I'm a master computer science student in a German university and I will be graduating soon. I'm in a situation between accepting a PhD position or leaving academia to start looking for job. This is a very hard decision to make so I need some advice.
I see most of the people who do a PhD leave academia afterwards and start looking for jobs (is it also the same in the US?). Very few people continue with a postdoc and remain in academia after getting the PhD.
My question is then, what is the point of doing a PhD (especially if one gets a job in industry afterwards)? What are the benefits of spending 3-5 years obtaining a PhD? What kind of goals should a person enrolling in a PhD program have?
From the point of view of industry, I realize that after a PhD they might start with a high position in the company. But, on the other hand, in those 5 years they could have started a small tech company and make it somehow medium or even a bit successful. Instead of doing a PhD, after 5 years of investing in their own company, they could be paid for working for themselves and not for others, having their own companies.
From the point of view of obtaining knowledge, if someone is curious about knowing, they could learn new things by themselves. After graduation, finding a job or starting a company, knowledge could be obtained by buying books and reading during one's free time, or following extra courses. I don't think you don't need a university for this.
Am I right in my analysis? Is it true most people go to the industry after the PhD (I'm especially curious about people in the US from top universities)?
If my analysis is at least partially right, and since there is other viable ways to become successful in industry and to obtain knowledge, what are the benefits of doing a PhD? Is it only a good idea for people with strong plans to continue in academia, or are there other goals one can achieve (better) by obtaining a PhD? I am afraid that doing a PhD might be a waste of time if I plan to continue in industry.