Why You’d want to Pursue a Doctoral Degree Phd

First, let me tell you why you don’t want to. It is hard I’m talking about years of work (which someone else will get the majority of the credit for), often in locations which are far from your family and friends, subsisting on poverty wages. Most doctoral programs require students to do some teaching, which you’ll actually be grateful for because it pays actual cash money. However, unless you actually have a love of teaching, it will become incredibly frustrating about the fifteenth time one of your “students” tries to convince you to give them some extra credit (not extra credit work, just extra credit) even though they have attended class twice all semester and have yet to hand in an assignment.

Still thinking about becoming Dr. So-and-so? Well, most of the time, you won’t be called Dr., unless you do pursue a career in academia. Even then, you’ll most likely be called Professor to your face and less polite things at other times. Also, it’s generally considered bad form for doctoral degree holders to refer to themselves as Dr. So-and-so, especially if their last name isn’t So-and-so. Generally, that’s reserved for Medical Doctors because of their general usefulness in emergency situations. If you’re having a heart attack, my Ph.D. in Sociology isn’t going to do you any good. Also, if you have a doctoral degree and insist on being called Dr., the rest of us Ph.D.’s will talk about you, and not in a good way.

Still here? Then, you also need to know that your reward for the years of misery may not be any greater than the person who entered your field right after getting their undergraduate degree. It may not be any better than someone who entered your field from some complete other direction. Now, this is less true for certain areas, like life sciences or physics, but the point remains. A Ph.D. is not a guarantee of financial or career success you will probably toil in obscurity making less than most everyone you knew in college (unless all of you continued on into graduate school). Even if you do achieve a measure of fame, it will most likely be restricted to a tiny little circle and won’t help you get reservations or your picture in US Weekly.

So, why do it? Like almost everything else in the world, you do it for love. Mad, passionate love for something. Whatever it is, it fascinates you, it consumes you, you must know all about it. This love, this passion, it sustains you through the hardship. It keeps you working all night, not because the paper is due, but because you love it so much that good enough is no longer a concept you understand. Perfection is necessary, because that is all that is worthy to offer to your love.

Can you talk about your proposed field of study like that? Without giggling? Then, a doctoral degree may be right for you. Because, while it will be hard and the effort/reward ratio seems small, the Ph.D. will prepare you and enable you to spend your life studying the thing you love. And, if you continue to work hard it doesn’t end once you get the fancy paper you will add to the body of knowledge and contribute to making our world a better place. It’s totally worth it, as long as you do it for love.