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Thread: To PhD or not to Phd?

  1. #16
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenZA View Post
    I don't regret the decision of doing my PhD, but seriously the emotional and physical toll it has taken on me has been horrendous. Just about everything went sideways which you later find out is pretty standard. What Sledger said is 100% true, if it was just about the work and quality of the work and you could concentrate on that, life would be much simpler. A PhD has an added simple component, opening yourself up to extreme criticism and judgement which should be based on work but becomes very personal quickly, and can become condescension.

    Practically for work PhD is not required for majority of professions, even at the top, it is totally unnecessary. Outside academia it is generally only needed in 'hard science' industry and cutting edge engineering fields, and on the second it can often be done and paid for by companies after you start your career and you feel it is needed. It is a sacrifice of your time, you quite often lose 4-5 years of your life doing a PhD while your friends get on with their lives and careers.

    In the end the one and only good reason to do a PhD is absolute love of the subject and wanting to immerse yourself more into it.
    Hang in there lad.

    My experience sounds similar to yours.

    I do not regret doing mine, but I think that is because it has allowed me to get a job that I absolutely always wanted to have (and now love), and I treated the entire thing as a means to an end.

    That said, there are few things or experiences in my life that have caused me as much misery, stress and anxiety, or have been as deleterious to my mental, physical and emotional well-being. Without having my definite end goal in mind, and a determination to get to it, the whole thing would have really crushed me I think.

  2. #17
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uppercut View Post
    Only do it if you hate having half-decent mental health and aspire to earn much less money than you otherwise would.
    This as well.

    Although ironically, I somehow have ended up earning a comparable amount to most of my peers who went into practice (which sounds like another level of hell altogether). Though that is through other side work I do to supplement my basic wage.

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    Request Your Custom Title Now! Top_Cat's Avatar
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    First of all, The Valley of **** is real (forum filters wrecks the URL, etc.)

    I'll open it up to a couple of things that I realised after, say, the first year. It took me to that point to fully realise just how big the tasks set early on were and by the end of year two, how tiny my bump toward solving any problems in the field was going to be. Not sure which was worse.

    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    Yeah precisely. It is a process which puts you completely at the mercy of others. It is not about working hard. It is not even about producing something that is, for lack of a better term, objectively good. It is a game, the aim of which is to convince other people that what you have done is good. This is perilous, as it means you are always only one thumbs down away from everything you have done being shot down in flames. The politics of the entire thing is something that nobody ever really mentions, but is probably the most significant aspect.
    Would you say this is field-specific? Science is so heavily collaborative that I wonder who could actually wreck my career by themselves. Maybe in a really niche field.

    To tack on a point here, one thing that was kinda annoying was the tendency amongst those in the field to be "It'll never work." for suggestions and ideas but then when you made it work, it was completely obvious all along that it was bound to work and how much does this even push the field forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    Just to reiterate, "Yeah I've not got a lot else lined up and a PhD might be pretty cool I guess" is perhaps the worst reason for doing a one that I can think of.
    Yeah, this.

  4. #19
    Request Your Custom Title Now! Uppercut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    This as well.

    Although ironically, I somehow have ended up earning a comparable amount to most of my peers who went into practice (which sounds like another level of hell altogether). Though that is through other side work I do to supplement my basic wage.
    It's not unheard of to catch up to peers post-PhD, but even then you're barely scraping by while doing it. The funding is meagre and usually runs out long before most PhDs finish. Then you're scraping by on exploitative teaching gigs or trying to complete on top of a full-time job. That's on top of the work itself being incredibly isolating and severely mentally taxing. And what do you get in return? If you want an academic job then it's still unlikely to be worth the massive risk to your mental and physical health. Most academic jobs aren't even that great. If you don't want an academic job then it's the middle-class equivalent of joining the French Foreign Legion, and should only be done in a fit of self-destructive desire.
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  5. #20
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uppercut View Post
    It's not unheard of to catch up to peers post-PhD, but even then you're barely scraping by while doing it. The funding is meagre and usually runs out long before most PhDs finish. Then you're scraping by on exploitative teaching gigs or trying to complete on top of a full-time job. That's on top of the work itself being incredibly isolating and severely mentally taxing. And what do you get in return? If you want an academic job then it's still unlikely to be worth the massive risk to your mental and physical health. Most academic jobs aren't even that great. If you don't want an academic job then it's the middle-class equivalent of joining the French Foreign Legion, and should only be done in a fit of self-destructive desire.
    It depends what you want out of it I guess.

    For me personally the ability to only be required to show up to the office about 2 and a half days a week (and on those occasions the "work" is basically going into a room and talking to people about stuff I find interesting), and spend the rest of the time more or less doing whatever I like, is massively appealing.

  6. #21
    Global Moderator Spark's Avatar
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    Ah, a PhD. What a great and self-fulfilling- *shoots self*
    citoyens, vouliez-vous une révolution sans révolution?

  7. #22
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Top_Cat View Post
    First of all, The Valley of **** is real (forum filters wrecks the URL, etc.)

    I'll open it up to a couple of things that I realised after, say, the first year. It took me to that point to fully realise just how big the tasks set early on were and by the end of year two, how tiny my bump toward solving any problems in the field was going to be. Not sure which was worse.



    Would you say this is field-specific? Science is so heavily collaborative that I wonder who could actually wreck my career by themselves. Maybe in a really niche field.

