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What looks better on a CV: 2nd Masters or Incomplete PhD (ABD)?


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I'm currently enrolled in an applied math PhD program (I already have an MS in biostatistics).  With the exception of a one-unit special topics seminar, I've fulfilled all the course and qualifying exam requirements.  Now that I'm in the research phase of my program, I'm realizing more and more that research isn't my forte, nor is it something I enjoy doing.  Without the structure of coursework and preparing for exams, I've just been flailing.  If I'm being honest with myself, becoming a instructor/community college professor is what I would enjoy doing most, and TA'ing for the last three years has helped confirm that.

Let's say, hypothetically, I were to leave the program and apply for teaching/instructor positions.  What would be my best course of action?  

If I go the MS route, I stay an extra semester to write a scholarly paper (basically a short literature review of a specific topic) and apply for teaching positions.  Funding isn't an issue since I have a TA-ship.  If I just quit without a 2nd MS, I basically save myself a semester's worth of time and get to solely focus on applying for jobs.  I guess my main question is, which path do you think makes me more desirable to prospective community college hiring committees if there's any difference at all?  Below are some other pros and cons I would also take into consideration.  

2nd MS Pros:

1) Makes last three years feel less like they were a waste of time (i.e. less cognitive dissonance) and 2) adds another degree to my CV

2nd MS Cons:

1) Ignores fact that I was in a PhD program and completed all but dissertation essentially 2) has a lot of overlap with my first MS

Any help or insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated.  Btw, I hope this is the appropriate forum for posting; if not, I would greatly appreciate if you moved it accordingly.  

 

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Being ABD counts for nothing, especially if it's never followed up with a PhD. Students put it on their CVs when they're applying for jobs to indicate that they're job market-ready, and will have the PhD in hand by the start date. But it isn't a credential, and shouldn't go on your CV if that's where your studies left off. At best, academic employers will think you're unprofessional; at worst, they'll feel duped and hold it against you. Non-academic employers, on the other hand, won't give it any credit or credence. So, if the options are MS or ABD, then an MS is the way to go. An MS is a real credential, and one you'll have earned--the only hitch being that it's redundant if you've already got one in the same subject. If that's the case, then a second one won't make you any more competitive.

Community college jobs are increasingly going to people with PhDs. I don't know how widespread this is in math yet, but it may be worth factoring into your decision. What you should probably do is spend some time going through recent community college job ads and talking to/emailing people currently working at community colleges to get their take on their hiring practices.

Edited by maxhgns
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Assuming that you will still be funded for the next semester, I would just complete the second MS (since it's not in the exact same field as your previous Masters) and apply for jobs while you're wrapping things up. That way, you can put the MS on your resume and it doesn't look like you have a 3-year employment gap. Additionally, I presume that you worked as a TA (or RA?) during your PhD, so you can reframe it as work experience on your resume (either as something like "Graduate Student Instructor" or "Research Assistant," whichever is applicable).

You don't have to fall for the "sunk cost" fallacy. There's nothing wrong with leaving a PhD program -- a lot of people realize that the research life is not for them and leave as ABD, and they go on to have great, fulfilling careers afterwards. In fact, some people who *do* finish the PhD go on to become lecturers or professors at community colleges, because they determined that they love teaching but absolutely hate research! Your mileage may vary. If you have difficulty letting it go, then perhaps speak with a counselor who can help you come to terms with it.

 

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Thank you for the response, AMTS.  The points you make make a lot of sense.  I haven't completely ruled out staying, but I already know if I do, it'll be not just a struggle, but a drawn-out torturous process.  I'm still debating whether I want to go through with it.  And yes, talking to a counselor is a good idea.  I'll be making an appointment today.

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Are there any alumni of your program that you can talk to that teach at a community college? I feel like they would be able to give you a better understanding of how difficult it may be to secure a full-time teaching position with only a master's degree.  My guess is it varies by the local market.

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ABD is not a degree. If you don't get the second masters, you're leaving a lot on the table in terms of your qualifications in pure mathematics.

I would say in the choice between a degree (even a second MS) and no degree, you go with the degree.

I also second the recommendations that it will likely be very difficult to secure a full-time teaching position with a masters. I know plenty of people with PhDs struggling on the job market, even with years of full-time teaching experience.

If you have an "in" at a local CC that you're targeting in particular, ask what they would prefer.

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Thank you for all your replies.  The clear answer is to leave with a degree, even if it is somewhat redundant.  

It's interesting you bring up the points regarding the difficulty securing a full-time position.  In fact, this is one of the reasons I decided to enroll in a PhD program in the first place.  If I'm being realistic, all of this boils down to two choices: finish the program in order to have a decent shot at my dream job or leave the program with a second masters and settle for part-time adjunct positions and/or an office job.  Kinda depressing.

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