The non-PhD route

What does it mean, to be a PhD? It’s different in different places, of course. There have been several articles published on this topic, for me most notably in Nature and the Economist.

The idea of doing some research that I’m extremely interested in is still very appealing to me. It’s just that…I don’t want to do the PhD to get there, and it may not really be necessary. Like in the Nature article, there are ways to get involved in research at the entry or mid-level. I just won’t be able to be a Principal Investigator (PI) on any grant proposals.

And I’m glad of it! Being a PI comes with great expectations and responsibilities. You are tasked with accomplishing the Great and Many things that you promised in the proposals, and at the same time you have to stay within The Budget. Then you have to get your work published in High Impact Journal A or High Impact Journal B, and then compete with peers all over again for more funding.

Not to mention, when you exit with your PhD, your options are both limited and wide-ranging at the same time. Limited in that you probably won’t want to settle for something that pays less or doesn’t acknowledge your Killer Skills or Awesome Expertise. And you do come out an expert…in a very very very specific area, which in turn may lead to more limitation. Your options are wide-ranging in the way that you could go to many different places in the world, granted that there are people who want you on their team. But even that seems to ultimately be somewhat limiting, because jumping from place to place is not conducive to the paper-publishing feedback-loop of a career of the PhD.

I’m not bashing on PhDs, or the system (though it seems very flawed). I’m just saying here, out loud, finally, that I’ve changed my mind and it isn’t for me. I’ve got my Masters, and that might be enough. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind, but I’m not going to feel bad about this choice or any other subsequent choice. I’m not 100% sure where I’m headed now, but I’m excited about figuring it out and going with wherever it takes me.

Whew! That was a load off! I hope I haven’t disappointed you.

 

For further reading, some interesting blogs about academia and other science things:
Female Science Professor
Context and Variation which used to be at Blogspot

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8 Responses

  1. What's the role of "ignorance" in science? | science before breakfast says

    [...] Another issue he talks about is the vastness of knowledge. How can we possibly keep up with all of the knowledge found and advances in science? I cannot keep up with ecology journal articles, much less the weekly issues of Nature and Science (which are the gold standard in academic publishing). With the increasing pace of publishing academic articles, there is also an increase in field-specific jargon. The bar to enter a field and be an expert gets set higher and higher each year, and to know one’s field becomes a really tough prerequisite to being a respected researcher (and to getting tenure for those who really care about that). [...]

  2. Continuing on the non-PhD route… | science before breakfast says

    [...] wrote several months ago about not going down the traditional PhD route. I still feel the same way, but now I have a few new insights to add to that. Some of which may [...]

  3. Chia-Yi says

    Good luck with your class! I think that will be an interesting class, and I think you’ll learn a lot. It’ll be also unique to get to interact with business students! I’ve only ever had maybe a few interactions with business students, but I think that it is good to have some cross-sectional experiences. Hahaha I’m so terrible at “networking,” but it is pretty fun to be able to talk to people who are doing cool things.

  4. Nat says

    I’m about to start a new class tomorrow! The class is Software Entrepreneurship, and apparently a large number of the students are actually business students! It ought to be an unusual class, for me… typically, when people say “networking,” I think of TCP/IP and NAT negotiation, not schmoozing and exchanging business cards :op

  5. Chia-Yi says

    That’s pretty funny! :-)

    I have thought about that, and would consider it. Although, I think I would want to work and do the master’s part-time. School is so expensive, though, so I’m avoiding thinking about more master’s programs at the moment.

    How is your class? I’m glad you are doing your master’s program!

  6. Nat says

    Congratulations on finally making this decision for sure! I’ve done the same thing, myself.

    http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=53

    How do you feel about going and getting another master’s?

  7. Chia-Yi says

    Thanks! I’m coming to terms with this, and I think I’ll be happy with it. I do feel that little hole in me sometimes though…but it hasn’t eaten me up yet so I don’t think it will.

  8. Kevin Z says

    Good for you! I’ve come to the same conclusion twice. Honestly, I’ve been more scientifically productive since leaving my grad program. But it does leave you with a littke hole in you though. It’s that what the do next feeling. Just don’t let it turn into self doubt. There are many doors open with a masters degree. Good luck!