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I have heard many times that I should do a PhD only if I love doing research on my topic, and if I cannot imagine my life without research (as research-based jobs mostly require a PhD). Another reason, is out of fun (let's factor out the joy of research). From this post and related comments, and adding other possible points:

  • a PhD allows to be surrounded by stimulating, like-minded people, with whom you can bond and create long-lasting relationships
  • you get to travel a lot and explore parts of the world
  • you can live in an exciting city
  • you postpone by few years "growing up", and entering into a repetitive lifestyle
  • you have a lot of flexibility in your work schedule
  • all of this while getting paid (let's assume a not indecent salary)
  • all of this while possibly increasing future career prospects (let's assume I am not working on very exotic stuff)

Now, I like a few topics, but not love them; I find research quite motivating, but not a lot (due to e.g. publication pressure, stress...). That is, I am not someone who is obviously not fit for a PhD, but I don't have that "burning passion" (other personal circumstances: I am a good student with some research work published; I have offers for pursuing a PhD, and have been advised to do so).

Main question: what are the caveats in pursuing a PhD mainly for fun?

Relatedly: is a PhD really that fun, in your experience? What kind of maturity is required from one to have fun and not be overwhelmed by the project? And so on, feel free to add other perspectives.

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  • 16
    A good amount of my friends (from Latin America) wanting to pursue a PhD are doing it mainly because they think they will get the third point of your list. They see themselves in a first world country living the "fancy life", as if a PhD was an exit route. If they get accepted in a US/EU program, what usually happens is that they come back after a few years, with no job and in red numbers (scholarships don't cover everything). Don't do something purely for "fun". A PhD is worth a thorough, cold cost-benefit analysis.
    – Amelian
    Sep 7, 2023 at 1:48
  • 41
    PhD salary is NOT decent.
    – Rad80
    Sep 7, 2023 at 9:50
  • 31
    if you're planning on pursuing a PhD "mainly for fun", what will motivate you to keep going when it becomes not fun for some extended period of time? Sep 7, 2023 at 10:05
  • 14
    @Rad80 The degree of indecency does, however, vary a lot by country and between PhDs within a country. Sep 7, 2023 at 10:25
  • 17
    The main caveat is that sometimes doing a PhD is not fun. It's a hard thing to do and is a lot more than just publishing a few papers. Especially if your project is experimental, literal blood, sweat and tears will go into it.
    – Tom
    Sep 7, 2023 at 12:56

16 Answers 16

51

It is an extremely bad idea to enter a PhD program for ancillary reasons that do not involve a core interest in research work. Few graduates of these programs consider them to have been "fun" --- they may be interesting and worthwhile, but usually not fun. Some of these things you list as ancillary benefits are potentially true in some circumstances, but you shouldn't have unrealistic expectations. In the spirit of pushing back on unrealistic expectations, let me mount some potential counter-arguments to each of these points:

A PhD allows to be surrounded by stimulating, like-minded people, with whom you can bond and create long-lasting relationships*

To the extent that PhD candidates interact with other PhD candidates (or similarly placed people), they are usually working away on their computers with only short breaks for discussion or socialisation. In some cases there are areas of overlapping interest, but many PhD candidates have specialised interests that are not always shared. As to the claim that these are "stimulating" people, PhD candidates are arguably the most boring people in the world to talk to or interact with. Usually their life is focused on a single abstruse problem that is of no interest to others, and many lack social skills. (Part of this is a matter of relativity; some PhD students may well be stimulating people, but is there reason to believe that they will be uniquely stimulating compared to people in the cohort of non-PhD-candidates in the professional workforce?)

You get to travel a lot and explore parts of the world

You can live in an exciting city

People travel and live in exciting cities all the time without enrolling in PhD programs. If you do the latter then most of your time will be spent in a lab, or on a computer, doing research work. Many PhD candidates live lifestyles where they spend almost all their time at their home and in their office at the university, with barely anything else on the itinerary. Research work in a PhD candidature is a significant time commitment that often bleeds into nights and weekends; it does not leave much time to enjoy the facilities of the city you are in. It is arguably one of the worst ways to "explore the world".

You postpone by few years "growing up", and entering into a repetitive lifestyle

Research work in a PhD program can be quite interesting and it might involve some interesting variation in learning/material. However, there is no guarantee that it will be less consistent and repetitive than many other forms of work. There are usually parts of a PhD candidature that are quite monotonous (e.g., certain parts of laboratory work, coding work, etc.) that can potentially drag on for many months. Consequently, it is entirely possible that you will have periods of a repetitive lifestyle that would be at least as monotonous as other kinds of jobs.

