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Thread: A career in security policy - advice needed

  1. #1
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    Default A career in security policy - advice needed

    Hi there...

    I'm not sure if this is something I can ask on the SWJ forum, or if I've put it in the right area of the forum, but I seem to be running into brick walls everywhere so I thought it would be worth a shot. If this post is either inappropriate, or in the wrong forum, please feel free to delete/move it.

    I知 currently a UK citizen and have just graduated with a BA in Political Science. I know that I want to eventually live and work in the USA in a policy career but, having sought advice from every avenue available, I知 still unsure what the best route into that career is.

    My original intention was to pursue a PhD in the USA, with a view to enhancing my research skills and gaining detailed knowledge of one area of policy (security studies, specifically counterterrorism and counterinsurgency) but I have been told by a few people in both UK and US academia that a PhD will only help me for a career in academia, and make me unattractive to potential policy employers.

    I had hoped that I could use a PhD to work in policy and then go into teaching in later life, but that now looks like it isn稚 a commonly taken path. I have been advised that an MA in International Relations or a JD would provide a better route into American policy positions.

    I知 at a bit of a loss now as I知 really not sure what the best route to take would be. I have a real passion for politics and research, and I feel that doing advanced study of security issues would prepare me well for a career related to that field, but I worry that studying a JD would prepare me to be a lawyer rather than a policy practitioner and as an international student funding is also a big issue, and few MA courses offer a full-ride to international students. I've also been told that mentioning that I want a career in policy could be the kiss of death for any PhD applications.

    My grades at undergraduate were good (I graduated with a First Class honours degree) and I have volunteered in the Middle East and worked as a Conflict Resolution intern at the Carter Center. I知 prepared to work as hard as it takes to get where I want, but I feel unsure as to where I should direct my energies.

    Any advice at all would be hugely appreciated.

    Thanks a lot.

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    Council Member kingo1rtr's Avatar
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    Default A Steer of Sorts

    Drop a line to the boys at the War Studies Department in Kings London - they will have strong links with groups in the US and may be able to suggest soemthing.

    If you hit a brick wall there, come back to me and I'll put you in touch with some folk at the UK Defence Academy who might have a link or two worth pursuing.

    Have you thought about offering your services to any UK base MPs with a defence/security brief? The experience could well be useful and give you additional credibility with any future US employers. Liam Fox, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones and Patrick Mercer could be potential contacts.

    Drop me a line when you want - you can post one to one if you want to.

    Kingo1rtr


    Kingo1rtr

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rearviewmirror View Post
    ...I worry that studying a JD would prepare me to be a lawyer rather than a policy practitioner and as an international student funding is also a big issue...
    In a US law school, that is not the case. Law school can prepare you to be a lawyer, if that is what you want. The first year of classes are dictated, but after that you can structure the education as you see fit, usually with very few requirements. Many go to law school to be lawyers, but some go just because they want to go into politics or complement their business knowledge or some other unrelated reason. Also, many schools want international students because it helps them to boost their rankings with US News and other ranking lists. There might be some financial assistance available in that regard.

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    Default My advice is as nebulous as ...

    this ...

    I know that I want to eventually live and work in the USA in a policy career ....
    which is not a criticism - it's just that there are a lot of policy careers.

    One thing you have probably considered (I hope) is US citizenship. Some doors are closed without it (e.g., military officer and many equivalent agency officers).

    My standard advice is a PhD (in a field that you really like and will spend the rest of your life in) or a JD (rather general purpose, as Schmedlap says).

    My own school (and any top tier US law school) will have more than adequate course fare for someone interested in I Law and Comp Law. E.g., Center for International and Comparative Law. That can be expanded into a Dual Degree Program.

    When I did it (40+ years ago), I went through three years of law school without a break. The first summer was spent on required courses, to allow a semester of optional and grad level I Law courses. The second summer (and a lot of my last 1-1/2 years at school) was devoted to ghost-writing appellate briefs - one to the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS, as is its want, declined to hear the case ). For someone not intending to be a lawyer (i.e., "barrister", which was my want), the "vacation time" could be spent on something else.

    So, if you do not have some definite field in mind, you should give consideration to a top tier JD, with possible inclusion of a dual degree program.

    Now, having done my good deed for the day (realizing that no good deed goes unpunished), I shall return to sipping my shot of $200/bottle Irish booze (which my wife declares is "yucky stuff"). It's my birthday; and judging from the level in the bottle (and at one shot per year), I will have at least a decade more of bothering one and all here at SWC.

