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This is my first post.

I found The Grad Cafe by searching Google for topics pertaining to graduate programs that do not require the GRE (to which I was directed to the following topic): 

And I must say that I was very intrigued. However, given my current difficult situation I am now somewhat more concerned and/or perplexed as to how deep this rabbit hole I currently seem to be in is going. But before anyone gets too confused by my own confusion let me explain my situation (and I apologize in advance for being long winded).

I have a BA in philosophy, currently work 2 jobs (7 days/week; it just turned out that way and I can't afford to quit one of them b/c then I wouldn't be able to make ends meet), and I want to go back to school to do some sort of advanced education. Now originally, my goal was to do graduate work in philosophy (this was my plan while in undergrad). However, I did my undergrad online at the University of Illinois and at the time I didn't know that grad school required the GRE, that there are no online philosophy programs, that philosophy professor jobs are few and far between (very competitive), and that if I was accepted into a program somewhere I would likely get stuck in adjunct faculty forever (at least this is my current belief - correct my if you believe I'm off the mark). So I became discouraged.

These discoveries lead me to question of changing majors (I currently work part time for a grant funded program at a JC and have thought about counseling or psych). But then that line of thinking opened up an entirely new Pandora's box. Master's degrees often require the applicant to have taken the prerequisite courses in order to even apply (such as switching from philosophy to psychology) and if I have to take pre-reqs it would likely take me 3-4 years just to do so, in order to start applying for Master's programs that are different than my current discipline (since I'm trying to support myself and keep my current $55k debt in good standing while keeping a roof over my head).

But in doing some of this research I also discovered that some Masters programs don't require the GRE. In thinking about the potential of applying to one, or more, of these programs I have now opened up yet another Pandora's box (a box inside of a box inside of a box, it seems) b/c I am now faced with the question of where I want to wind up. That is, what major am I going to switch to and why am I switching to that major? What job will I be hoping to get after switching majors? Is that path reasonable? Is that job one that I will be happy with? What majors should I even consider and why? What will that life look like? [I was a small business owner for many years and, in a way, all of this future decision making is super stressful].

Anyways, these are really such huge life questions and I'm not expecting any ground-breaking answers (though that would be nice) but right now I'm faced with not knowing where to turn. I feel like I need help from a counselor of some kind. Someone who knows all the ins-and-outs of online programs and who could guide me in a general direction given my current needs. I should mention that right now I am on an income based repayment plan for my student loans, and I fear that as soon as I do my taxes for 2015 the DOE is going to start sending me a bill every month (this is not to mention the fact that I really need to get out of working these two jobs but feel totally stuck). My ideal situation would be to quit one of my jobs, work the better one part-time while doing an online program somewhere (since I can't really see how doing an in person program would be cost effective for me; How could I afford to move/live etc?). 

So my questions to the forum are the following: 

1. If you can relate in any way what advice do you have? 

2. Does the GRE really matter that much in terms of finding a good job? 

3. What non-GRE online schools are good, if any?

4. As I don't really know what career I should head toward now, what should I do?

I feel like I'm in a very stuck place. I had a career, the economy crashed, I bounced around from low paying job to lowing paying job, and I now need to make an important decision that will set me up for years to come. In short, I'm stressed out! And I don't really know where to turn. If anyone can help I would be immensely grateful.

median

p.s. - The career options I have been keeping on the table are ones that pertain to philosophy, teaching/education, counseling, social work, or educational counseling. However, I'm still undecided at this point since so many times one cannot know if they really want to have a specific career until they have the facts about what that career looks like from the inside (day to day, etc). I guess in general I just need help finding my way. 

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Given your situation, I would first put all my effort into bettering my employment situation. Once that is stable and you're not working 7 days a week, then you can spend time trying to figure out what you want to do for a career. Right now, there are way too many options for anyone to really be able to help you pick a career. One thing that could help is doing informational interviews with people in those careers to find out what a day in their life looks like and what steps they would recommend you take to pursue a career in that area.

