Is a Ph.D. Right for You?

“I should really go back to school,” you've been telling people for years. With today's weak economy and resulting hyper-competitive job market, you’ve been considering the move more seriously. But is it worth it to go back? Are the future increases in wages and heightened status in your career worth the time, effort and money required to earn a Ph.D.? Here are some things to consider:

Are You Ready for This?
 Think of going to school for your Ph.D. like climbing Everest. Even the most experienced mountaineer, sufficiently acclimatized and in possession of all the best equipment, will find it to be a grueling and taxing process. If you haven't been hiking for a while, you might not remember how much work it is, and now you’re considering scaling the highest peak in the world. That's the kind of challenging task you may be faced with in earning your Ph.D. Will the rigor be worth the reward for you?

Financial Considerations: 
You’re probably used to seeing statistics stating how much more a person can make on average having a B.A. or B.S. versus a Ph.D. It sounds great on the surface, but you have to remember these numbers are on average. Your own career field might be on the lower end of that, and if that’s the case, it may take many years to defray the tuition costs and other fees you racked up earning your Ph.D. Because of this, most Ph.D. candidates find must other sources of funding, such as grants and fellowships, to help pay expenses.

Online Possibilities: 
The number of online Ph.D. programs has grown quite a bit over the last few years—and continues to expand—especially in the fields of business, psychology and education. There are a lot of advantages to Web learning programs: no commute to campus, no dealing with undergrads and the flexibility to take courses on your schedule. However, all Ph.D. programs, including the online ones, require some on-campus study.

Who Else Do You Need to Consider in Making This Decision?
 Finally, a Ph.D. requires a large amount of time and effort, probably more than you currently commit to your five-day-a-week job. Expect to spend hours researching, writing and preparing presentations. Do you have a spouse? What about children? It’s not impossible to earn a Ph.D. with a family, but it’s important that your significant other, and any older children you have, understand what this will entail. The truth is, when you’re in the throes of dissertation panic, you’ll probably all be wishing you hadn’t started on this process, and that’s natural. Consider talking with someone who has overcome the same obstacles you will have to learn how they handled them.

It may seem like a lot to consider, but whether or not to pursue a Ph.D. is an extremely important decision. If you’re ready for the work and commitment, it can be a very rewarding and enriching experience, and well worth it in the end. On the other hand, if it’s not right for you, there’s no shame in that either. The key is to investigate it thoroughly and make the most informed choice possible. And never consider any Ph.D. program that doesn’t offer exactly what you’re interested in studying, because finding the right one should be the most important aspect of your decision-making process.