5 reasons why doing a PhD is awesome

1. Because you’re doing something most people couldn’t do

It’s a challenge, and it’s really hard, but that’s why you’re here! You’ll be able to look back on it with pride.

2. You’re doing that’s never been done before

And contributing to the body of knowledge, even if in a small way.

3. You don’t have to search for a real job for a while

So if you don’t know what to do with your life, you have a nice buffer of a few years before making a decision.

4. You get to work with very smart people

You might only realise this if you leave academia, but there aren’t many places like universities for finding such a concentration of amazingly clever people.

5. You get to call yourself doctor when you finish

You also get to use the line, “trust me, I’m a doctor” at every opportunity.

 

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below!

 

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Comments

  1. Conway says

    Hi, guys I like your arguments for and against a PHD. I don’t have a PHD but I am intending to pursue one. For me a the degree will serve unique purpose – I will have a title that matches my knowledge and skills as most people think me to have it considering the way how I do my business. Of course i also want to contribute to academia in some ways.

    The significance of the PHD lies with the holder- how professional they are in their job and in society.

    The “free lunch” or travels to conferences are returns on time , money and effort spent doing a PHD hence I put it in inverted commas.

    To James, I was inspired by your presentation on how to do a PHD in three months- i shared it with my friend and was inspired and challenged.

    Thank you.

  2. Norman Baker says

    Having had a PhD for over forty years I must say the advantage of the degree is mostly internal. It does change youand the way you look at the world. However never forget that as far as other people are concerned, “A PhD and a ten dollar bill will get you a cup of coffee most places in the country.” So don’t let it go to your head.

  3. JD2013 says

    I am a JD, I plan to do an LLM and then a PhD after that.

    As a “First Professional Doctor” I can say that it is kind of nice to have the title “Dr”, but the perk of the PhD for me is not just that (since I already have it) but instead to persue paths beyond being “just a lawyer”

  4. Tiggerrrrr says

    Wow Wendy- you must be having a rotten time doing a PhD, it can be and is for many the very best time of your life. It is always excrutiatingly hard work. The learning curve is huge because if you are doing a good PhD you are breaking totally new ground in whatever field you are working in (mine is archaeology, so sometimes I am literally breaking ground) and I consider it a privelege to be able to come to my university every day and work with world class professors who might well be using me as slave labour (I worked damm hard and got a PhD scholarship which is not actually enough to live on, so I also work to supplement it) but why would you do it if you didn’t love what you were doing. Seriously, don’t bother with the PhD if you do not LOVE what you are doing, because (i) you will never do as good a piece of research as you could (ii) you will never enjoy working in the field when you do get out and work in a job that pays more than a scholarship, and (iii) you are just making yourself sick, and not contributing to anything for yourself, society, the university. As a mature ager I have had those so called real jobs, they are great, you meet lots of great people, you learn lots and you bring it into whatever you do, but most of all you learn to appreciate what you have and get over all the crap about social class and low funding at universities. Get over it princess, and get into the real world and enjoy the challenges, low wages and fantabulous intellectual stimulation of getting a doctorate. Few have the capacity (intellectually), the tenacity or the emotional stability to go for the long haul and live on the smell of an oily rag, but think of the rewards of a job well done, a piece of original research and the intellectual respect you will be given and the pride you will feel in your achievements. Reality bites, but it only stings for a second or tow.

