Get a PhD
Top 5 Factors to Weigh Before Getting a PhD
1. What doors does a PhD open for you?
The fact of the matter is, it opens mostly doors within academia. In order to get a job as a professor, you need a PhD. For most others, you don't. There are a few exceptions, such as chemistry and fields related to drug development. So if you know for certain that you want to work in academia or in, say, pharmaceuticals, then a targeted PhD is the right thing.
Also, if you are interested in an expanding field, which at the moment could be something like big data analysis or brain and cognitive sciences, then you can be reasonably certain that there will be enough openings in academia by the time you have your PhD.
2. Which skill sets will you learn?
Obviously, you will learn a lot about something esoteric. For example, if you do a PhD in the history of accounting techniques among public house owners in Boston in the 1830s, you will end up knowing more than any other person on the planet about your narrow field. But because this knowledge is unlikely to help you with anything, the question really is, what else will you learn in the process? You might for example learn how to find information that is hard to find. You might also learn how to combine different kinds of information to arrive at insights that no one had seen before.
3. How will it make you feel about yourself?
Getting a PhD will likely give you a sense of achievement and make you feel proud. This is no small matter. You can put your title next to your name and most likely it will earn you respect. In general, you will be considered smart, and that is mostly an advantage.
4. Will you have fun?
You absolutely have to find the object of your studies interesting, because the gratification is very delayed. Life in the lab can be tedious and boring, unless you endow your activities with meaning. You have to feel that it matters, that you play with cool tools, that you contribute to the betterment of humanity in some way, or that you discover some measure of Truth, however small. If you want to become a professor you have to enjoy the kind of life that professors lead. And if you end up needing a job outside academia that your PhD doesn't necessarily prepare you well for, then you will at least want to have had fun!
5. What is the cost?
Ultimately, you will want to try some kind of cost-benefit analysis. A PhD takes a long time, and it costs fees and living expenses.
Unless you get grants to assist with this, it will add up. In addition, you will spend many years not making a living and not learning other important skills.