Why should anyone write a PhD?

Surely one of the most important questions and the constant motivator throughout the process of writing your thesis is constantly keeping in mind the reason you started.
A fresh PhD graduate told me she has learned a lot from this experience and developed her presentation and research skills; has gained a lot of in-depth knowledge, has met and worked with great people. She told me she wrote her thesis because she would like to work afterwards either in Academia as a Post-Doc/Assistant Professor or in a company in the R & D Department as a Researcher/Method Specialist. Her advice was to keep in mind all the time the objectives you set for yourself at the beginning because the road can sometimes seem never-ending, there is no palpable outcome, that is not something you can actually measure and subjectivity is your biggest enemy. You will ”fight” with yourself, with others, you will be constantly criticized, sometimes strangled alone in a sea of concepts, research methods and you should be capable of managing this independently.
One of my friends, who is in his 3rd year of PhD, told me that not a day passes by that he does not ask himself why, even several times a day: he asks himself that when he goes in the morning to the university, when he receives feedback from the journals he submitted articles to, when he has writer’s block, when he has to revise his papers 10-12 times in a period of 2 months and especially when he goes home and thinks of all the papers he still has to write/read. So I asked, why are you writing this? He said his initial motivation was so he could later have a better position and a higher salary, now he’s just doing it because he cannot take it anymore and just wants to finish it already. In the end, he thinks PhD students exist so that professors can publish articles in the journals and build their academic/research reputation with cheap researchers.
Personally, I cannot think of anything else I would rather do: if the opportunity presents itself, if you have time and you want to invest in yourself don’t think twice and take it. I don’t believe this will make me a better, more capable person, surely I will acquire different skills and learn a lot and that matters. Having the work experience, I know what it means to be an employee in a multinational company, to work under tight deadlines and be constantly on the edge, always fighting to reach your target and going from the office straight home to bed because you don’t have the energy to do anything else. I have been dreaming of this for a long time but I never thought about it in a realistic way, I never thought I would go back to Uni… But here I am now. I plan to keep a part-time job and start my PhD in September. Sounds like a great plan.

Additionally, here are some interesting opinions and articles on what people think about PhDs:

– this article from The Economist on ”The disposable academic” is just great, wraps all the things you need to know
http://www.economist.com/node/17723223

– Thor May’s straightforward opinions and his experience from writing a PhD
http://www.academia.edu/1978293/Why_Write_A_PhD

– and to balance the score, Lucy Russel’s article in The Independent on why writing a PhD is still one of the most interesting and life-changing experiences
http://www.independent.co.uk/student/postgraduate/why-writing-a-phd-is-still-a-lifechanging-personal-journey-444247.html

So why should anyone write a PhD?
Hopefully the personal opinions I mentioned and the articles I referred to, gave you an overall idea on why people do this. So if you have the time and energy to invest in a 3-year project and if you have an opportunity to do so (e.g. receive a stipend) you should not hesitate.

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One thought on “Why should anyone write a PhD?

  1. Pingback: In the beginning, there was an “Introduction” | Cambridge PhD-ing

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