Applying for the Ph.D. - Is Grad School For You?

Applying for the Ph.D. Series - Blog 1

Application season for Ph.D. programs is coming up quickly and you might be finding yourself considering to apply. A Ph.D. is an advanced degree similar to a JD, MBA, or MD.

If you talk to anyone in a Ph.D. program, they will all give you the same advice: Don't do this unless you absolutely have to.

Getting your Ph.D. is amazing. You learn more than you ever thought possible, expand your network of professional colleagues, improve your reading/writing skills, and more. It's also hard. It's five years of sacrificing money, free-time/social activities, and, for some, even settling down and starting a family. And, it's a lot of work. We're talking five long years of long nights, banging your head against the wall, angry at yourself for not being able to figure out the answer to your research question.

So, before actually sitting down and working through the application process you have to ask yourself: Is grad school for you? And if the answer is yes, then ask if the Ph.D. specifically for you?

To help you reflect on this and come to a final decision, here's some factors that might mean a Ph.D. is NOT in your future.

  • You only want to pursue a Ph.D. to earn more money.

  • You're hoping for a 9-5 job.

  • You're hoping to be established in your career within your 20s.

  • You don't like research and/or you don't like teaching.

  • You don't have experience with research.

  • You can get your desired job without a Ph.D. or with a Masters.

I could describe all the reasons that these factors should dissuade you against pursuing a Ph.D. but the general idea is this:

Getting a Ph.D. involves five years of:
- living a barely livable stipend and/or student loans, 
- conducting research, teaching, and taking classes at the same time
- working long hours
If you don't have experience in research/teaching you might want to first explore if you enjoy them and if you want a Ph.D. you should prepare yourself for long-term financial instability.

Still think you want to apply for that Ph.D. Maybe these factors better describe your current situation:

  • Your desired career requires a Ph.D. specifically.

  • Getting a Ph.D. will increase your job security and/or pay rate.

  • Getting a Ph.D. will offer unique job opportunities past what you might have access to with a Masters degree.

  • You would have a scholarship, stipend, or other form of financial support.

  • You have experience in and are passionate about research.

Do those factors describe you? Yes? Then by all means, go forth and apply! You've got this. You've done the hard work of self-reflection, know that this is the path you want, and are ready to take your education to the next level.

If you are applying to a Ph.D. stay tuned for Blog 2 of the Applying to the Ph.D. Series: Picking Programs to Apply to.

Until next time...


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