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Programs When to stop taking courses in a PhD Program?

  1. Oct 19, 2011 #1


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    I have already completed all my core courses, and more than minimum requirements (bunch of courses in Operations Research and Transportation Systems). However, it always seems to me that there is just more stuff I want to keep learning (mostly in Applied Math). I usually don't take more than one or two so it doesn't affect my research time.

    When and Why did you stop? Did your advisor tell you to stop? (my advisor doesn't really mind, I once mentioned to him about getting a Master's in Applied Math, and he said that's fine with him). I have two Master's degrees (Transportation Engineering and Applied Economics), and I am currently finishing the dissertation for my PhD (in Economics) requirements. I already passed all qualification exams and prospectus defense. Also, there's more than enough funding for me (I am funded by my advisor's chair funds).
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2011 #2
    Finished taking courses in an econ phd program? Take it to the next level...take some sociology courses.
  4. Oct 21, 2011 #3
    There's no real need to "take" them at this point. If a course comes up that contains something that interests you or that you find informative, sit in. Once it stops being informative, leave. Come and go as you please.
  5. Oct 21, 2011 #4
    when you become a disserator.
  6. Oct 22, 2011 #5


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    I see. I guess it really depends on me. I think I'll pursue some more courses in Applied Math, but I won't pursue another Master that means another thesis anyway.
  7. Oct 23, 2011 #6


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    It seems like there is a point of knowledge and sofistication after which you can do most of the learning on your own, and, unless you have an exceptional proffesor, taking classes may be a waste of time. I guess your living situation may also affect your decision: if you live on-or-near campus, dropping by a class may even be helpful to keep you motivated. If you live far away , travel to class may be more of a distraction and a waste of time than a benefit.
  8. Oct 23, 2011 #7
    I guess it depends what you want to do, but I wonder why your advisor thought it would be a good idea to get a third (?) master's degree while you're in a Ph.D. program, rather than focus on finishing the Ph.D. program. That doesn't sound like it's necessarily in your best interests, though perhaps it is in his.
  9. Oct 23, 2011 #8
    Once I finished my core courses and ended up "all but dissertation" I stopped taking formal courses. As far as why, taking courses got in the way of research. It's not that the information was not useful, but having to attend classes at time X and turn in paper Y and study for test Z on date A turned out to be a pain. Also grades start being a nuisance.

    After I went into all but dissertation, I did attend a lot of seminars and talks and did a lot of self-study, but classes were just too inflexible as far as format and time goes.

    There's also the tuition/bureaucracy factor. One thing that I found was that the department had a lot of "notational" classes which were intended to distribute course credit and funding. If you take one more class, you either have to pay more tuition or take one less "notational class" which causes a bureaucratic mess, and it's just easier for everyone if you show up and take the course "off the books."
  10. Oct 23, 2011 #9
    Something to point out is that having too many degrees counts against you in a lot of commercial hiring situations. If you have multiple masters degrees, you need to set up your resume to make it clear that you got them while you got your Ph.D., or else just not mention them (and unlike the Ph.D., you can get away with that since there is no resume gap).
  11. Oct 23, 2011 #10


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    One of my advisers told me to stop taking formal classes as soon as one has min. requirements and do research the rest of the time. The idea being that classes are very broad compared to research applications. I am currently to the point where I can do all research credits this semester. I am getting close to publishing and enjoying working long hours towards a unified goal, rather than the usual grind of jumping through the various and sometimes irrelevant hoops.
  12. Oct 23, 2011 #11
    Exactly this.

    I mean, occasionally, if you're doing a bunch of work on topic X and there is a topics course in exactly that, you might do well to take the course. Why? Because in research, you are likely not learning that topic quite as systematically, and it may help you work out things you might otherwise not do until you find yourself confused. Usually such courses require very, very little time commitment aside from attendance anyway, so they're pretty much intended only to aid research endeavors. The professor may even state some interesting problems that still need working out.
  13. Oct 23, 2011 #12


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    Another PhD Candidate told me to sit in courses (informally audit) without taking them for credit. I have considered that as well.

    My advisor did not encourage me for more courses or another degree. It was more of like "That's fine with me as long as the research does not stops".

    In terms of the courses level, I have made sure to take courses related to my research, although some do still have the typical homework/exams/paper structure. However, I've been "smart enough" to further those papers into published papers. Thus, the work is not "wasted". I don't know if this'll work in physics, but if I propose an econometric model in a course, I still have chance to tweak it after the course is over and if data is available (or use synthetic data) to produce an example of application.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2011
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