Should I Be Considering A PhD?

Making the decision of whether or not to go for a PhD is never straightforward. This subject always tends to evoke mixed emotions in prospective students due to the increasing number of drop-outs and well-documented challenges associated with pursuing a doctorate degree. It’s important to know exactly what you are getting into before making the decision to go ahead with it. The older we get, the more difficult it becomes to balance the demands of work, life and family with the demands of education.

Despite the promise of prestige associated with doctorate programs, the life of a PhD student is not very glamorous - tight deadlines and heavy research while struggling to meet the terms of the research grant, where applicable. In some UK institutions, the PhD failure rate is above 40%. In the US, only 57% of PhD students obtained their degrees after 10 years. In the humanities, it was approximately 49%.

A range of problems have been cited with PhDs - unsupportive supervisors, funding problems and inadequate institutional support, to mention a few. In the midst of all these challenges, it becomes all too easy to forget the benefits of pursuing a PhD.

This article contains information that will (hopefully) help you decide whether or not to go for a PhD by focusing on its benefits.

1. After chasing dollar signs in the industry for a while, you may want to pursue an industry career in academia that provides the opportunity to go deeper into a specific field - computer science, medical science, etc and contribute your own masterpiece to the academic world. A PhD provides the opportunity to do just that.

2. With a PhD, you will develop transferrable skills like stamina, maturity and the persistence that will see you through any obstacle, whether you choose to work in industry or academia.

3. If you want to learn something new everyday and achieve something significant in the academic world, a PhD will allow you to do just that. A doctorate should be based on a subject you love and would enjoy exploring for many years or it may quickly turn out to be a painful experience.

4. If money is not a problem and you would like to pursue something you are genuinely interested in, you should go for a PhD (or any other degree for that matter). That's not to say that going for a PhD will doom you to a life of pinching pennies. It just means that there are no guarantees - you may invest all that time and energy only to find out that you will not receive much fame, respect or the much-desired glory. If you do it for the love of it however, your fulfilment will be guaranteed.

A PhD is not a be-all and end-all approach to learning, fame, money or glory. Lots of successful people do not have PhDs and not all PhD holders are more successful than those without the degree. Your decision of whether or not to go for a PhD should be for the right reasons so that when push comes to shove and the challenges stare you in the face, you will have the willpower and stamina to see it through till the end.

What do you think?


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