JD or PhD?

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
jacko
Posts: 90
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:00 am

JD or PhD?

Postby jacko » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:31 pm

I was wondering anyone has any advice or has chosen between these career paths and has some insight that they feel would be beneficial, I would love to hear it. Although most of you won't believe this is true, I honestly could see myself doing either of these degrees. In some ways the life of an academic seem appealing, but the pay isn't great and you can't really choose where you get to live. I also feel that I'll probably end up at a crappy college teaching that essentially teaches at the high school level. I can see myself being a lawyer simply because I think that I would be really good at it and I'm the weird individual that likes the type of work performed by attorneys. However, I think that I could get burnt out and tired of doc review.

I'm also the type of candidate that unfortunately, has already paid for an lsat class and scored very well, so based on numbers alone I think I would be accepted into a T15ish school.

Any serious insight would be appreciated.

viking138
Posts: 223
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:55 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby viking138 » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:35 pm

jacko wrote:I was wondering anyone has any advice or has chosen between these career paths and has some insight that they feel would be beneficial, I would love to hear it. Although most of you won't believe this is true, I honestly could see myself doing either of these degrees. In some ways the life of an academic seem appealing, but the pay isn't great and you can't really choose where you get to live. I also feel that I'll probably end up at a crappy college teaching that essentially teaches at the high school level. I can see myself being a lawyer simply because I think that I would be really good at it and I'm the weird individual that likes the type of work performed by attorneys. However, I think that I could get burnt out and tired of doc review.

I'm also the type of candidate that unfortunately, has already paid for an lsat class and scored very well, so based on numbers alone I think I would be accepted into a T15ish school.

Any serious insight would be appreciated.



I'd say it's impossible to decide without knowing what schools. Options for both are very school-dependent.

Why not apply to both and see what options you end up with?

Apple Tree
Posts: 419
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:19 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby Apple Tree » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:48 pm

In what field would you get your PhD? If you were a business major, I would definitely choose PhD. Business professors make 100k+ easy because demand>>>supply. But if you are a LA major, I would suggest JD. Even though the legal field is oversupplied with lawyers now, if you can get into T14, you still have a decent chance of landing a nice paying job. On the other hand, unless you have established distinguished research profile, you will be looking at a 30k-50k job teaching history/philosophy/other la majors at a small college even if you get your PhD from Harvard. I went to a very small liberal arts college, and all the professors teaching la majors have PhDs from Harvard, Brown, Berkeley, etc. I know the starting salary for such teachers is about 35k-40k at my school. Also, it takes longer to get a Phd, and harder because of the amount of research involved.

jacko
Posts: 90
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:00 am

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby jacko » Tue Apr 20, 2010 4:59 pm

I would be getting my PhD. in Political Science. My research interests are political psychology and political socialization. I might try to apply to both but I really can't expect good letters of recommendation when I really don't know what I want to do. My worry is that even with my gpa and presumably good gre scores, I can't really predict whether I would get into a T10 PhD. program because it isn't as numbers based as law school admissions.

singingvontrapp
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Mar 30, 2010 12:53 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby singingvontrapp » Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:15 pm

Getting an academic job is less about where you got your degree than what you did. After all, you are not being evaluated on 3 years of taking courses but on 2 years of course work and 4 to 7 years of independent work, which would include conference presentations, publications, translations, as well as a teaching portfolio.

But a Ph.D. (humanities and social sciences) takes longer, attrition is high, job prospects are pitiful, you cannot choose where you work, you are poor for the rest of your 20s, and you live in constant uncertainty of the future.
Last edited by singingvontrapp on Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jacko
Posts: 90
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:00 am

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby jacko » Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:21 pm

singingvontrapp wrote:But a Ph.D. (humanities and social sciences) takes longer, attribution is high, job prospects are pitiful, you cannot choose where you work, you are poor for the rest of your 20s, and you live in constant uncertainty of the future.


This is exactly why I'm very hesitant to pull the trigger along with the fact that I know I really like political science but I don't know if I truly have a deep passion for it. I know that there will obviously be bias because of the type of poster on this site, but there are also really depressing factors in being a lawyer like astronomical debt (for some), long hours, possibly brain numbing work.

