Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I'd rather have a kid than a doctorate. I think.

I went to visiting day at one of the schools I'm applying to yesterday. I'm applying to two programs at the school-- one an MA in counseling and the other a PsyD.  (At a different school I'm applying to an Ed.D.)

One of my HUGE motivating factors in getting a degree in counseling -- whatever that ends up being-- would be to open up a private practice so that I can have a lot of flexibility in my life.  One of the reasons I want so much flexibility is because I want to be able to provide for my (potential future) family while still being able to spend time with them.

After going to the visiting day, hoping it would provide some clarity -- really thinking that I was leaning toward these two programs, but not sure which one-- I now am more conflicted, but finding myself leaning away from these programs and leaning toward the Ed.D.

One the one hand I felt good when the admissions people told me I'd be a good candidate for the PsyD program (This is not true for MOST PsyD programs ... it's complicated, but essentially my academic background isn't in Psych and so most schools wouldn't consider me since I don't have the pre-reqs.  This particular school specializes in adult learners/non-traditional students so their reqs are more flexible-- but it's still accredited & all that.)  I liked the school, I was impressed with the faculty I met & the facilities.

One of the reasons I was originally drawn to the school was because of their flexible program model-- a full day of classes 8am-7pm on Mondays and Tuesdays.  My hope was to continue working Wed-Fri, and it sounded like my workplace would be flexible with that.

Well, after talking to students who were there, it turns out that you have to do 20hours of practicum during the week-- and those are during business hours.  There's really no way to work a traditional office job doing that. The other students I talked to either lived off their loans (Gulp! all $200k of them.) or worked flexible jobs like waitress.  Essentially, that ends up being pocket money/gas money, because there's no way to support yourself on that. A lot of the students had spouses who worked full time and were able to support them.  *sigh*  It's nothing against Jedi... but I know that's not a possibility for us.

Additionally, I realized that even after I would graduate (assuming it took me 5 years, though it takes many students 7 or 8) I'd still have a 6th year of supervised work to get licensed and then at least 5 years of working for the government to pay off loans... That's 12 years from now.  Which would make me 42.  Not exactly prime childbearing years, huh?   Oh, sure, I could have a kid in the middle of doing the program... after all, as another student pointed out, there was a student in her class who was pregnant! With Twins!

Oh god. Kill me now.

Sure, of course it IS possible to do that with kids... but would I want to? NO THANKS. Plus, I know there'd be no way I'd graduate on time if I did that.

(So do the MA, you may be thinking... well, it turns out the MA is not really as flexible as advertised either. Sure, classes are on Tues & Wed... but  you have a practicum on Mondays.... and then the second year you're expected to do the internship full time, during regular working hours.  No way I could keep my job under those circumstances.  The students I spoke to also advised me to do the PsyD over the MA if I chose to do any of the programs.  The MA also requires a full year of supervised internship before being licensed... so essentially 3 years of earning no money)

In the case of both programs the admissions folks and professors were pretty clear that their graduates don't go into private practice in most cases, and those that do do so 10 or 15 years after they start practicing (working for clinics) and have built up a client base.  I.E. Not the flexibility I'm looking for.

I know other people are able to make it work-- my friend supergirl for instance is one of those women who can "have it all." But! She's also a freaking genius, has a husband with a great job and salary, has a 2 previous degrees in Psych, and was able to get a full scholarship + stipend.  I'm really happy for her for all those things-- she made decisions in her life that allowed her to do that.  If I could turn back time I perhaps would go back and get a degree in Psych (which would make me a more attractive candidate, which would potentially mean more scholarship $$) and fall in love with someone who earns good money . But I obviously can't change my undergrad major and I wouldn't change Jedi, because if he hadn't been living with his parents when we met, we never would have met.

So, all that to say, what is the answer?  I'm now thinking that the Ed.D makes the most sense and offers me the most flexibility.  It's a really tough because I think I would really enjoy the PsyD and that I'd be good at it.  If I won the lottery tomorrow and didn't have to worry about money, and could go to school and get a babysitter as needed-- absolutely. And don't they say that's how to measure what you really want?

But at the same time what I really, REALLY want is flexibility and to have a kid (not now, but like 3 years from now... but certainly not 12 years from now.) And for those goals I think the Ed.D might be a better fit.


Elliott said...

Ugh. I give you a ton of credit and respect for actually PLANNING this stuff out. It's so hard to make decisions based on what's best financially and realistically as opposed to just picking what your heart wants most.

I'm an English Ph.D. who had a kid mid-dissertation, so clearly I am not so great at, um, planning. :)

Did you visit the Ed.D. program yet? How did that one feel? Is there any way you could do practicum for the psych programs on weekends, or perhaps work Thurs-Sat. at your current job? I know that's basically signing up to work your butt off, but it's just a year, and you'd have Jedi to help you with the stuff-of-life at home.

Hypatia said...

I haven't visited the Ed.D program yet, but I have talked to some students. It's pretty much what I expected-- it doesn't blow my sock off, but it's a solid program.

I was pleasantly surprised with the rigor of the PsyD program and the quality of it. (I mean, I know it's accredited, but their website left me with hesitation.)

I asked about the practicum being flexible-- they said no and that it's during regular work hours (though some can go later -- like to 7-- but it's still necessary to be there during the day.)

If it was just one year, I could totally do that... but it's class on Monday & Tuesday (for a total of SEVEN classes in the week) + 20 hours of practicum... and that's for FOUR years. After that there's an internship (regular 8-5 hours) and after that there's a post-doc year to get licensed. So, essentially 6 unflexible years.

And then, the only way (I can see) to pay off my loans is to work for the NHSC with a 5 year commitment. I could have a kid THEN, but it certainly wouldn't be flexible. You only get 12 weeks off-- more than that and you get penalized severely... (I looked into it.)