As to the postponement of "growing up", that is a negative --- becoming an adult and gaining the skills and perquisites of adulthood is one of the best things in life. Those who try to avoid this typically find that they fall several years behind peers in terms of career progression, family formation, adult skills, general contentment, etc.

You have a lot of flexibility in your work schedule

You usually have a lot of flexibility, but there is still a large amount of total work that needs to be done at some time. Being a PhD candidate makes it easy to find small amounts of flexible time to do things you want to do, but this time must be paid for with work at other times. The total volume of work is typically large and most PhD students do at least a full-time job worth of hours on their candidature. This is one of the reasons that a PhD candidature will often bleed into nights and weekends.

All of this while getting paid (let's assume a not indecent salary)

All of this while possibly increasing future career prospects (let's assume I am not working on very exotic stuff)

The typical PhD candidate will be paid substantially less than a full-time worker at the same skill level who enters the workforce. While a PhD may indeed increase your future career prospects, so does the work experience that is the opportunity cost of doing the PhD. Doing a PhD gives you future career prospects in a very specific field of work (research and academia) but it takes away time that could have been committed to other forms of career progression in other areas. Economic research on the value of academic degrees typically finds that the impact of a PhD on future earnings is negative (i.e., you usually end up making less than equivalently smart/skilled people who went directly into the workforce).

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  • 40
    This sounds too pessimistic: I work attached to a particle physics/neutrino group. Being able to travel and to be seconded to a different country is definitely one of our selling points for a PhD, and people do explore/enjoy the places they are being send to. There's a reason e.g. CERN has a ski club. Most of them are also not socially inept, and the ones that are, well, they seem to cope as well. Sep 7, 2023 at 10:12
  • 7
    I have always found PhD candidates to be fascinating people: they are often intelligent, usually passionate and while their passion may be about an esoteric subject, speaking to others about their research is a great way of learning new things. I admit that I would agree with your take if talking specifically about mathematicians, but that could just be my own mathematical ignorance which means I can't understand what they do. My experience with PhD students of other STEM or non-STEM fields though, is very different.
    – terdon
    Sep 7, 2023 at 10:26
  • 25
    Yeah, the section about what PhD students are like is radically counter factual, in my experience. Sep 7, 2023 at 14:01
  • 9
    As a PhD student I can confirm the flexibility of work schedule, you are free on how to distribute your 100 hour workload a week. The rare exceptions are deadlines for conferences and submissions, which might be sunday evening, then you meet up with your co-workers in ZOOM to finalize and submit a paper.
    – StefanH
    Sep 7, 2023 at 14:46
  • 17
    Physics PHDs have a reputation for being introverted nerds, but throughout my PhD and postdocs, the OP's "A PhD allows to be surrounded by stimulating, like-minded people, with whom you can bond" is a far more accurate characterisation of the environment than in the answer. That's not just in the experimental groups I was working directly in, but across the broader departments. It's not universal (in the UK) but, in physics at least, it's perfectly possible to find a PhD in a department where that culture is the norm
    – Chris H
    Sep 7, 2023 at 15:05
38

You can't

factor out the joy of research

The joy of research might be the only reasonable justification to doing a PhD.

The whole drudgery of the PhD is what people put up with for the sake of being able to do research. In other words, the TAing, the scrambling for money, the writing scholarships and grant applications, the classes, the exams, the bullshit (ahh, academic bullshit...), the managing of the advisor and committee, the stress, the isolation, etc. etc., these are all part of the price you pay for the opportunity to do research.

The promise of the PhD is that after you graduate, you will then be paid to do research, either as a professor, in industry, etc. So the process of the PhD is just a means to an end. For the great majority of people who finish their PhDs, graduate school will be the only time in their lives in which they dedicated themselves to do research. Only a tiny minority lands the few jobs that pay them to do that.

