GoalJanuary 1, 2007
[This post has been backdated to put it the proper order sequentially. It was actually written sometime in early 2007.]
Originally, I was intending (thinking it necessary) to get a B.S. in Physics, followed by a Masters in Physics or Astronomy and then maybe a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. I have since learned that Masters and Doctoral paths are not necessarily linear. They are two different paths to professional life (although some Ph.D. programs grant you a M.S. partway through – that is not quite the same thing). A Master’s degree is not necessarily less-prestigious than a doctoral degree (and for many jobs it is much more useful/valuable), but a Ph.D. grants a much-better chance at landing a research position or a job at a university (teaching or researching or both), my current goal. The disadvantage, of course, is that a Master’s can be pulled off in two years (or even one, if you like pain). A Ph.D. will almost never be pulled off in less than five years and usually even longer (average for astrophysics is 7 years, I understand). But even as a graduate student working towards a Ph.D. I will, by definition, be doing research, so it will be a good experience either way. Of course, the beauty of it all is that, although I do have family obligations to keep, I do not have to worry about income, so no needing to hold a steady job while trying to pull off all this graduate work. Even if it does not help me speed things up, it should reduce some stress. I also do not, technically, need to get a B.S. in Physics – I already have an engineering degree which is sufficient qualification to enter GMU’s (at least) grad program (along with good GRE scores, etc.), but I will probably stick with it at this point – it should get me good recommendations, if nothing else. Time will tell, since my earliest graduation date is Spring 2008 in any case (and more likely Fall ’08 or Spring ’09).