    To tack on a point here, one thing that was kinda annoying was the tendency amongst those in the field to be "It'll never work." for suggestions and ideas but then when you made it work, it was completely obvious all along that it was bound to work and how much does this even push the field forward?



    Yeah, this.
    It could be tbh. I have very little experience of those working in the more scientific fields.

    The problem I had for several years was that I had a supervisor who repeatedly said "this isn't even a project", you need to go back to the drawing board. Literally anything I did was always rejected as not being good enough, or logically/methodologically coherent, or not even worth talking about. I could predict how every supervisor meeting would go before they even began. It really made me feel like all the problems were with me, and that I was no good at anything.

    Things eventually got so bad that I had to formally request for the supervisor to be removed from my work, which led supervisor to try and counter this by initiating a procedure to have me kicked out of the university for lack of progress and being generally useless.

    I was hugely fortunate that another member of staff happened to stumble across my situation, look at some of my work, and came out to bat for me. It was an amazing act of kindness really. This person is hugely successful in her field, I had barely ever spoken to her before, never worked with her, but she really threw their weight behind me without having any real reason to do so, and basically saved my neck. She has since taken over as my supervisor, and my progress has been rapid. I dread to think where I would be without her tbh.

    The "rejected" ideas mentioned above have now almost all ended up as peer-reviewed publications.

    The story has a happy ending I guess (hopefully anyway, still not actually submitted lol), but it just goes to show how fragile your existence can be whilst enduring the process. I got lucky, but I am aware of several other people who have not had such good fortune.
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  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    It depends what you want out of it I guess.

    For me personally the ability to only be required to show up to the office about 2 and a half days a week (and on those occasions the "work" is basically going into a room and talking to people about stuff I find interesting), and spend the rest of the time more or less doing whatever I like, is massively appealing.
    True, but you also had another academic job before this one...

    You could be right though. I love my job too. Maybe most really are pretty great and I just get the impression they’re not because academics moan so much.

  9. #24
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uppercut View Post
    True, but you also had another academic job before this one...

    You could be right though. I love my job too. Maybe most really are pretty great and I just get the impression they’re not because academics moan so much.
    Haha yes, very good point. Though I even loved that one for a time, and would have continued to do so were certain managerial changes/decisions not totally botched.

    And yeah, I think this is definitely true. A lot of academics who moan tend to be career academics who have never had any other job in my experience. I on the other hand can still remember the incredible torture of working a menial 9-5 job for several years before doing my degree. Some people definitely lack the perspective or awareness to appreciate just how good they have it.

  10. #25
    International Coach StephenZA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uppercut View Post
    You could be right though. I love my job too. Maybe most really are pretty great and I just get the impression they’re not because academics moan so much.
    Most academics hate the admin.... they don't mind the research and most don't even mind lecturing; it is the tail wagging the dog that makes academia horrible.

    Interestingly I had a friend who worked in academia his entire life, quality computer scientists, who immigrated to Australia and has ended up working in industry... now earning stupid money. Asked how his current job compared and he said it was the least stressed and mentally taxed he felt in his working career.
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  11. #26
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Yeah a bloke I know who worked at Oxford Uni jacked it in to go and work in private practice and says similar things.

    That said, given his expertise, he was able to enter practice at a very high level (i.e. not the grunt entry level - which sounds appalling), so perhaps that is no surprise.
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  12. #27
    vcs
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    This is such an excellent thread.

    I'm in a decent job which I enjoy (well, as much as you can enjoy a standard corporate s/w development job), but I always have a regret at the back of my mind that I didn't complete my further studies when I had the opportunity. Good to hear from people who've actually gone through with it, lots of respect for you guys.
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  13. #28
    Request Your Custom Title Now! Top_Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    Yeah a bloke I know who worked at Oxford Uni jacked it in to go and work in private practice and says similar things.

    That said, given his expertise, he was able to enter practice at a very high level (i.e. not the grunt entry level - which sounds appalling), so perhaps that is no surprise.
    Key point, for mine.

    I had over a decade working before doing the doctorate and there's a lot to be gained from having good working processes and the confidence to know there's a big wide world out there, know what you want, etc. Whether a job is less stressful is, I think, dependent upon the nature of the job. Aside from bully bosses, uncontrollables, etc. usually having legal responsibility ramps up the stress.
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  14. #29
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Yes, for me, my aspirations within academia are pretty modest.

    I want to do research, and be recognised as decent at it, but have the freedom to actually enjoy it and not let it become an albatross. I have no aspiration to become a real superstar in my field.

    I do not want to be promoted to a position, or move to an institution, where research becomes a target you must hit or your employment will be terminated. It would kill my enjoyment in it, and if I wanted that sort of pressure and aggravation I could go and work in the private sector and be paid a lot more for my trouble.

    As it is, I enjoy having the freedom to wake up early, clearing out most of what I need to do each day by lunch time (often from home), and spending the afternoons reading for fun, listening to music, going for walks, cooking etc. without having to worried about being badgered about where I am or what I am doing.

    I daresay it is not a bubble that will last forever, but I am going to enjoy it whilst it lasts.
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  15. #30
    The Tiger King smalishah84's Avatar
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    does the experience vary across disciplines? For example is it easier for business students than let's say pure sciences or literature?
    And smalishah's avatar is the most classy one by far Jan certainly echoes the sentiments of CW

    Yeah we don't crap in the first world; most of us would actually have no idea what that was emanating from Ajmal's backside. Why isn't it roses and rainbows like what happens here? PEWS's retort to Ganeshran on Daemon's picture depicting Ajmal's excreta

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