There are many reasons to do a PhD. Here are further 17. No judgment. Just a list. With an explanation for each. This adds to the 24 already published.
25. Further my career – If you want to become an academic and/or if you want to move up the ranks of academics, it is almost impossible without a PhD. Outside academia, you might also find some jobs or organisations will support your study and encourage you to do a PhD. Some include the various health professions. Engineering might also be another. In the later cases experience is also necessary. A PhD alone won’t further your career.
26. Get a career in research – similar to furthering your career, but specifically in research in this case. A PhD will help you get a research career. Particularly an academic research career. In other industries, such as health, doing a PhD will be a massive help in bridging the clinician-research nexus. Indeed, clinician-researchers are highly sought after.
27. Have a staff life on a student salary – perhaps a little tongue in cheek. But nonetheless as PhD student you are treated like a staff member (in Australia anyway). You have staff email, rather than student email. You get a desk and a spot in a lab. You might have some kind of student supervision; honours and third year students, not other PhD students. You can be on more committees – especially student committees, but also research or ethics committees. But you generally won’t have the same level of responsibility in terms of staff supervision, PhD student supervision, governance or management involvement.
28. Learn about research – in my view this is the best reason to do a PhD. To learn how to do research and to learn how to do it well. To understand how to design an experiment with appropriate controls. To understand how to interpret other people’s data, and findings. To learn how to communicate your findings to other research audiences in various verbal and non-verbal ways.
29. Learn about yourself – the trials and tribulations of a PhD will mean you learn a lot about yourself. You’ll learn how you handle stress, adversity, set-back. You’ll learn how you operate in a tense environment. You’ll learn working styles and preferences. From how you like to communicate to the hours you like to work, to how you like to learn and retain information, to how you like to take notes and record your (research) life. You’ll learn how to get yourself through work even when you are not motivated.
30. Learn how you work in a team – much research success relies on team work. As a PhD student you’ll need to work well as a team member for your own success as well as the success of the group you are part of, not to mention the projects and grants you are working on.
31. Learn how you work on your own – but not all of a PhD is undertaken as a team. Indeed, much research is done on your own. Although teams develop and deliver projects, individual components of those projects are often conducted solo. Thus, as a PhD student you’ll be working on your own a lot.
32. Make your parents proud – I’ve never met a parent who is not proud of their kids for doing a PhD. If you’re keen to make your parents proud, I can highly recommend a PhD.
33. Meet awesome people – the people who work in research are awesome. They are passionate about the work they are doing. That passion and drive is very infectious. Discussions are deep about a range of topics. Not just those in your area of research. Researchers also have a range of views, opinions and experiences beyond research. And these make for interesting discussions too.
Have a staff life
on a student salary
34. Please your friends – maybe your friends see something in you. That you have a passion for a topic, for learning or for research. You could do a PhD to please them.
35. Please your parents – I’m sure many people did a PhD to fulfil parental expectation. For some people this might be a strong/good reason to do a PhD.
36. Prove someone wrong – we’ve all heard the “you’ll amount to nothing” speeches from famous or influential people. Maybe your motivation for doing a PhD is based on the same or similar experiences.
37. Save the world – You may be inspired into a PhD. Perhaps you’ve had a life experience or got an awesome idea that a PhD will help bring to life. Or perhaps a PhD is the first step in making your ‘save the world’ goals a reality.
38. Set your own work hours – in PhD you can mostly set your own hours. Most equipment is available 24/7. Most writing and analysis can be done on portable computers connected to cloud storage. Combined this means you can work anytime and anywhere.
39. Solve a problem – Maybe there’s a problem you see in the world. Or perhaps a widget that needs to be built or modified. A PhD is one pathway to making these things happen.
40. Someone has told me I’d make a great researcher – Maybe you’ve always been analytical. And now you’ve reached an age or stage where people are telling you to do a PhD. If these people have personal experience of a PhD – their advice might be worth taking seriously.
41. Travel the world – PhD’s often involve interstate and overseas travel. Certainly most (if not all) supervisors will support and encourage their students to attend international conferences held locally and overseas. And there are various grants that help support students to attend these events.
Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He is passionate about PhD training and students getting the most out of an experience often designed with the supervisor in mind. Richard has helped more than 200 PhD students, early career researchers and established academics build their careers. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how make the most of a PhD.
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