Friday, October 28

should you do a phd?

both of you have mentioned that you may want to consider doing a PhD. it is a good thing to do, kids, but you should be sure of why you want to do it. I came across this article which gives a very good response to if you should do a phd. I have done phd's for professional reasons as well as personal reasons. All my PhD's had something to do with my job but I didn't get my job because of my phd…it was because of the skills I had. For example, i got a job in a s/w firm because i was able to code, do complex mathematical and statistical calculations and knew financial markets but then anybody with a MSc could get it as well.

so something to think about :)

and now i have to go to the library to work on my PhD..I have to go check out some ledgers dating back the 1700's :)




"I don't know if we'll have time to meet again before I go back but I just wanted to wrap up and give you some more thoughts on doing a PhD, if you are considering it

1. It's good to have an idea why you are doing it, for example to get a certain kind of job in industry, or to get an academic job, or just to expand your knowledge. I think all of these reasons are fine. Remember that professorships are very few and today, most PhDs can not continue to become full professors. In many fields, postdocs are in a way "cheap labour" relative to their skill level. I don't recommend doing a PhD just because you have nothing better to do ;-)
Over the years since the 70's or so, the number of PhD students has increased dramatically, as has the number of postdocs, but the number of associate/assistant or tenured professors has not really changed. It has become much, much harder to climb that academic pyramid that you may be dreaming of...

2. As I said it's important to have an advisor you like and respect... some advisors really like the scientific field and some are more political/administrators. Both kinds may work for you depending on your personal style, and both kinds may cause problems for you. It may be very hard to switch advisor once you start, depending on the country you do it in, and this person's name will be with you forever. It seems to me that in practice, almost everybody has a mixed experience with their supervisors, so there will be good and bad things, just like in any relationship. In many ways I was lucky with my supervisor, because he secured funding and allowed me a lot of research freedom, but he was a little bit too political for me to really respect him as a mentor (keep this comment to yourself please).

3. Whatever you do, almost nobody will earn more money at the end of their career because they had a PhD. On the other hand, you may get to do more interesting jobs, and some jobs indeed require a PhD. As an experienced software engineer, fortunately you will always be employable anyway (in today's market conditions) so you don't need to worry too much about your worst case situation. You will not be unemployed and forced to live with your parents. PhDs in history or philosophy are not that lucky in 2015...

4. (Advice for actually doing a PhD.) PhD students spend many years focusing on a very small part of their field, so it seems common to lose your sense of proportion during or after you've done it. I still think of a lot of things in terms of programming languages...
So if you ever do it, you should try to keep an outside life as much as possible (non-academic friends, physical exercise etc) to make sure your life doesn't become totally unbalanced.
Also, I would at that point recommend not taking your own publications and publication record too seriously, even though it may be a condition for graduating.. ("at least three high level publications" or something similar might be an expectation). Your supervisor will always push you to publish, since he/she gets credit for it, for free. I worried way too much about this, which actually hurt my results and caused a lot of pain. Just like in love, the only way to win that game is not to be too desperate ;-)"

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