Updated 11 June 2020
A PhD (or Doctorate of Philosophy) is a coveted academic qualification. Many great discoveries, new skills and advances in our world are due to the hard work of those who have sought greater depth of knowledge via a PhD in a specific area.
However, completing a PhD can be a frustrating and expensive experience for the PhD candidate. It is a long-term commitment, with a full-time PhD in the UK lasting three to four years (longer if part-time).
Before you decide that a PhD is the best choice for you, you should consider your reasons for completing a PhD and the outcomes you hope to gain from this added qualification. This article will help you to make that decision.
There are many reasons why someone may consider a PhD, and it's worth remembering that this qualification will not suit everyone.
Before committing to a PhD, it's important to think about factors that will motivate you long-term and the benefits that might come after completing the qualification. In your three to four years of intensive study, it will be these reasons that get you through to the end.
Here are 10 key reasons to consider:
If you developed a passion for a certain research topic during your degree, completing a PhD will feel like the next logical step.
A PhD allows you to explore an area you enjoy in great depth. You might make a new discovery in this area or contribute to existing knowledge.
A keen interest in your subject matter is one of the most important factors in completing a PhD successfully, since you will be spending a significant amount of time focusing on the topic you have chosen. Passion for your subject will get you through many tough times.
After your years of hard work, you will finish your PhD as a subject matter expert and will have made unique and important contributions to the research area you have chosen. If this idea appeals to you, you should consider a PhD.
One of the key parts of a PhD is undertaking your own independent research project. If you have enjoyed research projects in the past, then a PhD could be for you.
Some people enjoy discovering how everything fits together in our world. You may have always been inclined to read around topics you are interested in, attending talks, lectures or conferences in your spare time, or you may be an insatiable reader.
As a PhD is essentially an entryway into a career as a researcher, if you do not enjoy research, you should consider if a PhD is the right course for you.
You may already be in a job where a PhD is considered an asset for career advancement. In these cases, many PhDs can be sponsored by an employer. If your employer is willing to support your PhD, this might be a great reason to consider one.
PhD skills are valuable for careers in data analysis, market research, quantitative analysis, business development, statistics, consulting and more. Other careers such as clinical psychology also prefer a PhD as part of the qualifications for their psychologists.
If you love being in an academic environment, spending time talking with other academics and having the freedom to discover new things, then you should consider a PhD.
Not only will you spend three to four years studying in this challenging but rewarding environment, but you will be at the start of a career path which might see you in a senior academic role, such as becoming a professor at a university.
Academia is a career that allows you the flexibility of working on something you enjoy and imparting that knowledge to others, so you may also be given the opportunity to gain highly valued teaching experience.
Completing a PhD offers the opportunity to gain many transferable skills that would be highly valued in your future career.
Some essential transferable skills you would gain through a PhD include:
You could argue that even if you do not pursue an academic career or use your PhD after completing the qualification, these transferable skills alone are a great reason to consider a PhD.
One of the best things about a PhD is educating and shaping the minds of future generations or our society in general.
Many people who complete a PhD have a desire to learn and educate others through this process with the ultimate goal of providing new information to our world.
The research you conduct during your PhD may be used to educate others or may contribute to research discoveries in the future.
A PhD qualification is highly respected within many industries and can open doors to high-paying jobs that would not be accessible to those with only an undergraduate or master’s degree. Therefore, completing a PhD may mean that you are eligible for higher salary roles or bigger future promotions.
Although the initial costs associated with a PhD can be high, future earning potential can outweigh these costs in the longer term, both in academia and many private-sector STEM roles.
A PhD is sometimes thought of as a solitary or lonely pursuit. However, there are many opportunities to get out there, meet people and share your knowledge.
Depending on the type of PhD you will be studying for, you will usually have lots of opportunities to work within a team or with your supervisor and other collaborators. You will meet many professional contacts and work alongside other fellow researchers.
These contacts may be invaluable in your future career.
If you enjoy meeting new people, travelling to different parts of the country or world, or giving public talks to convey your ideas and knowledge, then you would enjoy studying for a PhD.
Strong writing and analytical skills are a big part of completing your PhD. If you enjoy writing, then a PhD is a great opportunity to hone these skills.
As part of completing your PhD, you will write papers, speeches, conference posters, grant applications, lectures, popular articles and more, and will receive advice and constructive criticism on your work.
Many who have qualified with a PhD go on to write textbooks, journal articles or non-fiction books for publishers. Also, writing and analysis skills are highly valued by almost all employers.
Completing a PhD allows for a great deal of freedom and flexibility. This is one of the top perks of completing a PhD, as you can do the work you love while having a schedule that suits you.
You also have the flexibility of working from anywhere you want, unless you have meetings or teaching commitments. Even as a postdoc or a professor, your schedule and commitments are mostly determined by your preferences.
A PhD can be a tough undertaking. It requires a huge financial and emotional commitment, so it’s important that you begin for the right reasons. If you are curious, passionate, creative, disciplined and manage your time and projects, well then a PhD could be the right choice for you.
There are many reasons someone might choose to undertake a PhD, but you need to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Only the right reasons will get you through the three or four years of hard work and sacrifices you will face to achieve this qualification.
At the end of your PhD, you will be an expert in your subject area and will be known to your colleagues. Having a strong end goal will motivate you when you hit roadblocks in your research.
Whether your end goal is a post-doc position, applying for jobs in academia, market research, data analysis or other industry, it is very important to have strong reasons for choosing a PhD and know the next step of your journey.
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