October 13, 2011
Master's or PhD
As some students are thinking about graduate school, they have to decide if they are going to apply for a Master's program, or a PhD program. This can be a really tough decision if you aren't sure which one will be the best fit for you. Here at SI, there are some major differences between our Master's and PhD programs. Our Master's program is a professional degree, training you to be a leading information professional when you graduate. On the other hand, the PhD program is focused more on research, and training you to create new knowledge in the information field. Deciding which will be the best fit is really a pretty personal choice. I think the best way to get started if both options are really appealing to you, would be to talk to the offices here at SI to begin to learn more. You can contact Sue Schuon, the Manager of the PhD program, or myself, and we can help you evaluate your situation. We can also connect you to some current students who could share a little bit about what their own experiences have been in each program. Finally, I also think that a good approach to deciding which program might be the best fit for you is thinking about the career goals that you have. You can see some great examples of what a lot of our Master's students have gone on to do on our Web site. There are some examples of PhD grads there as well, but in general, most of the PhD grads are going on to faculty positions. For more details about where the students have gone, I would recommend emailing with Sue directly, and she can tell you more.
A common question that I get asked is whether the Master's program will help train a student to get into the PhD program. In general, our program is not designed to be a direct feeder into the PhD program. However, there are some great opportunities in the Master's program to prepare yourself for a PhD program if that is your personal goal. For example, we have a great commitment to research at our School. All of our faculty are engaged in some form of research, and they are very excited about having Master's students participate with their work. We encourage Master's students who would like an opportunity to try out a research environment to go online and read through the faculty research interests to see where there might be a good fit. Once a student identifies some faculty where the research is interesting to them, then they could begin the process of getting to know that faculty member better, and potentially getting involved in their research. One common way that students connect to research projects is by taking classes from the faculty whose work is interesting to them. Doing well in the class and going to office hours is a great way to build a connection with that faculty member. In addition, for students who do find that they really want to participate in research, we do offer a Master's Thesis option. Again, this is completely optional, but it can be a good way to build up your resume, and get a deeper research experience, if you are thinking about doing a PhD.
If deciding whether you are going to apply for the Master’s or the PhD program here at the School of Information is a question on your mind, please feel free to contact me, and we can talk it out more.
September 26, 2011
Deciding on a School
Making decisions about where you will go to graduate school is pretty complex and involves many variables. Some of the variables that impact your decision may include the culture of the program, the course offerings, the career outcomes, research opportunities, faculty, reputation of the School, funding opportunities, practical exposure in the curriculum, and more! All of these variables are important, and it is up to each student to decide which factors are the most important to them, and how a School or program may fit in with their goals and plans.
Here at SI, we try to be as helpful as we can in communicating with admitted students about these issues, and about who we are as a School. Some of the ways that we try to make our program clear to students is by assigning all admitted students to a current student mentor, having an organized weekend visit called Visiting Days @ SI, and trying to be available on email or phone (or in person!) to help answer questions. We're happy to answer any email questions from students, and often try to connect them with other students or faculty who may be a better match for them to learn more about the program. Overall, learning about the School can be a process that happens over time, but as long as we work together, you can learn a lot about the program.
One of the big questions I often get from students is about when they need to decide if they are coming to SI. In general, we don't have a firm/final date by which students have to make a decision on our offer. We want to give everyone adequate time to explore their options and make the best decisions for themselves. However, if a student is offered a scholarship at some point, there will be a timeline attached to the offer for making a decision. We do abide by the national Council of Graduate Schools guideline of not requiring students to make decisions on funding offers prior to April 15. In general, we would like to know people's decisions as soon as possible, but we want to give everyone an opportunity to hear from other programs as well. Most students make their decisions in April or so.
I hope this is helpful information for any admitted student as they begin their process of evaluating programs, but feel free to contact us with any more specific questions and I'd be happy to talk to you more.