Well, you’re at the right place! Before I embarked on my PhD journey I did a lot of research on PhD programs and possibilities because, let’s face it, it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. So, here are my thoughts on doing a PhD…
1. You’ve got to LOVE what you’re studying. This is really important. You are going to spend several years studying this one particular topic. If you don’t love it, it will drive you demented. When I first started thinking about pursuing postgraduate studies I had to think about whether I wanted to begin a Masters in Education or in History. A Masters in Education seemed like the logical choice because I had just received my Bachelor’s in Education, but I just couldn’t think of an interesting topic to study. I’d often browse through the theses in MIC’s library looking for inspiration but interesting historical topics kept popping into my head. And I was getting waaaay more excited about those ideas than any of the potential Education topics I had in mind. Ultimately, I chose to study History and I’ve never regretted it. I absolutely love what I do. I really enjoy getting up every morning, sitting at my desk with a coffee and writing, researching or reading.
2. You’ve got to be disciplined. I’m doing a research PhD which means that there are no classes or exams. It also means that there is no structure. Not that I mind. In fact, I prefer it that way. But that’s because I’m an organised person. Teaching a class of thirty will do that to you! If you undertake a research PhD then you have got to be disciplined with your time. It’s so easy to waste the first, or even the second, year of your studies if you’re not disciplined with you’re time. Even though I don’t have any classes I have established a routine so that I am as productive as possible. If a research PhD isn’t for you then there are some structured options available. As far as I know, most, if not all, of the PhD programs in the US are structured.
3. You’ve got to be prepared to defer gratification…for a long time! Doing a PhD can last for anything between three and ten years. I’m guessing that the average time is between four and six years. This means that you are going to be a student for quite a long time. Depending on the funding you get, it probably means that you are going to be a poor student for quite a long time. This didn’t bother me too much as I’ve only got myself to look after. But if you have a mortgage or a family to support then you need to seriously consider it. That being said, I wouldn’t let a lack of money totally turn you off doing a PhD. If you really want it then you can make it work. And it will be worth it in the end. Well, that’s what I keep telling myself!
4. After you’ve done your PhD you’ve got to be prepared to work hard. Or, should I say, continue working hard. You may have reached the top of the student ladder but you’re at the bottom of the academic ladder and it’s going to take time to work your way up. I’m not speaking from experience here because I’m not at that stage yet but I’d love to hear about how recent PhD graduates have survived the job market.