In my last two posts, I’ve been discussing the possibility of going back to grad school as well as some of the reasons for not doing so. In this post, I’m going to tell you why it’s a good idea. In my opinion, there’s only one good reason why anyone should ever go through the effort of getting an advanced degree.
I should qualify this post by saying that I’m talking here about getting an advanced degree in the sciences. There are professions, like being a doctor, where getting an advanced degree is a requirement. I’m not talking about those. For some people contemplating a career in science, the time after getting a bachelor’s degree becomes a period of decision about whether to continue on with your education or stop there and get a job.
I faced that decision after getting my B.A. in physics. I struggled with my priorities and finally decided that I would not continue with my education, rather I would get take a technical support job in astronomy.
I never regretted that decision. It turned out to be the correct one for me as I was able to not only make satisfying contributions to solar research, I made a respectable salary along the way.
Now, I’m at another decision point. I have begun to reach the top of my particular career ladder and I am considering returning to university for that PhD. Since I’m a blogger, I’m kind of going through this decision process online with the hope that others can help me by offering insights or maybe just by reading this, someone else can benefit.
I think many people start out thinking that an advanced degree is necessary to become an important contributor to science; they may also feel like it’s the only way to get a decent paying job or to make a lasting difference in a career.
I’ve learned that nothing could be further from the truth. As I’ve already mentioned in my last post, there are plenty of PhD’s who don’t have a lot to offer science. There are also many examples of people with no advanced degree who’ve made quite significant contributions. A PhD by itself doesn’t make you remarkable.
So, what is it? Why should a person get a PhD? When I asked my friends and mentors this question, the responses were all the same.
“Don’t get a PhD for money, recognition, prestige, or a job”, I was repeatedly told. “There’s only one reason ANYONE should go through the trouble of getting a PhD.”
“What is it?”, I asked.
“Get a PhD because you want one.”
I couldn’t agree more. The journey towards a PhD should be what matters most. Learning what you need to know to become a good discoverer-of-things should be it’s own reward.
You should do it because you love learning, because you MUST know more about the universe. You should get a PhD because you want to satisfy a longing to find out the nature of things and tell others what you found.
There’s plenty of ways of getting money, fame and power – not all of them (or even most of them) require any PhD.
I’ve already achieved many of the goals people set for themselves: decent income, good job, interesting work, and I did it without an advanced degree. Now, I’m asking myself if I want to go further.
Do I want a PhD?
I’ll let you know…