university? I wonder if this could hurt my resume...
2) What impression would you get from a professional who had a BS/MS from an elite university but a PhD from a bottom ranked (or unranked) university? It may be more effective not go for a PhD at all, and have my record just have the elite universities on it.
3) Does your final degree erase your prior degrees? Is it considered over the other prior degrees?
4) If you were me, what would you do?

CONCLUSIONS:

I want to do a PhD, and I have no desire to do receive a doctorate from a top ranked elite university. But I would prefer that the university at least be a mid-ranked Top 50 program, or close to that threshold. That fact that the only options are low ranked universities makes me reconsider if this is a worthy pursuit. I would love to hear any opinions on this.

Replies to: MS Degree from elite university. PhD from low university worth it?

  • menloparkmommenloparkmom Registered User Posts: 12,627 Senior Member
    edited April 15
    why do you want a PhD? what do you expect to get out of having one? how is having one going to help you?
    trying to get one on a part time basis could take you almost a decade.
    And the fact is that the last college on your CV is the one that counts the most.
    So If I were you , I'd have to have a REALLY good reason for wanting a Phd, besides just wanting one.
  • MandalorianMandalorian Registered User Posts: 1,754 Senior Member
    ^Raises some excellent points. Having a Master's from an excellent school and a PhD from a mediocre one looks weird for one, like you burned out or something.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 4,543 Senior Member
    Reads as though the PhD program at the low ranked university is pursuing research in furtherance of your employer's mission and that you would have a substantial role in that program. Easy to explain to future employers. Having a PhD can, in many circumstances, add to your credibility if from an accredited university.

    Why not try it. No requirement to complete the degree, and no requirement to publicize it if you prefer not to.
  • ClassicRockerDadClassicRockerDad Registered User Posts: 6,309 Senior Member
    I think you should do it. This is the only way to do a part-time PhD.

    You are already employed. You are already doing research. The time where you could be a full-time graduate student has passed you buy and you have "obligations". In some like DARPA proposals, it helps to put PhD on proposals.

    You have funded research from your company that is synergistic with your dissertation topic so that you can actually complete the thing. Doing a part-time PhD is so hard that I've only seen it completed once, and that person also had synergistic research at our company. Let me tell you that it will still be hard. This is a great opportunity if you want it. I wouldn't give a rats ass about the ranking of the school, but I would make sure that you make the dissertation Stanford quality, try to publish the results, and get as many people to give you feedback as you can. You are going to have to function as a PhD and you want to demonstrate that your contribution to your field is indeed significant and that it's not a mickey mouse degree.

    I think the explanation that you are doing it because you had an opportunity to do it synergistic with work makes you look smart. It's the knowledge of how to do research that the PhD gives you. The degree says that you were successful once.
  • xraymancsxraymancs Forum Champion Graduate School Posts: 4,572 Forum Champion
    I agree with @ClassicRockerDad that if you want to get a Ph.D. and have this opportunity, you should go for it.

    Personally, I dislike the whole notion of "top ranked" Ph.D. institutions. These rankings are usually popularity contests and the ones everyone "knows" are primarily ranked highly because they are known. The US News survey (I have had to fill it out as a Graduate Program Director and Department Chair) is a list of several hundred universities which are supposed to be rates numerically. Frankly, it is impossible to know the quality of every program on the list and give it an objective rating. I have been a faculty member in the Illinois Tech Physics Department for a long time and my Ph.D. students have all had good careers in academia, government labs or industry. Our graduate program is not "top ranked" but every three years we have very strong external review reports from faculty at these "top ranked" programs. I would never dismiss a Ph.D. program as "mediocre" for this reason.

    What you need to consider is whether there is a faculty member at the local university who can properly supervise your dissertation. There are excellent advisors in just about any Ph.D. granting department and that counts a lot. Make sure that your dissertation is publishable and try to get several journal articles published before you finish.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,550 Super Moderator
    Eh, I think this entirely depends on the reasons that you want a PhD and what you intend to get out of it. It sounds as if you have always wanted a PhD for personal reasons, and that having one may or may not make a difference at your current workplace (if it wouldn't make one, I can't imagine why your team would encourage you to go for it). If those are your reasons, then getting a PhD from a low-ranked place won't really hurt you that much. Particularly once you've proven yourself at a job, a lot of times where you get the PhD from is less important than having it.

    The issue may come in if you try to move jobs, especially jobs that require a PhD. I agree with xraymancs that many rankings are dubious in nature; the problem is that many employers (and granting agencies) still do take a variety of them into account when they do hiring. If you are trying to change jobs to one that requires a PhD (or where one would be beneficial, like a research position) then having a low-ranked PhD won't necessarily be detrimental, but it may not make you competitive with applicants who have a better-reputed one. (Then again, not having a PhD at all would mean you weren't as qualified for those positions anyway).

    Personally? I could not fathom going to get a PhD part-time while working full-time just for the heck of it. If I were in a job that didn't require a PhD and I knew I could advance to where I wanted to be without one, then to me the extra time spent doing the work to get the PhD would be a 'waste' given that I could use the time I could spend doing other things - whether they are professional development (more time on work projects; networking; etc.) or personal hobbies. But I say that with the hindsight of someone who has a PhD already. Just imagining the stress that trying to earn a PhD while working in a full-time demanding job would produce makes me feel a little overwhelmed. There's a reason most top programs don't offer part-time PhD programs.

    No, your final degree doesn't erase your prior degrees. How it's considered will depend a lot on the individual hiring manager and the specific job you're applying for.
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