    Bonne Chance in your future efforts,

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 08-17-2009 at 01:29 AM.

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Go for the law degree (JD) by all means. Over a lifetime top lawyers sail their own courses and many have ended up start to finish in careers in the US Dept. of State; US Treasury Dept.; US Dept. of Commerce; CIA; DIA; National Security Council...and of course in the busienss world with international law focused firms.

    Go for the law degree; seek summer clerkships in firms our federal courts that appear as time passes to fit your directionl;you will then have a good paying rewarding job when you graduate with your JD and pass the bar.

    A good law firm will put you on reduced payroll from graduation until you pass the Bar exam, then raise your pay accordingly.

    Don't spend too much time worrying about who ever got to the top so to speak with a law degree. Instead, focus on what level you can start out at which will use your preferred legal direction as a beginning lawyer and let the waters life your boat over your lifetime.

    In the US federal law school loans are readily available and repayable over very long periods of time, with deferred start of paybacks until you have an income stream startetd from which to make payments.

    Smooth sailing and good luck.
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 08-17-2009 at 01:39 AM.

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    I'm a PhD candidate at the Department of War Studies at KCL. If you want to drop me a private message, I'm happy to offer what advice I can, though I've got a couple of deadlines coming up, so I may not be able to do so immediately.

    Some thoughts, which may be contradicted by people more knowledgable than I.

    First off, I don't know who told you that a PhD is undesirable. My experience, though hardly conclusive, is that it isn't, though it may not be necessary. If you look through the ranks of people associated with the top think tanks and policy institutes, most of the top people have PhDs and those who don't are often either registered with a programme or have extensive work/life experience in the armed forces or government. There are, of course, other career paths, but many of them aren't going to be open to a British citizen without military or governmental accreditation. The other thing to note is that there are lots and lots and lots of MAs from very good universities out there in the job market. A PhD is hardly going to make you flavour of the month on its own, but it does put you one step up the rung academically and if you're shrewd you'd use the time spent doing it to establish a publication record, network, do stuff other than academic work etc. I'd also say that if you think you might want a PhD at any point in the future, you're probably best served doing it early. Sometimes people aren't ready and going for it down the line makes sense, but the more you get tied up with stuff the more difficult it is to get back into that sort of thing.

    Another quick bit of advice, all other things being equal - American MA, British PhD. If you want to do a stand-alone MA as a terminal degree, you are probably well advised to try for an American one, if you can get funding for it. American MAs are undoubtedly better than British ones. They take an extra year, but you'll cover a LOT more ground and you'll do a proper thesis. The flip side of this is that if you want to do a PhD, you're better off doing it in the United Kingdom. As long as it's from a top university, the final qualification in terms of research is just as good, it takes less time and there are fewer peripheral hoops to jump through.

    Also, if you begin to incline toward a PhD and can't get a scholarship for it, you may be best advised not to bother. You'll bleed yourself dry and sometimes potential employers take PhD funding to be notable by its absence when they look at your CV.

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    Default Intelligent comments ...

    from another new member (SheldrakeHolmes - I quake at the etymology).

    With respect to American MA vs British PhD, I really can't comment (not an SME there). But, going along with SH's equivalence as a valid conclusion, a dual degree (JD/MA) might be a good 3.5 to 4 total academic years ticket. E.g., presently, I should think "Law and Modern Middle Eastern & North African Studies (JD/MA)" would be hot - just as in my vintage "Law and Russian & East European Studies (JD/MA)" would have been hot.

    PS: GLS -

    A good law firm will put you on reduced payroll from graduation until you pass the Bar exam, then raise your pay accordingly.
    I believe that is often true; but the firm where I was trained (official history and Wiki) started me at $X and 1 Jan of second year went to $X+1/6X (several months before my NY bar admission). I expect that was an across the board firm policy, but the unwritten rule was not to ask about or compare salaries - so, I don't know about others.
    Last edited by jmm99; 08-17-2009 at 03:51 AM. Reason: add PS

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    You'll need a graduate degree, but beyond that how you slip into the policy world very much depends on networking, and not just the degree. Connections help, as does the ability of people to vouch that you're not just smart but sensible and policy-minded (three quite different attributes, and not always found together).

    Moreover, it is also important to note that most folks spend many many years pushing other people's boulders up very large (policy) hills before you have any real influence.

