There are many reasons why you might want to do a PhD.
If you are considering doing one make sure that you do it with a purpose. Do one because you want to and know why you want to do it and have a clear idea of what it could lead to. How is doing a PhD going to help you achieve what you want to in your future?
Reasons to do a PhD.
- It’ll be good for your career. No-one expects you to have your whole career plan mapped out when you start a PhD, but having some ideas of where you want to get to can be useful. Be aware though that you may not get career benefits of a PhD straight away. I spoke recently with a recruiter for a large multinational company about their recruitment of PhDs. They said that many PhDs expect a management position straight away when they enter the job market “because they have a PhD”. Would you trust a manager with no knowledge of the company or industry they are working in? Of course not. The company will have to train you initially, but if you do hold a PhD you might be well placed for faster career acceleration, or to move into a management position sooner than someone without, particularly in a scientific or technical industry. Remember your career is a marathon not a sprint, doing a PhD is not a short cut to career success.
- You want to be an expert in a particular area of your subject. If you complete a PhD you will be. No-one, not your supervisor, not your external examiner at the end of your PhD, no-one, will know more about the subject you researched than you do. To complete a PhD successfully, you have to research something new, something no-one else has researched before. That means you become the expert on that subject, so make sure you pick a PhD that interests you, because you’ll be spending a lot of time working on it.
Which brings us to reason number 3.
- You want to achieve something. You want to work hard and demonstrate a passion for your subject and show how much time and effort you put in and how motivated you are.
- Showing your ability to motivate yourself is one of many skills you’ll be able to demonstrate to employers after doing a PhD, which is handy for entering a competitive job market. These skills include, but by no means are limited to, problem solving, thinking creatively, analysing data, researching a problem and coming up with a solution and communication skills. Most of these are completely unrelated to the subject you’ll be studying. While doing a PhD and after, reflect on the skills you have used and have acquired and be prepared to demonstrate them to new employers when entering the job market.
Reasons not to do a PhD.
- Don’t do it just because your degree research project supervisor asked you if you wanted to do one with them. If you wanted to do one and it’s in an area that interests you then great, go for it. If you hadn’t thought about doing one before they asked, and you’re not sure why you want to do one, make sure you work that out before saying yes to them.
- Don’t do it because you don’t know what else to do. Many people do a PhD because they don’t know what else to do and think it will give them time to work that out. Sometimes they get asked to do one where they did their first degree (see reason 1 above). Don’t be that person. Doing a PhD is a huge commitment, at least 3-4 years of your life, and hard work, so before you take one on, make sure you understand why. Be honest with yourself. If you can’t come up with a good reason why you want to do a PhD and believe it when you ask yourself that question, then don’t do a PhD. If you have to apply for a PhD, you’ll probably be asked that question at interview as well, so make sure you know the answer before you even apply.
- And do it because YOU want to, not because your family, or others expect it of you, or because your family or friends are doing one, or have done one. Make it your decision, not someone else’s.
And finally… do a PhD just because it’s cool to be called Dr! No, that’s not a real reason, but it is nice to get that recognition for your hard work and persistence for completing a challenging programme of work once you achieve it.