Every so often I decide to do what I call “selfish posts”. These are blog posts that will help you and you can definitely learn from, but are sparked by my own curiosity rather than anything else. Personally, as an undergraduate student (at the time of writing), I am sort of wondering about the future and I wanted to do a deep dive into the world of doing PhDs, and most importantly why might you want to do one in the first place? So if you’re curious definitely read on and let’s learn together!
Note: as always none of this blog is ever meant to be professional, career or any sort of official advice.
Why Do A PhD?
Reach Your Career Goals
This is definitely the reason that popped into my mind first because PhDs can be great in certain careers. For example, as a psychology student who wants to go into clinical psychology (just think mental health) I know that becoming a doctor of clinical psychology opens up a lot more doors compared to just doing a Masters’ degree.
In addition, this applies to lots of different professions, so if you’re currently studying in a profession where gaining a doctorate is important then it is quite possibly worth considering doing a PhD to allow yourself to get access to those higher positions. For example, most hard and social sciences need a very advanced degree (like a PhD) to get access to the high paying jobs, so definitely do have a look.
Learn Transferable Skills
This is probably the only other main reason I could think of by myself, because PhDs really are a lot more than just writing up a massive boring academic paper. In a PhD, you get to improve your research skills even further because you have to make an original and important contribution to your subject area with your PhD, so you need to be great at research to do that. However, there are other, more transferable skills you can develop because of your PhD. Granted this depends on your subject area, but each one has its own unique skills that you can learn and still benefit from even if you don’t decide to work in your chosen area.
For example, from conversations with the great editor of this blog, I know he’s doing some teaching alongside his PhD as a part-time job. Now I’m including it in this section because without him doing his PhD, I do not know if he would have gone or gotten this part-time job. Yet because he has it, he is learning teaching, communication and other skills that can help him in other settings if he decided to leave psychology research.
Also as we all know, it takes a lot of skill to explain massive university-level concepts and teach them to undergraduates effectively. I’m still impressed when some teaching assistants manage to explain statistics to us. So I can only applaud everyone who does teaching.
In addition, on a more personal level, I know that the clinical psychology PhDs contain a LOT of fieldwork where we get to work with children and adolescents, working aged adults, retired people and people with learning disabilities. Therefore, this allows us to get tons of practical skills about working with these different groups with their own needs. As a result, there are a wide range of skills developed that I could develop during this PhD that I could use in non-psychology settings.
Overall, you will learn additional skills during your PhD that will help you to become more employable even if you decide to leave your subject area.
Passion And Making A Contribution
Originally meant to be two separate reasons to do a PhD, these advanced forms of degree can be brilliant for people who are passionate about a particular topic within a subject area. Personally as an undergraduate who is currently panicking about choosing a dissertation topic, I do not have any areas of psychology that I am so passionate about that I can think about researching for years. However, I know that plenty of people even at undergraduate level are passionate about a particular topic or area within their degree. Also, most Masters’ students have begun to find a favourite topic too, so a PhD can be great to explore your passion at an even deeper level. Also with a PhD you’re meant to make an original contribution to your field and doing this in an area you’re passionate about makes it a lot easier. Since if you’re writing a 60,000 word thesis, believe me, you’re going to need to have some passion for the topic.
Moreover, making an original contribution can be a great opportunity for you to help your career during your PhD. You only need to look on the internet to find names of researchers and academics who started to make a name for themselves during their PhD. Of course, it might not happen to you and chances are it won’t, but it never hurts to try. On the whole, if you have an area you’re passionate about and really want to explore in great depth, then a PhD can allow you to do that, and if you can make an original contribution to your field then that is amazing too!
Before this post I definitely felt like PhDs were this more mythical area of higher education, because people talk about them, but never in any great depth. Especially they don’t really talk about why do one. Yet hopefully after this blog post, you now have enough information to start thinking if there’s a chance you might want to do a PhD in the future.
There are benefits. But remember you don’t have to do it. It is always your choice.
Remember that and you’ll be fine.