I want to first off start by saying I want as much as I can through this blog to encourage and not discourage. The inspiration for this post is seeing so many people assume that the only way “up” or to pursue their dream is through more school – this is not necessarily the case and I will explore this theme more in coming weeks.
There are several reasons why one would consider the wonderful journey that is a PhD – wanting to be challenged, the desire to teach as a professor, the desire to explore an area of study that is a passion through rigorous academic research, wanting to gain skills that you will put towards your professional work…the list is endless. However, I want go through a process of elimination. So if you’ve been thinking of doing a PhD, here are some reasons, in my humble opinion, NOT to do it:
1. Your friends/former colleagues/former classmates are doing it
Academia is often synonymous with peer pressure. Remember when the coolest gal in high school bought that pair of hightops, or got her first perm/weave, making you green with envy and you swore that the minute you had some cash on you, you would do the same thing and ‘show’ them because you too can do it…remember that? Well doing a PhD for that reason is like having a child to prove to others that you can do it….oh sorry, people are still doing that…I digress…the point I am trying to make is that you will be left with said child once you’ve proven your point and the other people will NOT be there to help you raise him/her. A PhD requires alot from you including long-term commitment. Even if half your class from your Masters is now pursuing a PhD, resist the urge to enrol in a program purely for that reason. Because none of them will be there with you when you are doing your comprehensive exams, or defending your proposed research or doing the field research.
Do your PhD because it is something that YOU want to do independent of what others might think and of course seek God’s counsel about whether it is right for you.
2. Because your parents think you should
Parents are wonderful people – God bless their hearts. My parents have been my proudest and staunchest supporters since kindergarten – they still have a painting that I did when I was 4 of little red riding hood. My parents always see the BEST in me even when I can’t see it in myself and I know that not everyone necessarily has that relationship with their parents. That being said, sometimes parents can be pushy. The idea of being able to drop in conversation that their son/daughter is doing a PhD at a such and such prestigious university can lead them to push you towards that track even if it is not necessarily in line with your career goals. If you are considering doing something nice to please your parents, I guarantee you that doing a PhD for them should not be one of them. If you are facing parental pressure to go into a PhD program, make sure you do your own research as to the pro’s and cons of doing the PhD – perhaps it is not a necessary professional designation for your field, especially if you have no intention of being a professor. Speak with them and share with them your perspective so that they know that at least you have taken their perspective into consideration. The same goes for close friends and spouses
3. You’re almost done with your Masters, and you’re panicking…
Its perfectly normal to panic as you come to the end of your Masters program, particularly when the job market is not looking promising. However, applying for a PhD because you’re afraid of facing the real world is not a good enough reason. The national average for a PhD is 7 years in Canada and even longer in the States. If you are not sure that a PhD is the way to go, consider approaching your professors in the Masters program to see if they might be willing to take you on as a Research Assistant or a Teaching Assistant while you wait to get a ‘real’ job in your field. In Public Health, Global Health Population Health it is often helpful to get some work experience in ‘the field’ before continuing with your studies. It will give you some much needed perspective and also help you to solidify your reasons for wanting to do a PhD.
4. You want to make $$Money$$
If your reason for doing a PhD is because you want to earn the big bucks, let me just burst that bubble right now and say that you are better off going into another field if money is what you are looking for. There, I said it! Most people assume that you will automatically be paid big bucks because you have a PhD. The reality is that there are several other ways of making money, and much faster. “Industry” i.e. professional employment pays far better than Academia, and the dividends for academia are slow in coming. With your Masters, you will probably be paid far more for example in Public Health as a Research Analyst, Policy Analyst, Research Coordinator, Research Officer etc than you would during your PhD program. Which brings me to another point – PhD’s take long and while you are in it, you will hardly be paid much. You will be lucky to have a scholarship that can support you. That being said, once you have had some professional experience, and you DO decide to go for a PhD then you would be building on your professional experiences which would ultimately result in gains both financially and professionally. My point is let not money be the ONLY factor as there are much less demanding ways of making money that don’t require the rigours of PhD.
5. To prove everyone who thought you couldn’t make it wrong!
While revenge can be sweet, its ‘sweetness’ is only momentary. ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord (Hebrews 10:30) and remember that ‘He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies’ (Psalm 23:5). If people ridiculed you, berated you, didn’t believe in you, don’t waste your energy or your life on proving them wrong. Let it go. Let God Himself deal with them. When Jesus arose from the dead, He didn’t go to all the Pharisees and say “In ya face! in ya face! Thought I wouldn’t rise up again huh! Who’s laughing now?!” On the contrary, He just plain old didn’t bother with them. If the Lord leads you to do a PhD, do it to His glory rather than to boast to your enemies. Let Him speak His praises over you as His child.
The point is certainly not to discourage, but on the contrary, to allow you to really question your reasons so that when you do make that final decision it is something you can stand by. There will be many times during your PhD that you will want to quit, so if you have really thought through these reasons, it will help you to stick through to the end and make it
So here are my 5 reasons for NOT doing a PhD. Perhaps you have more to add…please feel free to comment below