PhDs

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  • PhDs
  • jonb
    Member

    I got asked to do a pHD as did man on my course who were doing well. Infact I got offered several as my supervisor was well funded with more work than he could get done.

    I decided not to because I did not want to go into academia and I felt becoming very specialised in an area would not help me get the job that I wanted. I took a decision that I often wonder if I would have been better taking 4 years earlier*. I decided that I would be better off getting a job. Even if it was not exactly what I wanted you can do a lot in business in three years and that experience would suit me better than knowing a lot about R.A.F.T polymerisation as it would be more tranferable.

    If you take it are you doing it just to delay the inevitable of having to get a real job?

    How do you find your masters, I found academic research very unfocussed and not well enough funded. By contrast my current industrial research has very specific goals and a budget to achieve them. It will also lead to the launch of new products not just a thesis.

    I know plenty of people who’ve done pHD’s they earn the same if not less than I do now. I don’t think it makes you more employable, if anything it makes you over qualified for most entry level positions so closes doors.

    On the plus side you get to be a Dr.

    Premier Icon barney
    Subscriber

    Well, they’re all different, and if you really like your subject then go for it. you get to put Dr on your credit card, and everything.

    Although often they’re not so much about research as endurance, and they’re often anything but fun.

    Does consultancy pay well?

    jonb
    Member

    Does consultancy pay well?

    Not in a recession when people are cutting budgets. ALthough this is probably the time when most people need to call in consultants to help cut wastage.

    i think some folks from the old wmb forum have got PhDs

    grumm
    Member

    My gf has just got one and is struggling to find related work at the mo.

    AdamW
    Member

    I have a PhD (molecular electronics – chemistry basically) and work in computing. Go figure. Do a PhD if you really like the subject; we don’t all end up in academia, you know!

    As for employment it is a double-edged sword. If ever I lost my job and was looking to stack shelves then I would conveniently forget to put it on the CV as I would be over-qualified for nearly everything. In other areas it is held in more esteem.

    Choose to do a PhD because *you* want to; it is a chunk of your life that could be fantastic or a waste, depending on your point of view.

    And the money isn’t fantastic, either. Just a continuation of being a student with no big holidays!

    TimS
    Member

    I finished my (Physics) PhD 5 years ago. What you take away from one depends very much on your outlook.

    Quite a few of my mates (also with PhDs) have gone on to research careers (the first step to becoming a cardiganned academic): they spend their day working on some really cool stuff, without the pressures that you get in industry. Personally, I decided that academia wasn’t for me: I wanted to use the stuff that I’d learned – hence the move to a (technical) company — it is possible to escape.

    I think that the soft skills that you learn during a PhD can be applied to pretty much any work situation. I don’t think that I use any of the specific things that I spent 3 years grafting on when I was a student, but I do know that I’m constantly planning, organising, etc. It also helps me to communicate with customers on their level (we sell systems and services to scientists).

    One thing is for certain. You don’t do it for the money — I remember that my Supervisor told me that I would earn less than my classmates until I was in my mid-thirties by virtue of being 3-4 years behind them in the corporate ladder-climbing game. I don’t care though, because I’ve got a job I really enjoy; the knowledge that I can solve pretty much any technical problem that’s given to me and Dr. on my credit cards ;o)

    Premier Icon allyharp
    Subscriber

    What’s the general opinion on doing a PhD? In this economic climate in particular.

    I’m currently doing a Masters in Operational Research and got asked today to apply for a PhD position. I’d never considered it before, but since I’ve actually been asked I’m going to consider it at least.

    The current job situation makes it a good time to be in education. But it is a whole 3-4 years which is a very long time.

    I can’t imagine it’d open up many new opportunities except a career as a lecturer, which I’ve never considered before either but it doesn’t seem like such a bad lifestyle.
    Because of the department I’m in and the nature of the subject most of the current teaching staff are involved in consulting work, which would add a nice balance to the academic side of things, if that was the career path followed.

