Is university research academic and/or industry consultancy the only job prospects of a PhD graduate?

Anyone here ever consider going for a PhD?

I had never considered doing one but was offered a place with a scholarship that will comfortably see me through all 3/4 years of the PhD. I don't really know if research is where I want to be career-wise though. But then again I'm not sure where I want to go. I turned the PhD opportunity down previously because I was a law student. I still am a law student but as I was saying in another thread, I am 100% committed to finishing it one subject at a time with a part time load even if I'm not so interested in pursuing a career in law. The university academic who is trying to push for me to undertake a PhD knows about me studying law and was willing to work around that if I undertake a PhD under his supervision.

The PhD would be in molecular biology/pathology.

"I've always heard that having a PhD pigeonholes you into certain positions and can limit your opportunities"

One of the postdocs in my dept told me that he was advised to make a move into another field of research within 4-5 years of receiving his PhD to prevent pigeonholing his career. His PhD and postdoc work is related to Alzheimer's disease, he is thinking of moving into cancer research.

"good PhD's are in very demand"

In what other areas other than in consultancy and/or policy-making? To tell you the truth, I wouldn't mind consultancy and policy-making. But right now a large majority of PhD graduates that I know of have gone into postdoc research by default, I can't see where else they could've gone, and I don't think they know either. In their defence, they were mostly interested in research anyway.

"I am probably going to enter a PhD program this spring. "

In what area? I'm always interested to hear from others about their life plans.

"my desire and commitment to do it"

There wouldn't be a question as to my desire and commitment. I've been working in the research field for years now, and frequently work closely with Phd students and postdocs so I have a clear idea of what I'm getting myself into. It's the post-PhD that I'm not so sure about. In a sense, I can envision 3-4 years of research to get that PhD but as a lifelong career, I don't know.

"Of course, in your third world country, things may be different."

haha.. you had to stick that one in there didn't you.

The PhD gives you more salary. It gives you more chance to get ahead. If you leave your field for Wall Street (for example), it makes getting that job a little easier.

I think it limits your opportunities though. For every 10 BS's they might hire 1 Ph.D. Also, certain Ph.D. (like computational physics) do not have a wide geographical demand.

Cajones is correct about doing it only if you want. In grad school, you make ~18k a year for 4-7 years. In industry, you'd make 50-80. If you invest the difference for 4-7 years, you never make it back until you're ancient.

Are you in Canada? If so, Cajones is correct. Research funding is a lot worse in Canada.

"If you leave your field for Wall Street (for example), it makes getting that job a little easier."

You bring up an interesting point. One of the postdocs I know was in the run for an academic lecturing position that had absolutely no relation to his non-teaching research history. But armed with PhDs, all applicants were fair game. It's like, "you have a PhD? ok we trust you'll know what you're doing whatever we give you". But how far out of your field can a PhD go?

"In grad school, you make ~18k a year for 4-7 years. "

You mean as a student on a stipend/scholarship?

" Are you in Canada?"


In a year I am going to try and get a PhD. Right now I have to figure out what I want to do with my life and what opportunities present themselves. It will either be in religious studies (if I want to teach) or human services related (alot more variety of things to do). I would go for it! I don't think I would ever regret getting one...but I can see regretting not getting one.

"In my experience, this mostly only due to a shortage of people with advanced degrees and/or experience."

Very true I'd say. Although from my perspective, the size of the population in the US compared with Australia makes it look like PhDs are a dime a dozen over there.

"In Electrical Engineering. Probably involving something relating to sensor array processing."

Can't say I know much about that field of research, but
I've been seeing that topic around in the science journals. Is that a hot topic in Elec Eng right now?

"My current dream job would be as a Research Scientist at the Air Force Research Lab. "

It would be any researcher's dream job if you take into account the size of funding and opportunities you would have to support you and your research. Is it a competitive arena in the Air Force / military? By that I mean are you employed with a salary or does the position fall strictly on output and competitive funding?

I don't really know much about the research field outside of medical sciences, not enough to compare and say whether it's a relatively limiting area.

"If it makes you feel any better, I am at an academic conference this week, and the lack of contributions from American students is pretty fucking depressing."

Don't feel bad. Australia has a shitty reputation in the R&D sector - the tall poppy syndrome. Most talented researchers go overseas where they are able to make a lot more money and receive a lot more support.