User avatar
lt0826
Posts: 215
Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:58 am

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby lt0826 » Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:49 pm

jacko wrote:I would be getting my PhD. in Political Science. My research interests are political psychology and political socialization. I might try to apply to both but I really can't expect good letters of recommendation when I really don't know what I want to do. My worry is that even with my gpa and presumably good gre scores, I can't really predict whether I would get into a T10 PhD. program because it isn't as numbers based as law school admissions.


I was making the exact same decision and decided law school. There was a lot of overlap in my research interests that could work with a law degree or a poli sci degree. But realistically the academic market is a tough one, and if all else failed I wouldn't mind practicing law. So I figure a JD gives me the most options later. But it can be a more expensive route, as a PhD at a top school is often fully funded.

User avatar
OneKnight
Posts: 429
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:00 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby OneKnight » Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:56 pm

jacko wrote:I would be getting my PhD. in Political Science. My research interests are political psychology and political socialization. I might try to apply to both but I really can't expect good letters of recommendation when I really don't know what I want to do. My worry is that even with my gpa and presumably good gre scores, I can't really predict whether I would get into a T10 PhD. program because it isn't as numbers based as law school admissions.


Bolded is credited.

Also, go to law school if you are really concerned with making money.
That said, if Political Science is truly your passion you should still apply even if you don't go to a top 10 program, unless you are truly troubled by the thought of being solidly middle class for the rest of your life, which is the likely fate of a professor in the social sciences (even those who get tenure!)

User avatar
zabagabe
Posts: 340
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 3:48 am

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby zabagabe » Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:31 pm

Have you considered a joint-degree, and doing both? It's generally easier to get hired in the JD academic market than traditional disciplinary markets, but doing both would give you the compromise of what you're really interested in with a nice exit option if your career prospects in academia don't pan out like you hoped. However, whatever you do, don't pursue a PhD if you aren't REALLY interested in what you're doing. It's a long haul and others are right - it's what you write and produce that gets you hired, so you can't just slog your way through courses and feign interest.

jacko
Posts: 90
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:00 am

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby jacko » Tue Apr 20, 2010 8:30 pm

zabagabe wrote:Have you considered a joint-degree, and doing both? It's generally easier to get hired in the JD academic market than traditional disciplinary markets, but doing both would give you the compromise of what you're really interested in with a nice exit option if your career prospects in academia don't pan out like you hoped. However, whatever you do, don't pursue a PhD if you aren't REALLY interested in what you're doing. It's a long haul and others are right - it's what you write and produce that gets you hired, so you can't just slog your way through courses and feign interest.


I've considered a joint degree, but everyone that I've talked to that has either a PhD. or JD has emphasized that you will probably only use one of the degrees in your career so the extra time spent completing the other isn't worth the opportunity costs. Also, the only market I think that it's an advantage to have both degrees is legal academia and we all know how difficult it is to break into that field.

As far a feigning interest and pursuing a PhD., the best way that I can articulate the way I feel about the legal and academic fields is that I would rather take a PhD. with my current interest level or be a lawyer than work in 99 % of alternative careers. However, I'm having a hard time evaluating which I would prefer between the PhD. and the JD. Although I've spent an huge amount of time weighing the costs and benefits of both, I'm still struggling with making a decision to the extraordinary opportunity costs of pursing either degree.

User avatar
acrossthelake
Posts: 4432
Joined: Sat May 16, 2009 5:27 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby acrossthelake » Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:40 am

http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive ... micid=1296

Schooling for like 10 years sounds brutal.

jacko
Posts: 90
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:00 am

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby jacko » Wed Apr 21, 2010 5:48 pm

acrossthelake wrote:http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1296

Schooling for like 10 years sounds brutal.


3 years of school and paying off 200K of loans doesn't sound like a cake walk either.

User avatar
acrossthelake
Posts: 4432
Joined: Sat May 16, 2009 5:27 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby acrossthelake » Wed Apr 21, 2010 8:45 pm

jacko wrote:
acrossthelake wrote:http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1296

Schooling for like 10 years sounds brutal.


3 years of school and paying off 200K of loans doesn't sound like a cake walk either.


