The Merits of a PhD

I just found this buried at the bottom of my drafts… whoops! Soon I will post updated thoughts now that I’ve completed the PhD…

Whenever I tell people I am working on my PhD, I see two polarized opinions. One, my preferred response, is amazement. I do appreciate the approval. The other response flows from people who do not believe a PhD is worthwhile. In terms of average income earned over a lifetime, the PhD is statistically out-earned by the MS. To this point I assert that correlation is not causation. In large companies and government organizations, PhDs are moving out of the labs and into management roles; among start-ups–a new idea in America–PhDs are more prevalent than in large organizations. Once the income earned from the new class of PhDs (those in management and those at start-ups) is fed into the equation, we may find that income is always proportional to level of education. Another point that I’ve heard repeatedly attempts to diminish the PhD by pointing out the small-scale distribution of research. Yes, it is true that few people will ever read a PhD dissertation despite the fact that the dissertation is the culmination of thousands of hours of effort. However, to graduate a PhD candidate normally publishes a number of peer-reviewed papers that are read by others in the area; the candidate also has to defend his/her research to a group of eagle-eyed professors. For me, the PhD is about self-fulfillment–the ability to stick with it and accomplish a difficult task. I’m not out for fortune or fame, and I hope that people I meet, whether they agree or disagree with the PhD, are equally realistic about their own life.