Don’t Become a Scientist!. Written by Dr. Katz, a professor of physics at Washington U. in St. Louis, MO.
He’s cynical, and why wouldn’t he be? After getting a PhD, you get congratulated with a salary just above the poverty line. Then what? Another 2? 5? 10 years as a post-doc? The practical thing (thanks M Wong) would be to go into industry and pay your dues, climb the ladder, and in 20 years claim some management position within the company.
But what is this PhD thing really about? I Googled “why get a PhD,” (you can do the same) and the first article is just as disheartening. “Officially, you get a PhD to demonstrate your competence at research, and this is partly true.” Partly true. He goes on to show that PhDs are not always the best researchers, they may be average and that each PhD has a different value (albeit relative) perhaps based on research relevance, mentor, school, etc. Discouraging much?
“Apart from mercenary motives, or ego gratification, or the desire to be taken more seriously by others for not altogether relevant reasons, go for a PhD only if you really want to do research, or teach in a university, or take a leading role in developing policy based on research, or some combination of these goals. The best reason of all to enroll in a doctoral program is because you want to become more intellectually engaged with and more critically sophisticated in the study of some issue or field.”
I don’t think the right question is “why get a PhD?” I should be asking myself “why not?”
What would you do if you had a million dollars? Maybe that’s what you should do.