"In a year I am going to try and get a PhD"

Are you doing an honors year right now or are you taking a break before undertaking a PhD?

double post

Taking a break. And brushing up on some skills that I bs'd my way past all the way up through school. Also, if I can't get funding I won't even bother. I don't know if I will be living here in the U.S. or Canada someday, so I have to take that into consideration also.

I considered a PhD. I'd be doing substantively the same sort of thing I do now, which is clinical work (psychologist).

IM is correct - getting a Ph. D. in psychology is nearly a losing proposition in terms of time and money if you want to be a clinician. If you want to be an academic or researcher, yeah, it's a necessity, but the financial payoff difference between MS/MA and Ph.D. is small if you're just seeing patients - unless, of course, you do something cut-throat like expert witness or forensic stuff....

I think I told this story on here before, but it bears repeating - at a psychology conference I attended a few years back, the speaker at a seminar asked the audience of 100+ professionals how many of themn would recommend their kids follow them and get a Ph.D. in psych if they wanted to "go out and help people," etc. Less than 5 raised their hands.

I too am thinking of doing a PhD in Electrical engineering.. problem is I have a house (mortgage payment) and would basically need to sell it and go back to living in an apartment if I were to do it.. cajones, you can only do a PhD part-time for the coursework part of it, correct? But to do the research you need to be full time in most schools?

Ted, good to hear that from you, though I may still do it when I get bored at my job. It doesn't help that I didn't think highly of my Masters program.

I just talked to a guy today who's doing a two-year certificate, I guess that'd be comparable to an Associates degree in the US, and it sounded wicked awesome. They just have a really excellent clinician overseeing the program, keeping it practical and up to date. It kind of annoys me when people appeal to their education, e.g. "Hey, leave the counseling to guys with Masters degrees". Yes we can be proud of our education, and yes we need to be careful to practice within our competence, but I never like snobbery. Our education is just a part of what we bring to our work. I know folks with Masters who are stupid, or lousy counselors, or both, and I know lots of kids with Bachelors or less who are natural helpers.

I agree that PhD is important for forensics and I think also neurodevelopmental.

(edited: I don't know what I was thinking. Sorry.)

"I also have a house and a family to support, so going back full-time isn't an option for me either."

I have a mortgage to pay off. Can't you guys get a scholarship or stipend? The only reason I can consider a PhD is because I was offered a scholarship to do it for the life of the PhD. I can live 'comfortably' off that.

"I don't think that a scholarship or stipend is going to pay me anywhere near what I am making now."

Neither will a Ph.D.

Take the difference between your current salary and 18k (Ph.D. stipend, full time at a major university). Invest that difference at historical 9% for 5 years. Calculate the difference in salary with Master's and with Ph.D, and calculate how long it would take to make that money back. The answer is often "a long time".

Ph.D. is if you want to be the best you can be, or if you want to run a research group. Not for money.

"If you do it on a part-time basis while working full-time, and your employer is willing to foot bill, then that equation changes."

But if your employer is covering the bill, you are expected to put in a significant number of years back for your employer before you can amicably quit to pursue a your preferred position elsewhere.

Sorry, I keep having in mind the biomedical field where the circumstances you described above very seldom occur (to my knowledge anyway).

I can imagine in a completely different field like commerce/business, companies have quite frequently supported (financially or otherwise) their employees pursuing something like an MBA, or much less often a PhD.

What is it like in engineering? I believe I've heard of cases where engineering companies support PhD pursuits.

"I think they can also write educational benifits off on their taxes."

I didn't think of it that way. My perspective of the biomedical field is that they hire PhDs and a bit more rarely Masters graduates. In the R&D area they don't really hire people who need further education, they hire people with lesser qualifications mainly to do the lab tech work and other routine garbage.

"Someday I will learn how to correctly spell benefits on a consistant basis."

You might want to learn to spell 'consistent' correctly as well. :)

ttt for the playa hata degree

My sister in law just finished her PhD in Engineering and got a very nice job with great benefits even before she graduated.

I'm planning on going on to get my Ph.D, but it is a requisite for what I want to get into.

I want to teach University level Religious Studies, and to be a professor, you must be a Ph.D (unless you are a minority working in a very liberal University in a very "ethnic" field - such as the Ethnic Studies/Native American Studies department at U Colorado- the head of the Department only has a BA from a small college!).

I really love being in academia so it's not a punishment for me, but I wish things would speed up a bit.