5 reasons why not to do a PhD
What should you know before starting/getting into a PhD? The university and academic-biased media would likely tell you about choosing a supervisor; a research topic,…etc. The real question you should ask yourself: do you really have to do a PhD? Do you want to spend the next 4 to 10 years of your life in grad school? Do you have a clear plan of what to do after? Do you really think a PhD will make your life easier? enjoyable?
One of the main reasons that young aspiring students go for a PhD is that they don’t know what else to do, and are afraid of leaving school. It is a real issue, as most of the bright students have been in school all their life. Putting off the inevitable while pursuing a prestigious degree like PhD is easily justifiable to oneself, and to others. But this is merely a temporary solution for someone who doesn’t know what to do in life yet. My advice, know that NOW rather than 10 years later.
A PhD is a huge commitment and it only sets you up for a miserable non-converging career path in academia! There are reasons for and against doing a PhD, and our job here is to advertize for reasons against the PhD because students are unlikely to hear about them anywhere else. Author Lynn O’Shaughnessy picked up 12 reasons not to get a PhD. Out of these, I heard the following ones (ranked here by importance ) from a large number of fellow PhDs, that I almost consider them as facts:
1. A PhD takes twice as long as a bachelor’s degree to complete. The average student takes 8.2 years to slog through a PhD program and is 33 years old before earning that top diploma. By that age, most Americans with mere bachelor’s degree are well into establishing themselves professionally.
2. Professors will exploit you. It takes forever to earn a doctorate degree because graduate students are routinely treated like slaves. Grad students perform the grunt work that professors find distasteful, such as teaching undergraduates, grading papers, holding office hours, and playing mother hen to undergrads. And it’s hard to say no to a professors’ unreasonable demands because grad students needs faculty members on their side.
3. Jobs can also be scarce outside academia. PhD holders in the humanities have long struggled to find jobs related to their expertise, but it’s also become challenging in the sciences. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry was once a job haven for PhD grads in chemistry and biology, but that pipeline has largely dried up as the industry has consolidated and moved jobs outside the U.S.
4. Academic jobs are tough to find. According to the authors of the book “Higher Education?,” America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. During that period, however, only 16,000 new professorships were created. Here’s another grim stat from the National Science Foundation: Only 14 percent of Americans with a doctorate in biology and the life sciences are landing an academic position within five years of graduating.
5. You probably won’t get tenure. The old model of academics paying their dues and ultimately securing tenure for life at a tree-lined campus is archaic. Non-tenure-track jobs now account for 68 percent of all faculty appointments in the U.S., according to the American Association of University Professors.
I also like the last reason “you can’t eat prestige.” I can add passion, love, …etc. The author concludes with: “The bottom line: If you are smart enough to earn a PhD, you are smart enough not to pursue one.”