(Closed) To phd or not to phd…

posted 1 week ago in College
Post # 16
216 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2018

curiouscat2017 :  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.

Repeated for truth.  Things have REALLY changed in the last couple decades, and all the professors who encourage *everyone* to get their PhD and go into academia don’t seem to realize how insanely competitive and high-cost-low-reward the PhD / post doc route is now.

OP – unless you know for a fact that a PhD would help your job prospects in your specific desired career, I would go into the working world for a little while first, and probably forever.  In this economy, I would be very hesitant to do a PhD that would cost a ton in tuition and in lost wages unless you know that it will have a huge benefit. 

Also, as others pointed out, they can sometimes be a hinderance in the working world.  I have a MS (wildlife biology) and my company doesn’t like to hire PhDs for most positions.

Post # 17
160 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: October 2018

I’m currently in my final year of a 4-year MPsych/PhD course, which is a combined degree that I articulated into during the first year of the Master course. I was persuaded by my research supervisor to try out for the PhD program because she believed that I had the discipline to be a competent PhD student. Getting a PhD has always been a dream of mine, but if I didn’t have her strong support, a clearly planned-out research project, AND a successful application for a scholarship that paid for my school fees + a (measly) monthly living allowance, I wouldn’t have done it. I definitely wouldn’t have paid to do a PhD! With psychology in Australia, having a combined Master/PhD degree gives me the flexibility of either being a practising psychologist, or remaining in academia. Ideally I would be doing both part-time.

If you don’t need the PhD to get a job I’d suggest getting some practical experience in the field for a couple of years first. This way, you’ll get an idea of what social work is like and you could think of research topics related to social work that you’re passionate about, and that will really help when you go back to school to do a PhD. Because like PP said, if you don’t have passion for the topic, it’s really super hard to keep the mojo going. There will be really dark days as well where you’ll feel like the decision to do a PhD was a horrendous mistake, it just happens when you’re working on one huge project for at least 3 years. I’m also really sick of not earning money while everyone around me is buying property, going on holidays… just having much bigger spending power and disposable income while I’m stuck having to save every penny for my wedding hah.

Post # 18
37 posts

I have a Ph.D. in Clin. Psych. Because of the opportunities it allows me (in my state, you basically need a Ph.D. to do psych testing) and the increased reimbursement it gives me, it was worth it. If it wasn’t for the psych testing aspect, it probably would not have been worth it. The DSW is not really a clinical degree, so unless you are absolutely in love with academia and research, it may not be worth it from a time, money, and heartache standpoint.

Post # 19
1031 posts
Bumble bee

Currently in a PhD program with the goal of teaching, but even then I have debated many times whether I should leave with the MA. I’d certainly never tell anyone to apply to PhD programs that 1. didn’t fully fund (as in, they should pay your tuition, give you health benefits, and a stipend) and 2. that weren’t highly ranked in your field. At least in my field, something like 50% of jobs go to people from the top 5 programs, so I don’t say that out of snobbery but out of practicality. It’s just not going to pay off job-wise for most people to get a PhD if they aren’t getting it from a someplace with top experts in their subject. And as others have mentioned, even with fully funded programs, it’s a real uncertainty whether many of us will be able to continue financially if the tax bill proceeds…

Post # 20
46 posts
  • Wedding: September 2016

If I were you I’d work and have kids now, then if you still want a phd in a few years go back then. It’s very easy to fall into/ stay in academia instead of entering the workforce but the day will still come when you need to find a job.

I started a PhD but ended up quitting to go to medical school. I decided to do this because I saw soooo many people graduating their PhDs and not able to find a job (many were applying for the same graduate programs that people with their bachelors apply for). Also the ones that could find a job had a tough slog in academia with short contracts (1 yr at a time), very long hours if they were actually successful academics, and having to follow the jobs all over the world instead of choosing where they wanted to live making relationships/personal life very difficult.

I understand that it would be a life achievement and absolutely think you should go for it – but just wait a few years first to make sure it’s what you really need to do for yourself.

Post # 21
46 posts
  • Wedding: September 2016

also I agree with browneyed girl. If your getting a phd make sure you are getting it from a very reputable university (like the best in the country) and that it’s fully funded. The world of academia is a world of snobbery unfortunately lol. No one wants a post-doc from a mediocre university (even the mediocre universities won’t take them).

Post # 22
7956 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

Have you looked into the career benefits to getting the PHD in your field? Doing a PHD just to do it is not a good reason. It’s hard work, and plenty of people quit their PHD programs because they realize it wasn’t what they thought it would be.

Post # 23
3010 posts
Sugar bee

I wouldn’t immediately. My little sister has her master’s in social work. She worked at a crappy job as a clinician for a few years, and now she works as a clinician at a university. She can get her PhD if she wanted for free now. 

Look, I work in Hiring and Recruiting at a university. We only hire remarkable people for FT teaching positions. Everyone else is adjunct, which totally sucks. We see so many people with PhDs and many of them with no job experience. We don’t hire those people. 

Post # 24
127 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: June 2016

I agree with PP that it is totally field dependent. If there are positions in your field that you would not be able to reach because they require a PhD then by all means do one. But don’t go just for the experience. Totally not worth it. The burn out, the low pay, the “missed” paycheck for all those years that you were not earning real money from a job.
I did a PhD because I wanted to stay in Academia and be a prof. However, during my PhD I realized that Academia had many many flaws that were starting to outweigh the supposed benefits. I have started looking at jobs in my field (outside of Academia) to see what I can find and almost none of them require a PhD (it might be “preferred” or counted as experience but not necessary). I also feel a PhD has made me less confident in my knowledge and abilities. I am trying to overcome that but, in a way, I am less confident to apply for these jobs now than I would have been after my master.

Also, never ever pay for a PhD. Wait until you are offered guaranteed funding for all your years (even if you may have to teach in exchange)

Post # 26
2151 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2016

I am currently working on my MS. I plan to work for a few years, and then most likely will go for a PhD. I think that getting more career experience is important, even if it does delay my timeline as far as PhD or having children. 

I also know that the job I am pursuing with my MS has zero interest in my having a doctorate. That is important for you to consider. Social work doesn’t require that, and it may put you in the unfortunate position of being extremely overqualified.

Don’t pay for a PhD, either. Definitely don’t go into debt for it. The program I intend to do is tuition waved for TAs. It’s also in a field where being a researcher and professor are going to be possible for me. With social work that may not be the case.

Be careful when making this decision. It would be a real shame for you to become simultaneously in debt and overqualified.

Post # 27
1354 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2016

MSW positions don’t typically pay that great. I wouldn’t add more student loans to the mix… especially if you are planning on dropping out of the workforce to have kids.

Post # 29
86 posts
Worker bee

People have made some good comments so I won’t be repetitive to what has already been said. Instead, I’ll touch on the child issue. IF you do decide to get a PhD (though it seems unnecessary), you could in theory juggle both kids and career. It’s hard work for sure, but doable. I have to admit that kids are not in the cards at the moment, personally, because I feel that I already have enough to do with my PhD in neuroscience. But my advisor has three kids, the first of which she had when she herself was a PhD student. That being said, she has a very supportive and helpful partner who can make time for the kids when she can’t, so I think that is definitely an important factor to consider. 

Post # 30
693 posts
Busy bee

anonbee4321 :  If you really have a great desire to get a PhD, then you *will* find a way to go back. A family member of mine entered graduate school in her 50s, because she could afford it and just wanted to do it. 

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