    Premier Icon Garry_Lager
    Subscriber

    I’m an academic and run a chemistry research group. It’s very hard to generalise about the PhD as what the qualification means varies so much between subjects. In my area a PhD is a natural progression for anyone who wants a leadership / creative / decision making role in the chemical or pharma industry. Our graduate school is big and we get all types of people; from very job / skills orientated to the extremely celebral and scholarly. Other areas are quite different – computer science for example makes you employable right after the degree and a PhD is not usually pursued for employability reasons – it’s more a sign of scholarly interest in the subject. Something like Medieval history, or most of the arts subjects, are clearly all about the scholarship.

    One thing not widely appreciated about the PhD is how well it suits those of an entrepreneurial bent. I’ve seen quite a few people be very successful from developing themselves in this area within the PhD environment.

    I don’t know how Operations Research fits into the above picture (what is is?). It’s easier if you have a clear picture of what you do and do not want to do – Do you definitely not want to be an academic – do you definitely want to work in industry with a clear end-product etc. If you do decide to do a PhD, though, you must appreciate that all research groups are not the same by a long chalk. Do everything you can to get in a group with an international profile.

    coffeeking
    Member

    I wanted to use the stuff that I’d learned

    Thats a curious view, I did a masters (specialised in solid mechanics and smart materials) and a Phd (robotic vision) and, in general, I use every skill I learned during my undergrad and phd on a daily basis, in research (academia). In fact, out of all of the close friends who graduated with me from undergrad years 7 or 8 mates, I’m the only one who goes near anything we learned at undergrad, or does anything remotely technical anymore. My (relatively limited) experience and third party accounts of working in industry has shown me that unless you’re taken on as a specialist in a research based company, industry just turns you into someone who churns out drawings and designs using the “this is just how we’ve always done it” method.

    Personally I didnt really consider “my career” when choosing to do the PhD – I just liked the sound of the work, enjoyed the atmosphere and the pay was pretty close to a starter job in industry (its currently equiv to about 19K before tax. But everyone is different. In hard economic times I’d say a PhD is a no brainer if it interests you, guaranteed income for 3.5 years, and you dont HAVE to use the specialisation at the end of it. I’m not currently building robots with vision, but I am transferring some of that electronics/vision knowledge into the current research work and I enjoy supervising undergrad robotics groups and the Formula Student team.

    Life is what you make of it. Dont do it for the cash (there wont be any extra unless you stick it out) – only you know if you want to do it. Academia isnt really stress free, on a day to day basis it has fewer deadlines, but the competitiveness is far higher than it appears to be in industry (in general) and the pressure comes from yourself (wanting to prove you can do something) and from outside (people relying on you to publish results, get something working, constantly prove you’re the best and have something new or you dont get funding). Anyone who thinks it’s an easy life are simply not recognising the differences. Each has its merit, certain types of people perform better in each. And not all academics are stuffy cardigans, I know 3 MTBing profs, 2 climbers and we recently unfortunately lost one RA on the face of Mont Blanc. But a very large percentage of PhD’s go straight to industry, it’s not really a barrier if approached in the right way.

    bigrich
    Member

    you can ride your bike whenever you want for three years. wednesday morning and it looks nice out? off you pop!

    also the moneys not too bad anymore, i.e no council tax and (its gone up to)16K a year tax free. you can run a car and a bike and get sauced on it.

    bigrich
    Member

    oh, and when I finished mine, I had three job offers on the table, scotland, the US and Oz, and if your clever with grant applications you can fly all over the world on conferences.

    fauxbyfour
    Member

    I was offered several and did one that was quite well funded. It was very hard (as my supervisor left me to do it almost on my own) but worth it. I think you have to be a certain kind of person to dedicate 3 – 4 years to something like that.

    Afterwards, I could have taken my research anywhere in the world and worked where I liked (I studied pollution). Now I could not imagine not having done it!