My point was in regards to the idea of doing both in which case your comment just further supports how it would doubly suck.

I face a somewhat similar dilemma in that I know I honestly eventually just want to be an academic. Hopefully I can just become a law academic and if I don't, being a lawyer sounds decent too.

User avatar
mikehoe
Posts: 37
Joined: Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:34 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby mikehoe » Wed Apr 21, 2010 8:52 pm

JD or PhD? This is how I read it: 3years or 6years? or perhaps Reasoning or Research?

User avatar
UFMatt
Posts: 404
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 2:59 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby UFMatt » Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:06 pm

I have a PhD and am starting law school this fall. My advice is definitely make sure that you enjoy the research if you're going to get into it. You'll have to love it to succeed in a tenure-track position, since the pay is low and the hours are long (at least for my field, but this seems to be true for most). I would also caution that faculty positions (other than postdocs) are not very abundant nowadays. Things are much, much more competitive than they were even just 20 years ago. If you decide on the PhD, do your homework on your dissertation chair to make sure that he/she doesn't have a track record of keeping grad students for more than 5, possibly 6 years. What I enjoyed about my experience was the flexible schedule; you still work long hours, but you're not on the clock.

xyzzzzzzzz
Posts: 463
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:28 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby xyzzzzzzzz » Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:24 pm

.
Last edited by xyzzzzzzzz on Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jacko
Posts: 90
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:00 am

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby jacko » Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:49 pm

I see myself being happiest teaching at a four year institution, but as we all know, how you're viewed as a professor is the quality and quantity of your research. To me, research would just be part of the job.

Being a lawyer just sounds like something I would be good at, although we tend to enjoy what we're good at the most.

nawktasy
Posts: 42
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:21 pm

Re: JD or PhD?

Postby nawktasy » Wed Apr 28, 2010 11:07 pm

jacko wrote:I see myself being happiest teaching at a four year institution, but as we all know, how you're viewed as a professor is the quality and quantity of your research. To me, research would just be part of the job.

Being a lawyer just sounds like something I would be good at, although we tend to enjoy what we're good at the most.


I think you might try evaluating both options independent of the other. So, re: whether you should pursue the PhD (and regardless of whether you pursue the JD), as others have said, it is a tough market. Tough to get into a top program, then, 5-7 years later, tough to get placed anywhere, and of course, you won't know where you'll end up geographically. That's great that you see yourself as happiest teaching, but you're also right to recognize that research is likely the more "significant" part of a tenure track professorship. I suppose, then, it depends on how much you would or would not enjoy doing research for a majority of your day, each day. Of course, there are non-tenure track teaching positions, e.g. lecturers. But, though I haven't looked much into those, I don't think they're very common (at least in polisci).

Now, re: whether you should pursue law school (and regardless of whether you pursue the PhD), I think you should try to identify specific law jobs (or jobs that a JD would help you get) that you could see yourself doing, and ask yourself whether you would actually enjoy those. Getting a JD is a big financial investment, and as you also seem to imply, it's not enough to do something just because you think you'd be good at it. You say there are some overlaps between your research interests and law school - perhaps that means there are some law *jobs* that coincide with your interests?

Like others on this thread, I faced the same JD v. PhD dilemma. Because of a number of different considerations and circumstances, I ended up applying to both polisci PhD programs and JD programs this year. Ultimately, I ended up getting into a couple of great PhD programs before coming to realization that I wanted to do the JD - and only the JD. (Unfortunately for me, I did the PhD applications first and the JD applications ended up being relatively late in the cycle, which might've resulted in one too many WLs!) I realized that I was too policy oriented, interested in too many issues, and would not enjoy in the long-term the rigorous levels of training and research around one area required of a PhD candidate and then a career professor. Unlike you, I am not incredibly interested in teaching (though I wouldn't have minded it), but like you, I realized that research was the main part of the job. And I ultimately realized I didn't want that to be the main part of my future career.

Hope that helps. Feel free to PM me as well. And good luck! If I don't get off one of my WLs, I'll probably be applying next JD admissions cycle, too.




Return to “Law School Admissions Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: MisterT, MSNbot Media, neptunian and 6 guests