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Very lost, help?


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Well I'm here looking for some life advice and I suppose in order to receive it I need to tell you first a bit about my situation.

I graduate with a B.A in philosophy last May. My focus was in continental philosophy, my thesis was on Levinas. I decided to take a year off from school and am currently working a full time job at a non-profit organization. I've enjoyed taking time away from academia, but unsure of what my plans were for 2012 I decided to apply to M.A programs in philosophy. I'm strongly considering Loyola's program, but am fearful of the job prospects after obtaining an M.A or Phd in philosophy. Especially if I'm not 100% committed to teaching. (I think a philosophy is beneficial to plenty of other fields, I'm just not sure if employers feel that way). So there's that concern.

The other concerns I have about going back to school are more personal. A part of me feels like I should continue to work and support myself before I consider going back to school and spend a lot of money. Is the money even worth the degree? Should I work more and try to discover other passions? I'm also not in love with Chicago (mostly the weather). School would certainly involve a break up with a serious partner.

These are the pro's and con's. Do you have any thoughts based upon your own experience in grad school? It seems like everyone I speak with says going back to school for philosophy is a silly idea, but I'm also afraid of passing up on this opportunity.

Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks!!

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I would say first off that you should not let anyone, with the possible (!) exception of your advisors and professors from undergrad, tell you that returning to school to pursue your passion is "silly." It is likely that, as well meaning as this advice may be, it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to live a life of the mind and the rewards such a life brings.

That being said, you are wise to consider the job market, even so early in the process. I have heard that, should you choose not to pursue a teaching position, the view employers will take of your extra degrees depends heavily upon the area of work and the firm itself. Many areas where philosophically-minded individuals thrive require their own form of schooling, such as med school and law school. Becoming an author is also a possibility, but likely just as uncertain as teaching philosophy where steady income is concerned. Worst case scenario, you do not have to mention your higher-level degrees to employers if you do not want to, and if they ask what you have been doing for so long you can always couch your answer in terms of personal growth, problem-solving, research, etc. as these skills translate very well into any environment.

You mention Loyola but it is unclear whether you have already applied or if you are merely considering applying there. If you have already applied, what does the funding situation look like? Do you have any existing debt? Savings?

Many of the questions you ask are particular to your situation itself. Are you the type of person who can easily avoid having a family for the next 7-10 years and focus on personal and professional development, even at the cost of some debt from student loans? Or do you currently have a family, or a situation you would rather not leave?

Without any more information, I suppose I would say there is little harm in attending a funded M.A. Worst case scenario, you will lose out on two years of wages at your current job and chances for promotions and may need to re-calibrate your sights when you enter the job search again. Taking out loans for an MA is a different animal, and is contingent upon your personal finances, your comfort level, and your desire to pursue philosophy for the sake of philosophy.

I will also toss in as a side note that, although I know very little about this, I have heard that continental programs are much harder to find, and that the job market is a little more rough on those from a continental background (at least in the U.S., where most philosophy departments lean heavily toward an analytic approach.)

I may have generated more confusion, but I do hope this helps somewhat.

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