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The GRE is just a multiple-choice test that some grad schools use for admission or funding decisions. It becomes useless once you are accepted. Unless you have severe test anxiety or can't afford $150 (both of which are possible and nothing to be ashamed of), I don't see why you don't want to take it. 

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On 2/26/2016 at 1:26 AM, ExponentialDecay said:

The GRE is just a multiple-choice test that some grad schools use for admission or funding decisions. It becomes useless once you are accepted. Unless you have severe test anxiety or can't afford $150 (both of which are possible and nothing to be ashamed of), I don't see why you don't want to take it. 

I'm not opposed to taking the GRE. I just need time to prepare, since doing poorly on it might mean not getting into a good school (at least that's the thought currently).

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I think the GRE should not be on your mind right now at all. You need to figure out what you want to do with your life, as a first step, and that might take a while because I think rising_star makes a very good point that you need to be in a better place occupationally before you can really afford to think this through and make a decision. Once you have a better grasp of your long-term goal, then you can break it up into more actionable goals, including taking the GRE, if necessary. But first you need to do such things as decide what kind of job you want to have post-degree, where you might want to live, what schools will give you the best chances of getting there, and what requirements they have of applicants. If at that point it becomes clear that the GRE is required, then you study for it and take it. But I don't think this is something that should happen until a lot more of the actual thinking and planning has happened, and that could take a while.

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I agree with rising_star and fuzzy that I think it's more important to decide on what you want as your goals first and then take the GRE if that is necessary for your goals. To answer your original four questions:

On 2/24/2016 at 10:10 AM, median said:

1. If you can relate in any way what advice do you have? 

2. Does the GRE really matter that much in terms of finding a good job? 

3. What non-GRE online schools are good, if any?

4. As I don't really know what career I should head toward now, what should I do?

1. I think you are on the right track in your original post about finding out more about these potential career paths. My advice is to first continue working to get yourself in a more stable financial situation. It sounds like you have a lot of debt from your BA and I don't think seeking an advanced degree just for the sake of seeking an advanced degree is a good idea. I know this is not what you're doing, since you are doing a lot of research into what degree programs exist, so I would encourage you to continue doing that. Once you find some programs that interest you, then you can evaluate things like the cost and whether the job opportunities that come out of the degree are worth it. 

However, your first post seems to be very strongly seeking non-GRE programs, and I don't think this is a good approach to grad school. You should find the programs that provide the opportunities you want and that you decide is worth the cost. Then, you should look at the requirements and decide if you can meet them. I don't think going in the other direction is a good idea---don't just attend a program because you can get in, attend a program because it meets your needs!

2. No, the GRE itself doesn't matter in helping you get a job, it does matter to help you get into most graduate programs which can lead to better jobs.

3. In my field, there are no good schools that do not require the General GRE (for now) and there are no good schools that are online. But I know your field is different than mine, so maybe these exist in your field. I get the sense that for most graduate programs though, there are currently very few good programs that are online---most of graduate education still happens at "brick and mortar" schools because a lot of the education is the exposure and interactions you have by being "in residence" with the faculty and your colleagues. 

4. Similar to #1, I think you should do a lot more research on what careers interest you. Do you know anyone in any of the careers you're interested in? Also, I think it's worth the time to just reach out to people working in these fields where you live. Tell them that you are interested in studying to become X and if you could buy them a coffee and chat about how they got to their position and what their job is like. Some people call these "informational interviews". Many people might be too busy and say no or ignore you but that's okay---keep trying and someone will say yes. 

Also, to your latest question:

37 minutes ago, median said:

I'm not opposed to taking the GRE. I just need time to prepare, since doing poorly on it might mean not getting into a good school (at least that's the thought currently).

