I am trying to come up with criteria to decide if I leave my job and start a PhD I was recently offered. One issue is the impact the PhD will have in my career: will it open new doors, will it make me a more attractive candidate to work for the government or the non-profit sector where I have been working for the past 10 years? Or should I just continue working on the issues I already have experience with and a network?

The main reason I am considering the offer is because I love the topic, I have been wondering about it for many many years and I would like to become an expert on it. It will be a big change for me, financially and geographically, as well as socially. PhD students can be very young these days.

  • 1
    A surgeon I know gave a local radio interview, in which she advised young people, "Only go into surgery if you feel it's the only thing that makes sense for you." That advice would apply in your situation as well. (But it has nothing to do with your being a returning student.) Getting a PhD can be tremendously rewarding but it can also be very, very hard on the person and his or her family. Sep 17 '16 at 21:20

The issue isn't your age but what you want to get out of a PhD.

A PhD teaches you how to do research. If you want a job doing research or teaching at the university level, then yes, it might be for you!

For any other type of job, it will probably result in slowing down your career without opening many other doors. In the US, a PhD can take 4-7 years of full-time work with very little pay.

The other possibility is that if you really just love the subject and don't care that it won't increase your salary potential, then it might also be for you.

  • I have acquaintances who have spent 10 years working on Ph.D.s.
    – erdiede
    Sep 18 '16 at 3:34

@Austin answered you on what you should be expecting from a Phd. But he misses the importance of Phd in industry and commercial potential.

It depends on what exactly you did in your last 10 years. I should share my personal example. My background is in software engineering, but I'm focusing on quantitative modelling (eg: machine learning) where my all colleagues have a Phd in mathematics, bioinformatics, statistics etc. It makes total sense for me to do a Phd, because it'll give me huge opportunity to advance my career.

However, all my friends who did software engineering with me are doing general programming (JavaScript, iOS, Android, UI development etc). They have no motivation and no career proposal with any Phd degree. Nobody expects a phd iOS/Android app developer.

To make a decision, you should ask yourself whether what you have done in the last 10 years is something relevant to a Phd degree. Is that something very technically advanced? If it's not, your experience won't count and you'll be nothing more than a fresh Phd graduate.


As already stated above, it depends on what you want to get out of PhD. If you are simply doing it because you are passionate about the topic and don't expect much in return in terms of your career growth then avoid it. You can alternatively read the stuff to have pleasure. It will take a huge period of time and you may end up lagging behind in your career. If you expect some solid career related returns, especially in academics/research then definitely go for it.

Somewhere I heard this "A PhD holder knows too much about too little" !!!!!!!!!!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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