PhD Later: Why Postponing Your Doctorate Might Be a Good Idea

Wesley Donovan Jul 30, 2019
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In most countries, PhD is required to enter the world of academia and independent research. Yet the requirements to get the degree vary widely between the country, university, and even the subject.

What’s the Perfect Age?

One variable I get asked about quite often is an ideal PhD student’s age.

The answer is – your age does not matter (unless you are wine or cheese).
Dissertation writing specialists share stories of successful students of all possible ages, some of them in their eighties by the time they finish the program.
Some of mature the PhD students in their 40s and 60s feel misfits in the corporate world and realize they have made a mistake doing MBA years ago.

They decide they will be better off teaching or return to their forgotten passion for biology and physics for scientific research.
Of course, some of your motivations, experiences and expectations change through the life, so attending a grad school in your twenties vs. your sixties is a different experience.

Yet if it serves your goals then you should not feel discouraged.
It is true that some departments tend to choose someone in their mid to late twenties, as younger researches, in theory, have more productive years ahead of them and potentially they can attract more research funds, grants, and young investigator awards.

The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to compete with more recent graduates.
However, start any earlier and you do not have the required knowledge and skills.

So why would anyone wait before beginning their doctorate?

PhD Guarantees You Nothing

Despite starry-eyed newly minted PhD’s expectations, PhD entitles you to very little. To be precise, it entitles you to exactly that – the title of “Doctor” instead of Mr. or Ms.

It does not necessarily result in a life-long career in research. The chances of that range from 3% to about 0.5% depending on the country and a particular job you want.
Although a doctorate is supposed to be a training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings.

So it’s not a plan for the future. It’s a means to an end and you must have a clear idea what end that would be to you.

You Are More Organized

Having experienced independent life, full-time job with its deadlines and maybe even juggling work and parenting, you are much more skilled in planning – both time-wise and money-wise – than your average fresh graduate.

And it takes a lot of planning to do your PhD.
Not only your thesis writing needs meticulous planning and sticking the plan – everything does. Because everything takes ages: publications, fund application, finding work. Everything starts “the next academic year” and “comes out of next year’s budget”.

Strategic planning is a must-have skill to survive unless you want to waste your time waiting and broke.

You Have Skills and Experience

Here you might ask: “Why, isn’t PhD a training degree? Doesn’t teach you skills rather than require them?” Well, it does and it doesn’t.
No matter where you end up, you'll end up handling data and you'll be surprised at the lack of technical skills among most academics.

Many of them are still copying and pasting their data in Excel, and if you know basic data handling and coding that makes you a king. Chances are you have acquired those precious skills while you worked “in the real world”.
You will be able to save yourself hours of manual work with even the simplest half a dozen lines of amateurish loop-heavy code.

If you have any experience with Matlab. Python, SPSS, SAS, State, Igorr – or any other experimental programming software for the analysis, you already have a competitive advantage.

You Know What You Want

One thing that many PhD students have in common is their dissatisfaction. Some describe it as a grueling labor with 10 hours workday and seven-day weeks.

Some even do not do all this work because their schedule actually demands this.
They do it because they have a fanatic supervisor with a broken social standard that they have to mirror because they are dependent on the said supervisor.

They do it because universities have long been seeing PhD students as cheap or even free and disposable labor.
The system where older people with a secure job have power over young people riddled with insecurity about their present and future begs to be abused.

And it is, regregfully, often abused.
Being older, more confident and with some backup you've built during your years working outside the academic system will give you an upper hand in this game.

Moverover, by now you are sure about why you need your PhD (maybe a position is reserved for you and the degree is just a formality). Knowing what you want has a tendency to focus the mind.