    The PhD route is not to be discounted. Depending on your specialization, there are some cases where the level of knowledge amassed as part of PhD studies will qualify you for positions ahead of others who have been pushing boulders up hills for years. In other cases, however, you would do better to do an MA plus work experience compared to the many additional years a PhD will take you.

    Wherever you do your graduate work, do it somewhere where you have actual access to policy-makers, if possible.. DC, New York, London, etc. It makes a huge difference.

    Use your thesis research--MA or PhD--as a way of getting to meet the people you want or need to know before you're out of graduate school. You would be surprised how many high level folks will take time to be interviewed by a graduate student, if it is handled right.

    If you go the PhD route, you then have the option of a regular academic career with policy work on the side, and sabbaticals spent in policy shops. This this the way I went, and it combines the advantages of teaching (which can be enormous fun), a stable income, and the ability to pick and choose the policy work that I agree with and would like to be working on.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Wow – I can’t believe how helpful and in depth everybody has been, talk about making a newbie feel welcome!

    I think my main worry about doing a JD is that I’m not sure I have the required passion for studying the law that I think you need. I’ve got a few friends doing law, and I know that they’re absolutely absorbed in it and I’m not sure if I have that level of dedication or could sustain it for three years. I’d never really considered it as a career, and while I know the cash incentives are huge, I know that I’d be more passionate about teaching politics than practicing as an attorney. As a non-US person I’d also be a bit worried about taking out $120,000+ of loan to pay for a legal education – I’m not sure whether you can get full scholarships as an international student, or how stellar you would need to be. It honestly wasn’t a route into a policy career that I had considered until very recently which means I haven’t really had a chance to properly research it. I kind of feel that I’d be doing a JD as a means to an end and would enjoy an MA/PhD a lot more – but the pragmatist in me says that a few years of discomfort shouldn’t necessarily put me off if it gets me where I want to go.

    As for my rather undefined goal of a US policy career – I have to apologise for that somewhat lacking description! I think I’m fairly open to anything, which is why that description was so nebulous. In an ideal world, something at the State Department, Pentagon or working as an advisor to a senator/governor (if they run for president all the better) would probably be what I want. I’ve always had a deep interest in military affairs, and although I know as a civilian I wouldn’t carry the same weight as an ex-service person I’d like to be in a job where I could cross the divide of military/government/academia. Then there’s the world of CoFR, Brookings, RAND etc. which I would also be very interested in. I suppose my ideal job would be something that had me based in DC, with occasional trips overseas to conflict zones to get a hands-on look at situations. Public service is where my heart lies, so I would like to be able to eventually feed some of what I’ve done back (i.e. teach or work in veterans affairs).

    At the minute my main interest lies in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, but I’m very aware of the changing demands on security policy, so I don’t want to lose sight of big-picture and end up so specialised that what I know is irrelevant in 20 years. I guess this is why a PhD appeals, as it would also give me time to get some solid language skills under my belt – and getting my very basic Arabic up to a good level would hopefully be possible and useful.

    My main worry with a PhD is that it’s a huge investment of time (I’m already 25) before hitting the somewhat beleaguered job market. My main reason for wanting to do a PhD stateside is it covers a lot of ground and would also give me some good stats/quant training and be more attractive for future US academic employers. The idea of using grad research to meet people I’d like to work with is a great one.

    I think what’s clear is that there is no single accepted route into what I’m interested in, and so doing what I’m passionate about would be best – and I have to say that’s unfortunately not a JD.

    US citizenship is something I’m more than happy to go for, my main worry is getting some sort of job straight after postgrad to stay in the USA, rather than go back to the UK as soon as I graduate – I’m not sure if an MA or PhD would help more from that point of view.

    Thanks a lot for all the advice so far!

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    Default Hard choices aren't easy

    I'd consider - if only for US$ reasons, let alone INS - a short career in the UK. Something like VSO, British Council and other NGO's. There are IMHO very few Arabic speakers, so you maybe a premium applicant? I am mindful that Emma Sky was at the British Council before called to Iraq. Can you really afford three years at a law school? How about an internship inside the Beltway, as a taster?

    davidbfpo

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Ideas, you have youth and a lifetime ahead on your side

    David's advice makes the most pragmatic sense, having read over everyone's inputs back to your original questions.

    There are examples of one to any combination of programs anyone can bring up.

    You need to focus on what you want to do and get started.

    "Anything" is possible if you row your own boat positively, are intellectually honest, and work hard. No starting point is "too low"...those who are too good to do lesser level work are intellectual bums and never amount to much in my experience.

