Dr. Ree Langham
September 16, 2018
In previous blogs, we discussed two types of graduate degrees – the specialized career degree and the Master’s degree. We looked at the pros and cons of each. The third common type of grad degree is a doctoral degree or PhD. In this blog, we try to answer a question we often get – Is a PhD worth it?
But first, let’s look at what a PhD is. Doctoral degrees or PhDs are “terminal” degrees, because they are the highest degrees available in a field. These degrees typically involve a lot of research, time, effort, money – and tears. They also involve dissertations (a 200-500 page research paper), coursework, and internships. The goal of these types of degrees is to help create new studies or obtain new results from old studies. It is important to note that it usually takes between 4-7 years to earn a doctorate in a field.
Listed below are the pros and cons of attaining a doctoral degree:
Well, there are many pros to getting a doctorate (PhD), some of which include: higher pay, expertise, more opportunities and job offers, advanced research and analysis skills, and bragging rights, of course! It is important to understand that doctorates are research-based grad degrees, which means, those, who plan to earn them, intend to focus on the research/scientific side of their chosen fields.
More specifically, a person, who is intent on earning a PhD in his/her field, will most likely be hoping to become a professor, scientist, or researcher
A major pro to getting a doctorate is that it feels fantastic to be able to say, “Hi, I’m Dr. So-and-So.” It also feels good to have others recognize you, as an “expert” in your field. But, what feels the best is that paycheck. Yep, that feels really good!
So, now that you know the main pros of getting a doctorate, what are some of the cons?
Well, main con of getting a doctorate is the time it takes to get one. It can take a while to earn a doctoral degree, and for most that means working in your field or a totally non-related field AND attending a doctoral program. Remember, it can take 4-7 years to obtain a doctorate in a field – and that’s if you do it full-time. That’s a lot of time. And, a lot of money. And, guess what? The cost climbs with each level.
And, like in master’s degrees, a earning a PhD involves conducting a research study, analyzing the results, writing a very lengthy research paper (250-500 words), and defending it in front of a dissertation board. Also, like in a master’s degree, your date becomes the library.
Then, there’s the nifty fact that some career fields/industries don’t pay well enough to pay off student loans or recoup money spent on doctoral degrees, which means you’ll probably be stuck paying back the money for the next 20-30 years.
You’ll also have to be wary of earning a doctorate in a highly competitive area or one that offers little-to-no jobs – i.e. especially if you live in a remote or rural area. It’s the worst feeling in the world to graduate with your new doctorate – and not be able to find a job. So, research your job prospects and the job market like crazy – before you enter a doctoral program and before you graduate with your doctorate.
While it can be tough trying to decide, if getting a grad degree is right for you, the best thing you can do is research your chosen field and the job market (past, current, and future) for your area. Also, talk to others in your field – employees and hiring managers for tips and a “real world” perspective of what you should expect, once you enter it. Grad degrees are most definitely needed and even “required” in some fields – but not in others. So, determine your reason for wanting to get a grad degree and base your decision on that.
If you want to get a grad degree because you are passionate about the field – that’s great. Go for it! But, if you are solely trying to gain more money, for instance, as an elementary school teacher, you may not receive a good return on your investment. Remember, this is your life, so make sure you are making the right decisions for your future.