What are your plans after the MBA

After the master's - doctor!

A master's graduate reports on her experiences in her doctoral studies

After completing your master's degree, you have numerous options for starting your career. A doctorate is also open to you! But how does such a doctoral program actually work?
Our interview with PhD student Theresa Sieland gives you some insights!


In which subject did you do your master’s degree and what is the technical focus of your doctoral program? What is the topic of your doctoral thesis?

I did my master’s degree in “Modern Japan”, which has a focus on cultural and social sciences. In my master's thesis, on which my dissertation topic is based, I dealt with an art festival that tries to revive a region in Japan that has been affected by rural exodus and aging. In my doctoral thesis I am now dealing with the restructuring problems of rural areas in contemporary Japanese society.

What made you decide to continue your academic career as a doctoral candidate after completing your master’s degree?

Scientific work was a lot of fun right from the start of my studies. After a course on career orientation, I noticed that, despite today's uncertainties, I am not averse to a career in science or university. I would like to continue researching and orientate myself in this area. That is why I decided to do an individual doctorate while I was still doing my Masters and am now doing my PhD as a part-time job.

How does your everyday life as a doctoral candidate look like?

Since I am still at the beginning of my doctoral studies, I am currently researching a lot of literature. At regular intervals I exchange ideas with other doctoral students about their and my research and attend scientific colloquia. I am also currently planning a research stay in Japan, for which I have successfully applied for a travel grant. To finance my doctorate, I am currently working in a language school as a teacher and as a copywriter in an online editorial team.

How does the doctoral program differ from your time as a master’s student?

I am currently working 30 hours a week in addition to my academic work, which is quite a difference to everyday student life. However, the change was not too big, as I already did many of the things that now fill my everyday life in a similar form during my Masters. Since there is no pressure from the university - deadlines for homework, exams, collecting credit points - I am of course even more responsible for motivating myself to work on my doctorate. In contrast to studying, a doctorate gives me more freedom to deal exclusively with topics that I'm really enthusiastic about. I find that very pleasant.

Did your master's degree prepare you well for your current tasks?

In contrast to the bachelor's degree, the reference to current social issues was much greater in the master’s program. Accordingly, I was able to deal much more intensively and at the same time more critically with the areas that interest me. I have also learned to organize myself properly and to pursue research questions independently. During my master’s degree and through research for my master’s thesis, for which I conducted interviews in Japan, I also expanded my scientific work skills. Overall, I became much more independent and (self-) confident during my master’s degree, both professionally and personally. Thanks to the Masters, I feel well prepared for what's to come.

What do you particularly like about doing your PhD?

What I find particularly exciting is the exchange with people who all have specialist know-how. The discussion rounds in the colloquia etc. are always very interesting. You always learn something new, which not only broadens your research, but also your own horizons. You can also get to know the lecturer and your doctoral supervisor in a new or different way, which I find very nice. In addition to free or inexpensive training opportunities in a wide variety of job-related areas, at my university you can also enjoy the luxury of a semester ticket. What I like most, however, is that I have chosen a topic that I am convinced of and that may provide new insights into a current social problem.

What are your future plans after graduation?

Obviously, especially in the humanities, it is difficult to gain a foothold in science. That is precisely why I want to remain very flexible and try to develop both my skills in academic work and in the economic areas that I care about. Since I have a lot of fun teaching, writing and researching or doing research, working at a cultural institute, but also in tourism marketing or the editorial department, would be ideal. Accordingly, I already think the jobs I have now are great.

What would your advice be to Masters students who want to do their PhD as well? What do you have to pay attention to in organizational terms? Are there any knowledge / skills that you should definitely acquire?

As a basic motivation, you should of course enjoy independent, scientific work and look for a topic that you can be enthusiastic about over several years. Organizationally, it depends on how exactly you want to do your doctorate - whether in a graduate school, research project or in the form of an individual doctorate. In all cases, however, it is very important to be able to organize yourself well and to plan your career strategically and realistically in advance. The question of where you actually want to go with the doctor is very helpful. At the same time, I would recommend remaining open to alternatives and repeatedly gaining practical experience in other areas. Skills such as conscientiousness, willingness to change and resilience are very important for prospective doctoral students. In my opinion, anyone who does not let themselves be beaten so easily, enjoys research and does not want to do a doctorate because of the title, but for their career planning, has the best qualifications.