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Hi All,

I find myself paralyzed by the prospect of selecting a graduate program before even applying to a single program! Crazy, I know! Nevertheless, I'd greatly appreciate strategies, wisdom, or anecdotes from anyone who has considered planning for a masters and a doctorate. Thank you so much!

Some context -- For the last couple years, I have planned to go for a MPH in environmental health, followed immediately by a PhD in medical anthropology. I decided on that order, hoping the MPH would buy my some time to explore other PhD tracks, and give me a stronger skillset and more refined research interests to bring to a PhD program. Haven't questioned that plan until now. I was just happy to have a plan. However, now that SOPHAS has opened up for MPH programs beginning in 2017, I am getting cold feet!

I am questioning the "traditional" order I planned to pursue these degrees (i.e. MPH, then PhD) and struggle to prioritize the factors that are most important to me in either program:

  • affordability (the specter that haunts us all),
  • program quality (judged by the school's national rank + research productivity),
  • and ability to specialize in my area of interest (judged by curriculum variety/flexibility + faculty's areas of research)

I am confident that I can get into attractive, "top-ranked" MPH programs. However, I know rank isn't everything and that there are "smarter" (read "less expensive" and "quicker") ways to go about earning the degrees I want, even if that means choosing a less attractive MPH program. For example, perhaps applying to a MPH/PhD dual-degree program will make it easier to fund my MPH. I've read other forums on this site that recommended starting a PhD, earning candidacy, leaving to do the MPH, then returning to the PhD. Maybe I should go part-time for my masters and work for a few more years before going back for a doctorate--who knows!

I tend to overthink large decisions and would be ready to admit that's at play here, but I am confident there are plenty of ways to pursue my goals with merits of their own that I have not considered before. I will say that mentors who know my interests have encouraged my to earn both degrees as soon as possible, and that feels right to me.

So in the hopes of gaining more opinions--here we are!

Thanks again,

K.

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