General Question

JonnyCeltics's avatar

What's the next step in my teaching and writing career?

Asked by JonnyCeltics (2716points) August 20th, 2014

I’m 32. I make my living as an adjunct professor and journalist and balance my time between those efforts. And I’m doing OK: I teach at two private universities in Manhattan, and write regularly for one of the best newspapers in the world, among other outlets.

And I’ve gotten here within two years. Since earning my M.A. in 2012, I’ve paid my dues and worked my way up, e.g. sweating out freshmen seminars at wretched times at schools outside the city for near-bupkis pay; writing for free, or for local blogs. All worthy work, but the pay wasn’t pragmatic—this is NYC, in fact, with rents up the wazoo—and I’ve bigger dreams.

So here’s my dilemma, or rather, what I’d like some advice on: What to do next and in which direction—the journalism or teaching (or both)?

—TEACHING: Do I go for a PhD?

Universities rarely hire non-PhDs full-time, though they have no problem hiring M.A.s as adjuncts. My M.A. is actually in media, culture and communication, so I’m trained in both media theory and mass comm. And my professional practice is journalism. So I make a unique candidate in that I can hang academically (theory, history, etc), as well as bring to the table practical experience. But the life of a student is lonely and difficult, and ~7 years is quite the commitment.

JOURNALISM: Staff writer positions are becoming tougher and tougher to find (I’ve never had one) and the industry is…tenuous and changing and weird (albeit exciting). My main cash cow feels like a safe bet—for now. So what? Keep freelancing in hopes that I get hired full-time? Write books? The grind of freelance is…lonely and tough. I fight tool and nail for every word, every bit of space.

Any advice would help… Sometimes I tell myself to just be in it, but it’d be nice to set a longer-term goal…and maybe be surprised along the way :)

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4 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

My question for you, to find your answer: what floats your boat?

Which do you enjoy more and would love doing full time? And, why can’t you pursue a PhD and Professorship/tenure while doing a lot of journalism? The two are not antithetical, but as you have found complement each other.

kritiper's avatar

My father had the equivalent of 2 master’s degrees when he retired from teaching. I once asked him why he didn’t get a PhD. His reply; “Because with a PhD, you have to submit writings every so often and I don’t want to have to do that.” Forget the teaching. My Dad didn’t live up to his full educated potential doing it. Rather, write children’s books. That’s where the big money is. And you don’t have to do any of the illustrations, either.

JonnyCeltics's avatar

@zenvelo I guess I enjoy both, though not all the time. The problem with both—equally—is that it requires tons of alone time, so I’m working to balance out that life.

I like the flexible hours of academia, and being on campuses and around ideas. But I also love putting together an article from scratch and seeing my ideas in public. The issue with a PhD, like @kritiper notes, is that so much of the writing gets lost in the shuffle of academic writing that has no conversation outside of student and teacher. That’s wasted labor to me…

janbb's avatar

Is your teaching in the humanities? I have some experience in academia and through my family, more so. It is a hard time for PhDs in the humanities to get tenure track jobs. I know it is hard for serious journalists as well as the world of print is shrinking. What would you get a PhD in? Those of my family who have more recently gotten a PhD in the humanities – one in American lit and one in French medieval lit – have either quit their teaching positions or not finished the PhD because she was disenchanted with academia. My son did the long slog for a PhD in computer science and is now working for Google in Paris. You might want to see if you could parlay your journalism into some kind of rewarding online reporting if you are inclined to push it that way.

Explore what is happening at the two universities you are teaching at in terms of hiring newly minted PhDs and see what you personally can assess of the possibilities. In my experience, colleges and universities are turning more and more to adjuncts.

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