View Full Version : Grad school?

Neal Winkler
07-10-2007, 09:10 AM
Hey all,

I was wanting to get your opinions on whether it would be in my interest to go ahead with grad school. I was talking to a guy earlier and I asked him why he didn't go to grad school and he stated that it wouldn't really increase his salary as a trainer, which got me thinking.

Since, I consder myself to be an avid autodidact I've been doubting that grad school will alow me to increase my knowledge and further than i could achieve on my own.

The exercise field just isn't to level of other disciplines yet to where the university is where the action and breakthrows are coming from. You could be the best trainer in the world and not even have a high school diploma.

I mean Robb doesn't even have a masters degree and I'd take his advice over my doctors.

Mike ODonnell
07-10-2007, 11:28 AM
If your only reason would be to make more money as a trainer...then I would say you don't need it...as in my experience the trainers who make the most money are usually built like a body builder and dumb as a rock....but their appearance does the selling for them.....some of the richest people just have good people skills...and some of the poorest people are the smartest ones you will ever meet...just the way the world works sometimes....

All depends on who you plan on working for and what really brings in the money in that field....I wouldnt go back to school personally as the real truth is found out through experience and boards like this....

Steve Shafley
07-10-2007, 11:52 AM
So, your field is a trainer?

Where do you want to go with it?

XF Affiliate?
Independent "performance enhancement specialist"? (think Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove)
Personal training at commercial gym?
Sports and Athletic training?

Most of these probably don't need a grad degree, but you'd be well served looking for an internship for someone who knows what they're doing (i.e. not necessarily an XF affiliate, but a collegiate or even big HS strength and conditioning program)

Yael Grauer
07-10-2007, 12:35 PM
Money-wise I don't think you necessarily need a degree, but I do think continuing ed is important. I think it's good to set goals with the amount of books/articles you read, etc. just like you do for other areas. It just makes it easier to answer questions and may change the way you coach, right? And I agree with the people skills part of it. There are some trainers, massage therapists, etc. that I know for a fact are very good but I would never give money to or refer anyone to just because of their attitudes.

Anyways, this is all speaking purely as a consumer. :)

Joe Hart
07-10-2007, 12:57 PM
I would get out in the job market and get some experience. Interships and volunteering are a good path. You may change your mind about what you want to do once you are out working. Employers will look at your academics when you first enter the job market but after that I think experience is more important. I got alot of somewhat technical jobs thanks to the experience I gained in the Navy. I worked for GE and Qwest (telecom) with a degree in International Relations. Now I am a boiler inspector (I love this job). If I had gotten a grad degree while at Qwest or GE I think it would have been money wasted and most likely pigeon holed myself. Yael hits on a good point. Continuing education is good, because it show employers that you are endeavoring to better yourself, even it it isn't job related. You then become multi faceted and an employer might want you because you can handle other things than just your job. Employers are more likely to hire a BS than an MS because it doesn't cost as much. When you do finally get an MS then you ask for more money, promotion and all the things that come with it.

Chris Forbis
07-10-2007, 04:25 PM
I've contemplated the graduate school question as well. The problem is that my interests (currently) are far too diverse and I have no idea what I would study. So I'll just keep reading my books and articles until I figure something out.

Neal Winkler
07-10-2007, 04:33 PM
Thanks for the advice guys. I think you pretty much validated what I was thinking. I'm worried both about money and knowledge. The continuing education is no problem for me, all I do is read. I guess all just have to go on the mass gaining program from PM to shore up the money part (thanks Mike!).

Robb Wolf
07-10-2007, 04:39 PM
I'd be suspicious of my advice on anything, but thanks for the vote of confidence!

Take the following with a grain of salt...lime and tequila help also:

Grad school will be a time intensive and expensive process. Even if you get a research fellowship and or teaching assistant ship you will tend to make less during that time than just working...so there are some opportunity costs to consider. That said there are opportunities that a MS or PhD. offer...namely teaching or consulting that one can certainly DO with a bachelors, but its a bit easier with the more advanced degree. Folks do love those MD's and Phd's.

