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Sociology of Doubt


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Hey Forum,

I am a new Soc. grad student and I need some advice. I am having a tremendous amount of doubt about my decision to pursue this study. I guess somewhere along the way I lost interest in research, and am feeling bored/stressed/unhappy with this program at my university, which will remain nameless (for now). I should say that I fully realize how common this feeling is...hell, there are plenty of studies proving the commonality of this sentiment. At any rate, I think the time off I took after undergrad proved that what makes me happy is working with my hands, and I may have been fooling myself all along thinking that Sociology would make me happy... I guess I felt obligated to continue with Soc., or otherwise feel like my BA doesn't mean anything. Confounding my confusion is that I am a funded student, meaning that this degree will come at little cost to me (just loans for living expenses). Is it stupid to throw that away? I know I don't want to be an educator, so is an MA in Sociology useless for me?

Summary: I am a new Soc grad student, and I have realized that Sociology is not that interesting to me as it once was. Advice?

Much love and gratitude,


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First off, funding should not be a factor. There are still opportunity costs and the potential cost to your psyche of enduring in a situation that doesn't make you happy or satisfy you.

I've seen a lot of graduate students persevere feeling like you (both as a fellow student and as a faculty member) for all sorts of reasons - inertia, uncertainty, the need to "prove" themselves, etc. What I've found is it's the people who are willing to quit and cut their losses that are the happiest. Sure, there's a chance that this is just a slump and you'll get over it and decide that sociology is your passion. I will say that the first year causes a tremendous amount of uncertainly in a lot of students because the sociology of graduate programs (and sociology as a discipline) is quite different from the undergraduate sociology classes that turned students on to the discipline in the first place. But, the further that you go into debt with student loans or put off what you'd really like to do, the more unhappy you'll be.

If you were my student, I would recommend that you get that MA. It is just one more year. It lets you explore whether you feel differently when you get to explore your own interests and to get another degree under your belt. If you're in a department that doesn't offer a terminal masters, it would be ideal if you can find an ally who you can tell that you've decided to do this and who might help you tailor your MA thesis to something that would enhance post-MA job/education prospects and who you can talk to about what you'll be doing next. I realize that students are scared to admit to faculty that they feel this way or that they have aspirations other than academia, but faculty ultimately want you to succeed and be happy (and they don't want you taking years of their funding if you're not passionate about it).

Good luck to you!

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Thank you SO much for the thoughtful response. It is a truly helpful answer, and perhaps the best advice I have been given from anyone. It is a terminal MA program, and most graduates go on to PhD programs at other institutions. I think you make an excellent point that it is only one more year (well, 1.5 more years) which will be a sufficient amount of time to help me figure things out. I think that even if after the program I go in a completely opposite direction, it is a small loss of time in the big scheme of things.

I will take your advice and seek out a faculty member to discuss strategies for researching things now that can get me a job in the future outside of the discipline.

At any rate, I want you to know that I am extremely grateful for your answer. I am confident you will have some good karma coming your way for offering me a helping hand. THANKS!!



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Just to add my two cents - there are lots of think tank, research firms, etc. that will gladly hire someone with a MA in sociology and with solid research skills - think Brookings, AIR, RAND, Urban Institute, etc.

Like other posters, I suggest you stick it out. Use the opportunity to take classes you wouldn't otherwise have taken if you were bent on getting a doctoral degree - audit language classes, check out other disciplines etc. Bone up on your statistical programming skills if you really want an edge in the job market after you finish.

And like an encouraging professor once told me - don't worry, you have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do! :)

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