I am 26 years old and I got an offer for a PhD in Machine Learning at Oxford. However, currently I am a software engineer at Facebook and I am living a very well-off lifestyle.

I applied for the PhD last year, not knowing if I would get it and I decided to work as a back up. Now that I have a great paying job it is hard for me to want to do the PhD even with the scholarship. However, I know the work I can get after completing a PhD at Oxford is much more interesting to me (my work is currently not very interesting) and I could be making more than I am now.

My question is: will it be worth it do take 3-4 years to do that PhD (and graduate around 30) or should I just stay at Facebook even though the job is not very interesting for me.

closed as off-topic by Bryan Krause, Anonymous Physicist, Erwan, Brian Borchers, David Ketcheson Oct 15 at 6:43

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors such as a certain person’s preferences, a given institution’s regulations, the exact contents of your work or your personal values. Thus only someone familiar can answer this question and it cannot be generalised to apply to others. (See this discussion for more info.)" – Bryan Krause, Brian Borchers, David Ketcheson
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Why a PhD degree? is it to change career, or your company requires it, prestige of the university or you can move further up in the industry, etc? If you want to learn something interesting, you can always do it without a degree. A PhD trains you to do research as opposed to teach you specific ML techniques, which you need to learn by yourself anyway. If you love software development, and given that the industry changes so quick, you are unlikely to go back to where you were. – Prof. Santa Claus Oct 15 at 18:53

You must make this decision - no one else can make it for you. Things to think about:

  • Uninteresting jobs are bad. If you can't see your job getting more interesting, then say 5-10 years down the line there's a good chance you'll get so bored your performance starts suffering, and then you might get fired.
  • You know the industry very well since you have a first-hand insider view. What jobs do you enable by getting a PhD? If they're more interesting jobs (do you actually know they're more interesting, or do you just think they're more interesting?) that you will never be able to do without a PhD, that's a powerful reason to get a PhD. On the other hand, it's conceivable that you'll be able to do those jobs without a PhD simply by staying put, acquiring more experience, and doing well. You'll know better than anyone else.
  • Do you have a significant other or a family to provide for? If so, what do they think? Remember that usually, once people experience a luxury, going back to a less-luxurious lifestyle is typically a big no-no even if it was previously acceptable. Even if you can accept it, your significant other / dependents might not.
  • What does your current manager or other senior colleague think (if you trust them enough to talk to them)? Just as important, are they willing to rehire you after you graduate?
  • Is it actually economically better to do a PhD? Run some calculations. If you stay put, you earn $X this year, $X + [increment] next year (if you have one), etc. If you go to Oxford, you earn $Y for 3 years where Y < X, but then after 3 years you earn $Z where Z > X. How many years does it take before the second option exceeds the first, if it exceeds the first at all? The fewer years this takes, the more attractive the PhD becomes.

These things are too intricate to say more, unfortunately. As above, you must make the decision - no one else can make it for you.


Stay at the industry (I'm an IT person and I do have a PHD). At least until you have enough savings to be able to pay for the PHD and all your expenses for 4 years straight up without working.

Your job may not be as interesting now but you can slowly transition, learn or specialize in what interests you, meanwhile a PHD only teaches you how to bull 4 essays in less than 1 week, cite in APA and describe stuff. You could have the cure for all types of cancers but to academia it is useless unless you get into the paper publishing game of writing useless theoretical frames explaining where the word cancer came from and who researched that word before even explaining whats the cure. (Just saying this will hurt a bunch of sensibilities. Expect many downvotes)

Plus a 3-4 years PHD is already out of question for the demands of the modern world. 2 years is the average now. The option of working and doing a PHD simultaneously is hellish for your health (among my PHD generation I ended up with column and sciatica problems, a friend got facial paralysis, there were divorces, loss of jobs, ulcels, a mental crisis...etc. And that IS sadly normal.) Oh! and to get some scholarships normally you are required to be a full-time student, so you cant even work if you want the scholarship.

Besides, you can do a PHD at any age; while getting up on your career and good money becomes difficult with age. Plus you lose on retirement savings.

In sum, unless you wish and plan to enter academia as a full-time professor or researcher I would recommend you to skip on the PHD for now or analyze better your life plans before choosing. Think why would you really want to do a PHD.

  • 7
    There is a lot of false information in this answer – jmite Oct 15 at 0:14
  • 2
    "useless theoretical frames" big oof – Azor Ahai Oct 15 at 0:32
  • @jmite which would you claim to be false and why? what is your evidence or argued counterpoints? – deags Oct 15 at 15:23
  • @Azor Ahai . As you can see, the answer to OPs questions seeks to state the reality of a PHD, not to stroke academic egos and sensitivities. – deags Oct 15 at 15:27
  • 1
    Ah, the good old, "people disagree with me because I hurt their feelings, not because I'm totally wrong!" defense – Azor Ahai Oct 15 at 17:40

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.