Why would you do a PhD?

The following is a replica of a page I originally posted at http://caia.swin.edu.au/caia-whydophd.html on Sep. 27th 2005 (Edit: see the closest example on Archive.org). The replica is here in case the original disappears.

Why would you do a PhD?

Grenville Armitage, 27/9/2005

Any number of people will be more than happy  to tell you how horrible it can be to go through an extra three to four years of study for a PhD.  On one level they’re right – it can drive you crazy along the way, many times leave you wondering whether to quit, and seem pointless until it ends [1]. Yet people still continue to pursue this career path.

Far more than simply ‘more years at Uni’, a PhD is an academic achievement with the most profound ability to affect your future career and life opportunities in industry or academia. And like all things in life – whether it be sport, art, music, theatre, movies or business – getting to the top of your game requires effort, stamina and more than a little bit of inspiration.

Doing a PhD requires all of those.

Having a PhD shows the world you’re capable of putting in the disciplined effort, logical thought and leaps of insight required of people who will go on to innovate and lead innovators.

A PhD tells employers that:
  • You are capable of spending weeks or months diligently working to discover new truths, evaluating alternative approaches and recommending ways forward based on intellectually solid evidence.
  • When months of work end in failure you will learn from the experience, refine your technique, and try again.
  • You can be trusted to work alone or in a small group, pursuing ideas and solutions that contradict ‘common sense’ or ‘received wisdom’ in your field.

You will create entirely new fields of study, research and manufacture – creating new products, new markets and new work for skilled engineers, teachers, technicians, and tradespeople to follow in your footsteps.

Industry and academia alike hire and relocate good people with PhDs from all around the world. You’ll discover jobs where freedom to think outside the box is a reality, not just a corporate slogan. You can explore a life in academia, start small companies [2] or run multi-billion dollar businesses [3].

Doing a PhD means studying something you’re passionate about right now. Having a PhD means doing what you like for a lifetime.

Your move.

[1] Richard Butterworth, “I did a PhD and did NOT go mad,” http://www.cs.mdx.ac.uk/staffpages/richardb/PhDtalk.html
[2] CEOS, “History,” http://www.ceos.com.au/aboutus/history.htm
[3] “Ziggy Switkowski,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggy_Switkowski (as of 10:07, 24 September 2005)


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