    Munqe-chick
    Member

    Mr Munqe-chick did a PhD and really enjoyed it, as people have already said you certainly do NOT do it for the money but for the enjoyment of the research (even if it does get a little tedious when writing up at the end). If you get a PhD it gives you some many world wide opportunities to do post docs all over the world. Mr MC then went off to America for 2 years, he didn’t enjoy the post doc but it was the best 2 years of his life, lots of climbing, MTBing and doing really cool stuff. After that (this was 10 years ago!!) he struggled to get a job but did another 2 year post doc in the UK and then worked in research for 8 months before deciding that after 10 odd years of science he wanted a complete change and joined the police. He doesn’t regret what he has done one bit, loved the work and found it very challenging. It is also amazing how banks, shops etc treat you differently when you have “DR” on your letters etc.

    My brother also did a PhD (finishing about 4 years ago), again he went on to do it as he was struggling to find a job. Again loved the research and the work that he completed. Hard work towards the end writing it all up but definately worth it when you see that book you’ve completed at the end. He hasn’t had a problem getting jobs afterwards but not in academia. He worked in Swindon for EPSRC the research council giving grants for uni research projects. He has now moved to Aberdeen and is working as a corrosion engineer for Lloyds register and enjoying it.

    In this current climate I would think it may be a good time to get on and do it, in 3-4 years the climate will have picked up again!

    I haven’t done it but from my brother and partner, I’d say “DO IT DO IT”!!!!
    And lots of free time (if you want it) to ride your bike!!! remember though you do have to want to do it as you have lots of time doing research on your own and treated like an adult. (This is all opinion from what they’ve told me … I just got a BA).

    Good luck.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    +1 for all of the above. PhDs aren’t really about employability unless you want to do something specific (afaik some city banks like Maths PhDs for hardcore analysis of markets etc). Some big IT consultancies get all gooey over PhDs as they think it means they’re cleverer and they can charge them out for more money I suppose.. But broadly, do it for the love of it and you might get some perks later in life. If two people go for a job and one’s a PhD, would that sway your decision? With some it probably would.

    andy_hew
    Member

    I finished mine a couple of years ago, unlike some I did do it for financial reasons. I was offered and ESRC CASE scholarship so it equated to about 16k pa tax free for about three years. Also I had a young family and it fitted well around my other commitments. Throughout my PhD it was always my intention to go for an academic post but once I completed I found it to be a bit of struggle, I got a couple of post-docs but they were always on such short term contracts, as soon I was in post I was looking around for the next one. Also got a bit fed up of the egos of those in the academic community and the whole culture of competitiveness (RAE etc), so decided to jump ship. I was offered the first post I applied for outside of academia and have no regrets about leaving. Like others have said do it for the pleasure of conducting your own research project for three years. One bit of advice I wish I’d received before starting was to think about making the research less theoretical and more applicable outside the confines of academia, perhaps something to think when you are thinking about the key aims of objectives of your PhD (usually most of the first year).

    Good luck

    Premier Icon StirlingCrispin
    Subscriber

    I have a PhD in biochemistry.
    Then did a 2-yr postdoc in the states, spent a year out of work, and then got a job as a scientific PA for a chief-exec for a pharma company. I’ve done fun stuff – working on cures for fatal diseases, regularly chewing the fat with the guy that invented prozac, travelling to conferences in far-off places, but have also been bored out of my skull more often than I care to admit. Today I am writing SOPs, yawn.

    Do it because you love the subject. Who knows where you may end up. I earn an OK salary but could earn more doing something else; could also earn less.

    A PhD opens doors but you may not necessarily want to go through them?.

    (And the more exciting the title, the less exiting the work!)

    joemarshall
    Member

    I am just about to submit mine (hopefully in a couple of hours). It is called “Creating Illusion in Computer Aided Performance”.

    During my PhD, I’ve juggled in various places round the world, ridden roller coasters, done magic tricks, controlled a bucking bronco ride, created art installations, done technical work on some high profile performances and met lots of really interesting people.

