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Question regarding the crazy road to a PhD

  1. Jul 27, 2013 #1
    I had an interview with a large company recently, the purpose of the interview was to qualify for a work study program whereby I would earn my masters while working half time at this company. My long term goal is to get a PhD after I have left this program and been working for a few years. I want to know how this will affect my ability to apply to a PhD program and what steps should I take in the recent future (assuming I get the position) to ensure that I can earn my doctorate without any setbacks. More importantly, how is such a path viewed by academics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2013 #2
    It depends somewhat on the field you plan to do a phd in, etc.

    One thing to look out for- your expenses will have a tendency to expand as you get more income. This will make it really hard to take the major paycut to go back and get a phd if you have already been working. Depending on your employment and the field you get a phd in, it may well take most of a decade to get back to the same pay you were making when you quit to get the phd.

    Also, because you will be older you will be trying to juggle more responsibilities on that same low salary.
  4. Jul 27, 2013 #3
    Field: Engineering
    Expenses: I'll have to suck it up I guess, I know another guy who pulled it off, one of the smartest men I ever met and he got his PhD at the ripe age of 30-something.

    By responsibilities do you mean kids? HA! I don't even want to think about that :(
  5. Jul 27, 2013 #4
    There are other things too, like if you own a home and have to make a mortgage payment. I did my PhD and a postdoc right after my bachelor's and now in my early 30's I'm really really sick of living in one bedroom apartments.
  6. Jul 27, 2013 #5
    I mean no offense, nor do I intend to belittle your issue, but this is clearly a first-world problem. It all depends where your notion of a comfortable standard of living range starts and ends, and if you allow/don't allow your expenses to blow up when you get a salary that is higher than what you're used to (which comes down to the individual).

    I would think being employed in industry would be especially favorable for engineering and/or finance/economics phd programs. If you wanted to go into something like fundamental physics or astronomy, it would be harder to get "relevant" employment with what I've seen called "work-study programs".

    An academic told me it is very hard to sell your application for a physics PhD program if you "spent years working at banks and made your way up the ranks", since you could technically "afford" to drop out of the program, with all the costs that incurs to the university and adviser, and go back to a comfortable job. An inexperienced physics BS grad does not have that safety net, hence they are more likely to stick it through a phd program and be a better investment for the department. But this is probably entirely different for engineers, so take this with a grain of salt.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  7. Jul 28, 2013 #6
    From personal and anecdotal experience, I'd guess that
    • 10% of academics will think it's cool that you have an outside perspective
    • 20% will feel threatened and try to sabotage you by telling people you're too dumb for academia
    • 30% will think it's irrelevant how you got your degree as long as you know what you're doing, and
    • 40% will forget or never notice in the first place
    These estimates are subjective guesses and should not be taken too seriously. Also, I agree with all of this:

  8. Jul 29, 2013 #7
    I really don't understand why people seem to think this is a legitimate criticism of anything. Is the implication that first-world problems aren't worth discussing or solving? Like the 2008 economic collapse which put millions of people out of work and destroyed the economies of several first-world countries? But seriously, we're on a forum discussing career paths for people with PhD's. Everything here is a first-world problem. Heck, I guess we might as well just shut down the forums because nothing we do here is going to solve any third-world problems.
  9. Jul 29, 2013 #8
    No, that was not the implication.

    But my reply was more of my reaction to the attitude expressed by so many people that not owning your own car + house + a salary that at the lowest, triples the basic living costs of anyone in the US or Europe is somehow the bare minimum of success people are supposed to have achieved by the time they reach 30. I sense a bit of an entitlement issue, especially from US posters with the non-stop barrage of "so will I make 80k a year after I finish degree x?" threads.

    I happen to feel that not being satisfied with a stable job that pays living expenses and that allows you to live on your own in your 30's is a bit distorted, but maybe that's just me, since I run into a lot of highly educated and hard-working people who are forced to live with their parents and terrible unstable job conditions in my country on a regular basis (also the "1st world"). And FWIW I've lived in the US for many years so I'm not basing my statements just on posts.
  10. Jul 29, 2013 #9
    Nobody here has made that claim.

    Why not take that post to someone who has, so you can have a real conversation about it? It would be an amusing read.
  11. Jul 29, 2013 #10
    The is the implication when you make a statement like that is that you're dismissive of any problem that might happen in the first world. If you have an actual criticism, then throw that out rather than the lame "first-world problem" line. But next time, try to pay attention to the context of the discussion.

    You seem to be suffering from entitlement hyper-sensitivity. It is not entitlement to ask what compensation someone might expect from doing a certain job. It is not entitlement to think that working harder to get more a difficult degree might result in a higher salary, especially since in many cases it does.

    Personally, I think believing that someone in their 30's who is saddled with $50k student loans should be happy with an unstable job and having to live with their parents is the product of some seriously distorted thinking.
  12. Jul 31, 2013 #11


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    I'm sure Lavabug doesn't need me to defend himself, but it's worth keeping in mind that Lavabug is from Spain, which has an unemployment of 26.8% as of April 2013, compared to the US unemployment at the same time period of 7.5%, and so this no doubt influences his reaction about not wanting to live in a one-bedroom apartment, owning a home, etc.
  13. Aug 2, 2013 #12
    Also let's not get off topic... The point of this thread is not to discuss what is and what isn't a first world problem. Yes there may be financial sacrifices that come along with going back for a pHd after earning decent money (and it may even be a big financial sacrifice at that!) but obviously there are other factors that come into play as well. Like happiness, passion, the desire to work in an area more related to ones studying interests. The OP should take all these things into consideration and I am sure they will as this is one of the most obvious points. Let's leave it at that.
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