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Questions regarding Online MSc in Philosophy at Edinburgh


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I am in my senior year of philosophy at an online college. I've been thinking about studying a masters degree in philosophy, but for the near future (2-3 years) my only options would be online (there is nothing around and I cannot relocate). What do you think about Edinburgh's MSc in Epistemology, Ethics and Mind? Is this a good option if I want to apply to a PhD program after said period, at what point I'd be able to relocate? 

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Hi, @JesusFdz

What are your long-term goals?

I saw elsewhere that you were thinking of going into philosophy in order to teach.

I hate to be the Donny downer, but you realize that this is not the kind of thing you just go into. Teaching jobs that pay more than rent, clothing, and food are hard to come by. If you go into a PhD program, you need to accept the possibility that you never get more than an adjunct position. Adjunct pay right now is somewhere between $1,600 and $3,000 per class (from where I have seen in large metro areas/big state universities, not cities like NYC, LA or Chicago). That means if you teach two classes at one "well-paying" school at $2500 each and two classes at another "average" school for $2000 each, you're looking at a very full load (probably 120 students), and only making $9,000 a semester, or $18,000 per year (not including summers).

Anyone who aspires to a PhD needs to have the absolute determination that you will consider it worthwhile to complete, even if you don't get the tenure track job. Setting aside 6-10 years of your life making low income must be worth it to you for other reasons than becoming a professor.

As for MA programs, don't pay for a program. I think you said you can do tuition assistance via GI bill. I dunno how that works, especially for international stuff.

As for Edinburgh, I have had friends go to Edinburgh in different departments. All of them were happy there in person. I have no idea what you'd expect in doing remote work.

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Thank you for the reply and thank you for the honesty. Contrary to many other people, I actually like "Donny downers" and hate condescending answers. My long-term goal is to attain a professional education in philosophy and have a job where I can directly apply it, whether it be in academe, a think tank, or elsewhere. The adjunct pay does seem horrible, but believe it or not I'm still debating with myself. I just thought that maybe there was some "in between". I always understood the tenure-track as an unrealistic dream for me (perhaps for anybody at this point). At the same time, I realize that $18,000 a year is low enough to make anybody absolutely regret their life decisions, and I'm not naive enough to believe that my passion for philosophy is enough to compensate for a marginal material life. I mean come on, the way things work nowadays?

Anyways, my hope was to find somewhere in the middle, maybe a position that did not come with all the advantages and prestige of tenure but also did not fall into the apparent inhuman conditions of adjunct life. From what I've read so far, I guess that middle ground doesn't exist. There's the successful .01% and the frustrated rest. Isn't that beautiful?

I didn't mention it, but I won't have to pay for an MA, regardless of its cost. Would it still not make sense to earn an MA? Now, add the online factor to it.

I feel like I'm the embodiment of every single issue with pursuing academic philosophy haha.

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@JesusFdz I hold an AS in Busn Mgmt from a brick-n-mortar school, three [3]  BAs in Busn Admin, Philosophy, and Religion respectively from a FULLY online school, one [1] MA in Philosophy from a state university, and it appears I am on the verge of beginning a PhD w/funding from a well known Jesuit university.  I believe @Duns Eith has done a superb job of laying it out for you so that you can see the scope of what's ahead of you if you decide to move forward. It is unlikely the landscape for humanities pedagogy is going to become reinvigorated within the next decade, particularly in light of the poor fiscal state of the departments that I envisage as a result of the global pandemic.  But if you will be content with scraping out a living with adjunct work, or even entering an entirely different field upon completion of your graduates degree and perhaps supplementing the income with adjunct work, then indeed, proceed.

Like you, I was looking to Scotland for university.  If you suspect that you'd do well through distance education as I have, then by all means go for it.  Few are able to self motivate in the way necessary for success and as the distance platform requires.  The perfect candidate for Edinburgh's program would be someone who does not require firm deadlines or someone who requires little hand-holding to complete course requirements.  If you go this route because you are suited in this way, well, good for you.  Heck...if you do well and decide to do a Doctorate, the University of Aberdeen has an online option for the PhD in Philosophy!  It's not for everyone, but then again, neither is analytic reflection on the scale of the trained philosopher.  As a caveat, I will concede that the in-person traditional university experience will always be preferable.  I've had much of both.  Best of luck!  

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22 hours ago, JesusFdz said:

Thank you for the reply and thank you for the honesty. Contrary to many other people, I actually like "Donny downers" and hate condescending answers.

You're welcome :)

  In all seriousness, I sometimes wonder if I should've taken warnings a little more seriously. I went into this with eyes wide open as a newly married guy. But now I have a child. And the idea of gainful employment and security increase in their value to me personally each day.

