Reader story: Ten Reasons NOT to Do a PhD
Here are ten reasons why your dreams of a glittering research career will sooner or later turn to shit.
1. The world doesn’t care about PhDs
You’re probably thinking that a doctorate – the jewel in the crown of academic qualifications – will open the door to fantastic career opportunities. Wrong, I’m afraid. Unless you’ve done ground-breaking research in an area of science or technology directly related to an employer’s business, they’ll be uninterested. The fact is, a PhD is near-worthless in the commercial job market, and – because of massive oversupply – is rapidly dwindling in value in the academic job market also.
2. For most researchers, there’s no such thing as a ‘research career’
The best most can hope for is five or ten years in junior post-doc roles, followed by an abrupt switch of occupation when it becomes clear that the academic research path is leading nowhere. For the majority of PhDs, the ‘research career’ remains always a phantasm.
3. As a researcher, you’ll be working for someone else’s glory
Though your ‘research career’ will eventually hit the skids, you’ll be able to experience the warm glow of satisfaction from seeing your supervisor/ professor (having taken credit for much of your work) soaring to ever greater professional heights. Oh, for the professorial life, leading battalions of researchers as they turn out papers that you can tag your name to!
4. Most PhDs end up in non-research jobs
Long-term destination stats for PhDs show the majority settling for non-research jobs. That’s the stark reality.
5. Research skills aren’t transferable
One of the things they tell you is that the research skills you acquire will be transferable to high-level non-research jobs. This is a lie.
6. You’ll be starting again from square one
Because most employers will (i) not give a damn about your PhD, or (ii) see it as a negative (because you’re “over-qualified”, see?), you’ll probably have to start at the bottom and try to work your way up. Which is where you would have been before embarking on PhD study. Except you’ll be years older, dummy!
7. Your non-PhD peers will be way ahead of you
While you’ve been messing about in academia for five, ten, fifteen years, your peers will have been out in the real world, forging real careers. So, when you’re stuck in some poorly-paid, graduate-entry-level role, struggling to pay the rent on your crummy room, many of them will be enjoying seniority, reaping high salaries and buying their own homes.
8. Most research admin jobs are dogshit
One thing (UK) universities do to try to conceal the dearth of real research jobs is to create administrative roles with the word ‘research’ in the title, e.g Research Development Manager, Research Policy Consultant, Senior Research Coordinator. Despite the often grand-sounding titles, most are glorified clerical roles with little or no research content.
9. Your new boss might be an arsehole
In your low-grade, post-research job, you’ll very likely be taking orders from someone less qualified, less intelligent and possibly younger than you. And you can be sure that this individual will derive pleasure from your obvious humiliation as his/her underling.
10. You may never fulfil your potential
This is serious. Time is the most precious thing you have. To fritter away many of the best years of your life on endeavours that lead nowhere might be regarded as foolhardy. Think carefully where it is you want to be in life and the best path there. In most cases a PhD is unlikely to be a crucial stepping-stone on that path.