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A Phd -To do or Not to do?

  1. May 12, 2012 #1
    Hey all ,

    I have been a not-so-active member of this wonderful site for about three years .These days I'm going through a deciding phase of my life as I'm so close to finish my bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering .I thought this would be a perfect place to get some expert view from you all regarding a doubt I have .

    I chose the area of Computer Science because it was the only specialized field offered in my faculty about which I wanted to know everything . Although I knew this is not practical ,this feeling was more than enough for me to decide that I should build my career in the field of IT . Now I'm so close to finish my first degree and I'm in the process of deciding whether I should go for a Phd or go and work in the industry as a SE and may be join a part time Msc while working .

    I accept that this decision should be taken purely by myself .But I would like to consider your views/opinions on this .

    There are few topics like distributed computing and Data mining about which I have a special interest and would enjoy working on a thesis under those areas . I do not have much research experience except for some small undergrads projects I did in the last two years. So basically I do not have a clear idea whether I will enjoy doing researches or not .

    While I'm very much interested in teaching ,I do not want to join Academia permanently after finishing my Phd . I want to join the industry and preferably work in a more active position than a research fellow .By "active" what I meant was a position where I can deal with people from all sorts of backgrounds . And I'm not embarrassed to declare that I'm attracted to the two letters ("Dr") which would be placed in front of my name if I manage to defend my thesis successfully .

    My academic records are good (not the best I would say) . But still more than enough to follow a graduate programme .

    What advice would you give me considering my situation and my interests ? Should I go for a Phd ? or NOT ?

    Thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2012 #2
    What do you think are the cons of doing a PhD program?? For example, not making much money??
  4. May 12, 2012 #3
    Yes ,this was one of my concern although I could not emphasize it in my original question . To be more specific ,Will the industry welcome me as a "Phd Holder" ,someone above the junior engineer level , when I'm coming back from my graduate studies ?

    Or will I have to start my career from the same place I would have started if I joined the industry right after my bachelors ?
  5. May 12, 2012 #4
    Take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    But basically, you have the choice between doing a PhD or going in the industry and getting hands-on practical experience. I think many employers will want the second option.

    In any case, you should do a PhD because you find it interesting, not because it looks good on your resume.
  6. May 13, 2012 #5
    If you are sort of lucky (and this is sort of lucky and not super-duper lucky), you can get an industry research position. Companies like Microsoft and Google just eat up CS Ph.D.'s.

    Unlikely. You'd probably at least get the same sort of "credit" that you'd get if you did a masters.

    The situation is that with a Ph.D., you'd be better off than a bachelors + 0 years experience, but you'd be somewhat worse off than bachelors + 5-7 years experience.

    There's also the element of "random timing". For example, if you were a bachelors in 2000, and then spent seven years on a Ph.D., this would have turned out to have been a bad idea career-wise, since it meant that instead of looking for work in the dot-com boom you would have ended up in the worst crisis since the great depression.

    On the other hand, if you get a Ph.D. now, you could come out in the data mining boom of 2018.

    My general advice is that if you are looking *purely* at career, then getting a Ph.D. is a bad idea. If you have some interest in the subject then it could be a good idea, but that depends on how much your interest is.
    Last edited: May 13, 2012
  7. May 13, 2012 #6

    Thanks for this answer ! I accept I should try to measure how much I'm interested in the subject as well as in doing researches .

    Following a Masters programme would be good solution to take that decision .And again I should decide whether it should be a coursework masters or a research masters .

    Anyway thank you all for your views .If anyone else would like to share their ideas on this ,I would be more than happy to hear them .
  8. May 14, 2012 #7
    This advice is spot on. Listen to it. A couple of more points:

    1. A PhD in industry is not a handicap, but it isn't much of a help either. And the opportunity cost of the PhD means that you will end up with less money overall in your career. But if all you wanted was money, why the hell did you study engineering?

    2. The upside is that if you used your time well during your studies you may have some capabilities that many other engineers do not have, and that can serve you well.

    3. While there are some PhDs in CS and EE who work as "researchers" in research divisions of large companies, the majority of us have positions we could have gotten with MS degrees. That's a fact.

    4. No one will EVER call you Dr. so-and-so except if you give a seminar at the local college. True Story: at my last company several of my coworkers didn't even know I had a PhD until after I had worked there almost three years and had received an award from a technical society that had PhD after my name. If you are attracted to the letters "Dr." in front of your name I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Maybe you can get your parents to call you "Dr. So-and-so".

    5. That said, in my opinion, I am a better engineer than I would have been had I left school after the MS degree. I'm not saying I'm better than engineers with MS degrees (there are plenty of people out there with MS or BS degrees better at my job than I am). What I'm saying is I am better than I would have been. So for me, it was the right choice.
  9. May 14, 2012 #8


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    IBM too. I have a friend who completed a PhD in Operations Research. He joined a research scientist position in IBM.
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