May 20

So you think you need a PhD?


Think ‘PhD’.

What’s next? ‘Gasp’? ‘Wow’? ‘Impressive’?

Twenty years ago, it was considered fresh to pursue the highest qualification in the whole history of education. It was regarded as a sign of intelligence, dedication, and love for wisdom. Which is what it is at face value really.

PhD – Doctor of Philosophy.

Nowadays, every time you walk down the sidewalk to your local shop you may bump into at least 10 PhD graduates, or PhD wannabes at least.

So why has it become so popular for people to get a Permanent head Damage?


Because it has evolved like fashion. And like fashion, it did not suddenly become obsolete. This fad may have originated from growing up amongst people who inspired you with their clever ways.

Whether it was your older relative, teacher or friend, their liaisons with the title ‘Dr’ may have created a strong desire in you to be recognised as on par with their intelligence.

Well I have news for you. I am here to bust some myths.


Myth busters

People do a PhD because they believe in the biggest myth, that is the more highly qualified they are the higher their chances are at bagging that dream job.

(Which by the way isn’t true. What you make of your life is a sum of what talents you have. And by talent I really mean the most intelligible skill there is in life, the skill of blagging. Supremely powerful).

The second myth is that the current economic climate is absolutely merciless to graduates fresh out of their undergraduate degree. With not a single clue in the world what to do with themselves, they hope that hiding under the comfort blankets of more education will help them stall time while they decide. Big mistake. Unless you are a native in England where education is highly discounted (yes you heard that right), you are going to pay insane amount of money to the university. To help you visualise this, this amount of cash would give you more than you need to buy a 4 bedroom mansion in South East Asia.

The bad news is, the working world doesn’t change even after you emerged from the chrysalis of a decade-long education. You are still going to have to strike it out on your own.

Of course, there are also those latecomers who are well into their Diamond years and suddenly had the urge to go back into education. When stressed, these sophisticated folks do not have to reach for the digestive biscuit tin. Instead, they go to the deli for a dreamy melt in their mouths scones with clotted cream, washing it down with decadent Earl Grey tea.

What is the fad all about?

You may now wonder what could the appeal be in being a struggling student when most of your friends are in full time work. For one, you can have unlimited holidays in a year. Within reason. Secondly, you get a cracking title. There are still stories of passengers with a ‘Dr’ in their salutation who get upgraded to first class on some flights.

What is it really like?

For the first two years, you have a blast. The best time ever in your life. With no money, comes no responsibility. So you don’t have to worry about subletting a flat you bought when you want to go on a long holiday. Because you’re not going anywhere and you can’t afford a flat.

Anyone who has done a PhD can vouch for this. It is a lonely journey. Especially when you realised that you’ve outplayed yourself by not having much to show into your final year. This is when you wrestle with what minute results you already have and attempt to find this needle in a haystack. And by this saying, I mean an unknown phenomenon in the entire universe. Any creatives like to sign up here? Please stand up.

And then it gets really good. Your brain gets moulded in a capacity that you have never been aware of human brain being capable of. Think of your brain like a plasticine. And it gets stretched, expanded, pulled, and swelled up into a big watermelon.

Then you surprise yourself by being able to think so thoroughly, systematically, joyfully, and smoothly up until the day you submit that 100,000 word thesis reporting something previously unknown to mankind.

Do you need it?

There are two schools of thought here. For those of you who are artists and creatives, get your talents known to the world early on. Use the streets of life as your books and the people you will meet as your mentors. Even the harshest person you meet will teach you something you need to know.

For those who were born to be educators, thinkers, Nobel prize winners and if you just simply love knowledge, by all means go for it. Saying that, there are professions outside of academia that appreciate a PhD qualification.

Despite all this, I have not regretted my foray into medical science. The experiences I gained and the adventures that followed will put even Tin Tin to shame. After all, I am writing this blog based on what I learned in my time as a PhD student on a solo journey. Who lived to tell the tale.


academia, academic, career, job, life, necessary, PhD, study

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  1. Great piece sam! This is exactly how I feel now I’m writing! My head is so full of 3 years of work or feels like its going to explode. I also agree that nowadays, as most people will have a degree at least experience counts for so much more than just having a qualification, we should really put more emphasis on training then how much data you can squeeze out in your final year!

  2. What a brilliant insight from a PhD student! I love that you are so self-aware, I still think you are a brilliant scientist and you will publish in Nature! 🙂

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