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Is it worth pursuing a Doctorate degree (career progression in FEDLE)

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  • #16
    As someone who has a PhD and has several 1811 apps in, I can say there is a great benefit to gaining a doctorate before or during your fed service. As others have mentioned, it ensures you have a pretty good job in research or academia once you retire or decide to leave. It comes up as a positive in the interviews, lots of skills gained from graduate level work and presenting at national conferences to an audience of security practitioners that keeps you on your toes.

    Some agencies do not bump up your entry level salary if you have a PhD (I think the FBI and Secret Service do not), but others do. For example, the recent DEA announcement allows you to replace specialised experience for Grade 11 salary if you have a PHD: "GRADE 11: To qualify at the Grade 11 level, you must have one year of specialized experience which includes working on long term/complex Federal investigations, developing operational plans and determining investigative priorities of cases, developing and eliciting information from confidential sources (CS’s), conducting surveillance, undercover operations, and raids and/or seizures, apprehending, arresting, interviewing, and interrogating persons suspected of violations of the law, and organizing evidence for presentation to prosecution officials and testifying in court ORyou may substitute education for specialized experience if you have a Ph. D or equivalent doctoral degree." It looks like the DEA values the critical thinking and project management skills gained from an advance degree.

    However, it is expensive and lengthy if you take it in the States. (Unless you are getting tuition reimbursement like LadyKiller - some great advice in his post!)

    If you want it before you apply to the feds, I would recommend applying for a funded doctorate in the UK or Europe, Australia and Singapore (some very good programs in the EU! Especially in STEM and national security issues, lots of opportunity to gain an additional language also). The length is halved, only takes 3 years and you can decide to do a thesis by publication. This means you get some peer-reviewed articles out that people actually enjoy reading and look great for a future career outside the Fed route, instead of a lengthy thesis that 3 people may read.

    Hope that information helps. Will it make a difference in your entry level pay? It depends. Will it make a difference in your future and make you an excellent candidate at application screening and the interview? Definitely. Any further education is useful and enriching throughout your life, just make the best decision on you current finances and life goals.
    Last edited by Day.By.Day; 01-28-2020, 12:14 PM.

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    • #17
      To qualify at the Grade 11 level, you must have one year of specialized experience which includes working on long term/complex Federal investigations, developing operational plans and determining investigative priorities of cases, developing and eliciting information from confidential sources (CS’s), conducting surveillance, undercover operations, and raids and/or seizures, apprehending, arresting, interviewing, and interrogating persons suspected of violations of the law, and organizing evidence for presentation to prosecution officials and testifying in court
      ORyou may substitute education for specialized experience


      I'm no hiring official but if I were, and two applications were on my desk where one had a PhD w/no experience and the other had a BA with five years experience, I would take the low BA guy every time....
      Chance favors the prepared mind.

      -Louis Pasteur

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      • NCG128
        NCG128 commented
        Editing a comment
        Izamsilas- you made a good point that’s honestly what I was thinking as well. Thanks for your critical insight!

      • Day.By.Day
        Day.By.Day commented
        Editing a comment
        For many jobs, they need a giant pool of people that eventually get cut in background & poly. It's not a 1 guy versus another guy for something like the these 1811. Like I said, it was a boost in the interview.

        "Take the low BA guy every time..." = If you are automatically discriminating applicants for a federal position on something that advertises equivalent entry chances for experience and advanced degree, then that is unethical. I've been on hiring boards, and that type of behaviour may point to your character issues more than the these faceless CVs.

        The OP has to make her/his own decision, she/he has plenty of advice on here from people. I'm speaking from 1811 experience, not sure if the OP has that in mind. There is no perfect path, diversity in the team makes us stronger, and it is up to the individual person. In the end, we all want to serve the public and would be willing to put our lives on the line. Let's not make this an issue of two camps.
        Last edited by Day.By.Day; 01-28-2020, 06:43 PM.

      • Ratatatat
        Ratatatat commented
        Editing a comment
        I spent 27 years on the job, 2/3 of that as an 1811. Your 1811 experience? You have some apps in...

        I know what I know and I know this: education is a good thing but means next to nothing when the blood and teeth on the ground is your own or your partners.

      • Redrum3215
        Redrum3215 commented
        Editing a comment
        I am a hiring official and I agree. Experience rules the day. A degree is preferred, but not mandatory in my agency (ATF). We have a few PhD’s in our ranks, but to be candid, it doesn’t matter in hiring or career advancement (Merit Promotion Boards). If you do it for your own betterment, good for you. Might not help your career though.

