I earned a Masters degree in 2007. I thought about going directly for a PhD but had health problems. For thr past two years I have thought about returning. What is a good way to apply to a PhD program when one has not been in academics for several years? I notice that most applications require professor recommendations. How does one go about this when one has not been in contact with professors for five plus years? I feel that I best belong in academics but wonder how I could re -establish myself after working outside several years.
I finished my PhD early this year so maybe I can help.
First, email your previous supervisor (advisor). Explain where you have been and what you have been doing. 5 years is really not a long time, and many departments appreciate people who have work experience since that can bring many positive things into the academic work. (Quite of few of my colleagues had a several year break between the masters and the PhD and that was seen as a plus.) Tell them you want to apply for a PhD and ask them for a reference. I doubt they will say no, as most academics are likely to be happy and encouraging about your decision. In case you don't get a required number of references for your application, just email the head of department and explain your situation and ask if you can have your boss act in that capacity. Don't be shy to ask for advice from the admin staff as well, because they can be such a valuable source of information and help. I hope things go smoothly. Best of luck!
Contra Mundum, thank you for your advice. I had not thought about contacting the head of department and asking if my boss could send a professional reference instead. I also will keep in mind contacting the admin staff.