Should I continue into a Ph.D. program?

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Should I continue into a Ph.D. program?

Postby KMS » Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:37 pm

I (very) recently completed my M.S. degree, and am trying to figure out the repercussions of not moving forward into a Ph.D. program at the same university. Because of extra coursework and lengthy experimental work, my M.S. took approximately four years to complete. I had previously been accepted into the Ph.D. contingent on funding and was very grateful to have been accepted. I like the aspect of studying one area in depth and gaining more autonomy in a research project. After the long M.S. program, however, the prospect of finding a job that applies the knowledge from the M.S. has become more appealing, especially since I would also have more time/money to visit relatives, be more social/try to start a family, have better insurance, etc. (a.k.a., getting older). I feel embarrassed at the thought of dropping out of the Ph.D. program before I really start it. My main question is: If I drop out now, am I screwed if I decide to apply for Ph.D. programs 5-15 years later? The Ph.D. program would appear on my transcript, though I haven't filled out any forms for that program. Also, is there a good way to stay on good terms with the department if I ever want to re-apply later?
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Re: Should I continue into a Ph.D. program?

Postby D.X. » Sun Jul 31, 2016 2:52 pm


To answer your first question about applying to a phd program 5 to 15 years from now, probably not 5 years, but youll be pushing the limit after that. Not to say its not possible, it is but enter the age issue.

Also a dose of reality for you. I highly doubt after 5 years of real world experience and probably on an established career trajectory, with life's stages also being passed (ie family), i doubt, and righyfully so, you'd have any interest what so ever in joining a phd program. First see my point on no interest, second..seriously? You will probably turns your nose up at such thought (ick!). But, more sincere, what for? Why? To get what exactly?

At 4 years after a Masters probably makes no sense to waste time with a PhD, the returns would be deminished as a function of your age and stage in life. It will be harder to start a job and career at a later point, not to say its not possible, but its alreay hard for the younger "on time" PhD before 30 years old folks. So i recommend you get out into the world, build on what you have and start putting into your 401k already!

As for transcripts doesnt matter, those dont get looked at, if at all in job processes, if requested they are used to validate your have the degree, usually by HR. Thats the least of your concerns.

Get out there and start investing in your life, ie social, family etc. that will give you returns of the exponential nature and riches you could have never thought possible (no not money, ...happiness).

Good luck,

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Re: Should I continue into a Ph.D. program?

Postby RGM » Mon Aug 01, 2016 1:41 pm

You need to do what's best for you and your future.

Based on your comments, I would advise you not to move into the PhD program.

However, what is critical to learn from you is what exactly do you want to do w/your life? Many positions don't require a PhD at all.

My friend has a B.S. in Biology, he's more employable than most PhDs who want to work in pharma company as he does. After being there for five years he's now a manager of 10 people and his salary is equal to what a PhD just starting out would be.

Depending upon what you want to do, getting a PhD could be a mistake.

Personally, if I had those thoughts in my head, I wouldn't get a PhD at all.

There is no shame, nor anything to prove by NOT going into a doctoral program. Indeed, obtaining a PhD doesn't say anything about you either.
It certainly doesn't mean you are smarter than most, it will only mean you went to school longer than most.
"Some men see things as they are and say why, I dream things that never were and say why not"
"If you think research is expensive, try disease." - Mary Lasker
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Re: Should I continue into a Ph.D. program?

Postby Steven Z. » Tue Aug 02, 2016 10:43 am

You need to take a step back and look at the PhD as a project like a business person would. Once I did that the choice became clear. I initially wanted a PhD under the assumptions it would take 4 years and enhance my job prospects. It became clear that both were quite false so I dumped it. I watched people graduate and have a worse time trying to find a job than ex-cons and people took on average 6 years to graduate.

So I was left with a project that was over-budget on time and money and seemed very unlikely to produce any return on investment. Therefore I canceled the project.

I eventually ended up ok. I don't consider science at any level to have very good job prospects (other than healthcare) in relation to the intelligence and hard work necessary to get through the educational programs. I still get offers for $15-20 an hour no benefits. I managed to find a small company that doesn't treat science like a race to the bottom and have a pretty decent job. However, If I knew then what I know now I would not have gone for a PhD at all and probably would either have gone into one of the healthcare professions or not majored in science at all.
Steven Z.
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Re: Should I continue into a Ph.D. program?

Postby WG » Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:32 pm

You should read the responses to the thread below, the poster is asking a similar question:


After the long M.S. program, however, the prospect of finding a job that applies the knowledge from the M.S. has become more appealing, especially since I would also have more time/money to visit relatives, be more social/try to start a family, have better insurance, etc. (a.k.a., getting older).

These are very real concerns. If these are your priorities, there is no shame in opting out of a PhD program.
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Re: Should I continue into a Ph.D. program?

Postby Nate W. » Thu Aug 04, 2016 11:39 am


Only you are going to be able to answer this question. It depends. We can guide you. If you are trying to compete for a position in academia as a professor, you will need a PhD and about 5-6 quality publications. You should also consider where you are located and where you want to live. If you grew-up in say Texas or Wyoming and want to live there after graduation, a PhD is not compatible with your goals. PhD life science jobs are NOT ubiquitous throughout the US, most are located 3-4 hub cities. For the rest the country, the only jobs available are reagent sales, college professor, or MSL; for the most part. Forget about an adjunct position supporting a family. Professorships at four year institutions will require a PhD plus the publication record. The MSL position may or may not require a PhD, depending on one's experience. However, these positions are quite competitive. For reagent sales, you need to network aggressively and get any type of medical/ technical sales experience. If you move to a hub city, there are many more options available to you and training to fill in those gaps are also more readily available.

Most importantly, the biggest mistake students make when attending graduate school is working for the wrong PI. The next mistake they make is not being able to identify ways in the job market that one can utilize their training or identify practical applications of their research. You want a PI who cares about training students for the job market; getting them the right publications in the right journals. Not all PIs can do this, due to poor funding or reputation, and some PIs actually could care less about your training (future). You want a PI who has your back when you do a good job. The latter question requires some thought and foresight; find a trusted colleague, not a competitor, to explore this question.

If you are seeking a position that is more ubiquitous and can utilize your scientific training, explore the healthcare related professions: MD, PharmD, MSN, Dentist, or DVM
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