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Weighing up the Pros and Cons of a PhD

So you’ve finished your master’s? Congratulations. The decision you now have to make is whether to enter the world of graduate employment or to take your studies to the next and final step – the doctorate. It’s not too late to apply for a doctoral programme, but there are pros and cons which you should carefully consider.


Pros of Studying a Doctoral Programme

A PhD is all about the joy of learning. Those who entered into the field to contribute will certainly feel in their element. A PhD programme is your baby – from the first proposal foundations to the submission of the thesis. You are in control; you decide the project, the methodology and the desired outcome. Your lecturers are no longer your lecturers, but guides to help you achieve your goal. A PhD is the ultimate individual research project. If that’s where you thrive, then the doctorate is perfect for you.

You will hone all the skills you developed as an undergraduate. If learning key skills is more important than learning about subjects, your analytical, research and problem-solving skills will become top notch. You’ll learn new things about yourself – your limits, how much stress you can cope with. You’ll find new levels on which you can perform and new passions. If living a fulfilling employment experience is what you want, then a PhD will help you achieve that.


Cons of Studying a Doctoral Programme

PhDs are hard work. Anybody who enters into a doctorate programme purely to have the letters “PhD” after their name will soon discover the shocking reality. It’s years of stress and anxiety. You will be expected to justify all of your work to everybody all of the time. For people who collapse under pressure, a doctoral programme is the worst possible route. Expect to have every detail of your work picked apart.

A doctorate will not help you get a job – if anything, it will narrow your horizons and not broaden it. Although some jobs other than academia will require a PhD, you will be overqualified for most and have your application disregarded. You’ll come out with a lot more debt and experience the same struggles your friends and peers did several years before you.


Weighing it All Up

There is no doubt that a PhD will be one of the most difficult and rewarding aspects of your career. It’s not to be entered into lightly. Each year, around half of PhD students do not complete their doctorate. They either find the workload too much or offered jobs too attractive to pass up. Ultimately, despite the pros and cons listed above, it should be your decision based on not just your ability but your desires for your future career. Ask yourself what you would get out of a PhD.