Should every engineer go for PhD?

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If you are an engineer, a recent pass out or an expert in the field, sometimes in your career, you have thought about this question – “Should I do a PhD?” This article will answer your question. We will critically analyse whether an engineer should do a PhD or not! In the beginning, we will articulate a brief introduction about how profitable a PhD would be if you pursue it and how much opportunity loss you need to bear as a result of not doing your PhD. Then, we will answer four typical questions.

  • What will happen if you pursue a PhD?
  • What won’t happen if you pursue a PhD?
  • What will happen if you don’t pursue a PhD?
  • What won’t happen if you don’t pursue a PhD?


In the beginning
A PhD may not be useful always for everyone. An engineer is a professional who works on things that vary from the smallest chip to tallest structure. Now, you need to think how beneficial it would be for your career. Think in this way: a 5 year project for you and you are asked to assign your valuable time.
Now, would you do it? If your answer is yes, why would you choose that? If your answer is no, again what can be the possible reasons? Thing is you need to be very clear about what career moves you make once you graduate from engineering field. No matter what field of engineering you choose you need to face this question about whether to go for higher studies or simply do a job, get promoted year by year and live a happy life.

PhD is an individual choice and there is no right or wrong answer. Many of the students choose to go for PhD for the love of the subject they want to specialize in. Few go for the stipend they would get. And most go for PhD because they want to become more in their career. Whatever you choose there are advantages and there are drawbacks and bottlenecks. You need to pick the good and deal with the bad.

In the following section, we will discuss four questions which will cover all the merits, demerits, bottlenecks, accelerators of pursuing a PhD. The answers to these four questions will facilitate you to pick your hat and move forward in your career.

What will happen if you pursue a PhD?

As an engineering student/practitioner if you pursue PhD, your depth of knowledge will increase drastically. Compared to your peers in the same employment you would be able to understand the technicalities better, analyse a situation better and can give your insights whenever possible. You can also help your Research & Development department with ideas and tools to create breakthrough innovations.

Without a PhD it wouldn’t have been possible. But also, you will lose 5 years of your career if you pursue a full time PhD. If you would have invested these 5 years in other pursuits like employment or entrepreneurship you may have gained significant experience in them. So, pick your cards.

Actually, it all comes down to what your goal is. If your goal is to specialize in one field and give your lifetime work to it, you should definitely go for a PhD. But if you think that you will gain reasonable experience and change course along the way, then PhD might not be your choice.

What won’t happen if you pursue a PhD?

If you pursue a PhD you will be deeply specialized in one particular subject. Yes, no subject is complete by itself. Every subject is dynamic and you need to know a lot of other things as well to connect the dots. But it’s always better to accept the truth. Whenever you do a PhD, you narrow down your choices to one or two single thing which may bottleneck you in your future career.

On the contrast, if you would have pursued employment or a business, your chances would get broadened over time. But if you pursue a PhD, you won’t be able to broaden your area of expertise. It’s the basic difference between convergent and divergent perspective. If you do a PhD, it’s never divergent (if you purpose of doing PhD is to specialize), rather it’s convergent. Thus, you block off all the possibilities that you may have if you wouldn’t have specialized only in one subject.

What will happen if you don’t pursue a PhD?

As an engineer your career is promising. You can do stuffs only an engineer can do. You can write codes, change the internet protocol, build monuments, pave roads, and craft design of the aircraft and make things shake. Thus, if you don’t pursue PhD, you will be able to actually work and find your way while working.

That doesn’t mean we are discouraging you to pursue a PhD. But if you would like to be an academician in future or you want to impact the world with your knowledge then you should definitely go for a PhD. Otherwise, it’s better to put your emphasis on creating stuff rather than reading on what stuffs have already been created.

You can also start a business in your field. You can learn about the customers, the market, the products and how to make the products useful to the customers and more. To be specialized you don’t need to pursue a degree. You can do it without the need of the PhD.

What won’t happen if you don’t pursue a PhD?

The last piece of the puzzle is two negatives. What will not happen if you don’t pursue a PhD? But this comes down simply to your career goals. If you don’t pursue a PhD you won’t learn the art of failures, the simple way to collaborate, to work on various ideas at the same time without getting backed down by one or the other, to present in front of the sagacious audience and mostly to believe in yourself.

A PhD may not be a medicine for learning everything. But it is certainly a prescription for learning one thing really well.

Now, you have to make that choice. How you want your career to shape up? A divergent thinker and careerist or a convergent, one tasking career mogul!

In conclusion

There is no right or wrong answer. And you cannot possibly do everything in your one life. You need to do trade off. But what you can do is to pick your priorities so well that when you let go of one thing because of another, you won’t feel any regret in your heart at the end of the day. Sometimes, you need to let go of important things for the sake of pursuing the most important thing. If PhD is not the most important thing to you, say ‘no’ to it.