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Thread: To PhD or not to Phd?

  1. #46
    123/5 Flem274*'s Avatar
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    disclaimer - post is about projects/academic things rather than being a phd student because i have not and will not do one

    at uni i think its very easy to get sucked into more academia than you actually want. i was, and found myself out of my depth in a mere masters with a supervisor who was almost impossible to find let alone ask questions of and i bombed the project hard.

    overall im glad i did it. it broke me, because id never really run into a wall like that before, i was so used to winning everything i did. but now i know what im good at, what i enjoy vs what i love and how i enjoy and love things.

    it set off a few things which took years to move through but still, i know if i didnt do it id always wonder and would have eventually done it. phds are wayyyy harder than a masters of course which is why im focusing on the experience of doing a project and discovering what youre good at and what you love rather than the qualification here.

    i wont deny i still get annoyed and competitive that i 'lost' to the project sometimes, but i love doing other things way more. if i had gone through the entire academic process i would wanted to do teaching uni kids with minimal research anyway because they just sound like longer, harder assignments to me. boorrrrring. i just liked going outside with my friends to do fieldwork then telling complete, massive but very creative lies about the geology of some place and getting an A-. i learned the hard way that's my level and that's what i do.

    so, to summarise this ramble that isn't even about a phd, in my non-phd doing opinion you should approach this from 'will i love doing this project?' rather than 'will i make lots of money in a vague and distant future?' because there is no point sacrificing your health for some wishy washy potential money or respect.
    Last edited by Flem274*; 20-06-2019 at 05:13 AM.
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  2. #47
    International Debutant Meridio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flem274* View Post
    disclaimer - post is about projects/academic things rather than being a phd student because i have not and will not do one

    at uni i think its very easy to get sucked into more academia than you actually want. i was, and found myself out of my depth in a mere masters with a supervisor who was almost impossible to find let alone ask questions of and i bombed the project hard.

    overall im glad i did it. it broke me, because id never really run into a wall like that before, i was so used to winning everything i did. but now i know what im good at, what i enjoy vs what i love and how i enjoy and love things.

    it set off a few things which took years to move through but still, i know if i didnt do it id always wonder and would have eventually done it. phds are wayyyy harder than a masters of course which is why im focusing on the experience of doing a project and discovering what youre good at and what you love rather than the qualification here.

    i wont deny i still get annoyed and competitive that i 'lost' to the project sometimes, but i love doing other things way more. if i had gone through the entire academic process i would wanted to do teaching uni kids with minimal research anyway because they just sound like longer, harder assignments to me. boorrrrring. i just liked going outside with my friends to do fieldwork then telling complete, massive but very creative lies about the geology of some place and getting an A-. i learned the hard way that's my level and that's what i do.

    so, to summarise this ramble that isn't even about a phd, in my non-phd doing opinion you should approach this from 'will i love doing this project?' rather than 'will i make lots of money in a vague and distant future?' because there is no point sacrificing your health for some wishy washy potential money or respect.
    Re. the bolded, a few people I know who have PhDs have said that their Masters was actually their hardest year, in terms of quantity and difficulty of work (in terms of pure brainpower, for lack of a better word) in their whole academic life. So a PhD is not necessarily "harder", but it's a very different challenge, for the reasons given by everyone in this thread.

    Anyway, to give my own perspective, as a mechanical engineer working in a post-doc role at a university (though I don't actually have a PhD - got hired out of my Masters programme) - PhDs in engineering are only really required outside academia in very specialised research roles, in companies that are often spinoffs or heavily associated with universities anyway. Those sorts of roles are few and far between, and really rely on the candidate's PhD being in a very closely related field and with a strongly practical side to it. I've certainly seen positions like that advertised, and the salaries are usually decent, but not good enough to offset the cost of doing the PhD in the first place, and so from that point of view are only worth it if you've found that one thing that you utterly love and want to make your life about, which also happens to be something of value to the wider world. And as it happens, you might find that one thing through a non-academic route anyway, and then if need be you can always do a PhD later.