It sounds like you are searching for non-GRE programs because you are afraid of doing badly and not getting into a good school? But as I said above, most good schools will require the GRE, so I don't think this is a good line of reasoning. If you need time to prepare for the GRE then definitely take the time. To me, it sounds like you will need some time to figure out what career path you want to aim for. You may need other pre-requisites anyways (as you mentioned in your post) so if you are taking undergraduate level courses first, then I would not take the GRE until you are ready to apply to Masters or other graduate programs. Remember, the GRE scores are only valid for 5 years. Just in case you didn't already know, as an example, if you want to apply to programs starting in Fall 2018, then you would be applying during the months of November 2017 to January 2018. The General GRE is offered almost every day in major cities, but the spots do fill up fast in the fall, so I would recommend taking the exam some time in summer of the year you are applying (e.g. Summer 2017 if you are starting grad school in Fall 2018). You can take the exam about once per month so doing it early means you can retake it if necessary. Just some helpful timelines to think about once you are at the stage where you start applying to grad schools.

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1 hour ago, median said:

I'm not opposed to taking the GRE. I just need time to prepare, since doing poorly on it might mean not getting into a good school (at least that's the thought currently).

The only way a school would know your score is if you send it to them. So, if you bomb the test, you can opt out of sending it to the GRE-optional places, and as for the GRE-required schools, you'd be no worse off than where you started.

You definitely have about 15 things you need to sort out before you even think about the GRE, but I'm just dispelling some misconceptions.

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I'd start with talking to your friends and acquaintances. Who do you know working in the career areas that you're interested in? If you don't know any, try asking around to see who has connections. Find out about their qualifications, their routes into their career and how they feel about their job. Hunt around online for the fora where specialists talk/vent about their work (as just one example: reading The Chronicle of Higher Educations' forum on academia is a must for anybody interested in academic careers). 

As others have said, hold off on the grad school/online program thoughts until you've got a better idea of what you want to do.  If you really want to go for online courses, be sure to vet them very carefully: you don't want to waste your money on a paper mill university that no employer will value. 

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Thank you all so much for the awesome advice and thoughts. I am SO appreciative that I found The Grad Cafe. 

The big elephant in the room that I have been struggling with for a long time now was the huge surprise I received when I was doing my undergrad and began asking questions regarding doing graduate work in philosophy and working toward seeking a professorship/college teaching career. To my dismay, I have been told by many staff that "there are no jobs in philosophy", "It's very competitive and hard to get in", and that "even if you did get a job you'd get stuck doing adjunct forever b/c 70+% of college teachers are now adjunct due to budget cuts". As you can imagine, I was crushed. Now some have said, "But you don't know the future! Follow your dreams anyways and something will come up for you." The problem is they don't realize that I did that "follow your dreams" thing for a very long time, 15+ years in the music business (playing, recording, touring, etc), and it didn't work out. And so naturally I'm afraid to fail again, except this time be much older with less options. 

I very much love philosophy and would really like to teach at even the JC level but the path to getting there seems really difficult. Just last week I searched for philosophy professor jobs (of all kinds) and could only find about 10 or so nationwide. Now it could be that I just wasn't looking in the right places but given what I have been told by my professors at the University of Illinois, as well as other friends at other schools, I'm hesitant. And that hesitation has now brought me to thinking about switching majors and doing graduate work somewhere else, except with that thought change has also come a lot of confusion, frustration, and sadness (at times, not all the time). 

The thing I find to be correct is the idea that I need to have an end goal in mind, but what is so frustrating is that I did have goals in mind and was working toward them (at least twice) only to find out they are not feasible. But maybe I'm wrong about the philosophy teaching stuff and need to be corrected? Maybe I'm thinking about it wrong? I'm actually find with studying for the GRE and taking it, and I'm fine with pushing toward going to school in person as opposed to online, it's just that I need a reasonable goal to work toward that I am actually passionate and driven about. Right now that is philosophy. 

Your thoughts?

 

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I think this program might be a right fit for you: https://mcgill.ca/psychiatry/education/graduate-program

It is a funded program and Dr. Ian Gold deals with philosophy and neuroscience (if that interests you in anyway). You would be able to continue with a PhD at McGill or pursue a career in philosophy after. You do not need GRE and this would be a good transition program that would allow you to go from studying theoretical philosophy to applied philosophy.