    Again, I like David's advice. Listen to Dave, and maybe go see and talk with him. He has done well with Scotland Yard (now International side of same) is my perception.

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    This is not advice for a career - as I would be the worst person to ask - but just some input on your perception of law school and a few other items.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rearviewmirror View Post
    I think my main worry about doing a JD is that I知 not sure I have the required passion for studying the law that I think you need.
    I'm doing it while on vacation from the Army, just to force myself to do something productive. I'm not trying to steer you in either direction, but just wanted to disavow you of the notion that you need to be passionate about it. I and many of my peers are doing this because it seems like useful knowledge. Some are going into corporate America. Some want to be politicians. I am going back to the Army. Law school is not at the top of my priority list. There were a couple of days when I rolled out of bed late, realized that I did not have time to go to the gym before class... and opted to skip class and go to the gym. I'm still on the Dean's List. My study habits are better than when I was barely passing my classes as an undergrad, but not much better.

    A more serious student could get a lot out of a joint degree program like JMM suggested. Just be aware that some are heavy on law and light on the MA. Choose wisely. There are some good ones, but it appalls me to see the curricula for some JD/MBA programs. Many are just a JD program plus a handful of core business classes (not even all of the core courses required for the MBA, let alone any electives). I can only assume that they are designed to create lawyers with some baseline of business knowledge, rather than vice versa.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rearviewmirror View Post
    As a non-US person I壇 also be a bit worried about taking out $120,000+ of loan to pay for a legal education I知 not sure whether you can get full scholarships as an international student, or how stellar you would need to be.
    It depends upon where you live. If you want to go to school in DC (done it) then you might rack up $120K in loans because the cost of living is high and the schools are overpriced. A school in a smaller city - or in the suburbs of a large city - can lower that substantially. I am working on a graduate degree and a law degree. I am not doing a joint program - it is two separate programs. When I finish, I will be very surprised if I have accumulated more than $100K in loans. Cut that in half if I had only pursued law school. Also, lots of law students make surprisingly good money in the summer between their 2nd and 3rd year, which significantly offsets the cost of attendance (not something that I plan on doing).

    Quote Originally Posted by Rearviewmirror View Post
    At the minute my main interest lies in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, but I知 very aware of the changing demands on security policy, so I don稚 want to lose sight of big-picture and end up so specialised that what I know is irrelevant in 20 years.
    Very wise. Ten years ago, the rage was "stability and support operations" - fancy term for "peacekeeping." Deployments to Kosovo rarely even make the news anymore. So much for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rearviewmirror View Post
    (I知 already 25)
    That's kind of like someone looking for advice on their undergrad education saying, "I'm already 19." Seriously, don't give that another thought. I finished my Bachelors degree one month before my 25th birthday and didn't apply to grad school until I was 28 or law school until I was 30. I'm sure many others here had timelines that stretched much farther to the right. But look at us now!

  13. #13
    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Brainy despite deceptive blog name!

    Schmedlap, you are indeed a "closet brain!"

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    Council Member Abu Suleyman's Avatar
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    Default I have to respectfully disagree

    Quote Originally Posted by George L. Singleton View Post
    Go for the law degree (JD) by all means. Over a lifetime top lawyers sail their own courses and many have ended up start to finish in careers in the US Dept. of State; US Treasury Dept.; US Dept. of Commerce; CIA; DIA; National Security Council...and of course in the busienss world with international law focused firms.
    While this was true in the past, and is still true to a degree, this is rapidly changing. If you want to be a lawyer, then by all means get a law degree, otherwise it is not worth your money. 120k$ would be tuition only at a top law school, and would not include books, housing, travel etc. Even in a place like NC which has a few top schools that can easily top 200k$. If you are looking at Cambridge, Mass. you might even top 300k$. A law degree won't hurt you, but it won't help you any more as a non-lawyer than a MA from a good program, which will be much cheaper.

    Something that you might not know is that many top schools now offer 1 year MA's in International Relations. I just graduated from one at the University of Chicago and it was a perfect program for finding out what I wanted to do. I previously had worked for a DoD agency for some time, and I discovered that while I liked that, I like research a whole lot more. The advantage of these programs is that they really help you to sort out what you really like, without costing a fortune, and give you a great head start on whatever you want to do afterwards. Many people will get some financial aid, and the burden won't be terrible.

    As far as the PhD goes, if you want to end up in the U.S. and ever hope to teach, then an American PhD is the way to go. There are a few schools in Europe which are viewed well, but the lack of course work generally means that American PhDs get primacy in hiring. If all you ever want to do is to work in politics, then you probably only need an MA to start, and can get a PhD later on.

