To Do Or Not To Do a PhD?

A PhD thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics or physics or many hundreds in history of law. In most countries, a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. Yet, the question about its usefulness is more and more under fire.

One of the reasons for it is the slim premium brought by a PhD. According to The Economist, the earning premium of a master’s degree is 23%, while the PhD is only 3 points more about 26%, despite the three additional years spent in research. Moreover, there seems to be a common dissatisfaction of PhD students: they work seven-day weeks, ten-hours days but are low paid and have uncertain job prospects. If future income is to be taken into consideration, a PhD is worth little more than a master’s.

On the other hand, there is today an oversupply of PhDs: for example, in America, where between 2005 and 2009 there were 100 000 doctoral degrees, there were only 16 000 new professorships.

There are certainly positions where a PhD is required, but for the most jobs, a PhD is unnecessary. Unless a person is prepared to spend all her life in academia, is a PhD a waste of time? On the other hand, although we commonly say that we only truly learn by working and not by studying, doesn’t a PhD reveal work capacities that no job can show? Is it still worth doing a PhD in a context where different professional experiences seem the most important requirement for the job market? Like an article in The Economist stated, someone should write a thesis about this.

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