Why Become a Scholar?

​​A Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D., is the highest research-oriented degree that anyone can earn. Due to the extensive effort that one must put forth to obtain a doctorate, less than one percent of the population attains one. The purpose of a Ph.D. is to demonstrate mastery of a particular field; this is done through intensive research and study. The majority of students are able to receive funding in the form of teaching and research assistantships to cover the cost of continuing their education.

A Ph.D. is extremely prestigious. Society needs individuals with this high level of education to solve problems and help enhance the lives of others. The more knowledge a person has on a certain subject, the more a person can influence policy and help advance study in science, humanities and technology for future generations.

“There is a need for more education, a need for mastery and competent knowledge (of a topic),” Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the College of Graduate Studies James Hageman said. “A bachelor’s degree was adequate 20 years ago. Now there is a need to master many specialties and have a better understanding of things.”

Upon entering a Ph.D. program, a student can expect to complete coursework as they begin to formulate a research topic. Doctoral students work with a faculty advisor (or several) that help in this process and become a key in successfully completing their degree. A dissertation, or major research project, is required and takes up a significant portion of time. Being focused, efficient and motivated are necessary to make it through a program. It’s a lot of hard work, but individuals who are passionate about their field of study are generally able to navigate the process, maintain momentum and ultimately emerge as an expert in their field.

There are numerous options for employment upon attaining a Ph.D. Many people choose to pursue careers as professors in an academic setting. Alternatively, research-oriented positions in government and private industry can also be an option. In many cases, a Ph.D. is required to hold leadership positions in a variety of organizations from non-profits to private companies. Still other people choose to be self-employed and work as consultants in their specific fields. The possibilities are open with a Ph.D.

Here are several questions to consider:

  • Are you passionate about a particular area of study?
  • Are you eager to discover new things?
  • Do you wish to become more intellectually engaged in a certain field?
  • Are you goal-oriented and self-motivated?
  • Do you have determination?
  • Does your career goal require an advanced degree for optimal mobility?
  • Are you willing to accept the challenges that go along with achieving a Ph.D.?

The process of achieving a Ph.D. takes time and commitment. A student should to want to obtain one through a passion, desire and determination to learn more and professionally advance in their field. Depending on which field of study a student chooses to pursue, the paths one can take may be very different in terms of their education and types of research they engage in. For example, in biology, a student will spend the majority of their time working in a lab, while a history student will spend most of their time reading and gathering information. These differences can continue on into the student's professional life after they earn their Ph.D. In examining the career paths of three Central Michigan University faculty members from three different departments, this is evident.

CMU Faculty Share Their Experiences

Dr. Greg Colores

Dr. Greg Colores
Department of Biology

“You have to do it because it’s going to take you where you want to go. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world to get a Ph.D.; it’s mostly enjoying what you do and having the determination.”

 

Dr. Greg Colores started his career at Central Michigan University in 2002. He attended Northern Arizona University for his undergraduate degree in microbiology and then continued at the University of Colorado at Bolder in organismic biology. After he obtained his Ph.D., he conducted post-doctoral research at Montana State University. Starting with his first year of undergraduate studies, Dr. Colores’ passion for biology led him to spend 15 straight years completing his education. Today he says that it was time well-spent.

As an undergrad, Dr. Colores was undecided on a major. He took a botany class and discovered that subject was not for him. But then he took a biology class and found that this was a subject that would keep his interest and ultimately lead him down the path to where he is today. He started really pursuing his interest by working in a laboratory in the Minority Bio-Medical Research Support (MBRS) program during his undergraduate years. He primarily focused on testing new active ingredients in toothpaste to determine their effectiveness. He enjoyed the research he did with this project and says that his experience helped point the way to graduate school.

As a graduate student, Dr. Colores spent six years at the University of Colorado researching toxic compounds found in treated wood, such as telephone poles, and figuring out how they broke the wood down. Dr. Colores lab experiences helped broaden his knowledge and prepare him for his faculty position. It is very typical in the sciences today for professionals to continue their education after they obtain their Ph.D. and perform post-doctoral research. Dr. Colores did his post-doctoral research to get him into his current teaching position.

Having a Ph.D. in the sciences gave Dr. Colores a wide range of options in terms of what career he could enter. He could have taught at the high school level, at a community college, or at a major university. He also could have by-passed teaching all together and taken a research position at a research institution or a private lab. He chose to teach at Central because it gave him a good balance of research and teaching.

Dr. Colores said that his passion is teaching and more specifically, the research aspect of teaching. He notes that while biology is very interesting, it is also misunderstood. He finds his subject fascinating and wants to pass that excitement and understanding on to others. He enjoys teaching in the classroom and in the lab, but also enjoys conducting research and believes that needs to translate to anyone wanting to obtain a Ph.D.

“You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world to get a Ph.D.; it’s mostly enjoying what you do and having the determination,” Dr. Colores said. “Make sure it’s something you really like to do.”