GRE would give you a wider variety of programs that you can apply to but if you do not think you want to pursue it at this very moment, l would look into programs under faculty of education as well. 

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I think there is a time to "follow your dreams" and there is a time to get realistic.  I am not sure how old you are currently - but you might be phasing into the time to get realistic part of your life especially given that your employment is not too stable at the moment and I assuming that you don't have a spouse/significant other/family member that is going to financially support you for the rest of your life.  

Since there are a lot of jobs that you find interesting from your original post - "philosophy, teaching/education, counseling, social work, or educational counseling" -- I would start exploring the ones where there are more jobs available and are going to give you a high enough salary to meet your standard of living (whatever that is). Based on that, I would rule out philosophy professor given that the market is terrible and a philosophy PhD is long - 5+ years.  Also philosophy professors don't just teach - they primarily do research, sit on committees, mentor students, etc.  Instead, I would look into K-12 teaching or school counseling - both are jobs that you can do with a master's and are much more plentiful than trying to secure a philosophy professorship.  Perhaps see if you can get a non-teaching job in a K-12 school to see if you like the environment and talk to teachers to see how they feel about their jobs.

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31 minutes ago, median said:

Thank you all so much for the awesome advice and thoughts. I am SO appreciative that I found The Grad Cafe. 

The big elephant in the room that I have been struggling with for a long time now was the huge surprise I received when I was doing my undergrad and began asking questions regarding doing graduate work in philosophy and working toward seeking a professorship/college teaching career. To my dismay, I have been told by many staff that "there are no jobs in philosophy", "It's very competitive and hard to get in", and that "even if you did get a job you'd get stuck doing adjunct forever b/c 70+% of college teachers are now adjunct due to budget cuts". As you can imagine, I was crushed. Now some have said, "But you don't know the future! Follow your dreams anyways and something will come up for you." The problem is they don't realize that I did that "follow your dreams" thing for a very long time, 15+ years in the music business (playing, recording, touring, etc), and it didn't work out. And so naturally I'm afraid to fail again, except this time be much older with less options. 

I very much love philosophy and would really like to teach at even the JC level but the path to getting there seems really difficult. Just last week I searched for philosophy professor jobs (of all kinds) and could only find about 10 or so nationwide. Now it could be that I just wasn't looking in the right places but given what I have been told by my professors at the University of Illinois, as well as other friends at other schools, I'm hesitant. And that hesitation has now brought me to thinking about switching majors and doing graduate work somewhere else, except with that thought change has also come a lot of confusion, frustration, and sadness (at times, not all the time). 

The thing I find to be correct is the idea that I need to have an end goal in mind, but what is so frustrating is that I did have goals in mind and was working toward them (at least twice) only to find out they are not feasible. But maybe I'm wrong about the philosophy teaching stuff and need to be corrected? Maybe I'm thinking about it wrong? I'm actually find with studying for the GRE and taking it, and I'm fine with pushing toward going to school in person as opposed to online, it's just that I need a reasonable goal to work toward that I am actually passionate and driven about. Right now that is philosophy. 

Your thoughts?

 

I can't speak to the field of philosophy specifically but I want to say that this is true for most academic fields. The numbers for people who start graduate school and end up on a tenure tracked professorship is very low, something like 10% or maybe even less. 

If one views the only purpose of a PhD in X is to become a professor in X, then I think the above advice does apply. It's important to realise that anyone's chances of success for this single career outcome is very low. A professor may graduate tens of students during their career but the field may only grow by a factor of a few during this time. PhD programs create many more graduates than there are positions to fill. This is because PhD programs don't solely exist to create more professors. They are meant to train graduates in a set of scholarly skills that will be useful in society or other work. 

So, I understand why your school said these things to you when you indicated your goal of a career as a professor. If that is your only reason to go to grad school, I think that is pretty risky, since the chances are slim. It's up to you whether or not it's worth the risk.

