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5 Reasons It is Worth Getting Your PhD Degree, After All (1313 hits)

by Dora Farkas, PhD

Reason #1:Youíll earn more over your lifetime than the average Masterís degree holder

From talking to dozens of people who are on course to finish grad school, I know that countless people worry about the cost of their PhD degree.

At some point, many PhD candidates find themselves thinking about the cost of their student loans versus their university stipends, and wondering whether it will be worth all the effort in the long run.

Money may be tight while youíre studying, but this is one area where a PhD really is worth the investment.

Getting your doctorate will make you more likely to earn a higher salary over someone with just a masterís degree.

According to a study from the US Census Bureau, using data from the most recent comprehensive national census, adults with PhD degrees earn more than those with just masterís degrees.

This is true for all the disciplines that the Census Bureau surveyed, and the differences range from a 7% increase to a substantial 33% increase.

The salary rewards for PhD holders arenít just in academia, either.

Thereís evidence that a PhD is an even more valuable asset in the private sector, particularly in industrial research and development.

The salary boost is usually biggest in the STEM fields.

The journal Science reported that PhD holders in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences, can earn as much as $20,000 more per year working for private companies than those who stay in academia.

For any industry, PhD holders are very attractive hires.

The level of discipline and specialized knowledge that a PhD requires, as opposed to simply a masterís, is absolutely necessary in many advanced, research-driven jobs.

Reason #2: Youíll have unique career options open to you that you wonít get with just a Masterís

Based on over 10 years of mentoring experience with PhD candidates, I know that their number-one concern is career options after earning their doctorates.

This question is so important that itís a make-or-break issue for a lot of graduate students.

Based on career options alone, many ask whether itís not a better option to just get a masterís degree.

Whenever I talk to those skeptical PhD candidates, I tell them that their doctorate will be worth it, and the data backs that up.

According to PayScale, a company that analyzes salary data across the American workforce, PhDs can expect to make more money than applicants without doctorates, and have access to more jobs.

The median income for an employee with a PhD degree and less than a year experienceómeaning the first job out of grad schoolówas almost $80,000. Someone with a PhD in the sciences, technology, engineering, or math can expect to earn six-figure incomes after getting their PhDs.

In highly competitive fields, certain positions go exclusively to applicants with PhDs.

According to a ranking conducted among almost 3,000 employed PhDs by PayScale, these jobs are worth the effort.

The average worker with a doctorate ranked themselves at the highest level of job satisfaction.

All of this is good news for graduate students with reservations about continuing their PhD educations.

After you earn your doctorate, you can expect to earn more and have higher levels of job satisfaction.

Thereís another major benefit to finishing your PhD.

In addition to the salary rewards and the prestigious CV that come with a PhD, there are the connections you will make on your academic journey.

As you climb the ladder in your field, youíll distinguish yourself as an expert, accumulating contacts, friends, and colleagues who will know your name and vouch for your work.

On top of the likely salary hike and job satisfaction that come with your degree, youíll earn valuable social capital.

Step #3: Youíll have the self-confidence that comes with knowing you stuck with your degree, instead of quitting

If your confidence is faltering in grad school, youíre not alone.

According to a 2014 piece in Forbes magazine, as much as 70% of the American population has struggled with ďimposter syndromeĒ at some point in their lives.

This is particularly true with people on the path of higher education, since academia attracts people who do a lot of thinking, and have high expectations for themselves.

For graduate students, the question of how to craft their own self-esteem is essential.

To psychologists, the answer to this question is clear: self-esteem comes from personal and professional achievement.

Researchers have analyzed what gives people a lasting sense of satisfaction with their abilities.

Instead of high self-esteem leading to high achievement, study after study indicates that the opposite is true.

According to an article in Psychology Today, describing thousands of self-esteem studies, nothing gives people self-confidence like setting goals, working towards them, and then achieving them.

As a Wall Street Journal article puts it, ďhigh self-esteem is the result of good performance.Ē

As anyone who is getting their PhD degree knows, the path to earning a doctorate takes a lot of both labor and time.

However, while it takes effort, itís all in service of the field youíre most passionate about.

Once youíve finished your PhD, you will have accomplished something that only a small percent of the population have.

Youíll have earned the respect of your colleagues and peers, and done it while distinguishing yourself academically. By receiving the title of doctor, you will earn self-confidence in the most meaningful way.

Reason #4: Your writing skills will improve tremendously

In order to become a PhD candidate in the first place, you need a good grasp of how to write.

Going all the way and finishing your degree will push your skills to the next level, and put you in an elite category of writers.

Most people will never even attempt to write something as ambitious as a PhD dissertation, let alone finish it.

Compiling years of researchóand hundreds of pages of notesóinto a cohesive thesis takes organization, talent, and most of all, diligence.

Once youíve completed your PhD degree youíll be an expert at one of the hardest parts of the writing process: sitting down and getting started, day after day after day.

I havenít even mentioned the numerous papers youíll write, or co-write.

In fact, the process of learning to collaborate with another writer on a project is also a rare and valuable skill, which PhDís have a special opportunity to hone.

Why is this important?

Even if you donít pursue a career in academia, youíll still be grateful for your wealth of writing experience. In fact, in non-academic fields, your writing skills will give you even more of a competitive edge.

If thereís one thing my years of writing have taught me, itís this: when it comes to writing, your brain is like a muscle.

It gets stronger the more you exercise it; and the more you push yourself to think about a piece and then write it out, the easier it becomes.

Even in highly-skilled professions, basic writing skills are increasingly rare.

According to a study from CollegeBoard, blue-chip businesses spend over $3 billion every year on remedial writing training for their employees.

Businesses are desperate to hire good writers, and your PhD is an indication of exceptional writing ability.

For an employer whoís searched high and low for good writers to hire, a doctorate signals that youíre a sound investment.

Reason #5: Youíll have better interpersonal skills

As a PhD candidate, you know that the stereotype of the grad student, working alone in a lab or in front of a computer, is only a small part of the story.

The most successful graduate students are those who learn to work effectively as part of a team.

The day Jess confessed her doubts to me about getting a PhD, we were working together on a tough project.

We were part of a team that had to juggle complicated experiments with scarce resources.

Together, we had to use teamwork and sheer persistence to complete the research we needed.

The members of our lab team each had different strengths, weaknesses, and levels of experience.

It didnít even occur to us at the time that we were learning group-management skills that we never would have learned otherwise.

Working alongside professors or peers in grad school requires unique interpersonal skills, which are different from typical cooperation.

Academics tend to be independent-minded and ambitious thinkers.

Plus, collaborations in grad school are often focused on extremely complex and difficult projects.

The level of emotional intelligence and cooperation that it takes to co-write a research paper with someone, or conduct the same experiments over and over again with a team, will serve you well in any field.

In addition, completing a PhD degree requires building lasting professional relationships with mentors, including your advisor, and learning to navigate bureaucracy in order to access the resources you need.

No matter what your field, these are all skills that will give you a head start in achieving your career goals.

What is your #1 challenge when it comes to finishing your thesis? Leave a comment below and I will reply to you directly. Looking forward to hearing from you:)

Posted By: Elynor Moss
Friday, September 22nd 2017 at 1:57PM
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