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  • 1
    "TAing" was the best part of my PhD!
    – Stef
    Sep 9, 2023 at 9:16
  • 1
    While I agree with most of what you said, but there is joy in doing some of those things :) And from personal experience [Civil Engineering] doing a PhD is far less stressful than a working job. Sep 9, 2023 at 16:24
  • 1
    "The promise of the PhD is that after you graduate, you will then be paid to do research": hopefully many, perhaps most, people after doing a PhD will actually use what they have learnt to do something more productive than just doing more research. Sep 13, 2023 at 10:17
  • @MichaelKay I don't really follow. PhD is training in research, that's it. Vocational/professional training is another thing, e.g. medical school, law school, business school, etc. One does a PhD to learn the craft of research to then... well do research.
    – Cheery
    Sep 13, 2023 at 11:33
  • @AlyAbdelaziz I guess that if I were being paid the same salary, being a PhD student could be more fun than actually having a job. But that would miss accounting the source of most of the misery of being a grad student, which is the lack of money. For me, having money is a lot less stressful than not having money.
    – Cheery
    Sep 13, 2023 at 11:36
28

Sure, you can a PhD for fun. Don't let other people impose their own priorities in life on you.

Of course, doing a PhD largely consists of, you know, doing research. The things that you listed as fun in your question, in contrast, are not research. If there is fun to be had in doing a PhD (and there is), it primarily consists of doing research. The other things are largely tangential and if you do not find doing research "fun", then they will not in and of themselves make pursuing a PhD "fun".

"Burning passion" is not required at all and to be honest sounds like a theatrical cliché from a badly written Statement of Purpose. But what is required is that at a basic level you enjoy the actual process of doing research (which is what you will be doing most of the time), rather than the various tangential things you mention in your question.

16

The answer is, it really depends.

For me, I could consider my PhD fun. Perhaps not the kind of fun like a party, but the way some people consider extreme endurance sports to be fun. In both cases, it's challenging yourself to seek your limits.

Now, you have to decide yourself what you really want from it, and which salary, amount of pressure etc. you really want to handle.

Your original points were mostly positive, in Ben's response he pointed out none of these are guaranteed. These can depend a lot especially on the culture of the country, the field the institution and the style of the advisor. In my case (theoretical physics, continental Europe) I had an extremely good experience doing my PhD (despite the hard work, of course). But that is with a great advisor, decent salary and an institution that offers all kinds of non-technical courses to PhD students to prepare them for the non-academic job market. So I suggest trying to find out how much the points that you bring up really apply to the situation that you're interested in.

11

In the current situation (gosh, we are all, always, in the current situation), there are certainly not enough academic jobs for all the people who get graduate degrees. Ok.

Still, for people without families to support, grad school can be an amazing time, where one indulges one's curiosity, etc. I'm thinking of math grad school in the US.

But, sure, eventually, we have to think about "making a living". Math grad school is not really aimed at "getting a job", though it's also not anti-aimed at that, either.

So, again, I tell my students to indulge themselves in exploring math for a few years... sure, get a PhD... and then think about job-stuff later. It is corruptive to think about job-stuff when you're supposed to be thinking about serious ideas!!!! :)

10

The main caveat is that sometimes doing a PhD is not fun. It's a hard thing to do and is a lot more than just publishing a few papers.

My project was experimental and literal blood, sweat and tears went into it. Sometimes it was really tough and I kept going basically because I had worked so hard to get there that giving up was not an option.

I think if you go into it too much as a coffee room dilettante looking for something fun to do whilst working on your Latin and Greek, there is a good chance you will drop out (a few people like this dropped out of the math PhD during my time at my university).

Regarding travel and living in a nice city, my understanding was that if you are very good at coding, you can basically choose which city you want to live in at will.

Also regarding companionship with other PhD students, I have made some friends with other students but bear in mind that quite a large number of them have a tendency to be quite strange, annoying and aggravating (I think this is something to do with nerd subculture). I don't think it is the best option necessarily if you just want to be around peers that are ''fun''.

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  • 6
    Yes. I think OP's view was very much that of the lucky ones: a good academic environment, a good project, adequate grant, good supervisor, friendly relations with other PhDs, no serious snags along the project and no bastard viva examiner. Any one of those factors goes against you, fun will never motivate to overcome it.
    – Trunk
    Sep 7, 2023 at 16:19
8

It's crazy thinking to assume the PhD is fun. The PhD is the right choice for certain people. You can't exactly describe this work as fun, but there are other positive descriptors like fulfilling, satisfying, rewarding, or interesting. For the wrong person, the PhD (both the actual work and the ancillary benefits) is abysmal.