22 hours ago, JesusFdz said:

My long-term goal is to attain a professional education in philosophy and have a job where I can directly apply it, whether it be in academe, a think tank, or elsewhere.

This is doable to some extent with an MA.

There are plenty of applied philosophy programs.

For example, if you're into ethics, there are programs that are intentionally interdisciplinary and geared toward application. Medical humanities, business ethics, engineering ethics, etc. Some are philosophically light, though. You'd have to look deeply into the program's faculty.

Likewise, there are programs in ontology. Some are more philosophically oriented than others. There are some who work in ontologies and the department of defense (see, for example, Barry Smith's work on defining terrorism, an ontology of territory (and borders), as well as information systems. There is a similar program at his school with bioinformatics (information ontologies for healthcare).

Depending on the think tank, I know people who have gone into terminal MAs and gone to help with environmentalist causes, religious causes, etc.

Almost all these options seem to be in-person. But I can't say there aren't any online options.

22 hours ago, JesusFdz said:

The adjunct pay does seem horrible, but believe it or not I'm still debating with myself. I just thought that maybe there was some "in between". I always understood the tenure-track as an unrealistic dream for me (perhaps for anybody at this point). At the same time, I realize that $18,000 a year is low enough to make anybody absolutely regret their life decisions, and I'm not naive enough to believe that my passion for philosophy is enough to compensate for a marginal material life. I mean come on, the way things work nowadays?

Anyways, my hope was to find somewhere in the middle, maybe a position that did not come with all the advantages and prestige of tenure but also did not fall into the apparent inhuman conditions of adjunct life. From what I've read so far, I guess that middle ground doesn't exist. There's the successful .01% and the frustrated rest. Isn't that beautiful?

As my personal plan B or plan C -- I hope to teach on the side even if I have a full-time job elsewhere. There are plenty of opportunities for part-time adjuncting. Community colleges almost always have an open pool for those who have at least 18 credits of at a grad level, with preference to MA and PhD conferred. Not only community colleges, but also smaller schools too.

  

22 hours ago, JesusFdz said:

I didn't mention it, but I won't have to pay for an MA, regardless of its cost. Would it still not make sense to earn an MA? Now, add the online factor to it.

I feel like I'm the embodiment of every single issue with pursuing academic philosophy haha.

That's great to hear.

Except that last sentence, lol.

Edited by Duns Eith
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  • 10 months later...

I know of five people who did this programme: Two are now at Oxford, two went on to the PhD at Edinburgh, and one is at Ohio State. I am however certain that this is not a representative sample (it wouldn’t be for any program).

That Edinburgh is a top 30 global department and accepts from this program into it’s own PhD tells you everything you need to know about its quality. 

As far as I know this is the only distance masters in philosophy at a tip tier university that exists, so they surely get their pick of students looking for this type of content delivery.

Edited by musicdegree4me
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On 4/23/2020 at 2:35 PM, JesusFdz said:

I am in my senior year of philosophy at an online college. I've been thinking about studying a masters degree in philosophy, but for the near future (2-3 years) my only options would be online (there is nothing around and I cannot relocate). What do you think about Edinburgh's MSc in Epistemology, Ethics and Mind? Is this a good option if I want to apply to a PhD program after said period, at what point I'd be able to relocate? 

@Duns Eithhas already given you good advice. To add to the general air of negativity here: if there's something else that you'd like to do, and that you think you'd be good at, it would be preferable to do that if you can. There aren't really many good academic jobs at all in philosophy, more are disappearing every day, our society doesn't much value humanities education, and most public universities in America (the ones where you'd formerly have had a chance of getting a job) are struggling/going to struggle more (especially humanities departments at these institutions), thanks to the economic fallout from COVID and the enrollment cliff. If you're not familiar with the enrollment cliff, this is it. It's bleak. If you're dead set on trying philosophy, plan on doing something else other than teaching after (i.e., career change). This won't be an easy path either.

If you're dead set on doing philosophy, an MA can be a good way to test the waters. My advice: don't do an unfunded MA. It's not a degree that's going to pay off, so it's not worth paying a bunch of money for it. If you can't get into a funded MA in philosophy, then you should probably just go do something else (being very blunt here). I'd also strongly recommend that you not do an online degree. I did my MA, and then COVID hit during the first year of my PhD, so I've gotten the normal in-person grad school experience, as well as the online substitute. Again, to be blunt--doing grad school online sucks. Part of what adds value to a grad program are your interactions with people in your department. You chat with other grad students before seminar, you run into faculty in the hall, etc. You feel like you're part of something. None of that happens if you're doing your education online. I know Edinburgh has a nice reputation, but I still wouldn't do it. Also, I'd imagine that it'd be harder to form the kinds of connections you need to get letters from faculty for PhD applications if you're only interacting online.

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