(Closed) To phd or not to phd…

posted 7 months ago in College
Post # 2
5029 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: December 2014

I have a PhD, but if I could do it over, I wouldn’t get one. The reason I say that is because having a PhD can be very limiting as far as job prospects go. University teaching jobs (that aren’t adjunct) are pretty hard to come by these days and you’re overqualified for a lot of other stuff. Because jobs are limited, it’s hard to stay in one area and most people end up having to move to chase a job. I’m a biologist though, I don’t know if it’s the same for social work. I would think long and hard about the reality of what you can do with a PhD in your field before you commit to taking the loss of income and paying for one. It is a great accomplishment and something to be proud of, but you have to make sure it’s going to be worth it. A lot of PhDs I know are stuck doing adjunct teaching making barely any money with no benefits while they try to find a “real” job. 

Post # 3
1082 posts
Bumble bee

For me to have a career, I had to go to grad school and on. I have an A.S. and B.S. Physics…

For me, I got so so tired of college. 6 years. I debated on going for at least a Masters in Medical Physics and felt pretty dead set on it… but once I graduated with the B.S. I never pursued it. Never even took the GRE.

Do I regret it?? Not really. I think the experience would have been fun but not on the school level. Plus, although those types of fields are fully covered by the institution, I still wouldn’t be able to work and would have racked up more debt than I already had from school.

I would only go back for a B.S. in Nuclear Engineering since I am 72 hours away if I had a free ride and bills taken care of!

Post # 4
1900 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2017

Hmm I’m not sure what its like in your area, but where I live there wouldn’t be many professional benefits of having a PhD in social work in comparison to just a Masters. If worrying about burnout is really your main reason, I would probably just start working now, and if burnout does become an issue go back to school then if you feel like its the right choice. 

For context of my opinion, I am also 25, already have a BA and an MSc in psychology, and now am pursuing a joint doctorate (MA/PhD) in clinical psychology. I will be 31 when I graduate and really wish I could just start working and making decent money already. I personally couldn’t fathom being in school this long if it wasn’t absolutely necessary for my career. And I will probably even have to push back graduation because we really don’t want to wait that long to have kids. 

Post # 5
1800 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: Chateau Lake Louise

anonbee4321 :  From both a personal and professional standpoint I’d say you might not be best served to go on right at this point.

While I understand the temptation to stay in academia, I would say that unless you want to teach right away it can actually make you a better PhD candidate to have some professional experience going in. Additionally, having worked in the field might help you more clearly identify the area of focus you are most interested in for your thesis.

On a more personal level, if you can afford do with one income, it might actually make more sense to work for the next few years, and then pursue your PhD after you start your family. This would afford you the chance to stay at home, if that is an ambition of yours, and once your child is in school and more self-sufficient, there’s no reason you can’t make the switch back to being a student yourself.

Parenthood has a way of focusing your priorities. You might find you don’t care to put in the extra effort and expense for a PhD or you may be that much more motivated to be able to pursue a career in academia yourself.

I’d say undertaking an advanced graduate degree should be something you only do if your career path absolutely demands it. The cost in time and resources is so tremendous; it should be something you simply cannot imagine yourself NOT doing. I think having real life experience doing what you are currently trained for might be the best way to answer that question once and for all.

Post # 6
728 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2016

I think you should absolutely work for a while first and then decide how you feel. Plus then you can save money so that if you decide to go back for a doctorate you could still have kids while in the later half of your program. I am about 2/3 way through my PhD and oh boy am I burnt out. I would NOT recommend going straight into one from a masters. Gaining work experience now will make you a much stronger candidate for programs, help you decide if that’s what you really want, and keep you from being burnt out when you’re in the program. Good luck!

Post # 7
8580 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2016

My husband is currently getting a PhD in biology. It’s required for the career he wants to pursue. But it would have been out of the question if he had to pay for it. He only applied to programs that are fully funded with a stipend and benefits.

I really don’t think a PhD would be worth taking on student loans or is honestly worth the time and effort if it won’t enhance your career.

Post # 8
595 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: November 2016

I am currently pursuing my PhD in a STEM field (human molecular genetics), and I honestly do not know much about having a PhD in social work.  For me, having my PhD will be extremely beneficial in my career choice since I will be going to law school after to pursue patent/intellectual property law. However, I am not sure what advantages a PhD in social work would have over a master’s in social work. What I would suggest is talk to people in your area (mentors, advisors, faculty members, fellow classmates) about the job opportunities, and find out if your master’s will be sufficient for doing the kind of work you want to do.  I am fortunate in that my tuition is 100% covered by my institution, and they also pay me a $24,000 a year stipend. This benefit was a huge draw for me.  If that will not be the case for you, I would really think long and hard before pursuing your PhD, especially without knowing for sure that it would open up additional opportunities for you.  You may be able to teach with your master’s…I’m really not sure.  But I think it would be worth looking into.  Like PPs have said: You can go back and pursue you PhD once your child(ren) is older, and you would no longer feel like your biological clock is ticking. Darling Husband and I are CFBC, so that is a dynamic that I can’t give advice on.  Good luck Bee!