A PhD should primarily be stimulating and fulfilling. But it's also not realistic to expect every aspect of your personal life is on hold for this educational opportunity. Any PhD student should have fun experiences during their training, and some of the fun may be unique, like department retreats, being privilege to campus recreation, or enjoying some nightlife at conferences. For those coming from overbearing families or strong personal feelings about life and purpose, the PhD is a sheltered time to dodge pressures for settling, building a family, amassing wealth, or any of the other "adult expectations". Some manage to do both. But to say that the PhD is fun is disingenuous.

Contrast the PhD with, pivoting from academia and securing a reasonable private sector job in your field. The pay tends to be good, the expectations tend to be rigid but less intense, work tends to be a little less stimulating and fulfilling, but you open up a significant amount of time and resources for travel, hobbies, romance, and wellness.

Anecdotally, many of my colleagues who ABD'd out of their PhD program experienced a significant boost in their personal life, relationships, fitness, general happiness after an initial adjustment shock with not knowing what to do with all the extra time.

6

Please be aware that there is a significant risk of mental challenges during the PhD process. Research demonstrates that "exercising your brain" in gradschool comes with the risk of "hurting your brain," and that this risk increases the more you study, increasing from high-school to college, and from college to grad-school.

Let me quote from a reference shared by user1271772 in a comment:

We study the mental health of graduate students at Economics PhD programs in the U.S. Using clinically validated surveys, we find that 18% of graduate students experience moderate or severe symptoms of depression and anxiety - more than three times the population average - and 11% report suicidal ideation in a two-week period. The average PhD student reports greater feelings of loneliness than does the average retired American. Only 26% of Economics students report feeling that their work is useful always or most of the time, compared with 70% of Economics faculty and 63% of the working age population. Depression and symptoms of anxiety increase with time in the program: 25% of students in years 5+ of their programs experience moderate or severe symptoms of depression or anxiety compared with 14.5% of first-year students. Many students with significant symptoms of mental distress are not in treatment. We provide recommendations for students and faculty on ways to improve student work conditions, productivity, and mental health. (emphasis added)

Couldn't have said it better myself! But here are some anecdotes I've heard in my own experience:

I've heard a story of a PhD recipient crying in the bathroom on the day they received their PhD because of the personal cost of reaching that point. The discoverer of caffeine dropped out of academics because of a difficult relationship with his dean. At my graduate school, one professor told us he was the only professor in the department who was still married to the same person as when he started, among those who started with or before him. Life comes with many source of pain, and research can certainly be one of them.

Yes, academics is fun whether you pursue teaching or research. But it is fun in the sense of finding personal fulfillment, finding satisfaction in your labor (Eccl. 3:11-14), and pursuing truth with rigor.

As many others have answered, these are the reasons to pursue a PhD degree. I enjoy travel, but I do not travel any more. I enjoy academic discussions, but I don't spend a lot of time in them. Even writing this post is pushing my time for such engagement. Yet I'm still glad I pursued a PhD for the fun of academics itself, regardless of the amenities.

P.S. Didn't realize I'm a new contributor to this "channel" until after posting. Guess I've been lurking for a long time. But if there was any one post that I would like to have as my first, it is this one.

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5

Direct answer to the question ...

The major caveats are:

  1. Failing out of the PhD. This is obviously bad, you invest the time and get "nothing" out of it (inverted commas since you probably get something; it's just less than what it should have been).
  2. Related to the above: maybe you don't fail out, but you lose interest and drop out. Different cause, same result.
  3. Opportunity cost. The time you spend doing a PhD is time you didn't spend doing something else. That "something else" could be much more important to you. The biggest example would be money. Academia does not pay well in general, and being a PhD student pays even worse. You could conceivably earn the minimum wage for the duration of the PhD. Other possibilities: you don't get direct work-related experience from a PhD, you might have a significant other to accommodate, you might have to put off having children.

If you're unsure about doing a PhD, consider working first. You can still do a PhD after.

4

There's nothing wrong with doing a PhD for fun. That's a big part of why I did a PhD (the other main factor being that it's something I'm good at). And, one or two stressful months aside, I did have a lot of fun as a PhD student, and living in a great place, with friends from my program who I really liked, and getting to travel to interesting places were certainly all big parts of that fun. Now I did manage to turn research into a career, but I've had at least one PhD student who I think did a PhD mostly for fun, and who had fun doing it, and didn't go on to a research career. And I don't think he regrets it.

Where I think you're in danger of going wrong is that a PhD is most likely not going to be fun for you if you don't have fun doing research! I don't think you need a burning passion for a subject, but you do need to like the day-to-day job, especially later in the program. If you find research stressful the odds are low that you're going to actually be having fun throughout your PhD program.

