The world of academia is a competitive one, so, the question of whether doing a PhD is a good idea is more relevant than ever. Here are some things to think about when making the decision:
Enthusiasm and a good topic:
You’ll need plenty of enthusiasm and commitment if you are going to complete a PhD. At its best, it can be life changing and thoroughly enjoyable, but equally there are periods of frustration. Consider why it is that you want to do a PhD; you will need to find the drive and reserves to sustain you to see this challenging qualification through to completion.
Choosing a good topic is also very important. Your future supervisor will help you hone your topic area, and if you have been accepted to do a PhD then that is a vote of confidence in itself. However, also think of your topic not just within the limited confines of this project, but in terms of your broader research career. The best bit of advice for scholars is to think of your PhD as the beginning, not the end. Ask yourself whether your studywill it make good articles or an interesting monograph.
PhD funding is also very competitive. If you are not lucky enough to get a funding award from one of the research councils you will need an alternative plan. Many people support themselves with a combination of family help and working part-time. Teaching within your academic department while finishing your PhD will also bring in some money.
Funding options for your PhD
Many people who do a PhD want to become university lecturers or researchers. If this is the case for you, then you need to be aware that there are more people with PhDs than there are academic jobs. In order to secure an academic position you need patience and endurance, as there is a high probability is high that you will do part-time or temporary work for a number of years before you land a permanent position.
A PhD will open doors for you in many other career sectors and industries. Completing a doctorate demonstrates a range of specific skills that will encourage a wide range of employers to hire you. These skills include independent research, commitment, time management and excellent communication skills. Although you may feel that you are only an expert in your niche area, the truth is that you have a great deal to offer the workplace with your wider skills.
So, what is my decision?
It’s important to be realistic about your reasons for doing a PhD and about your future plans, as analysing these factors will help you decide whether this path is for you. A doctorate is an incredibly rewarding undertaking but bear in mind that it will test your commitment and resilience, and that securing work will be another challenge regardless of whether you enter academia or not.