  5. Wendy says

    Honestly, when I read such a naive piece in this day in age, it makes me sick. Can we say unwitting UNIVERSITY brand ambassador? If you have pots of money (which may be the case with this writer) I’m sure it’s great to do a doctorate, but it’s probably great to do just about anything else too (e.g. finding oneself in Nepal, working for the Peace Corps, etc). If you don’t have money, beware. About 70 percent of the faculty are now part-time, many of whom, as Josh Bolt has argued, are living precariously close to the poverty line. So whoever you are, I urge you to talk to the adjuncts at your institution to see if they feel about your university in the same way you do. Putting off working is NOT an option for many people who are forced into low-waged labour to pursue “their” dream–often at the hands of unscrupulous professors who are just dying to fill their classes with more starry-eyed students like you who don’t realize that they are being fleeced for all they are worth. And if you are a TA,you will find those same full-time professors who welcome you with open arms, vampirishly, sucking all the life out of you as you work year after year for almost nothing. Yeah, it MAY be a wonderful thing to do a doctorate, especially if you get the a) scholarship lottery, 2) job lottery and biggest of all 3) SOCIAL CLASS lottery. But for all of you thinking of doing the doctorate, be warned that the swelling ranks of underpaid adjuncts is only going to grow. Hopefully, there will soon be an adjunct revolution and this kind of rosey eyed view of “the life of the mind” will finally be exposed for the sham that it is once and for all.

  6. Ahmad says

    To me, doing a PhD was an amazing learning experience. And that’s why it was awesome. When you do a PhD, you develop a skill of being a critical thinker. You start appreciating evidence-based claims. You start questioning what people say or write. You also discover new things that you didn’t know existed. For example, before starting my PhD, I didn’t know something called “Activity Theory” existed. When I learned about it, I wanted to discover more. So the deeper you go, the more you discover. It’s like scuba diving.

    You also become a much better writer. And that’s always a good thing, no matter what your job is.

  7. hellsangel says

    Although I agree that all of those things are benefits of doing a PhD I think that they are largely outweighed by the stress of living in a black hole for 3-4 years, inadequate supervisors, university bureaucracy etc.

    I would love to be enjoying my PhD the way some people seem to but I honestly was happier having a ‘real job’.

  8. Gail says

    Ha! when i first started i thought i was being hired (scholarship) to do a huge amount of work, for which there was a huge learning curve, for very little pay, with a completion bonus of a PhD. And in some ways that is still the way i see it, except i have not finished as i have had to divert in many ways. i still think the opportunity is AWESOME!!! The people i have met, the places i have seen, the skills i have developed, the knowledge i have gained are now an integral part of me. I would wish this process on everybody….i wish more people could/would spend their time learning and growing…maybe we’d (global community) be in a lot less trouble if more people learned more…..

  9. Geoda says

    Definitively right that you are doing something never done before and you are working/sharing/getting to know incredibly smart people. I would include that you develop tons of new skills (hard and the so-called “soft” ones), than probably will be a life-changing advantage after the PhD. Obviously, if everything goes smoothly you’ll be doctor, and if you are fun of American-style movies, then you could joke about it.

    However, I don’t think that you need other than tenacity and strong desire to complete a PhD, and it really seems elitist to say that not everyone could do it. In my opinion the only condition is that you have finished an MSc and have the will to pursue a PhD. And about the real job comment, I simply don’t want to get started… Let’s be serious, THE PHD IS A REAL JOB. We produce knowledge, and even more importantly, data to confront the new and old knowledge. Maybe we don’t get to develop a new theory, but we produce the data base for the people who are in position of creating it (the very smart people that you mentioned), thus we are essential in pushing the global knowledge wall a bit further. It hard, and it seems small thing, but this is only because your focus in on yourself, and it should be in the science. Lots of very small steps need to be done before walking, and lots of walking needs to be done before running. One PhD is one of the small steps in science (even if it last 3-4+ years)

    I have to disagree with some of the comments as well… It’s not free travelling and/or free lunches – They are pay by the tax payers (i.e. everyone!), so it’s NOT something awesome, is something that one should use only if needed and to disseminate your work into the community. Evidently, once these conditions are required, there is nothing wrong in taking advantage of it, staying longer and visit the city (as your own vacations and on your own expenses).

    I will like to ask to please be more conscious about what a PhD is and who pays it. Maybe these could help as a motor for its completion. It certainly does to me.

    • jameshayton says

      Well we could get into quite a debate here. A PhD means different things to different people, obviously, but it is an elite thing… not everyone can do it, just like not everyone can compete in the Olympics. You say the only condition it to have a master’s degree and the will and determination… well not everyone has a masters degree and not everyone has the determination…

      You can treat your PhD as a job, as I guess you do, and it depends where you are and what the culture is in your department, but it is not the same. Doing a postdoc is very different, even if a lot of the day to day work is similar.

