Last Updated on March 10, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is regarded as one of the most coveted achievements in the academic world and is the highest degree that a student can attain in most fields.
Mostly graduate students find themselves thinking about applying for a PhD to gain more knowledge and possibly win a noble prize someday. But before building a sandcastle already there are important factors that one needs to consider because PhD is not everyone’s cup of tea.
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Getting a PhD
While academics looking forward to a lifetime of learning may consider this a no brainer, but for those who have had enough of college life and studies, the thought of dedicating another three or four years of their life to a PhD may seem absurd.
So to help you decide, if the time and energy of a PhD are worthwhile, here are some pros and cons of getting the doctorate degree.
But before diving into the topic, let us first know how it all started in the first place.
A Brief History
With its history rooted in the middle ages, the doctoral degree has developed over time to be the highest academic degree in the world. It acquired its distinction in the 1800s in Europe before spreading westward to North America and other continents.
According to Keith Allan Noble(1994), the first doctoral degree was awarded in medieval Paris around 1150, but it was the early 1800s before the degree gained its contemporary status as highest academic honour.
The first university to award a PhD was Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, Germany.
Then, the trend of PhD started to spread in the United States. In 1861, Yale University was the first American institution of higher education to award the degree.
In the 1990s, doctoral education came under intensive focus of national higher education policies, questioning its quality, purpose and future.
More initiatives followed which were most notably EUA-backed, resulting in the reform of doctoral education in Europe and making it into the form we know today.
Pros of Getting a PhD
Someone with a PhD is respectfully placed into a higher category of intellect and considered an expert in their field. Here are some of the benefits or advantages of getting a PhD.
1. Contribution to the Knowledge of Humanity
A PhD is an opportunity to push the envelope of human knowledge and learn stuff that nobody has ever learned before. It’s a chance to come up with new answers to the unanswered questions that help you push boundaries of human knowledge (for example, gene therapy).
Generally, PhDs offer more flexibility than a lot of other degrees in-terms of where and when you work. The self-directed nature of PhD gives you the advantage of pursuing whatever you think is interesting and you get to be in charge of your time and schedule.
3. Improves Your Skills
It helps you to hone your soft skills. Getting a PhD helps you look at the world from a different perspective. It’ll improve your time management skills, research skills & patience level. These can help you find a job in the future, even if you had difficulties before that.
4. Expert in Your Field
Getting a PhD will definitely make you stand out in the crowd. You’ll be an expert in the field that you’re doing your PhD on and you’ll have a piece of paper to prove it. Now, how cool is that?
5. Personal Growth
It’ll boost your self-confidence and you’ll learn to be mentally tough from all the grilling, criticizing & second-guessing yourself throughout your PhD journey. It’ll fundamentally change who you are and how you think.
Cons of getting a PhD
1. Hard Work
PhD is hard because it is intellectually demanding and extremely time-consuming. You should only pursue a PhD if you are passionate about something otherwise you would not only fail to make it to the end but also lose a lot of your time.
2. Mental Stress
PhD is not something that’s done in a day. It takes a lot of time and energy. You can work for hours and hours and still not get the results. This might emanate frustration, panic attacks, mental breakdowns and depression.
So, if you’re not mentally ready for a whole lot of unsuccessful outcomes then maybe you should rethink about getting a PhD. After-all, your mental health matters more than a degree.
3. Uncertain Duration
PhD requires commitment. There’s no time limit for a PhD because you never know how much the research is going to take to finish. This tests your brain and often results in losing interest in that particular research field.
4. The feeling of Being Left Behind
While the sound of hearing people call you ‘Dr’ before your name might sound appealing, it has it’s downsides too. All your friends and colleagues will be on their second or third promotion by the time you’ve finally finished studying for your PhD. You’ll not fit into their schedule and you’ll have very little ‘real-world experience’.
PhD means a lot of work. You’ll be mostly working alone and the cycle of just writing and writing never stops. Your social life and sleep schedule will slowly start to fade and you’ll often find yourself fantasizing about just quitting it. So, it’s important to take some time off and visit your friends and family to keep yourself motivated. You should always remember why you started it in the first place.
Pursuing a PhD is a life-changing decision. It requires passion, commitment, patience, energy & a lot of time. The ability to learn something new for the first time and be able to share that to the whole world trumps every con in the book.
However, it’s not always going to be a bed of roses. You must not be afraid to get back up even if you fail again and again because that’s bound to happen if you decide on getting a PhD.
PhD rarely lives up to expectations – but it is worth it if you spend your time and effort on something that truly excites you and makes you want to get up in the morning.