Now I started SEVERAL graduate programs and pulled the rip cord on all them. For the most part I'm glad about that but occasionally it bumms me out that I do not have the ultimate argument winner "I'm a doctor (MD)...therefore I am right so YOU can get fucked..."

That does not happen often, but occasionally it would be nice. However, if I had that MD I would NOT be doing most of what I'm doing now and frankly I LOVE what I'm doing...that's why I made that decision oh so long ago and I'm grateful for it. Now the reason I am happy now is due in large part to the fact that I finally committed FULLY to a life path. Not that I can't alter and tweak things as needed but when we had our grand opening for CrossFit NorCal (did you know that was the 4th CF affiliate?) Coach Glassman gave me some very good advice: "Robb, you need to decide if you are going to be the Capoeira kid, a top level crossfitter or a successful business owner because you can only pull off one..." Some of the best advice I ever received and that focus has paid off. The only other time in my life I've had a comparable level of focus (and success) was when I won a research fellowship in my undergrad. I had a lab with 2 fume hoods, I was getting like $900/month. I set up 3 reaction chambers in each fume hood...got rid of my apartment, lived in the Chemistry Student Lounge (super nice couch) and I was just eyebrow deep in that crap all summer long.

Sorry if this is wandering but the Valium and vodka are really taking effect now...I think you really need to ask what you want to do? How do you want to live? Find those things out or give yourself a chance to explore options and then commit. As an aside: you CAN make pretty good money training...this will likely increase as time goes on and people become ever more lardiffic...but it's not and easy lifestyle. There are some significant unknowns and although it looks nifty to click and buy and affiliate, small business ownership can SUCK...but it can also be exciting and some of the best learning and problem solving you will ever do.

I suspect in your gut you know what you want to do...what you want to experience. Run with that.

R. Alan Hester
07-10-2007, 06:05 PM
[semi-rant follows]

I would say that unless you are SURE it would help you meet your goal, then DO NOT drop the money on it. I am at the other end of the question. I am trying to convince myself to finish my thesis for a MA that is completely worthless to me at this juncture in my life and for the foreseeable future. I could have saved a TON of money by getting the reading lists and buying the books used. While I would have missed out on the stimulating conversations concerning post-modernists and Michael Foucault and his ilk, all while learning that I am a dirty white male that oppresses my female professors due to my usage of “his,” I should have assessed my goals a bit more closely.

Also, you should not get a degree just to have letters behind your name—ego kills. To be honest, I think I fell in this trap. I thought that a master’s would give me some sort of gravitas. However, just because one is armed with letters behind his name—damn, I oppressed again—does not signify one is “smart.” It only means that likeminded professors have seen fit to award this student with a degree for work completed--in the humanities, at least.


Daniel Myers
07-10-2007, 08:37 PM
What kind of program and degree are you considering?

I have a MS in computer engineering, with an emphasis on the software/theory side. I will say, without a doubt, I learned far more about computing during 1.5 years of grad school than during 4 years of undergraduate studies. Also, grad school allowed me to pursue more advanced topics that don't come up in the regular curriculum, interact with professors in a more meaningful way, and really define my interests and skills in a way that just wasn't possible in the bachelor's program. That being said, I'm sure my perspective is skewed by being in a scientific field, where the standard four year curriculum is only a broad introduction and doesn't cover any of the genuinely interesting stuff.

You can realistically finish an MS in 18 months, and many schools are making it very easy to combine the BS and MS into a 5 year program. I knew a lot of people that stayed to do an MS just for these reasons. This is bad in some ways, because it leads to degree inflation, but worked out well for them as individuals.

The PhD is totally different from the Master's. Don't consider a PhD unless you know for sure that you want a research job. I do, so I'm looking at going back to school with my employer's support, but if I didn't want that specific career path, a PhD would do nothing to help my career or long-term earnings.

Finally, don't fall for the "I'll work for a few years and then go back to school" mind trick. The time to do grad school is now, while you're still young, poor, and uncommitted. Once you get out, start making some money, and get some financial obligations it becomes very difficult to go back. This is especially true once you have a family and have other people depending on you to provide. As much as I want that doctorate, I probably wouldn't be able to swing it without my employer's support.

Again, all this stuff is a little skewed to my field and my background in CS, but I hope it gives you some things to think about.