      And really, if there are free sandwiches after a seminar, do you spend time worrying about who pays for it? Of course we all know, but it’s still OK to think, “awesome! sandwiches!”

      Given the balance of things, I think a lot of PhD students have a rough time and aren’t given the support they need. I am very aware of what a PhD is, having done one and seen students treated as slave labour. But hey, there are cool things too, and I reserve the right to make the occasional flippant remark (or blog post).

      • Geoda says

        P1:
        Elitism in terms of only few people actually do it = awesome
        Elitism in terms of only few people can do it = badass

        P2:
        As a PhD you do basically the same as any other researcher, but you are in the process of learning, ergo don’t do it as fast/as good as postdocs, associates or professors. However, if you earn money and pay taxes because of it, then it has to be a job.

        P3:
        Free sandwiches are awesome, as well as free drinks or free travelling with your PhD, but they are not free… They are pay by others, and in the previous posts no one seemed to have acknowledge that. That was my point.

        P4:
        A lot of people have rough times when starting a new thing, no matter what, but especilly if we are talking about a new job. It is true that big guys take advantage of you if they can, but hey, if you give up, you’ll be in the possition to stop the abusive-treatment change of command and start something fairer (this is something one’ll never dream of if working for a company). Each one of us is the academy, so if there are things wrong, we have the capacity of change them.

        • Geoda says

          In last paragraph I meant,

          you’ll never be in the possition to stop the abusive-treatment change of command

          obviously

          • says

            I have certainly never considered doing a PhD as a job. I got paid (many people don’t) a stipend by the taxpayer. However for the hours I, and most people spend working, the taxpayer got an incredibly deal (not even close to minium wage). I hope they wouldn’t begrudge me a free sandwich or two, even if they don’t benefit directly from it.

            I think the point James makes about things being “free” is a good one, effectively meaning we don’t have to take money out of our own pocket to travel and eat the occasional sandwich. This is a genuine perk if you get the opportunity and I see no problem with viewing it as such.

            Also I think the role of a PhD student and a post doc have the potential to be the same. The only difference (and it’s a big one) is the output required from each. With any kind of research, there are skills you will have to learn from scratch but the fact that you don’t have to produce a thesis at the end of a post doc means that you have a lot more flexibility with the work that you do. I always considered myself more of a student when doing the PhD and there aren’t many jobs that will give you the flexibility of working hours and personal appearance that a PhD gives which is really cool.

            Slave labour comes part and parcel with the PhD. The fact that you care so much about your project and the outcome mean that often, you can’t walk away and you will work every waking hour to get it finished. This can feel suffocating at times but it’s one of the reasons that we achieve success so it’s not all bad.

            I also agree that doing a PhD is awesome. Completing a PhD is the awesomest. The things I really loved about it are the “soft” skills as you say Geoda. Things like time management, project management, diplomacy, office politics are incredibly useful and important to me now. I learned them all during my PhD and even though they seem like secondary benefits, I know they will be with me for life.

  10. says

    Saying “trust me, I’m a doctor” is lots of fun. Telling your bank repeatedly for four years to correct your details is not…

    One of the things that I really loved about doing a PhD was the opportunity to travel (from Liverpool I went to Edinburgh, Swansea, Newcastle – and I got to spend three weeks in Marseille!) for conferences.

    More than that, the PhD is time to try new things for yourself: to say yes to opportunities and see what happens.

    • jameshayton says

      Yeah, the free travel was awesome… and of course the occasional free lunch (there IS such a thing).

      • B abroad via UK says

        For me it is the fact of finding an area that I am fascinated about, designing the study, finding the participants, going to them (in five different countries – totally at my own cost), interviewing them, analysing the data and when finished presenting my findings – whatever they are…. I find that totally exciting. Although I don’t have children, I feel as if I’m giving birth…

        I guess I am enjoying the whole process although struggling with academic writing. I also paid for my BA and MSc myself so am looking forward to getting a few sandwiches – hopefully, one day.

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