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Ph.D. in your 30s?


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Old 2nd August 2011, 2:11 AM   #1
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Ph.D. in your 30s?

I'm very seriously considering returning to grad school for a clinical psychology Ph.D. I'm going to turn 35 in a couple of months and I'll admit I'm pretty daunted by the idea of spending 5+ years in graduate school at this stage of my life versus, say, my mid-twenties.

I'd love to hear from anyone who began a doctoral program in their 30s--about your experience, any hardships you faced or benefits you enjoyed being an "older" student, what it has been like to leave the workforce, and whether on the whole the experience has been positive. It would be helpful also if you mentioned the discipline you pursued / are pursuing.
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Old 2nd August 2011, 3:01 AM   #2
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I don't have my Ph.D., but I can say that all of the people I know who went after theirs started in their 30's. Not sure if that helps.
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Old 2nd August 2011, 3:17 AM   #3
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Yeah, SG, it helps a lot! I keep picturing myself surrounded by 22-year-olds and a couple of token middle-aged people and feeling morbidly lonely for 5 years, not to mention dateless. So to know that starting a Ph.D. in your 30s is not uncommon is a comfort for sure

I also want to retain some of my separate, non-university life...and I know when I was younger and in grad school that was hard for me to do. I want to have some outlets outside the university that I can turn to to keep my feet on the ground throughout the process.
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Old 2nd August 2011, 10:36 AM   #4
 
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Anyway, most in the people in my MS program were in their mid-twenties, I was the one in the early thirties. While those in the PhD programs are late twenties and early thirties.

I do not see why you can't get your PhD, in your thirties.
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Old 2nd August 2011, 10:41 AM   #5
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Not speaking from from my own experience, but I recall a professor I had as an undergrad who didn't even start his BA program until he retired from the Navy as a Master Chief, and was probably 50 by the time he completed his PhD. Guy I went to law school with was in his 60s and was a retired executive. He went on to work in a low-income legal assistance program.

Personally, I love stories like that.
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Old 2nd August 2011, 1:18 PM   #6
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I'm 32 and I'm in my second year of my program for my doctorate in education. Some of my classmates are a bit younger than me (in their late 20s), but I would say that the majority are my age or older.
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Old 2nd August 2011, 5:21 PM   #7
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Also, I'm considering going back to school to get my fifth degree, my MPA/MPP/MPPA, in addition to the AA, BA, MA, and JD I already have. I'm 33, and was told that's a pretty average age for the program I'm looking into. A Ph.D might interest me someday... And by someday, I mean late 40's!!
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Old 2nd August 2011, 6:23 PM   #8
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I was 26 when I started my PhD. Most of my cohort was between 26 and 40. For the younger students, they were coming from BA or MA programs. For myself, my slightly older best friend, and the other people in their 30s, we were coming from within academia but had not recently been students. We were almost always working tangentially with our field too. I don't know how the selection process works for psychology, but would this possibly hurt you?

It was incredibly difficult to keep my "non-university" life going while I was in the PhD program. I was in a very rigorous program and I found that most of the little free time I had was spent with my cohort. The older people were somewhat more successful at keeping outside lives but they found themselves out of the loop within the university itself - it's hard to strike that kind of balance. (By out of the loop, I don't mean about parties and the like. I mean that they didn't form writing groups, or know about workshops, or things like that that were rather vital to our experience because they simply weren't around.)
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Old 2nd August 2011, 6:28 PM   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Star Gazer View Post
Also, I'm considering going back to school to get my fifth degree, my MPA/MPP/MPPA, in addition to the AA, BA, MA, and JD I already have. I'm 33, and was told that's a pretty average age for the program I'm looking into. A Ph.D might interest me someday... And by someday, I mean late 40's!!
A side note, I say go for the MPA. It would be "easy" compared to your JD.
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Old 3rd August 2011, 2:42 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by jerbear View Post
A side note, I say go for the MPA. It would be "easy" compared to your JD.
Scholastically, yes. But when I was in law school, I didn't have a full time job. I'm worried about balancing work and another Masters program, but a handful of my friends have done it while employed, so hopefully I won't die!
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Old 3rd August 2011, 2:53 PM   #11
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GreenCove, have you paid off all your debt and can afford to spend 5 years in a grad program? If not, I would heavily encourage you to be pragmatic considering how many, many students can't afford to pay off their student loan debt since they can't get a job or get a job that pays sufficiently to handle the repayment schedule. It's an ROI issue of education v. debt where there's currently a glut of psych degrees.

That said, you're not too old. Unless people are experiencing alzheimer's, they're never too old to learn.
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Old 5th August 2011, 6:42 AM   #12
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I started my PhD when I was 34, and I have several colleagues my age and some older. No regrets.
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Old 18th August 2011, 5:41 PM   #13
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Sorry for the radio silence; I have had family visiting the past 2+ weeks and so my internet time has been limited. Thank you everyone for the replies. Your encouragement as well as that of people I know IRL has led me to start the process of researching and preparing for doctoral programs. To answer TBF and Sm1tten, I paid off all my school loans 5 or so years ago, and since age 21 I have worked tangentially in the field, with the exception of this past year. So I think I'm good on those fronts....

I've registered for a relevant course for-credit this fall at a university and I've started soliciting input from everyone I've ever known and respected in the field.

I'm looking exclusively at programs that admit a small enough number of doctoral students that they can afford to give them all full fellowships. It's too late in the game for me to apply this winter for admission next fall, but I plan to apply in Dec. '12 for fall '13 admission.

I'll admit it, the blood just drained from my fingers as I realized I will be turning 37 right as I start my program. But really, who cares, right? It is what it is, and surely it's never a bad thing when you finally decide to pursue a path that is true to you, after having spent so long trying to accommodate to people who don't even know how to appreciate it. Heck, there's people who start medical school in their thirties--that's at least 8 years as opposed to 5.

Thanks so much, again, for all the input, guys!
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Old 18th August 2011, 10:07 PM   #14
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Certainly, you're not too old for this! I have a friend who finished law school and passed the Bar just shy of turning 50. I think part of the equation, though, is what is your plan for employment down the road? My friend did not compete with younger law grads, but opened an independent law office (she had been a paralegal for years before law school). Will you be competing with younger PhDs for college level teaching posts? or is that not a concern?
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Old 18th August 2011, 10:14 PM   #15
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A little late to jump in on this thread, but thought I'd add my opinion:

I just turned 30 last month, and I'm finishing up the last few credits of my B.A. Honours. I'll be entering graduate studies for fall 2012. (Hopefully!) I've been going to university full time for the past few years, and I am actually very glad I waited until I was older to start school. I find that compared to many of my classmates I have more strongly formed opinions and am more willing to express them, which in my program is important. My language skills are somewhat more "polished", and I have found my age to actually be beneficial when interacting with professors because I tend to regard them as people who have experience that can help me rather than authority figures.
Good for you for going for your Ph.D. Age is nothing to be concerned about and should not hold you back from academic success!
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