    There is, however, a big advantage to the PhD, and that is money. If a school really wants you, they will give you a fellowship. That is true at almost all of the top schools. There are programs out there, like George Mason (a great institution) which actually don't give a lot of fellowships, but generally rely on local students who will pay the residential rate. Those would be great for a person who mostly wants to go into policy, but would be prohibitively expensive for a Brit, without financial aide.

    Regardless the route that you choose, I cannot stress enough that you should try and go to a top school. If you end up in policy it really won't matter where you got your degree, but if you are unsure about what you want to do, or you want to keep your options open (and you really should), going to a top 10-20 school will really help. Moreover, they are top programs for a reason, and you will have better peers to learn from, and better teachers to work with, and a better alumni association to tap into. Of course, you have to do a cost benefit assesment, but when push comes to shove, a person applying from a top program will always have a leg up.

    Be advised that because of the economic downturn there will be many more applicants to school this year, especially law and business schools. However, if you have any more specific questions, feel free to PM me. Also, I am still at the University of Chicago, which has a PhD both in Public Policy and in Political Science, and I would be happy to answer any q's about that as well.
    Audentes adiuvat fortuna
    "Abu Suleyman"

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    Default RVM, all good advice but

    US Law School used to be THE place to prepare for almost any kind of career. Now, the best prep for an international policy career is an MA in IR, Intl Studies, and/or Area Studies. In general, the best places to do such a degree is in DC or NYC but there are important exceptions based on access to internships and policymakers, and for area studies, the region. Other considerations are cost - for example, the DC schools use their MA programs as money makers and so, they are expensive and, generally, don't offer fellowships. A key issue here is to look for a "Professional Masters" program in contrast to a traditional "academic" masters. Thesis option should be available but it is not critical - there is always a substantial research requirement in good programs but it may not be a thesis.
    Now, for the PhD. If you only wanted to teach, then moving to a direct PhD would be the way to go from the strongest academic program you could get into. There is also fellowship money there. But that doesn't appear to be your ambition.
    For an academic career (in the US) the PhD is best taken in a discipline like Pol Sci or History, etc. For a policy wonk, however, any acredited, decent PhD will do. Interdisciplinary is not only fine but may well be more useful. However, getting the PhD is not something that is particularly useful for getting started in the policy field; it will be far more useful later on.
    A last thought: policy wonks are in high demand as adjunct professors at many US schools (as long as they bring a PhD and/or real policy experience) which is a great way to keep a hand in the teaching business while doing a policy day job.

    Good luck

    JohnT

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default More thoughts, too

    If you guys want to keep piling on advice to this young man in UK, I have a friend who concurrently did both his JD at Duke Law while doing in PhD in History/International Relations at Duke Graduate School. He got both degrees.

    However, my friend's over his lifetime (he is nearing retirement now at age 58 or 59) career path has not made as good use of his sterling education as could have been the case.

    Charting a direction that will logically be reinforced by one's advanced education is critically important.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post
    120k$ would be tuition only at a top law school, and would not include books, housing, travel etc. Even in a place like NC which has a few top schools that can easily top 200k$. If you are looking at Cambridge, Mass. you might even top 300k$. A law degree won't hurt you, but it won't help you any more as a non-lawyer than a MA from a good program, which will be much cheaper.
    I am by no means the authority on law school. I'm the first in my family to go to college or even leave my small town (aside from men in my family being drafted for Vietnam), so I went into everything blind with no guidance, mentoring, or other advice. But, just a few more points in response to the quote above. The higher-ranked law schools certainly are able to charge a more outrageous premium. But that can be offset by the summer internships. I know of people who earned tens of thousands of dollars over a summer (usually in New York City law firms where they get internships based primarily upon alumni networks). When you're a student and don't have a mortgage or family to support, those dollars can go a long way. And, as has been stated, the top-tier diploma will open doors to ridiculously high paying jobs that you can just gut out for a few years and then have the financial freedom to do whatever you want. The original poster earlier commented that he is "already" 25. I would say "only."

    In recent years I mingled with a lot of individuals who came from very affluent backgrounds. It was quite a shock to see how many kids step into a 6-figure job straight out of undergrad after 4 years of boozing and mediocre academic performance. For them, it was not a shock. It was expected. I just marveled at it, wondering, What does this 22-year-old with no life experience, no work history, and mediocre education bring to the table? Not much, really. The secret? Primarily the alumni network. I always wondered why it was such a big deal among rich folks that their kids get accepted into Harvard. Now I know. It's not the education. It's the network. That is a ticket to buckets of money. Maybe we're not so different from the Mideast?

