Einstein once said that everything is relative, and that is certainly true when choosing the right reason to do a PhD. The PhD is a research degree which leads to method development or to testing the robustness of existing theories. Like any other university programs, PhD is a training process; you will be trained to be a researcher or an academic. You learn how to do literature review, how to find a research problem, how to figure out a research methodology and method, how to follow and implement that method, how to present your result and at the end how to write a thesis that covers all your arguments and demonstrates all your efforts during past four years of your life. Thus, if you are interested in these “how tos” and if you want to become a consultant or a trainer in the future, that would be the path to go through.
Professional Consultation and Doctorate Degree
There are many types of consulting opportunities as you progress in your career and hone your expertise. The consultancy bent is common among PhDs, categorically in the humanities and social sciences. Like running a business, doing a PhD isn’t the norm. This is especially true if your PhD and work experience is relevant to industries such as pharmaceutical, information technology, finance, and human resources. If you are interested in consulting right out of graduate school, then you are likely looking at management consulting firms, who value the ability to think critically over specific knowledge. These management consulting firms vary in their capabilities, creativity, quality, service and variety of clientele, and most importantly, many are actively recruiting PhDs in all disciplines because they acknowledge the analytical skills that are necessary to successfully complete a doctoral program.
If you are confident in your knowledge in a specific discipline and feel that you can convince businesses to invest in hiring you for your expertise, then you are probably on the road to starting your own consultancy. Working alone on a project for years at a time isn’t the norm. Organizing and carrying out all aspects of that project, from brainstorming to research to final editing, isn’t usual. And doing it without, in many cases, strong supervision, oversight, or financial success, is certainly out of the ordinary. The only driver in the whole journey is your self-motivation. Doctoral students are incredibly self-motivated and driven: to plan, research, write, present, teach, apply, report, submit, budget, edit, navigate administration, and manage their own time and their supervisors’ expectations.
Reasons to do Ph.D
Let’s accept it, doing a PhD can be intellectually challenging, physically tiring and emotionally draining.
So, why should anyone do a PhD? And is it worth the effort?
Join the knowledge economy
To begin with, PhDs are an essential part of the knowledge economy. Completing a PhD is all about creating fresh knowledge, discovering new things and developing new skills.
It is a degree meant for those who seek greater depth of knowledge in a specific area. With a PhD, ‘one can make a difference’, says Professor Paul KH Tam, Pro Vice Chancellor and Vice President (Research), University of Hong Kong. “A PhD is about pursuing knowledge for the passion of acquiring knowledge. If one is fortunate, one’s discovery / invention may even change society,” he adds. Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, the degree also paves way to a career in industries centred on research and innovation. “In developing countries, where there is a gap in higher-education sector, but where government as well as society realize and pursue a policy to develop knowledge-based economy, there is an across the board need for increased PhDs both in academia and in industry,” says Professor Tam.
Developing your Skills and Networking
A lot of researcher could not foresee the intrinsic values when completing a PhD – The networking. When doing a research in the area you would like to venture into, you actually link yourselves in to the professional world in your arena. You will know other professionals that are studying in the same university but in different field. Some candidates take it as an opportunity to develop their people skills and networking.
Researcher should fully utilize the opportunity to learn and build up their database and networking during data collection. Most company applies close door or keep the organisation as the “secret” to avoid competitors.
Diverse range of research roles
Professor Tam mentioned that PhDs are required for the discovery of new drugs to satisfy the health needs of an ageing population, to continue making communication technology (iPhone, iPad) as one of the major driving forces of economic activities in modern society and to develop the understanding of humanities as society faces the challenges of coping with the side-effects of science and technology. Areas with high demand for very specialized and high level research skills demand PhDs. In the current economy, these areas may be biotechnology, information systems and medical and environmental engineering.
Besides this, a PhD degree helps you develop valuable transferrable skills, which are held dear by the employers. The very nature of the degree teaches candidates to be team players, problem solvers, have great presentation and communication skills apart from having an analytical mind and perseverance. “Employers value the transferrable skills which PhD candidates bring to the table and they take on PhD holders from a variety of disciplines. The process of doing a PhD is often recognized as a training in creativity, critical inquiry, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence,” says Dr. Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier, Postgraduate Recruitment and Admissions Manager (Research), University of Edinburgh. Dr. Harry Kelly, Chemistry Operations Manager, GlaxoSmithKline, says that many view a PhD as an excellent means to acquire theoretical as well as practical skills. He says, “Together with high levels of innovation, creativity and ability to solve complex problems…PhD…enhances transferable skills such as communication skills and the ability to work in a team, both of which are critical to the achievement of our drug discovery programmes.”
Gain some ‘gravitas’
Doing a PhD is not as much about ‘patience or persistence’ as much it is about ‘quality and preparation’ according to Professor Richard Anthony Strugnell, Pro Vice Chancellor (Graduate Research), The University of Melbourne. That is why those who earn the degree are held in high esteem. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that a PhD degree gives gravitas to one’s social standing. “In society, a PhD in any field still stands for something,” says Professor Thomas Vogel, Pro Rector for Doctoral Studies, ETH Zurich.
However, it is also a degree to be pursued by only those who are truly driven to do something original, create a new knowledge base and be prepared to discover the unknown. “One of the hardest things to do in the world in educational terms is the PhD, but the rewards are amazing. The self-fulfilment and satisfaction you achieve from it pushes you to go through all the hard work and toil,” says Prof Andrew George, Head of Graduate School, Imperial College London. But he also adds, “You should only do a PhD if you are really interested in it, not if you can’t think of doing anything better.” Point taken!
Learning Curve in Ph.D Process
How to read and critique research papers. As a graduate student (and a Professor) you have to read thousands of research papers, extract their main ideas, critique the methods and presentation, and synthesize their contributions with your own research. As a result you are exposed to a wide range of research topics, approaches for solving problems, sophisticated algorithms, and system designs. This is not just about gaining the knowledge in those papers (which is pretty important), but also about becoming conversant in the scientific literature.
How to write papers and give talks. Being fluent in technical communications is a really important skill for engineers. I’ve noticed a big gap between the professional consultants. I’ve worked with who have PhDs and those who don’t in this regard. PhD-trained folks tend to give clear, well-organized talks and know how to write up their work and visualize the result of experiments. As a result they can be much more influential. problems, and developing a taste for it is a key skill if you want to become a technical leader.
Getting PhD is not easy. It needs passion and patience. Research cannot be objective and it is therefore important that a researcher clarifies his or her assumptions and objectives so as to facilitate the assessment of the work. A greater synthesis and critical ability and also a more detailed investigation of any practical illustrations are expected from doctoral candidates. The ability to do all this is a strong indicator that they would be successful later in life as consultants or trainers. You will set your own schedule (mostly) and do you project in own way (also mostly).