    I also really enjoy thinking about stuff, writing about it, and doing presentations on it, which is important, as whatever subject you do, you’ll have to do that end of things too.

    I have a job too, working as a researcher, it doesn’t pay as well as normal computer programming, but I get to play with more fun stuff, and there is a lot of scope for developing things myself, rather than just adding features other people have thought up to other people’s software.

    I am the idiot in the black boiler suit making the roller coaster stuff on here all work
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00jf9lm/Blue_Peter_25_03_2009/

    Some other stuff I’ve done
    http://www.mrl.nott.ac.uk/~jqm/blog/

    You do have to think what you’re doing is the most exciting thing in the world, as otherwise it can be hard to motivate yourself to do it, and you’ll have to compete with people for who it is super-exciting.

    Joe

    LabMonkey
    Member

    I am currently doing an exercise physiology PhD at the moment. Honestly, it is the best ‘job’ I have ever had (I am 29 now). A typical week involves about 4-6 hours teaching to the undergrad degree students, a couple of days in the lab testing cyclists, reading about the stuff that I love ect. I don’t have any ‘set working hours’, I can work as and when I want, the only stipulation is that I complete my thesis within 4 years! This means that I can ride as much as I want, whenever I want! I haven’t even got my PhD yet but I am undertaking very well paid consultancy work. Simply, I am doing my hobby for a job… couldn’t ask for a better life right now! (smug)

    chewkw
    Member

    Things to look out for when doing PhD. Fact!

    1) PhD in science get you more pay and can broader your career horizon in the long run then Humanities & Social science subject.

    2) You need to have a good supervisor and not some bullshiter that look after myself type of person. If the relationship is poor between you and supervisor you might get screwed big time.

    3) Only do a PhD if you can get funding and NEVER fund it yourself unless you are absolutely sure you can earn that money back quickly.

    4) Attach yourself to a research team and get paid doing it.

    5) Organise your time properly …

    6) Try not to do too much teaching if you can afford it otherwise you will have no time doing your own work. 4-6 hrs per week teaching is good enough.

    7) Try to publish your work or even publish it in conference as much as possible if you intend to become proper academic.

    8) You need to apply for your own job every now and then (for short-term contract base on project funding) … no long term contract by the way. i.e. permanent post is a myth and job security sucks!

    9) You will work long hour … at home … but others think you are dosing about.

    10) Doing PhD also means it comes with health warning due to stress if you cannot cope with the deadline.

    11) You might get Permanent Head Damage in the end if you cannot come up with “new” ideas/research from time to time.

    There you go … be prepared for the onslaught of stress.

    Oh ya … pay is crap by comparison to industrial standard.

    Munqe-chick
    Member

    I think everything that Chewk is good and he has a point! good advice!!

    uponthedowns
    Member

    I’ve got a Chemistry PhD and did it because I wanted to do R&D in industry and as Gary Lager said its basically a requirement if you ever want to get into a leadership position in that subject. If you are even half thinking it would be a good idea for what you want to do in the future or just like the idea of doing 3 years research and you’ve got the chance then go for it. Don’t get a job thinking if you don’t like it you’ll pack it in and do a PhD because by then you’ll be used to having money and you’ll probably never want to go back to being a poor student. Also employment prospects will probably be a lot better in three years.

    Premier Icon allyharp
    Subscriber

    Thanks for all the advice so far, some interesting points!
    It seems there’s about equal numbers saying go for it and not.

    I think, to be honest, I’d rather go out and make a start in the working world. The only worry is that I might not find a job for a long time.

    There’s a job I’m hoping to apply for in December but there’s no guarantee it will be available. They’ve taken on graduates every December for the last decade or so but I spoke to them and it’s not guaranteed. I would have applied this December just passed but due to the intensity of the course I decided I wouldn’t have enough time to prepare well for the entrance exams. Mind you I still have plenty of time for Singletrackworld despite an exam and a project last week and 3 projects due this Friday!