Doing a PhD for fun is fine as long as you're having fun, but it's not going to work if you're not actually having fun.

4

I did that! Oh the fond memories...

I knew by the start of my PhD that I would not be staying in Academia for many reasons (salary in the industry was at that time almost an order of magnitude better, the medieval hierarchy in Academia was pitiful, and more).

But I loved research and teaching (or man, I love(d) teaching) and on top of that I was free from financial worries (I was working at that time, first as a consultant and then full-time by the very end of the PhD). It allowed for a truly rewarding experience.

First, I was not fighting for money. I had grants for travel and similar stuff, but the pay was only a "nice to have" (very nice to have though).

Then I was not fighting for position. I knew I would not go for Dean so nobody could force me to create political unions to push my agenda. I had fantastic friends (who stayed in Academia, now full tenured profs, and one of them world-famous) so I had all the fun of being with people who think alike.

Since I knew my career was not at stake, I was way more relaxed doing my research. The research was actually really good (it turned out way better than I thought initially) and I could be focused on it completely because this was the only thing that mattered when at the uni. And teaching!

The research fun, and non-research fun I had during these years will always be a wonderful memory, even 25 years later. I would not change a bit if I was to do it again.

3

I will go slightly against the usual wisdom. I think (well, I am pretty sure), you absolutely can do PhD for many reasons, even those that are often mentioned as a strict no-no, such as ego boosting, and it might be worth the time and effort.

Anyway, to the main questions... Since you did not mention what country/universities/field you talk about, I will give my perspective as someone pursuing a PhD in Econometrics and operation research in Prague while working full time, so it might not apply to your situation at all.

Is PhD fun? I would say so. However, I do not work in a lab, I have not had a single issue with anyone nor have I seen any of the usual "toxic behavior" a lot of people mentions when talking about the pitfalls of academia. I do not have to work in a team/research group. I chose my topic. My supervisor does not intervene and I do not have to help him with his bullshit. On the other hand, I have to teach (I teach 1 and a half of a subject) and I have to publish enough.

What kind of maturity is required from one to have fun and not be overwhelmed by the project? I would say that being a reasonable and responsible adult should be enough.

Regarding the points for why to do PhD:

a PhD allows to be surrounded by stimulating, like-minded people, with whom you can bond and create long-lasting relationships

Definitely. Though you can avoid a lot of it if you wish to.

you get to travel a lot and explore parts of the world

Well, ses, but you would probably be better off taking an industry job and pay for the vacation.

you can live in an exciting city

Yes, but you can do that anyway.

you postpone by few years "growing up", and entering into a repetitive lifestyle

You can avoid repetitive lifestyle regardless of whether you pursue a PhD or not. Also, PhDs are already adults. I do not know what "growing up" is supposed to mean here.

you have a lot of flexibility in your work schedule

Definitely, though it depends on the field. If you work with expensive equipment or in a lab etc. the flexibility might not be that high.

all of this while getting paid (let's assume a not indecent salary)

Well, that depends. I get about 70% of minimum salary, so that deos not apply to me (and really most students here). Also, I would assume PhDs could get higher salary elsewhere probably anywhere in the world.

all of this while possibly increasing future career prospects (let's assume I am not working on very exotic stuff)

That is true.

One more thing to mention is that, as you could probably guess, I will (almost certainly) not get published in the Natures and the Econometricas of the world, so I sort of avoid the stresses coming from the publish or perish environment.

1
  • If you are working with an expensive toy in the lab, everyone wants to use it so you sort of having to jump in and use it when you have the opportunity.
    – Tom
    Sep 7, 2023 at 13:02
0

There are PhD positions with

  • a decent salary compared to industry
  • where you do a lot of industry related work and not only research/teaching
  • where most PhD students do not aim to stay in academia

This is especially true in engineering.

These may be more fitting for people not "burning for research".

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Academia Meta, or in Academia Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – cag51
    Sep 10, 2023 at 17:00
0

I know of exactly one person who would describe their Ph.D. as "fun", and they were in a very unusual situation: they'd already had a long unrelated career and had accumulated enough savings to be considered reasonably independently wealthy. (And they had adult children who were already out of the house.) So they were able to fully pay their own way out of pocket and faced zero deadline to graduate (except maybe some internal university rules). They researched part-time over eight years - totally for fun - and never had to teach, or apply for a single grant, or deal with any visa issues, biological clocks, or two-body problems, or face any pressure to publish or to find a next job.

