Some people think that being an eternal student is a walk in the park. However, the reality is that it’s hard work, often with minimal pay (if you’re on a grant) or no pay (if you’re supporting yourself). It’s many long, lonesome nights of reading, theorising and research. It’s also not for you if you’re only set on landing a lucrative job, or if you’re just trying to delay the real-world.
However, if your intentions are in the right place, and you’re truly passionate about your thesis, doing a PhD can be a hugely rewarding experience. It will teach you how to think critically, how to get your point across and how to see the world through a different lens. If you’re considering going the PhD route, here are some general misconceptions to be aware of.
You think it’ll be easy
Doing a PhD doesn’t mean sitting in a library all day, reading to your heart’s content. It’s often hard and tiring graft. According to Sophie Coulombeau (a 19th Century English Literature PhD student), it’s often quite a demanding schedule. Apart from the extensive required reading and research, it can also involve teaching undergraduates, marking, training, attending numerous meetings with your supervisor and applying for various funding, which won’t always be granted (The Independent).
The life of a PhD student can also be lonely, as you’ll certainly spend a lot of time poring over papers – alone. You need to be very disciplined and incredibly self-sufficient, as there’s no regular 9-5 schedule. The onus is on you to wake up when your alarm clock goes off and to stick to various deadlines. You also need to be able to manage your workload and stick to a daily routine.
You think it’ll change the world
Doing a PhD doesn’t always mean that you’ll find a cure for HIV, or that you’ll come up with an earth-shattering theory. It’s all about research and being able to argue a position. Don’t go in with illusions of grandeur, thinking that you’ll have a massive breakthrough. Occasionally it does happen, but usually it doesn’t. According to The Guardian, breakthroughs do happen, often post-PhD. Just look at Einstein and Marx. Neither of their great theories (Relativity and Das Capital) appeared in a PhD thesis.
You think you’ll make more money
A PhD is no longer a one-track ticket to a high paying job. Of course, in certain industries it can increase your hiring potential (in the sciences, for example), but this isn’t always the case. According to The Guardian, mass education has resulted in more people acquiring PhDs, which means they’re not the elite, Holy Grail that they used to be. Also, some potential employers may even view a PhD as a sign of over-education, or even eccentricity. They may think that your focus is too narrow, and they would prefer to hire someone with more generalised (and real-world) experience (The Guardian).
However, if you’re passionate about a particular subject, and you know what you’re getting into, a PhD can be just what you need. You don’t necessarily have to spend years on a campus, either. Some PhDs can be done online and part-time. Doing a PhD isn’t easy, but with the right attitude it can be hugely beneficial. By avoiding these misconceptions, you can start a PhD for all the right reasons: to further your knowledge about a particular subject, and to be able to succinctly and logically express that to the world.