His determination helped him get through 15 straight years of school. Without his schooling and determination, Dr. Colores would not be in the position he is in today. All of his success can be attributed to his desire to further his education. By earning his Ph.D., Dr. Colores opened up doors of opportunity and fully discovered his passion for teaching and biology.

Dr. Jennifer Gree

Dr. Jennifer Green
Department of History

“I find value in a Ph.D. in terms of knowledge that it gives you and the fact that you are allowed to pursue your own interest.”

 

Dr. Jennifer Green has been a history professor at Central Michigan University since 2001. She received her bachelor’s degree in American studies/history from Reed College in Oregon before obtaining her combined master’s and Ph.D. from Boston University in American studies. Her research specialization is the Antebellum south from 1830-1860 with special interest in military schools with the development of the middle class.

The reason Dr. Green continued her education is simple; she disliked the job she had after graduating with her B.A. Dr. Green worked as a file clerk before she changed positions and took a new job in the administrative service department. During this time, she realized the business world was not for her. She had always enjoyed studying and decided to attend graduate school to further pursue her interest in history; a complete shirt from the career in which she had been headed.

“I find value in a Ph.D. in terms of knowledge that it gives you and the fact that you are allowed to pursue your own interest,” she said. Dr. Green chose history because it allowed her to think about larger questions in life that she felt were important. More specifically, questions that occur in her line of work such as, how did social class shape people’s lives and how does education impact a person’s future? Historical education has become Dr. Green’s passion. Not only does she actively research it, but she teaches it as well. She said there are so many different views to research regarding the Antebellum south that she is very happy she chose that time frame. She can research anything from farmers vs. capitalists to slavery vs. freedom.

One of the main things Dr. Green disliked about her business job was the lack of flexibility and always being on a set schedule. She now enjoys the flexibility of being a professor and establishing her own research schedule. She loves teaching at Central and enjoys the benefits, financially and personally, that come with being a professor. Dr. Green may work 10 to 12 hour days, but she enjoys her job and the personal satisfaction that comes with it. The Ph.D. allowed Dr. Green to discover her own little perfect world.

             Dr. Kevin Love

Dr. Kevin Love
Management Department

“If you are dedicated to the profession, if you are dedicated to gathering the knowledge, then obstacles can be overcome. Working towards a Ph.D. builds a lot of positive characteristics.”

 

Dr. Kevin Love has been a professor in the management department at Central Michigan University since 1984. He is noted as a pioneer in the application of the assessment center concept in employee evaluation and selection. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and his Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of South Florida.

At first, Dr. Love wasn’t sure that he wanted to obtain his Ph.D. His original plans were to attend law school, but he found himself on the waiting list at the universities he applied to. Getting his Ph.D. was really more of an afterthought. Without help from school counselors, he started to think more and more about continuing his education in the area of psychology. Once he was offered funding, he decided to opt for a Ph.D. because he had always had an interest in social psychology and wanted to become an expert in the field.

“If you are dedicated to the profession, if you are dedicated to gathering the knowledge, then obstacles can be overcome,” Dr. Love said. His determination to further his education led him to obtain his Ph.D., despite the lack of success in entering law school. Once he started the process, Dr. Love became interested in the possibility of teaching at a university. One day, he approached his professor and told him that he would teach the class for free. Dr. Love thoroughly enjoyed teaching that class and decided to teach another. However, he knew that if teaching did not work out, he could always become a consultant because his degree offered that flexibility.

The main attraction to the field of social psychology for Dr. Love was the ability to advance the field through research. He enjoys conducting applied research and exploring new programs and techniques. Dr. Love says that his Ph.D. allows him to have great flexibility within his profession. “There is no boredom at all, because you can change and do all sorts of different things and it’s the Ph.D. that opens the doors,” he said.

Dr. Love’s passion for his field has led him down many paths and he credits his degree for those opportunities. He has been a professor, an advisor, a consultant, a mentor and a researcher all in relation to his field. In speaking with Dr. Love it is evident that he is extremely passionate about what he does. He enjoys working with students of all educational levels and he enjoys conducting research that makes a difference in the lives of others.

The road to a Ph.D. might not always be smooth, but obstacles can be overcome. Had Dr. Love been successful with law school, he might not have found his passion in psychology. His Ph.D. allowed him to obtain new knowledge which has helped him become highly accomplished and personally satisfied with his life’s work.


All three professors entered their graduate education with an intense interest and determination to further themselves professionally. Their interests turned into their passions. That passion, combined with consistent motivation and hard work, translated into their extremely successful careers that combine teaching and researching. 

Think about your passion. Wouldn’t you like to turn it into an extremely rewarding career? You can discover your interests in undergraduate studies and turn those interests into your passion while earning your Ph.D. Continue after your undergraduate degree and earn a Ph.D., obtain a wealth of knowledge, secure the dream job, make a contribution to society and earn the respect deserved. After all, someday you could sign your name, Dr. (your name here). 

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