Considering a Ph.D. ?

By Rachael Kroot, January 2014


 

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There comes a time in many master’s students careers when they consider continuing on to PhD. If you asked me about it this time last year, I would have told you “no way.” But over the summer, the idea started to grow in my mind. Call me crazy, but I love school. I always have. So why not keep going? Why not give myself the option of pursuing a career as a professor? Let’s be honest, weathergirls (though I prefer the term broadcast meteorologist) don’t tend to work on air past the age of 50. And, during my last year and a half as a graduate student, I have felt a pull towards research over broadcasting.

I thought about my personal research interests over the summer and decided that if I did get a PhD, I would want to do a dissertation about to the role a host or broadcaster plays in conveying scientific information to the public (and finding the right balance between education and entertainment). I would want my research to be hands on, meaning I would personally create “episodes” of a scientific program to analyze. That would give me complete control over the topic, as well as continued practice in broadcasting.

Based on the above concept, I looked into programs in Science Communication. As it turns out, the only program in the entire world that offers a “PhD in Science Communication” is located in New Zealand. I guess I tend to pick atypical degrees, since I am currently in the only meteorology master’s program in the entire world that allows graduate students to focus on broadcasting. What can I say, I like to be unique!

I emailed some professors at the school in New Zealand who I thought might be interested in my idea. I also emailed some communications schools in the US which I thought might allow me to tailor the degree to suit my needs. While some schools were clearly not the right fit, others expressed great interest. The positive responses I received were an initial boost to my confidence and encouraged me to continue pursuing a PhD.

After my fair share of emails, I visited one school (no, not the one in New Zealand) and spoke on the phone with a professor at another. The conclusion I eventually came to is that although I do have a specific research idea, a PhD may not be the best choice for me at this time. A professor at one school told me that while my idea was worth exploring, it didn’t fit “inside the box” and would likely mean at least an additional year of PhD work to complete. A professor at another school said that I would have to complete two years of coursework before even starting my dissertation research. These additional years of work would be worthwhile if I felt they were helping me reach a goal, but at this point in my life it simply feels like a delay. I think my current goals can be equally met by pursuing entry into the workforce. I am very excited to pursue work as an on-air meteorologist and start gaining practical experience. If I do decide to pursue becoming a professor after I retire from television, I can always go back for a PhD in the future!


About the Author: Rachael Kroot has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and is currently attending graduate school for broadcast meteorology.

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