Personally, it took me awhile to be fully confident in my decision to go to grad school in my field. Ultimately, I am comfortable with the decision because I have more than one career goal and all of them either requires a PhD in my field or my chances would be greatly improved with a PhD in my field. After thinking about what I want and researching potential career paths, I learned that no matter what happens, getting a PhD moves me closer to all of my goals. That's how I decided that the investment in a PhD would be worth it for me in the long run. 

So, this is what I meant by thinking about what you want. Okay, so you know you want to be a professor in Philosophy. That's a great goal to have. But is the reward of this potential worth the risk of potentially not attaining it? If so, then go for it! If not, then think about what else you want. What other goals would a PhD fulfill? Think about all of your alternative options (non-PhD or other PhD programs) too. Out of all your options, which ones will get you closer to what you want out of life, and which ones are worth the risk?

---

Finally, you said you looked at philosophy jobs and only found 10. Again, philosophy is not my field so maybe this is a difference between fields thing. I just want to say that (at least in my field) academic jobs don't work the same way as non-academic jobs and you can't seek job postings in the same manner! Here are some differences (again, based on my field and trying to extrapolate to others):

1. Jobs aren't usually well advertised. Often, they are only advertised in your national society (e.g. the American Physics Society)'s jobs bulletin or members-only publication. Or, they are advertised in obscure places on each department's website. If you just search the University-wide jobs opening, you won't find professorships listed there. You have to look at each department individually.

2. There is a "cycle" to academic jobs. In my field, faculty job postings usually appear in the fall/early winter and then decisions are made over spring/summer, and then the new faculty often starts one year after they are hired. So, right now, it's past the season for most jobs so I'd expect to see very few faculty searches still active at this time.

3. But, at some places, faculty searches are always happening. I know that my department puts up a search every single year but they only hire when they find someone they really like. So, the number of postings is not necessarily equal to the number of positions actually available. Many schools will have applications open even if they are likely not going to hire, because they don't want to miss a superstar that happens to be applying in their non-hiring year. 

4. Also, at other places, job postings only appear once they already have someone they want to hire in mind. This is different to what I said above because lots of places do things differently! Sometimes, (more so for teaching-only or research-only positions than faculty, so I hear) will only officially start a search once they know they can fill it with someone they want. So, they will often start quiet searches where they use their network to find out people who are interested and start looking for good candidates. Once they found at least one strong candidate that is interested in applying, they'll officially begin the search. They may end up hiring one of their original candidate(s) or they might find someone even better. For places that can afford to conduct searches every year just in case someone good pops up, then #3 above might happen more often but a lot of other places won't be able to always commit the many people-hours necessary to conduct a search unless they know they will get something worthwhile out of it.

My point here is that it is hard to really research what job opportunities are available when you are on the "outside". Right now, you may not have access to the information channels where jobs are announced and you may be looking either in the wrong places or at the wrong time. Of course, it's still worth looking for each of the careers you're interested in, but keep in mind that you may be missing a bunch of information. So, I would suggest you augment your own research by talking to people in the fields you want to work in. Like I suggested above, "information interviews" can be a very good way to get information on the process of attaining a position in your desired career path.

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6 hours ago, median said:

I very much love philosophy and would really like to teach at even the JC level but the path to getting there seems really difficult. Just last week I searched for philosophy professor jobs (of all kinds) and could only find about 10 or so nationwide. Now it could be that I just wasn't looking in the right places but given what I have been told by my professors at the University of Illinois, as well as other friends at other schools, I'm hesitant. And that hesitation has now brought me to thinking about switching majors and doing graduate work somewhere else, except with that thought change has also come a lot of confusion, frustration, and sadness (at times, not all the time). 

The thing I find to be correct is the idea that I need to have an end goal in mind, but what is so frustrating is that I did have goals in mind and was working toward them (at least twice) only to find out they are not feasible. But maybe I'm wrong about the philosophy teaching stuff and need to be corrected? Maybe I'm thinking about it wrong? I'm actually find with studying for the GRE and taking it, and I'm fine with pushing toward going to school in person as opposed to online, it's just that I need a reasonable goal to work toward that I am actually passionate and driven about. Right now that is philosophy. 