    For those that suggested trying to keep a PhD focussed on the applications, that’s pretty much what my department does. A lot of the PhDs carried out in the dept are actually in conjunction with a company. In rough terms the type of topic I’d be interested in would be the applications of some mathematical technique – either optimisation or stochastic modelling.

    Premier Icon ourmaninthenorth
    Subscriber

    From the perspective of someone who funded his SO during her writing up year (where she did hers it was expected that there would be 3 years of reserach and then up to a year of – unfunded – writing up)…

    Because many people doing PhDs have spent little or no time outsisde academia, their world and attitudes to it are shaped by that. As someone with only one degree and a couple of professional post-grad quals, I find meeting up with these people refreshing. They get to travel (in 2007 Dr North went to 9 countries), and have a “young” attitude. It is not nearly as prosaic as working, where success is measured differently.

    A PhD (unless you’re doing exercise physiology, it would appear..! šŸ™‚ ) is hard work, and Dr North certainly put the hours in during her time, both for the research period and also in writing up. Don’t assume it will be like all other taught degrees where there are answers and long holidays. This one is up to you.

    As others have said, the money isn’t great, but you’d be doing it in a slightly unusual area: effectively you are working in the theoretical side of counting people and studying behaviour (as I understand operaitonal research). Plenty of people with OR backgrounds become business consultants, and it is evident that it is possible to do this together with academic research. Taht’s a function of your field. m

    Academic life is flexible – Dr North is quite capable of dictating where and when she works, even though she is now some years out of her PhD. Mind you, she’s a bit odd in that she works cross faculty and doesn’t do research.

    But… the egos are huge – far worse, I think, than anything I have to deal with, and I work in that most “Type A” of worlds: I’m a corporate lawyer.

    There is a part of me that enjoys the cerebral side of things more than the dull, practical and repetitive world that I inhabit. SO, a PhD appeals. However, for me, it would have a significant detriment to my career and earning potential. However, it would help me escape from law hell..!

    I say do it. Would be a great way not to get a hammering in the current job market, but do follow the really good advice from those above.

    Premier Icon jwr
    Subscriber

    I would say, if you’ve got the funding, opportunity and motivation to do a PhD then go for it. Before you make the decision, you should seriously ask yourself whether you can sustain interest in your topic for 3+ years. I think that doing a PhD is more about perseverance and motivation that it is about brain power. PhD study is quite different from Masters level work – your uni should be able to advise you on this.

    I certainly didn’t regret doing mine and it helped me land an interesting and challenging job. Other people I know have gone into industry after doing a Masters degree with the intention of doing a PhD at a later date; I don’t know anyone who has successfully managed this.

    -j

    jonb
    Member

    I think, to be honest, I’d rather go out and make a start in the working world. The only worry is that I might not find a job for a long time.

    Are you applying or have you been offered. I know people that have left for 6 months then gone back to do a pHD. Just don’t leave it too long incase you start to forget stuff. I forgot whole chuncks of chemistry within 6 months and even more that I’m having to relearn now after 2 years out of it.

    I was certainly told that I could come back if I had trouble finding a job or changed my mind while travelling. Depends how much competition you have and how well you know your supervisor.

    Premier Icon barney
    Subscriber

    LabMonkey

    I’ll wager you’ll not be saying how wonderful it is in your final year.. if you are, then something is very wrong šŸ™‚

    I’ve got a PhD in neuroscience, by the way – and I’ve got an ace job in academia doing something I care about that may well have valid real-world results.. win!

    But if you don’t care about the project to seriously consider it even if the money elsewhere is better, then don’t do it. Certainly don’t do it for the cash; you’ll leave inside 2 years.

    scotabroad
    Member

    I did a PhD in organic chemistry which was applied to a CASE type award so it was very applied. My degree was in chemistry with business studies so on finishing my PhD I immediately went into industry.

