Got a question asking my take on getting a PhD. Well, that's not my field, but here's my take -
I don't have much of a background in academia, but I have some friends who do and some general thoughts. Actually, I got two thoughts for you if you go on to go for a PhD.
1. Study exactly what requirements are needed, and study the background of people who have gotten a PhD successfully and have written about it.
A lot of people try to reinvent the wheel or otherwise don't have a plan, thus leading to the tragedy and horror you talk about. This is just generally good advice anyways - understand the rules/parameters going in, and understand and model someone who has done it successfully.
2. Go for it as fast as possible. Prioritize quantity over quality in the beginning.
I think a lot of people have a lot of ego or intimidation or something about only putting out the most amazing possible stuff, and then it holds them back. From my understanding, you have to publish some number of papers to get a PhD. I'd publish those ASAP, just get anything you can out there to fulfill the requirements. As far as my understanding goes, there's no real difference in 99% of people's eyes between someone who got a PhD by doing the best work ever, and someone who just did adequately solid work. Most people will never read your papers or your thesis, whereas having your PhD is going to open a ton of doors for you.
Academia dislikes this attitude, and likes to claim a sort of purity about it and how it's all about the quest for knowledge. I disagree with that mentality. Anyone can do interesting work at any time. A PhD is a credential. The point of working on a PhD is to get the credential. Anyone at any time can work to advance human knowledge, inside or outside of academia. If you're in academia, you're there because you want to get some mix of interesting projects, yes, but also to get the credential. Don't forget that.
I don't mean this as just theoretical advice either. If you can get on a blistering fast pace to get your PhD in 2-3 years, that's fantastic and drastically increases the odds you'll finish it. That way, if you hit a snag, you'll still be looking at 4-5 years. Whereas most people take 6+, and sometimes never get it done.
Look, things go wrong in life. If you get on a fast pace, once you've got the credential, you've got it. You're in the club at that point. It would be a damn shame to be 4 years in, 80% done, but then family circumstances change - you've got to take care of an ill family member, or you need to earn more money in industry, or you have a personal setback or burnout or whatever... I'd gun to get it done as fast as you can. Once you've got it, you've got it, and no one can take that away from you. Don't get haughty about being a perfectionist, and don't drag ass the first 2-3 years. Really seriously burn rubber and set a blistering pace to check off all the requirements.
Well, that's what to consider if you do the PhD. Choosing to do or not... well, that's trickier. Again, though, I'd look up the requirements and some people who you really respected how they went about getting theirs, and see if it's something you'd like to do. If you do do it, I'd again go for fast, which I think increases the chance you finish it, and decreases the chances you burn out. It also lowers your opportunity cost if you decide you'd like to try your hand at working in industry for a while. If you're half done at year 3 and only at 70% personal satisfaction, that's kind of a tough place to be for decisionmaking. Whereas if you're in the home stretch during year 3, 95% done, you're going to push through and finish.
Okay, I only halfway answered your question. I'd hit up google a lot to really understand the requirements to getting the degree, then I'd look for high performers you can emulate who've written about their experience, and then I'd ask if you want to do that. If you go for it, I'd recommend speed - check off as many of the requirements as fast as you can.
I know we have some readers with experience in this. Advice for a potential PhD-seeker?
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