Why are you thinking about obtaining a PhD degree? How will you fund this goal? How will you make it through your PhD program? What will you do when you graduate? All these questions have been answered from different perspectives below. The following list contains pros and cons to obtaining a doctoral degree, and a few answers to the questions listed above are satirical or downright bitter. It seems certain — that if you want to pursue this highest form of education, then you must love what you’re doing and consider your doctorate a piece of your life’s work.
Why Get a PhD?
- Degree of Difficulty: A Doctor of Philosophy degree, abbreviated PhD, is the highest academic degree anyone can earn. Because earning a PhD requires extended study and intense intellectual effort, less than one percent of the population attains the degree.
- But, No Requirement for Geniuses: It is not possible that all PhD graduates are ‘geniuses.’ In completing a PhD, you follow a fairly systematic procedure applied to many different people and the quality of PhDs varies across the board.
- What’s It Mean? The term “philosophy” in Doctor of Philosophy does not refer solely to the modern field of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is “love of wisdom.”
- PhD Needs to Change: “Most PhD programs emphasize the in-depth study, emphasize the exhaustive study of a highly-focused topic in a tightly-defined field. This needs to change. Most of the great leaps in technology have involved the integration of several disciplines. The future will be no different.” [Mark Wilkinson (BS & MS, Utah State)]
- Avoiding the “Real World” (satire): Heading out into the real world can be delayed for up to five more years if you start a PhD now, and if you do well, you may be able to delay it indefinitely [PDF] by becoming an academic.
The Financial Aspect
- How Much is it Worth? According to “Sustaining Scholarship in Business Schools, ” a 2003 report of the Doctoral Faculty Commission to AACSB International’s Board of Directors, the average U.S. academic year (nine-month) salary for new doctorates in 2001 was $85, 900.
- Even Worth More…Full-time doctoral students often don’t pay any tuition and are further supported by stipends and assistantships that in some cases equal or exceed what a baccalaureate holder can earn. It is difficult to get a free ride through medical or law school, but “PhD students can be paid to earn their degrees.”
- Again, the cost: The costs of obtaining the PhD degree in almost all, if not all, cases is borne in large part by federal and state governments.
- Get a European PhD Degree? By and large U.S. PhDs are worth less than European ones and are easier to get. In Europe, PhDs from older universities are worth more than those from newer ones (this is also true to a lesser degree elsewhere), except in technical fields.
- Living Frugally: Getting a doctorate is intellectually rewarding. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tend to be financially rewarding, at least not in the short term.