In graduate school, students pursue an advanced degree, typically a master’s degree or a PhD. Since most jobs in academia require a doctorate, this section will address the requirements for obtaining a PhD. Bear in mind that every graduate program is different, and what follows are general guidelines.
Graduate school typically takes four to eight years to complete. The first few years will probably be similar to your undergraduate work. You will take advanced classes in your field of study, and be tested on the material. Usually after your first or second year, you will have to take qualifying exams, which will test your broad knowledge of the subject to determine if you can continue in the PhD program.
The focus of graduate school, however, is not on classes, tests and grades, but on completing your doctoral thesis and preparing yourself for the job market.
To earn a doctorate, you must complete an original research undertaking: a doctoral thesis (sometimes called a dissertation). Your thesis is your central research undertaking, which can be used to generate several smaller journal articles and/or a book. A thesis typically takes several years to write and research.
Writing Your Thesis
There are five stages in the production of a thesis:
- Choosing an adviser
- Deciding on a topic
- Approval Process
A faculty adviser will help guide you through the entire process, from choosing your topic to getting your thesis approved. Choose your adviser carefully; you will be working closely with and depending on him for job referrals down the line. You want to find someone familiar with your area of specialized study, someone who will be supportive of your efforts (even though he or she may disagree with your ideas).
When choosing the topic of your thesis, keep in mind that you will be spending years with it. Make sure it’s a topic you find interesting. It will also play an important role in helping you find a job after graduate school—so make sure it’s a topic others in your field will find compelling as well.
Your thesis will take years to research and write. Pursuing such a long-range goal takes initiative and commitment—and self-discipline. The best advice is to do something every single day: do some research, some writing, some editing.
Once you complete your thesis, you will usually have to give an oral defense of it before an approval committee. If they approve your thesis, you will be able to receive your degree.
Preparing for the Job Market
Graduate school is also the time during which you’ll prepare yourself for the job market—where you’ll develop the knowledge, skills and references necessary to obtain a job in academia once you earn your degree. Crucial in this respect are developing your teaching ability, your references and your knowledge of the field.
Graduate students often work as teaching assistants (TAs). You need to take advantage of this opportunity to develop your skills as a teacher. This will be essential when it comes time to find a job teaching. Take advantage of the teaching conference OAC students participate in: every student presents on a topic of his choosing and is critiqued by experienced Objectivist teachers.
Develop good relationships with the professors in your department, professors in your field and other graduate students. This will help you find good references before you start looking for a job, as well as hear about jobs that might otherwise remain unknown to you. Join professional associations in your field, participate in conferences, etc. Make sure some of these references see you teach.
By developing a strong background in both research and teaching, you will be able to pursue a wide range of academic jobs once you complete graduate school.
ARI works very closely with graduate students.
- OAC Career Training Program —This program offers advanced study of Objectivism and Objectivist methodology for students who have completed the OAC core program and are planning on careers as professional intellectuals.
- Teaching workshops—OAC students are critiqued on their teaching skills by professional Objectivist intellectuals.
- Writing and conference grants—ARI provides a wide range of grants to support graduate students.