Realistically, professorship jobs in philosophy are hard to get, even in lower ranked institutions. There is no guarantee that you'll get one, even if you are the very best in your field, it really is that competitive. So going down a path that trains you only to become a university professor might set you up for a lot of heartache. That is something to keep in mind and be very realistic about. Now, you could still choose to do a PhD in philosophy, but I would do it keeping in mind that you might need to end up with other jobs. I would research what philosophy alums end up doing, if it's not an academic job, and I would ask myself if those seem like jobs you'd want to have. Some universities give out that information, if you do a little legwork. This is something that is definitely worth knowing. Once in school, I think you'd want to actively pursue opportunities to make yourself marketable outside the academic job market. So, take internships, courses or certificates that train you to do non-academic things of your choosing, go to networking events, and be very strategic about it. I am not necessarily telling you not to do a degree in philosophy (though, I do want to say that you should only do a funded degree!), but I do think you want to seriously think about the post-degree job prospects of your degree, beyond the university professor option. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 3/1/2016 at 8:42 AM, median said:

I very much love philosophy and would really like to teach at even the JC level but the path to getting there seems really difficult. Just last week I searched for philosophy professor jobs (of all kinds) and could only find about 10 or so nationwide. Now it could be that I just wasn't looking in the right places but given what I have been told by my professors at the University of Illinois, as well as other friends at other schools, I'm hesitant. And that hesitation has now brought me to thinking about switching majors and doing graduate work somewhere else, except with that thought change has also come a lot of confusion, frustration, and sadness (at times, not all the time). 

Your instincts, and the things you have learned, are correct: the academic job market in philosophy is terrible. While I'm sure there are more than 10 or so positions, there are far more applicants than there are positions, and it's not uncommon for a position in a small out-of-the-way town at a small college to get 200+ applications. Positions that are more desirable - either because of the school or the location - can get far more. I read a short rejection letter someone had posted in a humanities field - I do believe it was philosophy - and the position had gotten over 300 applications IIRC (but I can't find it on the web).

So, I think that aspiring to be a professor of philosophy, even at a junior college, is a bit like aspiring to be a successful artist or musician. There are lots of different ways to do that. A very, very few hit it big and get a record deal or worldwide fame and showings at prestigious galleries; some are able to find full-time commercial work doing art for businesses or recording commercial jingles or working as a session singer; and some go to other fields (or become the quintessential "starving artist.")

That said, I don't think that means you shouldn't do it.

Now, let me be frank. I only think you should train and prepare for an academic career - particularly in the humanities - if you have a deep yearning and passion for the career of a professor. Like if you feel like teaching and scholarship in philosophy is one of the few things that brings you joy and you feel utterly unsuited to life in any other career. Some experience working other kinds of jobs would be better at helping you identify this. Really, I'm one of those people who's in the camp of "only do a PhD if you really can't imagine yourself being happy doing anything else," although others might disagree. Honestly, I have one, and I don't think I would do it again given what I know now about myself and about the field.

That said, somebody has to get those jobs, and that somebody could be you. And if you have a really strong desire and are willing to put in the work AND you have your eyes wide open and realize that the odds are against you and are preparing a Plan B, then you might decide that this is an acceptable risk for you to take. The idea of spending 6-8 years studying philosophy as a doctoral student might sound wonderful to you, and you might welcome that stage in your life even if you don't end up as a professor at the end.

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A bit of practical advice. Philosophy is very prestige-driven at all levels. The Philosophy forum here does a good job explaining this, as do a few philosophy admissions blogs (which I also recommend you research), but to summate, the overwhelming majority of TT and respectable NTT jobs go to PhDs from the elite schools, and the overwhelming majority of PhD spots at elite schools go to graduates of elite undergrad and sometimes masters programs. We're talking, like, 1:20 odds here. With that in mind, an online master's program that doesn't require the GRE probably isn't going to cut it. If you're gonna make a serious attempt, you're probably going to have to sacrifice and go brick and mortar, full-time, expect to move around the country, etc. I don't know how feasible that is for you.

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