    • #18
      One of the agents I know left his previous job as a corporate attorney to eventually get student loan forgiveness on his then $270K in student loans. Took about If $130K a year (initially) pay cut. If you could put something together like that maybe the cost of a PhD isn't so bad.

      My wife has a PhD and some debt to go with it but she's not a Fed so we just pay it every month like anyone else. She's an engineer though. People offer her jobs pretty regularly. Not sure how I would feel about a PhD in emergency management. Would really depend on employment prospects.

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      • #19
        Agencies will give you an 11 with a PhD only if the vacancy was announced with the 11 grade included. In other words if it was 7-11, or 9-11, or 7-12 etc... which is rare at least for “entry level” 1811 vacancies.

        I’ve heard anecdotal accounts of agencies offering people with doctoral degrees the equivalent steps as a 9 (probably a 9-7 or so to get you to 11-1) if the position wasn’t announced as an 11, but not in the 1811 world specifically. Don’t get a PhD just in hopes of being an 11, alright folks.

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        • Day.By.Day
          Day.By.Day commented
          Editing a comment
          LOL. No one is getting a PhD to become an 11. That's just a perk if it happens for the COL. As I mentioned before, an advanced degree is not an automatic boost for entry level, and not all agencies adjust for it. And yes, the quote I posted from the DEA was a vacancy that had 7-11, posted last year.

      • #20
        Originally posted by Day.By.Day View Post

        If you want it before you apply to the feds, I would recommend applying for a funded doctorate in the UK or Europe, Australia and Singapore (some very good programs in the EU! Especially in STEM and national security issues, lots of opportunity to gain an additional language also). The length is halved, only takes 3 years and you can decide to do a thesis by publication. This means you get some peer-reviewed articles out that people actually enjoy reading and look great for a future career outside the Fed route, instead of a lengthy thesis that 3 people may read.
        Would advise against doing this. Unless the foreign institution is recognized by the department of education or department of state, this is a good way to cause issues during a background/security investigation for a clearance. For a career in the private sector the above quoted is fine.

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        • Day.By.Day
          Day.By.Day commented
          Editing a comment
          Having personal experience with this, I can attest that a reputable university abroad clears background. Every Fed app has a section regarding foreign degrees, stating that an accreditation company must verify the validity. There are several US accreditation companies that work with this issue, and I've had no problems. Takes about a week. Some colleges in America aren't actually accredited (private ones, religious ones), so it is something to be checking for with each degree. Obviously, for overseas education, I'm not talking about a university in China, but preferably a well-known one in the top ranking.
          Last edited by Day.By.Day; 01-28-2020, 06:49 PM.

        • Levithane
          Levithane commented
          Editing a comment
          Ok and the Federal government doesn't solely/always rely on those accreditation companies, I could get into this but thats a totally different topic. I made sure to put in recognized by the department of education or department of state regarding foreign institutions. What happens is that someone like me gets tasked with someones background, I do their interview etc, and I find out they had a foreign education they didn't initially disclose. I have no way of getting that in person obv, so I hand it off to the appropriate section. Sometimes the institution cooperates, and gives up the record with any disciplinary issues on the person. Sometimes the institution doesn't cooperate, and we're SOL. That's one less piece of verified information adjudication has when making a clearance determination, which may or may not hurt you. Now with the American institutions even if they aren't accredited, they always cooperate when given a release.

      • #21
        There are funded PhD programs in the U.S. American PhD programs that require a master's degree or give advanced standing for a master's degree typically require about three years of coursework. How long it takes to finish after that is dependent upon how long you take to finish your dissertation. European theses are usually larger than American dissertations.

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        • #22
          Ok, everyone here is talking research PhD here, and OP said doctorate in Emergency Management. That’s add context. I stand by the point that a doctorate in any kind of public safety or gawd freaking forbid intelligence management will add anything to any legit job in the G. Those all tend to be advanced degree self licking ice cream cones...

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          • #23
            Originally posted by izamsilas View Post
            Ok, everyone here is talking research PhD here, and OP said doctorate in Emergency Management. That’s add context. I stand by the point that a doctorate in any kind of public safety or gawd freaking forbid intelligence management will add anything to any legit job in the G. Those all tend to be advanced degree self licking ice cream cones...
            All PhDs are research doctorates and so are most EdDs. A doctorate in emergency management can be a PhD, DSc, or some other kind of doctorate. Most doctoral programs require a dissertation. If they don't require a dissertation, then they'll require an applied research project or capstone that's just as intensive as a dissertation. PhDs at traditional universities are fare more likely to be funded than applied doctorates.

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            • #24
              I do declare!

              I stand by my statement that a PhD in emergency management doesn’t do anything to assist with an 1811 position or career and is a self licking ice cream
              cone.

              Comment

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