I have been working in medical research for a university for almost ten years. A couple years ago, the department has gone through a lot of changes both with leadership and funding sources. Because of those changes, the kind of work I am doing now is completely different than what I was hired to do which was writing software for research projects. Essentially I am doing data entry which I am overqualified to do with my two engineering degrees. Since my career seemed to have completely stalled I finally decided to go back to school and pursue my doctorate part time while I continue to work.

So here is my question: What negative career risks, if any, am I taking by staying in my current job while I go to school? While I don't think I will be doing data entry much longer I cannot see many opportunities in career development (engineering, management, etc.) other than what I would do in school. Should this concern me or is this not an issue at all? Obviously if I cannot complete that degree this situation become more concerning.

Leaving my job is a possibility but I will get some tuition assistance since my graduate program is at the same university so staying will essentially equate to a raise. Plus the salary and benefits are very competitive for my educational and professional background so finding an equally paying job in town my be very difficult.

This is no different from when I was working security to pay my way through my software development degree. Work is work, especially if it pays for education that you're going to use to move up. I don't think that you're going to be losing anything by working, especially if you can work AND go to school comfortably. If you don't get the degree, you'd have a job to fall back on until you can find a better one instead of being out the degree and the job.

It will also keep at bay any questions of "what have you been doing for the past "insert period of time here" in an interview should you get the Doctorate (not many people who can afford a doctoral degree didn't have to work some kind of job beforehand.)

This isn't making any sense to me. You have two engineering degrees, but your experience is in the medical industry. You're not doing engineering work, but believe a doctorate (I assume it's in an engineering discipline) is the magic bullet to make your career take off.

Do you realize that there are law school grads working at your neighborhood Starbucks? "Joe Schmo, Barista, JD."

It seems it'd be better to skip the doctorate (and the bill!) to avoid becoming a highly-educated data entry clerk, and pursue job opportunities actually in your field(s) of engineering.

Possessing a doctorate will only prove that you know how to make your way back to a college campus, fill out more forms, and do as you're told. It doesn't show at all how you've actually applied (and been paid by sake of) what you spent all that money on. At some point, you may need to unlatch yourself from the sweet, seductive, non-threatening environment of academia (which is not like the "real" world) and move along. In the end, working in academia forever may be the only outlet for someone with a doctorate and no practical experience.

There's an old idiom: "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches." Which do you want to be? You can't straddle the fence.

  • My work experience is actually in software engineering both in this job and my previous one as a defense contractor. Software engineering is applied to every field these days and for me right now its in medicine. Getting a doctorate is not a magic bullet but its more of a career course correction. The degree will be in machine learning which I do have some professional experience and a PhD can be just as valuable outside of academia which is where I am expecting to return. Fortunately getting this degree in state part time is not that expensive. – TadGhostal May 26 '17 at 20:10
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    "Possessing a doctorate will only prove that you know how to make your way back to a college campus, fill out more forms, and do as you're told." -- You have a very biased view on what a doctorate means. Doing a doctorate means loads of individual and new research i.e. coming up with and working on ideas that no one ever before you has worked on. "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches." -- You do know that Universities do research right? – Kristiina May 28 '17 at 15:09

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