Why You Should or Shouldn’t Get a PhD

Yelena Skosyrskih

While getting a PhD is a great way to advance your career and gain in-depth knowledge of your subject of choice, it’s not an easy journey. Earning a PhD is a time-consuming project that often requires considerable commitment.

Quitting your PhD studies halfway is often more nerve-wracking than never going down this road in the first place. That’s why it’s imperative to evaluate all the pros, cons, and consequences before undertaking the PhD journey.

Should you get a PhD? Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding the PhD Journey

The complexity of your PhD journey is often offset by the benefits you receive when it ends. However, this step requires careful consideration. If you aren’t ready for the process, you may not be able to reap its potential return on investment (ROI). Things to pay attention to include:

Time Commitments

A PhD program demands a substantial time commitment. The majority of programs require you to dedicate from 3 to 7 years of your time. Some shorter programs exist as well. However, they are often even more intense.

You will be spending long hours on research, coursework, writing, and defending your dissertation. If you have other personal and professional responsibilities, you would have to learn how to balance them without hurting your studies.

Finding the Right Program

Finding the right program is key to achieving success with your studies. However, with hundreds of such programs available (especially with the rising popularity of the remote format), it can be hard to make a choice. Things you have to evaluate include:

  • Program’s reputation
  • Faculty expertise
  • Research opportunities
  • Funding availability

A poor program choice can affect your studies and interfere with your PhD goals.

Relocation Possibility

The best PhD program for your needs may not be located in your city or state. Many people have to relocate to attend the university of their choice. You have to consider how a relocation may affect your life, budget, and responsibilities. An alternative could be to find a suitable online PhD program. However, many of them may still have offline attendance requirements.

Before enrolling in a PhD program, you have to make many choices. By taking your time to make a decision, you are contributing to the success of the journey. Don’t forget to consider the financial implications of this project.

Should I Get a PhD? Reasons to Do It

Before you start pursuing a PhD, you have to be sure that you have all the right reasons to do it. Some of them include:

Passion for Research

If you have a strong passion for conducting in-depth research and exploring new ideas, you could be on the right track. Besides feeling passionate about advancing knowledge in a particular field, you should have at least some experience in doing so. Perhaps, it’s not exactly what you think it is.

Usually, you can gain such experience while getting a master’s degree.

Specialized Expertise

If you are already working in the field you love but lack specialized knowledge, a PhD could be a great opportunity to gain it. While in the program, you will become a subject matter expert and get on the way to turning into a thought leader.

Career Advancement

A doctoral degree can be highly useful for climbing the career ladder. However, this reason shouldn’t be the only driving force behind your decision. While getting to the next step is a significant reward, it can often be achieved without five years of intense studies.

Intellectual Growth

When you are earning a PhD, you are enjoying intellectual growth. If this is your goal, studies could be a wonderful option.

You can also gain a priceless opportunity not just for professional but for personal development. You will be challenged to think critically and solve complex problems.

The Greater Good

By conducting research and gaining new skills, you get a chance to contribute to the field. Depending on the subject and program, you may be able to drive innovations, make discoveries, and improve humanity’s quality of life.

Through research, you can get an opportunity to address pressing societal challenges and make a positive impact on the world.

Networking Opportunities

PhD programs are always filled with networking opportunities. Even if you are getting a PhD online, you can still meet people in the industry and make valuable connections. From conferences and seminars to collaborative projects, relationships formed in the process are often lifelong.

Personal Fulfilment

For many people, PhD studies are a rewarding experience. They enjoy the process and the fulfillment it brings every step of the way. If you feel that you need this culmination of study years to feel satisfied, it’s likely the way to go.


PhD research can finally help you become independent when working toward a certain goal. You can choose the topic that truly interests you and invest your time in exploring it with the help of mentors and faculty.

Reasons Not to Do a PhD

Getting a PhD isn’t always the best way to meet your studying and career goals. In some cases, it may be better to explore other options.

It Takes Time

A PhD is a serious time investment. The duration of the program that suits your professional goals best may not align with your personal timelines. This is one of the most common issues PhD students face. Many of them end up abandoning their studies.

A PhD can be Expensive

Doctoral programs are often costly. While scholarships and grants are available, they are often limited. The financial burden of tuition coupled with living and other expenses may be an important barrier to consider.

Career Issues

While a PhD can advance your career in some fields, it may not bring the desired results in others. A PhD doesn’t automatically mean a higher salary. Make sure to conduct research in order not to be disappointed.

The specialized nature of doctoral research often means a narrow focus within a specific area of study. This can limit job opportunities outside academia or industries directly related to the field of research.

Work-Life Balance

Balancing the demands of a PhD program with personal commitments, family responsibilities, and social life is a challenge. Many students end up feeling stressed and burned out.  This can interfere with their completion of the program.

Personal Priorities

When potential PhD students review their personal priorities, they often find that these priorities interfere with their PhD plans. If you plan to start a family, become an entrepreneur, or explore non-academic passions, a PhD program would have to wait. Juggling these is rarely possible.

There Is an Alternative Path

PhD isn’t the only way to achieve your goals. Depending on the field, you can find other ways to gain the desired expertise and move forward with your career. From professional certifications to specialized training, alternatives are worth exploring for their speed and cost-efficiency.

Who Should Consider Getting a PhD

You should consider getting a PhD if you are deeply passionate about:

  • Conducting in-depth research
  • Advancing knowledge in a specific field
  • Pursuing a career in academia or research-intensive industries

If you thrive in intellectually challenging environments and feel committed to lifelong learning, you could be an excellent candidate for doctoral studies. Meanwhile, you must be ready to dedicate significant time and effort to this journey.

In case you have all the above but don’t have the opportunity to get a PhD right now because of financial or other issues, you can always find alternative options to boost your expertise.

Making the Decision: Is a PhD Worth It?

Is a PhD worth it? The short answer it depends. The decision of whether to pursue a doctoral degree depends on many factors. Some of them aren’t something that an aspiring doctor can change. If you believe that you are well suited for this complex journey, you need to do some serious research before it starts.

Armed with all the necessary data about the program and its demands, you can make the final decision about this serious commitment.

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