Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When am I going to be done with grad school?

The archaeology graduate student lab where I spend most of my time.
I think it's time for another grad school-related post. Along with being asked why grad school takes so long, I often also get asked when I'm going to be finished. After 4 1/2 years in graduate school, it's kind of a natural question. To be honest, I ask myself all the time too! The short answer is that I don't know. PhD programs generally don't have a set time schedule, they take as long as they take. The first couple of years are usually much more structured with classes and exams than the later years. In my program, during the first 2 1/2 years you take classes full-time and then take an exam to get your master's degree. After that, there are only suggestions, no hard deadlines, for when you should meet different program requirements. Because research for a doctorate is original, and one often has to learn a new set of skills to do the research, there is no easy way to tell how long it is going to take.

Anthropology, or the social sciences in general, have notoriously long doctorate programs. The natural sciences are generally faster. I think that is because those fields have more funding opportunities. The average time to attain an MA and PhD in my program is about 10 years (and I believe that is faster than many other anthropology programs across the country). I know you're all gasping, but let's just break that down. In my program, that is 2 1/2 years for the master's degree and 7 1/2 years for the PhD. While a little slow, I think that's actually not completely unreasonable. In the natural sciences, I think 6 years is pretty normal for a PhD, and 7 is certainly not unheard of. In many of those programs, you often don't have to get a master's degree, you can just skip to the PhD which is not an option in the social sciences.

So, when am I going to be done? I still don't know, but of course the closer I get the easier it is to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's funny though, some of the hardest work comes at the end of the program: the actual analysis and writing the dissertation. So, the closer I get the more difficult the work becomes and it is still not easy to estimate how much longer I will be here. But, to ease your minds that I will not be spending a decade in graduate school, I'll give you my best estimate: I think I have about two years left, give or take, but please don't hold me to that!

No comments:

Post a Comment