I asked this question a few months ago about addressing in-group bullying during my PhD.

How to address in-group bullying without compromising PhD/career?

Things have not improved over the past few months - in fact I think they have gotten worse. I'm three years into my PhD and at least a year of handing in. I'm still very much in the experimental phase, so unfortunately 'writing at home' is not an option now or anytime in the near future. I've been pretty scarred by this environment so I highly doubt I will end up in academia. While I am currently on funding, it will run out a year before I hand in, so I will need to self-fund.

My current question is this: How much is it actually worth to have a PhD if I do not have any publications or references by the time I submit?

  • 8
    How much is is worth in what context? Inside academia, it's worth very little. Outside, it may be worth something. At least it should look better than a gap in your CV.
    – Thomas
    Oct 2, 2018 at 22:48
  • 8
    At a minimum, this depends quite a lot on the country you are in and its culture. Oct 2, 2018 at 22:52
  • 3
    Inside academia, there are many universities that emphasize teaching over research, but still require Ph.D. for applicants. So I disagree with the Thomas answer.
    – GEdgar
    Oct 3, 2018 at 0:13
  • What country are we talking about? If you don’t plan to work in academia, what are your plans?
    – Greg
    Oct 3, 2018 at 3:10
  • 3
    If you want to go into industry, then my understanding is that they care rather little about publications. They care about the skills you learned. Oct 3, 2018 at 3:28

3 Answers 3


It's worth quite a bit, especially if you're going into industry. Even if you have no publications, you still have the PhD title. I know of quite a few employers where simply having a PhD means you are awarded a higher starting salary even if your job scope and title are the same as others.

As for the things themselves: publications is less important but references still matter.

Publications: if you look at a typical job advertisement in industry, they don't say "you must have published 45 papers" or anything like that - these kind of criteria can determine promotion from assistant professor to associate professor for example, but are simply irrelevant when it comes to finding a job in industry. As long as you can demonstrate you have the skills to do the job, you have a chance at landing it.

Nonetheless, a savvy HR person might notice that you have no publications, which will be unusual (people with PhDs have generally published at least something). Before going to a job interview, I'd prepare a response to this question if asked.

References: there aren't many jobs that require references, but they exist. These are typically very important jobs where the company can't afford to make a mistake in the hiring process. The process might involve multiple interviews, aptitude tests, and references, before you are hired.

The good news is this kind of job is rare. It might happen for example if a company is replacing its CEO, which is not the kind of job you'll be ready for fresh out of grad school in any case. You can also get references from people other than your supervisor. The bad news is, if you are asked to provide a reference, you have to provide one.

  • 2
    a savvy HR person might notice that you have no publications, I suppose the HR person would have to actually ask, since an omission from a CV doesn't imply non-existence. I suspect the line manager is more likely to notice, since they might-well be interested in you publishing. If they are, then that will impact their decision.
    – user2768
    Oct 3, 2018 at 6:57
  • 3
    Regarding references, I've certainly given many, but perhaps they are country-, discipline-, ... dependent.
    – user2768
    Oct 3, 2018 at 7:00
  • @user2768 well what would these CVs look like? They'd generally give the university that granted the PhD, the supervisor, the thesis title, and the publications, because what else are you going to put there under education - especially since publications treasured achievements. If they are omitted the applicant will usually have had a lot of other achievements, which is unlikely in the OP's case as a fresh graduate. To omit publications would certainly catch my eye.
    – Allure
    Oct 3, 2018 at 7:47
  • @user2768 as for references, it's certainly possible. In my experience, if the job commands a high salary it's more likely to ask for references, but for rank-and-file jobs they're not common.
    – Allure
    Oct 3, 2018 at 7:49
  • 1
    As for "Worth quite a bit" in industry, it strongly depends on field. If you are in a professional field that does not typically require a PhD, then your Bachelor's and perhaps a Master's will account for the lion's share of your skills and pay. The PhD may also make it harder for you to find a job as you are very specialized both in the field and in research skills focus. Step outside of this narrow niche to expand your opportunities, and you have tossed your PhD and any value from it aside. Oct 3, 2018 at 14:31

Academically the thing that matters most is publications. PhD is a mean to do research, this is, to publish papers. The degree is meaningless by itself. If a person is able to perform proficient research after their undergrad, they would never need a PhD (some of them don't bother to get it at all (example: Kripke).


From personal experience, many years ago...

In industry, you will still be just a new graduate - albeit one with a better degree. If your PhD is relevant to them, it may increase your chance of getting the job. You might also get a higher starting salary.

Academic reputation is irrelevant. So far, nobody has ever asked what papers I published*.

*None. Though my supervisor subsequently listed me as a co-author on a paper he published.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .