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Is Now the Right Time to do a PhD?

Is Now the Right Time to do a PhD? main image

Completing a PhD is not everyone’s path. This high-level degree does offer charm and sophistication, but what one has to go through to reach the stage where they can actually enjoying being called a doctor is not easy to comprehend. Many students are wise when they decide not to pursue such a degree. Some get overexcited, and end up enrolling in a program they never finish, or choose to go ahead without PhD funding and find themselves financially overstretched.

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I don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing a PhD, but if you choose to do a PhD you must know the time is right and that you will see it through. During a recent conversation with a friend in Germany who has recently finished an MSc there, I explored some interesting insights around this subject. He, too, was considering doing a PhD, but was yet to finalize his decision. The reasons behind taking so much time and calculating every move were justified. Some of them might also help other potential PhD candidates. Here are some points to consider if you’re unsure whether now’s the right time to enroll in a PhD…

Think about what career you want to pursue

It goes without saying that most of those enrolling in PhDs want to be academics or work in another research-based role. From a career point of view, academia could be a good option, as you can associate yourself with a good university and become part of its faculty. But not everyone wants to be an academic. They want to stay connected with the industry, and completing a PhD is not always the best way to do this, depending on your subject area. Let me put it this way: by completing a bachelor or a master degree in journalism, I can easily fulfil my dream of being a reporter, producer or a broadcaster. But if I do a PhD, I am more than likely to end up sitting behind a desk flicking through piles of literature, instead of going out in the field and experiencing the buzz and pressure of a newsroom.

Consider spending some time working first

The friend I mentioned earlier finished his bachelor’s degree in Pakistan. He spent a few years working and then decided to move to Germany to complete a research degree. Now he is thinking of two different options. The first one is to choose a good university that aligns with his research interests and apply for admission in a PhD. The second one is to take a break from studies, go out and spend some time in the field and then return to do a PhD after a couple of years, if he is still interested. The latter seems logical. Taking time out always helps clear the mind. You will see many professionals completing PhDs after spending more than 10 years in the field. Such experience is also helpful, because you can add a fresh perspective to your research based on your on first-hand exposure.

What’s your market value?

You don’t want to spend your entire life as a student. If you can get a good job that pays well and you have only completed a bachelor or a master degree, why not stop and take up that opportunity? If the market is willing to pay you as per your needs without you being required to spend a few more years on higher education, don’t miss that opportunity. You can always take a break from your work and return to studies later, but don’t let go of any opportunity to work and earn money in favor of higher studies.

Make sure you receive PhD funding

If you are pursuing a PhD, make sure that you have been offered a scholarship or other source of PhD funding. As a PhD candidate you will be required to spend at least 40 hours a week on your studies. This means there is no time to be working somewhere else. The free time you get must be spent socializing and clearing your mind. This means you must have full financial cover to support your studies and cost of living. If you are struggling to manage your finances, I would suggest not going for a PhD right away, because if you do your performance is going to be severely affected due to lack of focus and concentration.

Speak to university representatives in person

If you want some more personal advice about your options, you can meet representatives from universities around the world at the QS World Grad School Tour - coming soon to a city near you. This is an opportunity to get answers to your questions, discover new possibilities, attend free seminars, and become eligible to apply for funding through the QS Scholarships scheme. Find your nearest event here.

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Written by Zain Nabi
Zain is (hopefully!) finishing his Masters of Journalism and International Relations at Monash University in Australia this year (2015). Living up to the standards he set in Pakistan, he hasn't yet topped his class. He still thinks he can do it, though. And he is happy to be approached all the times, except when he is eating...
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