Ken Urakawa
07-11-2007, 08:11 AM
I'll throw in my $.02:

I received my MS from ASU (which was the top-ranked graduate Exercise Science program at the time, tyvm) 7 or 8 years ago. Damn, I'm old. Anyway, I would certainly count my time there as worthwhile, but not necessarily directly leading to my making more money. The fact that I have letters after my name doesn't make me a better trainer. Although the same could be argued about certifications--I've met plenty of certified personal trainers that couldn't coach their way out of a wet paper bag.

That being said, the knowledge base that I developed while there has been invaluable. Not only the classroom info, but also just interacting with a lot of REALLY smart and passionate people. I had many informal discussions with other students and/or faculty that really shaped my ideas and approaches. Sort of like this forum, but with actual beer. Having the academic background enables me to evaluate and integrate new ideas and training theories more effectively. I think I have a greater appreciation of the how's and why's than the average gym-goer.

I wouldn't trade the experience, and if finances permitted I would love to go back and get a PhD.

BUT, I'll be the first to admit that I've learned more practical, applicable, info from Mr. John and Mr. Wolf than I did from school. Being introduced to CrossFit shaped the way I do things. From a day-to-day perspective, the alphabet soup after my name doesn't really seem to affect how much money I make.

Robb and R. Alan both have great points--consider well where you want to end up, and then choose your path accordingly.

Neal Winkler
07-11-2007, 11:27 AM
Yeah, I think I'm pretty much going to forego the masters in exercise physiology, based on what I had been thinking and what everyone has said here. I'm really just ready to get my life started. I'm actually an old fart because I spent four years going for a degree in computers (I was going to graduate in five) only to drop it because I hated it, but I stuck with it because that's what everyone said was thing to go into (its the future blah blah blah). Since exercise phys. and computers are totally different basically only my first year of general eds applied and some electives, leaving me to start pretty much over. Besides, I've always felt that I learn better when studyng the things I want - I've never felt I was really made for college.

Mike ODonnell
07-11-2007, 11:32 AM
The degree gets you your first job working for someone else....after that it's all what you want to make of it. Like said before some paths (like coaching a sports team) would require more credentials than saying being a trainer at the local gym (where some may only have a HS diploma). Out working you will learn from the good trainers what they do right....and from the bad ones on what they do wrong. Good people skills and sales is always a plus...but in the long run get your clients results and to look like greek gods....well you will have people talking all about you and getting others lining up at your door...and you don't need a masters to do that. The people who "look the part" essentially have people thinking "well he must know how to get me in shape"....I laugh when I hear..."Yeah this guy is a really great trainer because he used to play pro football"....Ummmm yeah so he worked out for 3 hours a day and had his own strength coach telling him what to eat and do.....but he's a good trainer?

Yael Grauer
07-11-2007, 12:40 PM
You can always look up the bios of coaches at the schools (or wherever) you want to work at. I looked up U of A coaches once and iirc while there were some people with advanced degrees, there were as many in business and secondary education as there were in applied kinesiology or sports psychology. But almost everyone had coached a ton of teams in different schools (probably easier to do if you go to one.)

It's always such a tough call. I decided to get my teaching certification through a community college post-bacc program instead of going back to school to get another Bachelor's or a Masters in Education. I think it was about 10% of the price if that, plus I did the majority of my classes online. The whole two jobs and school thing was stressful, but I took out no loans. I also got hired in a district that has tuition reimbursement, so I can eventually go back--and I know people who have actually gotten their degrees through distance learning from accreddited institutions while working full-time. Although it's possible I don't think distance learning would be a good option for degrees where you would really benefit from seeing/interacting with people, however.

Eva Claire Synkowski
07-11-2007, 04:36 PM
i think robb touched on this.... but definitely dont overlook the possibility of fellowships and research assistantships to pay for everything. he's right, "salary" isn't more than what you would be making in the "real world" - but it's an opportunity for some quality research experience, and to make future networking connections. if you have some flexibility in school location - you can likely find the funding for a science MS.

more so than undergrad application process - it's super important to research your potential mentor, their # of pubs, their funding, etc. - which will make or break the experience more so than the university name.