Post # 9
1149 posts
Bumble bee

No matter what field, a PhD is basically slogging through some of the toughest (yet most rewarding) aspects of your field in terms of research and writing. You’ll be doing that every single day for years on end. And then that will be a big part of your life’s legacy. If you don’t feel like it’s your absolute life passion to follow that path, I think it’s not worth it just to say that you did it.

Post # 10
9801 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2015

I don’t think proud feelings are enough to justify the years and expense to get a PhD unnecessary for your field… for a job you haven’t even worked yet. I would work a few years in the field at least.

Post # 11
864 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2018

If I had it to do over, I would not get my graduate degree. It did not help my career, it cost money, it took time, and it arguably pushed back the time at which I will have children. When I’m making that payment every month the bragging rights just seem nominal. 

If there is a career that you absolutely love and want to spend 50 hours a week in that requires a PhD, then pursue the PhD. But if you can get this career otherwise, then please do not waste 5 years of your life for bragging rights. It isn’t worth it. 

Post # 12
1334 posts
Bumble bee

Everyone makes really good points, but another thing to (unfortunately) consider is that there is still a chance that the new tax bill will tax tuition waivers for graduate students. I don’t know how it is in your field, but in physics most PhD students have their tuition waived in exchange for TAing/doing research. Previously the cost of this waiver was tax exempt. If this is part of the tax bill that is passed the financial aspects of pursuing a Phd will be very different from what they currently are. I’d hold off on making any decisions until we know what the status of tuition waivers will be.

For the record, I’m a PhD student in physics on my last year. Luckily for me I will graduate before any new tax bill goes into affect. But if this bill goes through and I had still been in school I would literally not be able to afford to live on my salary anymore and would have to either drop out of graduate school or take on loans (not something done in my field because the jobs don’t pay much after school and you are supposed to be covered by your department through TAing).

Post # 13
728 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2016

Rereading I saw you mentioned “thousands of dollars on the degree.” That would change my answer to a no-a Phd is not worth it if you have to pay for it. 

Post # 14
762 posts
Busy bee

anonbee4321 :  Q1: do you need a PhD or is it purely because job market is equally bleak? I thought social work is more focused on the reaching out n actions for those who needed help the most.

Q2: why is it that life stops when one does a PhD? We need to start perceiving PhD as a job. Though a student, but not exactly one. So if life goes on while working, life goes on while working on a PhD.

Q3: can’t you work first for a year or so then decide? I agree with some PPs that it’s never too late to work on a PhD when your future kids start school and you’ve more time. 

My friend started her part time BA when she was in her 40s, after her kids are in high school. Her priority when she finished high school was to start earning money. It worked out for her. She’s starting her MA next year.

I’m a PhD candidate in plant sciences but worked for almost 5 years after my BSc before I did a MSc and now a PhD. The desire to complete a PhD has always been there. And I got a scholarship to go to a top university for my PhD. Why not being paid to travel? It had been a pretty traumatic few years, the highs are great but the lows can be deep valley of darkness. I met my fiancé in the dept so thank God I took the offer. And yeah, our lived didn’t stop while I’m working in the lab and now writing up. Last few weeks before submission. 

My advice is.. if u don’t need one to get a job then maybe delay it till you’ve tasted independence of earning a decent salary. How much I yearn for it now! I’m blessed that I’ve got a postdoc position lined up where my fiancé will do his but yeah.. it’s still not permanent right. If you cannot handle not having a PhD and have a BURNING DESIRE on research topic you’ll be working on, then all the best in applying grad school. I seriously mean BURNING DESIRE.

Keep us updated!

Post # 15
1555 posts
Bumble bee

One of the smartest people I know mastered out of her PhD program because she decided it didn’t make sense to go past a master’s. 

This tax bill is also about to rake PhD students across the coals. 

The PhD system allows academia to squeeze a lot of grossly underpaid labor out of 20-somethings in exchange for a vanishing dream of being a professor. Some of them will obtain that, or are in fields where they will actually have a job at the end lol, but most of them have a raw deal. 

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