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I am having a hard time deciding if I should go on for a PhD program after my current Master's program. I'm struggling with this a lot and hope to get some suggestions here.

So my situation: I'm doing a second Master's degree in mathematics after finishing my first Master's degree in Engineering. My current university doesn't have a very good ranking, so I'm considering a PhD offer from a university ranked around 160. I want to do research, but my biggest concern is that I'm 29 y/o, after finishing my PhD degree, I would be around 33-34. And I don't have a girlfriend. So by the time I finish my PhD degree, I would have no money, no girlfriend and not clear future, I might be single forever. This sounds so miserable. But the bright side is that I will have a PhD degree from a better university. And this might open more doors for me, I might even be able to go to Google with this PhD degree after graduation. And since I will work on hot CS topics, the professor said he is confident I will have many opportunities in both industry and academy after graduation. But of course there is no guarantee for anything. Though it's somewhat reasonable because I only have two years' background in computing, all my previous background is in civil engineering, I don't know how far I can go in computer science industry without a real degree in CS. On the other hand, if I decide to get a job instead, I can make some money first. And when I have money, I can secure myself and will have more chances to get a girlfriend, and financially easier to get married. Also since I will then have relevant working experience, it might even be easier for me to apply for many more top-tired American PhD programs? But of course this is only my imagination, I might end up losing this valuable PhD offer and not be able to get a better one by then?

Thanks a lot for your time and hope to get some kind advises!

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    If you have to ask then don't, at least not yet - you need to be sure and certain to do a PhD...
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 2, 2019 at 16:18
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    I would say that unless you are thinking of a career in academia, which it does not sound like you do, the benefits of a PhD are marginal, or even negative, compared to the same number of years of experience in industry. It is a bit unclear from your post why you want to do a PhD in the first place. Just because you have an offer from a better university than your current one is not a good reason. Actually, the only good reason for doing a PhD in mathematics that I can think of is that you really really want to do mathematics.
    – Alex B.
    Apr 2, 2019 at 16:19
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    @user The chance of that happening is very slim. Plus CS is way over-saturated right now. Finally not all CS degrees are equal, the CS degree you obtain after doing gruntwork (simulating, coding) for some professor will land you a better job than the CS degree you obtain by doing some creative math.
    – Concu Bine
    Apr 2, 2019 at 16:38
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    Ignore the age issue. It should have no bearing on any educational issue.
    – Buffy
    Apr 2, 2019 at 17:13
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    Also ignore the girlfriend issue. Plenty of people get married while pursuing PhD (I don't know what country you're in, but still hard to imagine that any culture requires their PhD students to be single).
    – cag51
    Apr 2, 2019 at 21:31

3 Answers 3

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Don't do it.

It sounds like you don't know why you want to do a PhD. You focus on things that aren't reasons, and where you do mention reasons they are very vague, e.g. in a comment you've said that:

But I will have also opportunities to intern at national labs during my PhD, would that be helpful for my post-graduate career? And their math program is top 50 in QS ranking, sounds so attractive. And I do love research, the main issue is I'm too old and have no money.

First sentence ends with a question mark indicating you aren't sure it's true. You clearly can't make decisions if you don't know if it's true, so you should find out first before even thinking about the question. Second sentence indicates you want to study at that university simply because it's in the top 50 in the QS ranking, which is fine (I suppose we all have different priorities), but are you sure it's worth it? There's a high cost to studying: you earn less (if you earn anything at all), you spend time, you have to relocate, and so on. The same goes for the third sentence. If you're too old and have no money, why are you considering a PhD?

My read of your question is that you're studying because you have no idea what to do next and / or want to avoid the job market, which is not a good place to be. You'll have to get a job eventually - even if you do a PhD, you'll eventually finish the PhD and have to find something else. Until you've figured out what a PhD allows you to do that you can't do now, you should not do it.

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  • Thank you for your advice!
    – user123
    Apr 3, 2019 at 0:20
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PhD willnot add to you, it is stressful and lonely long journey, you can only do it if you are going to work with a nice and competent supervisor with a hot topic in CS, it could open doors for you. From your words, you dont know what do you want and that is critical, you dont want to loose many years on something you dont like. Concerning your personal life, I dont know whether it is impossible to find a girl friend while you are a PhD student, but I have witnessed students who get married, there is no problem.

But I think the priority is to ask yourself honestly, what do you want to be, are you going to feel happy if you accepted the offer. It is only you who can answer this question and then every thing would come on the right time and place.

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    College is full of young single people. It's easier to find a girlfriend there than anywhere else ever will be after. Apr 3, 2019 at 3:43
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You should not.

There are only four types of people who do a Ph.D.:

  1. (1%) People who are dead-set on becoming a professor. Even within this group, you will find many of them are influenced by their family member who are professors or have Ph.D. themselves.

  2. (50%) People from third-world countries who need to spend an obscene amount of time within the country which they plan to immigrate to in order to obtain VISA/green card. A Ph.D. makes tactical sense in this case.

  3. (9%) People who are financially secure enough to do a Ph.D. People who fall into this camp are either people who have already done couple years in industry, has a lot of money to live comfortable as graduate student, and knows what's good for expanding their experience. Many of these people are even sponsored by their company. Alternatively, many have rich or well-off parents, usually with Ph.D. themselves, see 1.

  4. (40%) People who have no idea what to do after a Bachelor or Masters, has good enough grade as to being able to continue on, but not enough work experience to make it in industry. I have seen many of these people passing through Ph.D. and having a miserable time afterwards. I know people who are in their 40s and still jumping from internship to internship.

Which type are you?

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  • Looks like I'm the 4th type? But I will have also opportunities to intern at national labs during my PhD, would that be helpful for my post-graduate career? And their math program is top 50 in QS ranking, sounds so attractive. And I do love research, the main issue is I'm too old and have no money.
    – user123
    Apr 2, 2019 at 16:43
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    5) people who love research
    – henning
    Apr 2, 2019 at 18:18

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