    So yeah, if you don't want a career in academia (which I totally, thoroughly understand; I only have a week to go on my contract and have no desire to keep working in academia, post-doc life has a few advantages but crap pay and little job stability are hefty negatives), doing a PhD for the sake of it sounds like the wrong idea to me.
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  3. #48
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    My masters was, relatively speaking , the easiest academic exercise I have ever undertaken.

    You get the to exclusively study stuff that interests you , with no pressure on you to contribute anything novel, and are not assessed to an especially rigorous standard. The complete opposite of my PhD experience.


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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    My masters was, relatively speaking , the easiest academic exercise I have ever undertaken.

    You get the to exclusively study stuff that interests you , with no pressure on you to contribute anything novel, and are not assessed to an especially rigorous standard. The complete opposite of my PhD experience.
    Masters programmes in the UK have let their standards drop precipitously to get more international students in. They're usually easier than the last year of an undergraduate degree now, even at places like Cambridge.

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    It depends on the type of Masters, my pure research masters was easier than my final degree course work. However I know people doing course work masters that really struggle and find it very difficult. It also probably becomes how you deal with things like tests and exams. I hated exams and the stress they brought on. Research produces a different sort of requirement and stress, but I handle it much better.
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    I've done 2 masters - one purely research based and one with papers + clinical time + research. I found both of them very difficult.

    I think more so than the actual work is the constant mental strain, and the burden of simply being an adult student and all that comes along with it. This makes me pretty damn certain a PhD is not for me - at least not at this stage in my life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uppercut View Post
    Masters programmes in the UK have let their standards drop precipitously to get more international students in. They're usually easier than the last year of an undergraduate degree now, even at places like Cambridge.
    A good friend of mine was dating this girl from a foreign country who'd received a government grant or some type of funding to be an international student doing a masters in accountancy. He showed me one of her essays. Honestly, she could not even write a sentence with intelligible English. Like, you simply could not understand what points she was trying to make. Yet she was apparently passing.

    I'm not usually a university snob but I was damn happy not to have any qualifications from that institute.

    It's really straight up theft. The tertiary education industry has a lot to answer for.

  9. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by hendrix View Post
    A good friend of mine was dating this girl from a foreign country who'd received a government grant or some type of funding to be an international student doing a masters in accountancy. He showed me one of her essays. Honestly, she could not even write a sentence with intelligible English. Like, you simply could not understand what points she was trying to make. Yet she was apparently passing.

    I'm not usually a university snob but I was damn happy not to have any qualifications from that institute.

    It's really straight up theft. The tertiary education industry has a lot to answer for.
    I wouldn't call it theft. The students do very well out of the process, because an Acc+Finance Masters increases your future earnings by far more than the fees. At least for now. It's more of a cash-in on the institution's reputation.
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  10. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uppercut View Post
    I wouldn't call it theft. The students do very well out of the process, because an Acc+Finance Masters increases your future earnings by far more than the fees. At least for now. It's more of a cash-in on the institution's reputation.
    How is it for MBA programs in the UK and Europe? Indians seem to be flocking to European B-schools in droves.. is the entry barrier and coursework difficult?

    I've also always found it dubious that many MBA programs are just a year or so long (talking of reputed Indian B-schools like ISB here).. and their placements start barely half a year or so into the program. Like seriously, what have you learnt in 6 months to get job offers from big consultancies like McKinsey etc. in 6 months? But then, I'm more of a pure sciences/engineering guy, so management degrees baffle me in general.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uppercut View Post
    I wouldn't call it theft. The students do very well out of the process, because an Acc+Finance Masters increases your future earnings by far more than the fees. At least for now. It's more of a cash-in on the institution's reputation.
    It's theft because it's a development scholarship that is there to actually increase the skillset of people to go back and contribute positively to their country.

    She is going to go back to her country and I'm pretty sure she won't have learned any extra skills but may get a nice cushy government job for which she'll be totally incompetent.
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  12. #57
    Request Your Custom Title Now! Uppercut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vcs View Post
    How is it for MBA programs in the UK and Europe? Indians seem to be flocking to European B-schools in droves.. is the entry barrier and coursework difficult?

    I've also always found it dubious that many MBA programs are just a year or so long (talking of reputed Indian B-schools like ISB here).. and their placements start barely half a year or so into the program. Like seriously, what have you learnt in 6 months to get job offers from big consultancies like McKinsey etc. in 6 months? But then, I'm more of a pure sciences/engineering guy, so management degrees baffle me in general.
    I don't really know what the academic standards are like. Probably not that high? Although that doesn't mean they're a waste of time, universities sink a lot of money into creating a good experience on the MBA because the graduates often end up in super-influential positions. Hence the cliche of a "flagship" MBA.

    They're nothing like the Acc/Mgmt programs at all. Very different institutional incentives.

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    International 12th Man Kirkut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenZA View Post
    It depends on the type of Masters, my pure research masters was easier than my final degree course work. However I know people doing course work masters that really struggle and find it very difficult. It also probably becomes how you deal with things like tests and exams. I hated exams and the stress they brought on. Research produces a different sort of requirement and stress, but I handle it much better.
    I'm assuming you got your education either in South Africa or the UK, how is Master's program there? Do you get to choose your courses like in the US?

    Here in the US you can choose whatever courses you like, so getting good grades is not that hard if you choose all easy courses, but companies don't look for grades they're more interested in what you learned from the courses you took.

    For example there is a fluid dynamics course and the instructor is very old with age around 88-89 years old, so he's a bit apathetic whether students learn anything or not and he gives A grade generously. Whereas I took this course on Vehicle Dynamics and the instructor was from MIT. I got a C in that course but I was very happy, the amount of knowledge I had received was huge even though I managed a C, most drop out early to avoid failing.
    Last edited by Kirkut; 21-06-2019 at 02:49 PM.

  14. #59
    International 12th Man Kirkut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vcs View Post
    How is it for MBA programs in the UK and Europe? Indians seem to be flocking to European B-schools in droves.. is the entry barrier and coursework difficult?

    I've also always found it dubious that many MBA programs are just a year or so long (talking of reputed Indian B-schools like ISB here).. and their placements start barely half a year or so into the program. Like seriously, what have you learnt in 6 months to get job offers from big consultancies like McKinsey etc. in 6 months? But then, I'm more of a pure sciences/engineering guy, so management degrees baffle me in general.
    MBA is all networking and people skills from what I see, which is what consultancies expect probably. I'm assuming an MBA school would be a hell for the socially reclusive.
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    International 12th Man Kirkut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meridio View Post
    Re. the bolded, a few people I know who have PhDs have said that their Masters was actually their hardest year, in terms of quantity and difficulty of work (in terms of pure brainpower, for lack of a better word) in their whole academic life. So a PhD is not necessarily "harder", but it's a very different challenge, for the reasons given by everyone in this thread.

    Anyway, to give my own perspective, as a mechanical engineer working in a post-doc role at a university (though I don't actually have a PhD - got hired out of my Masters programme) - PhDs in engineering are only really required outside academia in very specialised research roles, in companies that are often spinoffs or heavily associated with universities anyway. Those sorts of roles are few and far between, and really rely on the candidate's PhD being in a very closely related field and with a strongly practical side to it. I've certainly seen positions like that advertised, and the salaries are usually decent, but not good enough to offset the cost of doing the PhD in the first place, and so from that point of view are only worth it if you've found that one thing that you utterly love and want to make your life about, which also happens to be something of value to the wider world. And as it happens, you might find that one thing through a non-academic route anyway, and then if need be you can always do a PhD later.

    So yeah, if you don't want a career in academia (which I totally, thoroughly understand; I only have a week to go on my contract and have no desire to keep working in academia, post-doc life has a few advantages but crap pay and little job stability are hefty negatives), doing a PhD for the sake of it sounds like the wrong idea to me.
    Thanks a lot

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