    Doing the PhD were the best and worst years of my life and I have no regrets doing it. It does open certain doors for you and it is going training, its not just a qualification.

    For example if you are going into a science based industry, a PhD is really a requisite for progression if you fancy working in the states.

    On balance I am glad I did it.

    juan
    Member

    Hi I haven’t read any of the previous so apologies if I repeat the obvious.
    I am finishing the ‘minor corrections’ of my thesis, had my viva in december (molecular modelling).

    It’s a great experience, it can be hard, depressing, frankly horrible but looking back to it I think it was the best that happened to me (mainly because it got me out of the 100km radius I lived in).

    Make sure you really are motivated. You don’t have to end up in the academia. You won’t unlearn what you already know. Just add more skills to your CV.

    Be prepared to deal with an awfull lot of stress and be able to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week

    zaskar
    Member

    I think that sticking in their field a PhD is needed.

    I didn’t and just did my MSC nad found work.

    I find if the PhD ventures out of their field then most recruiters can stereotype them and this is coming from CEO’s I know.

    I’m tempted but I don’t need PhD but maybe a MBA to increase my chances of promotion as well as being the best I can be.

    PhD part time maybe?

    Just to throw a bit of a spanner in the works Iā€™m thinking of sort of retiring in to a PhD ā€“ I currently work as a community nurse and got my MSc a couple of years ago & currently doing a Specialist Practitioner qualification (like nurse training but goes deeper in to various topics ā€“ M level ā€“ and before anybody starts this has all been done while working full time) ā€“ Have made some good links with the university and have been encouraged to apply for a teaching post ā€“ with the promise of a funded & supported (time) to do a PhD so the plan hopefully retire early in 10 years ā€“ next couple of years get a teaching post ā€“ do PhD ā€“ retire as Dr. Breakneckspeed & write arsey academic papers

    chewkw
    Member

    Try working for 24 hr without sleep just to see how your body react.

    This only happens when the bloody ideas start pouring into your head at the bloody wrong moment and you need to keep going so not to forget them …

    Then in the early morning eat a bowl of porridge for breakfast and with empty stomach (no lunch) go to the pub and down 2 strong pins …

    LOL! You will be so legless and grinding like an idiot all day … LOL!

    But then you will have the best sleep of your life for a while.

    Fact!

    Premier Icon ourmaninthenorth
    Subscriber

    Try working for 24 hr without sleep just to see how your body react.

    Done it too many times to recall in my job.

    Dr North nearly beat my record (40 hours) when she did 38 hours straight writing up.

    Juan – congrats on getting your doctorate (subject to minor corrections – but that’s as good as it gets, right!).

    chewkw
    Member

    Bloody hell … 38 hrs straight! Bet that was trying to meet the tight deadline. šŸ˜•

    I could only manage 24 hrs because my arse hurt just by sitting and watching the STW forum members went to sleep and waking up again in the morning … while I was still messing with my work.

    Well done Juan as minor correction is the best result you can get. In fact all corrections are fine … i.e. minor, normal or even major so long as you pass your viva.

    šŸ™‚

    zaskar
    Member

    I’ve been up for 3 days now finishing reports and think I better get to bed.

    Best I have done is 5 days. Lost my sense of smell and taste by day 4!

    bigrich
    Member

    I never did longer than about a 12 hour strech, cos my effectivness plummetted after that! and I’d usually find a load of ‘therefores’ in a single paragraph the next day

    juan
    Member

    LOL at big rich…
    OMITN thanks and it isi indeed as good as it gets.

    I studied hay meadows in the Pennines for my PhD. Worked as in research for a while but a lack of secure funding meant I jacked it in. PhD was good research was dull (just do what the funder wants). I could have moved into consultancy work but I’m not much into business/industry and thats all tough going these days anyway. I’m now a teacher. As a basic rule I’d say do a PhD if your intrested in the subject and want to do it, but dont look at is as a route to high earning in the future.

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