Mastery: My Two Master’s Degrees

When I was a kid, my business-dwelling father liked to critique professors working in higher education: they’re not living in the real world, they don’t answer to sales mandates / the market / supply and demand.

Imagine my astonishment when he suggested I go to grad school to become a professor.

It wasn’t a bad idea. I was young and underemployed, working at Walgreens after graduating summa cum laude. I didn’t look destined for success in the business world.

Cc image of flowers by Waving Cat

And, I wanted to write humor, narrative non-fiction, essays. I thought I could write (auto)biographies, interviewing people and helping them tell their stories. Maybe I could even ghostwrite for well-off people, like Tony Schwartz did to make Donald Trump famous.**

So I looked at grad programs in narrative non-fiction, and settled on a master’s program in life writing in Australia. It looked fascinating. I applied for grants, took the GRE, and got accepted… but without any funding.

I took a hard look at the cost (some $50,000 Australian dollars), the fun of living in Australia and studying what I loved… and the uncertain payoff in wages and work.

I decided against it.

So I went back to the drawing board, learned that I could study and tell stories about people through anthropology, and got admitted to Ph.D. programs at Indiana, Texas A&M, and Ohio State. Two offered full funding (scholarship + teaching or research assistantships), and I ultimately chose the adventure of the one furthest from home.

It was a great choice… but I left academia when I realized I was still more interested in telling stories than arguing theory… and there weren’t many good jobs on the other end.

I happened into a job in a library, and then switched to a library that would actually pay for a second master’s in library and information science (MLIS). With those two master’s degrees, I’m back in academia as a librarian… and no snarky comments from my father!

So it’s all worked out—I research and write, and help others to do the same.

That’s a long buildup to provide context for my next few posts. I have several friends considering master’s degrees, and figured I would gather and pass along my suggestions for anyone exploring these options:

 

** Speak of a deal with the devil. Actually, I’m still up for this. Let’s talk.

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