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Part 2: Corporate Executive Earns PhD Online

Michelle Seyfarth earned her online PhD in industrial/organizational psychology and now runs her own coaching and leadership business, Seyfarth Diversified Strategies. This is part two of a two-part interview.

Q. Tell us about your favorite class.

A. My favorite class is actually the only class I received a grade lower than an A. I received a B in this particular class which was on leadership theories. The instructor was fantastic! He really challenged me to think even more outside the box than I usually do. In this class, we often had to defend a certain theory, whether we agreed with it or not. He would often ask questions or provide additional channels of thought. Of all the classes I took, this one in particular is the one I feel I truly learned the most and it was because of the instructor and his ability to challenge and push the students to critically think about and apply the concepts and theories we studied.

Q. What sorts of expectations did you have before you started your online degree program and how did your experience compare to those expectations?

A. Quite honestly, when I started the online program, I wasn't sure how it would go, so I had very limited expectations. I was not expecting to do as much work as I did. My other degrees are from traditional brick-and-mortar universities, and while I worked hard for all of my degrees, the online degree required much more time and effort. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of most of the instructors. For the most part, they have both academic and applied knowledge of the disciplines they are teaching and they generously share their knowledge and experiences.

Q. How did the online school you attend help support you academically and professionally?

A. Academic support is readily available and it is up to the student to access it. Academic support came from the on-site workshops/colloquia requirements as well as various online forums and resources. The university provided online forums for students by geography, by discipline, by school, etc. The greatest piece of support for me came in the mentor I was assigned when I first started my online PhD program. My mentor supported me through the good times and the frustrating times from my first class through graduation.

The school also provides a tremendous amount of assistance through their interactive career services center and their alumni association.

Q. Do you feel the classes prepared you for or were directly relevant to your current career?

A. The industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology field is so broad that I had a lot of choices and flexibility in the classes I took. That flexibility allowed me to select courses that were directly relevant to my career at the time, as well as the career I was planning.

Q. Do you think you've received a return on your investment in your online degree?

A. I am beginning to see a financial return on my investment. Now that I own a business, I think the PhD helps lend credibility to what I do, especially when I'm working within larger corporations or within the educational system. In looser terms, I think I began to see a "knowledge" return on the investment almost immediately.

Q. What are your future career goals and will your degree help you to achieve them?

A. My future career goals include becoming an adjunct instructor, both online and in a traditional classroom. I also hope to publish a book in the next year or so. The degree will certainly help me achieve my adjunct instructor goal and I think it will help lend credibility to the book(s) I write.

Q. What advice would you give to someone considering an online degree?

A. Do your research! Compare the program or programs you are interested in with a variety of schools. Ask the schools you are interested in if they will allow you to speak with a current student or a recent graduate of the program you are interested in, and if so, ask that person questions about the program, the school, the requirements, and the instructors. Know what you want to gain and make sure the program and school you select will help you achieve your goals.

It took Michelle a while to decide on an online PhD in industrial/organizational psychology, but it ended up being the right choice for her career and goals. Follow Michelle's example and advice when looking at PhD degree programs: do your research!

Read Part 1 of the Interview with Michelle Seyfarth.

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About the Author
JoVon Sotak is a writer, community journalist, and photographer who enjoys living in the middle of nowhere. Her work has been featured on a variety of websites and throughout Nevada.

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