Life Of A Scientist: The PhD Adventure

Having finished a degree in the sciences and having enjoyed it, many find themselves wondering whether they should Do A PhD. It sounds daunting and scary and just generally a bit horrible – which is why many shun away from the idea before the have even had a chance to think it through properly. Of course, a PhD is right for some people and not right for other people. There is no way to definitely know whether it’s going to work for you until you start – much like any other career. However, here are a few points that you may wish to consider.

PRO: A PhD doesn’t mean you need to be an academic forever

Many of those who undertake a PhD end up working in a totally different field. You can go into the private sector (ie work for a pharmaceutical company), you can work in patents, as a scientific communicator, a schoolteacher, a grant assessor, in public policy and in any number of other professions that basically require you to have a doctorate but have not much to do with bench research. People are always looking to hire those who have shown themselves to be hardworking and intelligent.

PRO: A PhD is “easy” money

If you are looking to improve your employability, most of the things you can do are very expensive and will be a strain on your finances. A PhD comes with a (modest but reliable) salary. If you are looking to get into higher paid professions, getting a doctorate will make it easier in the long term – while paying you for your trouble!

PRO: PhDs are fun!

It is an amazing privilege to go into a PhD because you get to do what you love (hopefully science!) and get paid for your trouble with money and a title. When you think about it, that’s pretty amazing. Most people have to wait until after 5pm to get to do what they love!

CON: A PhD is hard work

That’s undeniable. If you think you might like to get in late and leave early every day of your working life, that’s not the route for you. If your weekends are untouchable, that’s not the route for yu. If you have other interests that are going to take up most of your energy and excitement if not necessarily time – that’s ok! But doing a PhD might not be the way forward for you, at least at this stage in life.

CON: A PhD is long

When you get into your first job after university, you could easily leave it after a couple of years. A PhD will take around 4 years to complete, during which time you will be stuck in the same place earning basically the same money. If you are looking to play the field and find yourself a little bit – this might not be the way for you!

CON: A PhD doesn’t come with much accolade

If you become a banker or go to medical school, everybody will know and respect what you’re doing. If you do a PhD, not so much. Of course, some people will. Some people will genuinely find it amazing and ask you loads of questions about your work and be impressed with what you do. But most people won’t. Your mother’s friends from her book-club might not coo over your career choices as much as they would if you were training to be a doctor, or drove a brand new Mercedes at 25. If you care about that sort of thing (which is totally OK by the way!), then a PhD might not be the way forward.

Are YOU thinking about doing a PhD? What are you considering? Let me know in the comments below!!


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