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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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
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.
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
“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.”
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.
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,”
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).