If you happen to be in that extraordinarily lucky position, then doing a Ph.D. for fun is indeed a pretty great gig. If you're one of the 99.99% of Ph.D. students who aren't in that position, that it is usually not very fun.

0

(At the time of this writing, we have 14 pretty good answers. Clearly, we need a 15th, so here goes.)

I think the real caveat, here, is a minor frame challenge: Any short pithy aphorism like that is shorthand. So much so that, on its own, it might be doing more harm than good.

I myself refuse to give someone asking me about the PhD experience an aphorism like that without explaining it. (I mean that literally. I have people come into my office (industry job) looking for insight, and I make them schedule a minimum half hour time so we can talk about it in detail.)

But my sense of what people mean when they say that is not literal, it expands to something like, "Except for a few statistical outliers, this will probably be both the hardest thing you've ever done in your life, the longest effort you've ever sustained, it will at many times be very stressful, and there is no guarantee of success. Also, statistically, you will lose money on this in the long run. Given all that, it simply makes no sense for you to do this unless there is something about your field or about the process of research that internally compensates you for all this: We refer to this as fun or passion or satisfaction."

I'm not sure whether coming up with a list of "fun" aspects or side-effects of the PhD process is really helpful in the sense you want it to be. The whole gestalt of the experience, positives and negatives combined, is intensely personal and interior. A list isn't going to convey the experience before you have it, or convince you one way or the other while you're having it.

Likewise, whether it's "worth it" or not.

0

I nearly did a PhD and my wife did one.

When people talk about needing a burning passion, they say that because successfully completing a PhD is usually an ordeal.

It sounds like you'd like to start a PhD. A significant number of people (more than is normally acknowledged) start but never complete it. Because a PhD is probably going to be the largest single project you will have started in your life up to this point.

Passion helps, because having passion lets you push through long hours of "extra" work that you need to do. You might be expected to do some work for the university/laboratory that is not your PhD. You might need to mark essays, take tutorials, etc. And these things are fun at first, but they are a drag longer term. Like say over the 3 - 5 years your PhD will take.

Without good project management, good discipline, "passion", etc in the mix, you will likely fail to complete the PhD or you will take 5 years and the university will start hassling you and the stipend will stop. The other thing you'll need is to be good/patient/put up with writing. You need to write a lot, in a scientific style (assuming you are doing a scientific PhD which is what I have experience with).

I did a bachelor degree with an honours year. Which in my field at the time, was like doing a 1 year PhD, with everything a lot smaller. You had to do a lit review, carry out research, etc and write it all up. I was a capable student who was not super well motivated. During that first year, I learned a lot of skills that I have continued to use. Critical thinking in statistics, algorithmic thinking, understanding constraints. These skills were related to the field and the project itself.

However writing up the honours thesis was a pain. I learned that I'm not good at proper scientific writing. I was okay at it in undergrad where you basically regurgitate what you are shown to do. But especially compared to my (now) wife, I wasn't dedicated, I wasn't a good scientific communicator, I wasn't a good editor, and I know know that I wasn't writing with a good hierarchy of information. The day my thesis was due, I was still finishing it (still writing some parts), and I had stress cramps in my calves. I knew at that point that while I'd like to do a PhD, I wouldn't be good at doing one. I felt like a massive failure, and I started working to help support my wife.

I now know that it would have been a terrible choice to start a PhD. I would probably not have finished it. I would have hated it. I didn't have the maturity and passion to do it justice, and honestly being focused on a single burning question for 5 years is not something I would have enjoyed at all. By the end I would have hated it.

But doing the honours year was fantastic. Both personally, and because it allowed me to realise that I wasn't cut out for scientific research. I moved into an adjacent field and have done pretty well.

So my suggestion would be to look at doing a Masters. Often you can do a masters by research (once again, assuming it's in science, not sure if this exists in other fields) and then transition into a PhD if it's going well. Be honest with yourself.

If you want to go to conferences, there's lots of jobs where you can go to conferences. If you want to hang out with smart people, there's lots of other jobs where you can do that. Doing a PhD correlates with intelligence. But generally people who do PhDs are scientists who want to work in the field, people who want to do academics, or even older people who always wanted to do one. The bulk are going to be the first two.

Lastly, be careful what you wish for. Things that seem ideal in a job (like travelling interstate/internationally for work) when you are 20 are a massive drag when you are 30.

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