To PhD or not to PhD? That is the question.

Dr Alice Bennett

(Photo credit: nhojjohn58)

I have recently finished my Masters degree with Honours, and now that I have gotten my results back, I have already been asked numerous times “so when will you start your PhD?” This is actually a good question which I have pondered myself any times over the last few years.

When I was in high school, I thought how cool it would be to be called “Dr Sloan”. When I realised I could never remember all the knowledge needed to be a medical doctor I gave up on that quest. However, when I discovered you can become a Doctor of almost ANYTHING, my interest was sparked. It has always been something that I thought would be prestigious and cool to have. But I knew nothing about what doing a PhD would entail. I was clueless.

In fact, only recently have I seriously researched what a PhD entails. Particularly important to me was hearing other student’s experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly. I wanted unbiased information, not just the idealised image of a happy, content and engages PhD student. I have found out that:

This information has given me a greater depth of understanding on the journey that is a PhD. But that’s just it. It is a journey. Any journey will have it’s ups and downs, frustrations and elations, but it’s all part of the ride. To a certain extent, I feel like I have already been through a lot of these emotions and experiences throughout my Honours thesis. So am I ready for it again?

My decision so far is…..kind of. I originally undertook my Honours thesis because it is the prerequisite pathway at my university for PhD studies. But I undertook this study because I always wanted that door to be open, not knowing if I would ever go through that door. I just didn’t want to know that one day I COULD do a PhD, if I decided. It is empowering knowing that I have choices.

I have recently decided that YES it is something I would like to do, because I would like a career in academia. I thoroughly enjoy teaching, and I also enjoy the thrill of research. It seems a great way to combine the two. In actual fact this is a very basic, idealised view of an academic position at my university, but at its core, those are the two main focuses of such a job.

Now that I have thought about doing a PhD, researched it and thought about it even more, I have finally decided:

  • To have at least 6 months off from full-time study. I feel like I need time to refresh and take some time for me. Full time research can take its toll on you, especially when you don’t take at least one day a week off.
  • I will apply for a scholarship to undertake my PhD studies.It would be nice not having to worry about only working on a casual basis.
  • I will not pressure myself to start straight away. I have time. There is no rush.

So next semester I will try to pick up some more tutoring work to keep myself busy, while I write my honours thesis up into a journal article. I will also concentrate on teaching and thinking of possible PhD topics.  So now, I still have plenty to keep me busy until next year, while I also take some time out for me.

What decision process did you go through before enrolling in your PhD? Are you still deciding? Maybe you decided it’s not for you? Let me know in the comments below, I would be interested to know your experiences.

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16 thoughts on “To PhD or not to PhD? That is the question.

  1. Thanks for your pingback on GradHacker Sarah! I am a former high school math and history teacher and went through the same process of trying to decide whether to start a PhD or not with the added complication of figuring out whether to do it in math or history. I think you’re very wise to take some time away from academia as you make your decision. Two things I would encourage you to consider are (1) the time investment (most programs are 5 or 6 years full-time) and its potential impact on your relationships and (2) professors you would like to work with. Recently, GradHacker.org ran a series of articles with a lot of other great advice on
    *Financing a Graduate School Education: http://www.gradhacker.org/2012/10/15/financing-a-graduate-school-education-four-important-questions-to-ask/
    *Writing your Statement of Purpose: http://www.gradhacker.org/2012/10/16/writing-your-statment-of-purpose/
    *On the Art of Selecting the Graduate Program For You: http://www.gradhacker.org/2012/10/17/on-the-art-of-selecting-the-graduate-program-for-you/

    If you would like to know more about my own experience, please feel free to get in touch. Best wishes!

    • Thanks Ashley! I have been following your blog which has inspired me to write my own. As for your 2 suggestions, the time commitment itself is a little scary, but I feel like I could do it, as I have a lot of support from my husband. As for choosing professors, I have had a couple of offers from professors at my university to supervise me, but their research is not directly related to what I want to do, so I haven’t made a decision yet. Thanks for the advice.

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