    Also, in regard to bottom-tiered law schools; I know a few students who went to low-ranked schools in their first year of law school and then transferred to mine. Their description of the experience at those schools sounded awful. It was cutthroat competition of the sorts that sound like urban legends - people trying to deceive and undermine one another, the old tale about ripping pages out of books so that others can't find it actually happens in some schools, etc. Basically, they are clawing at one another in an attempt to grab the highest class rank (important in law school) so that they can transfer to a higher ranked school and go on to a higher starting salary. If you do not get into a decently-ranked school where most of your peers will likely be content, then you may not want to attempt the lower-tier programs. There, a passion for law might truly be necessary. For the individuals I know who did their first year at those places, it sounded like a year-long version of Ranger School where everyone in your squad wants you to fail.
    Last edited by Schmedlap; 08-17-2009 at 04:18 PM. Reason: Added last paragraph

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    Default Considering all that has been said ...

    a feasible and conservative course of action is that suggested by my friend David - a short stay in the UK at whatever you fancy as the 25m target. While you are working on hitting that, you can assess such things as US citizenship and the timeframe required; as well as determining the 50m and 100m targets for the future.

  19. #19
    Council Member Abu Suleyman's Avatar
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    Default No disrespect to law school

    I mean no disrespect to law school. It is the best way to become a lawyer, by far. Schmedlap is dead on about the importance of the alumni network as well. If someone is in the military or already has a set gig lined up, then it doesn't matter as much, but boy does it matter early on. I cannot speak overly knowledgably about working summers, except from those of my friends who are in law school tell me that if you want the big bucks those summers are very important where you intern. Nowadays, those internships are not highly paid if at all, so you can't plan on working summers to pay off student loan debt. Unfortunately, jobs in the policy world don't take into account your student loan debt in hiring. In the end, it is a cost benefit analysis, and the cost of law school is high relative to its benefit for entering a policy position, but low relative to the benefit of becoming a lawyer.

    I do think that a MA program would be a good idea, and if you are on the fence, staying in Britain is not a bad idea. However, if you are certain that the US is the place for you, then it is better to make the leap now. Like I said, there are several one year, American MA programs which will have a much lower cost. Go to the best one you can. Truthfully, you can probably learn as much on your own, but hiring is almost always better coming out of a top program. Is it right? No, but that is the way it is. For a good discussion on the US application process, and all of the intricacies of applications go to The Grad Cafe.

    Finally, I didn't get my MA until I was 32. I don't feel one bit behind the 8-ball, and actually my experience has made it a lot easier in some ways. Don't feel rushed. There is plenty of time.
    Audentes adiuvat fortuna
    "Abu Suleyman"

  20. #20
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    Default

    A few additional thoughts:

    1) Don't sell the UK short when it comes to either good graduate programmes (KCL comes to mind), or UK strengths in this area. Washington may be Coindinista heaven at the moment, but quite apart from UK military expertise and experience, DFID is one of the smartest aid agency on the planet when it comes to thinking about fragile and conflict-affected countries, the FCO still produces some of the best diplomats anywhere (as I was recently reminded by a meeting in London with several of their Middle East and North Africa crew), and the UK intelligence community is excellent. Several major NGOs have their offices in London. Finally, the UK is closer to the ME and elsewhere--an advantage if you're on a graduate student travel budget.

    2) I'll say it again: networking matters. Smart ideas and no networking skills will get you nowhere. (Sadly, good networking skills and dumb ideas may get you somewhere). Get as much practical experience as you can from living and researching in the field, interning, volunteering, etc. In the UK, consider joining the TA for the experience and some security clearance.

    3) Consider opportunity costs--if you spend $10,000 less on an MA programme, that's $10,000 you can spend on field research, volunteering, networking (see above). Indeed, that's enough to self-finance 1-2 summers working with almost any organization in the world working almost anywhere on the planet. As several have pointed out, big name schools count for less in the policy world than in the academic one.

    4) You can, of course, develop your expertise in a UK setting, and then once you have credentials and some policy credibility shift to working with/for the US (the very impressive Emma Sky being the perfect example of this).

    5) As has been pointed out, US PhDs count for more in the US job market than non-US ones, for both good reasons and bad.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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