This is a snapshot of my thoughts and reasoning why I chose not to go to PhD in CS and join the industry instead. I made the decision a year ago so the post is a bit late and there are some new facts that I mention after the decision section.
At the beginning, I observed the following two categories of PhD students (this applies mostly to computer science):
- They are either aces (both programmers/coders and their govern their particular field of interest),
- or they are not prepared for the “real life” and want to prolong their student years.
Then I spoke to various people (PhD graduates, PhD students, PhD dropouts and non-PhD graduates too), thought about it and made the decision. Below follow some arguments and aspects of PhD studies.
PhD opens you new opportunities
This is certainly true if you want to pursue your career in (computer) science. For the industry, it depends rather on you willingness and interests. All in all, I’ve met people who work on pretty cool stuff too and they don’t have a PhD degree at all.
I don’t want to have higher education than my boss
I’ve heard this few times and it’s true in most cases, however, I don’t see why it should be perceived negatively.
Being a PhD student your budget is low
CS PhD students are employed (at university) and are paid from various grants so that their living standard is IMO above an average PhD student. On the other hand, salaries in the industry are also above the average and PhD studies are thus economically suboptimal (on short term only?, see the next point).
Having PhD degree improves your qualification.
One could argue that with higher qualification your expected salary would be higher. That is true. However, don’t forget that also when you are not studying you are gaining experience which is also valued by the job market.
I don’t think it’s a drawback (e.g. wasted time), however, when you are too specialized you won’t do what you studied (if you are not very lucky).
PhD studies thickens you social network
That’s true, you get to know other people in your field of interest. I’m too stubborn to accept the effect of this, though.
I decided not to go to PhD studies, because:
- I was sure, I didn’t want to be a scientist/stay in academia,
- I considered the potential improvement of the qualification equivalent to the experience you learn in the industry,
- I know people who are cool/successful even without a PhD degree,
- I wouldn’t finish on time.
Later, I found a thorough summary of a CS PhD graduate that quite fits what I discovered myself and elaborates on some points in more detail.
- Are PhD studies preparation for life or the life?
- PhD studies are full-time work – I think this holds when you want to finish your studies on time and make a valued contribution.
- American (western?) system of education is different and their PhD degrees are not directly comparable to ours (European?) – we have the middle layer of Master studies.
- Family tradition – go for PhD only because your parents want you to do so (or only because they have the degree too).
- University is like a monastery for atheists.
- (Czech) funding system is (sometimes) wasteful (you can’t have “buffers” to save surplus or to cover debts across (fiscal) periods).
- You can prolong the great years at the university. (Interestingly, I haven’t heard the praise of student years so often from people who earn relatively lot.)
- PhD students are the necessary workers of the science, they deserve respect.
Some arguments that might change my mind:
- Part-time studies – this would apply if the studies weren’t the
preparation for the life but just a hobby when you are
settleda rock star.
- Study abroad – the offer of foreign universities might match better my interests.