No matter what field you choose after your graduation, there is always one question you might have to ask yourself sooner or later. That question is: Should I consider doing a PhD? If you are passionate about the field you are studying in and would like to explore it further, doing PhD is probably the best option for you. But the decision is not as easy as it sounds. Let me tell you what it is like and what you should keep in mind before you decide to do PhD.

Doing PhD – A Brief Insight

Finding Inspiration

As per the National Building Code of India, the minimum floor-to-floor height for a residential apartment should be at least 9 feet. So, if we stand on a three-storey building, we can reach a height of around 30 feet. And how far can we see while standing on the top of it? The maximum unhindered sight provided from the top might be around a couple of kilometer. And perhaps, we would be able to acknowledge our messed up urban planning abilities for the chaotic mess surrounding us that will be visible from that height.

But imagine the range of sight from the summit of Mount Everest, which is standing tall at 29,030 feet! It’ll be practically endless. Plus, the pure air, vast azure sky, snow-clad mountain chains and endless horizon will also make this journey worth it. Reaching to the Everest summit remains a supreme symbol of a human being’s personal struggle. And what does it take to reach the summit? It’s definitely not the result of a mere one-day plan. It takes a lot of emotional as well as physical courage. Rigorous training is a must. Most importantly, it requires patience and a will to discover your limits.

And so is the journey of pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The summit here may give you the best-unhindered view of life, but then it demands time, patience and deliberate planning. Additionally, one needs to remain self-motivated and focused. I won’t speak much about position attained or the respect received from a society that a PhD degree holder earns, because it is transient and dwarf in front of other more important rewards that this journey will accord. Personally speaking, I discovered a more meaningful life from it.

Planning Has No Substitute

Planning is imperative and inevitable for success. Irrespective of how big or small our goals are, we need to plan. And planning well ahead of time is what really makes us a champion. A bachelor’s degree is akin to the view from the top of the three-storey building. The sight is mostly short. Doing PhD is a must for those who want to understand the essence of life. However, expecting every PhD holder to understand life better would also be a mistake, and we should thank our education system for this mess.

For some, the degree may not be very important as they just enjoy learning and gaining knowledge. That is the reason people pursue Phd even at the age of 40 or 50. These are the aspects that enticed me to opt for a PhD. It was not the destination but the journey. 🙂

Building a Good Profile

Doing PhD requires a lot of planning. Following the American pursuit, B.E/B.Tech/B.S. students in India are allowed to apply for PhD selection without a Master’s degree. The course of PhD is highly research-oriented, and hence some previous experience always comes in handy. Most students interested in pursuing research tend to take up projects in the IITs or NITs or CSRIs during their summer vacations. You can also opt for the summer internships provided by the Indian Academy of Science, Bengaluru and the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi or other premier research institutes in the country. Students can approach professors from various colleges personally and try to work with them. It will help you build your profile.

It’s noteworthy that if you’re interested in doing PhD abroad, then qualifying for the tests like GRE, TOEFL, IELTS with a good score is a must for selection. And last but not the least, after completing your Bachelor’s degree, you can also opt for research positions in various academic and industrial labs to improve your CV. Essentially, it requires a lot of hard work to make a good profile for a PhD application, apart from having a decent performance in your general studies. And it’s for this reason, that deciding early, if you want to take this journey of PhD, helps.

No Pain, No Gain

Though competitive and well-paid in the long run, the tenure of a PhD academic/research program is a bit long. Most students in USA and India complete their individual PhD in 4-5 years. This number is not a constant as a lot depends on the discretion of the concerned research guide and the individual research area itself. Most of the guides clearly mention about this tenure to the student before they formally welcome them to their lab. Many Japanese and European colleges also run a structured PhD program, where the problem statement is decided beforehand, and hence it completes in 3 years. There are a lot of decisions to be thought upon and taken in the course of Bachelor level studies itself regarding what or what not to do if one is interested in doing PhD. The most important among those decisions concern the selection of research areas, topics, colleges and professors; and this takes a large chunk of time as it needs to be done meticulously well. For getting a useful insight while making such important decisions, one can interact and discuss with their seniors, acquaintances and professors and gather as much information as possible. And once the necessary information has been acquired, analysed and deliberated, an informed decision can be made.

Overcoming Preset Notions

Qualities like possessing good oratory, presentation and writing skills can’t be gained overnight. One needs sincere efforts to master them. They are a significant part of a person’s success. Another major constraint that some students have to overcome is to convince the society for pursuing a PhD program, which is ironically difficult than explaining to the family. Many people have this sheer perception that when one can earn a Bachelor’s degree alone, why to opt for further four-five years of study. And a clear answer for the same, which can only be constructed with a proper preparation gaining a clarity of basic concepts like your vision, motivation and relevance of the PhD course, can shut many mouths up.

Scope after PhD

The PhD holders now have a myriad of options and opportunities available in front of them today. Many are getting into governmental and private research labs, apart from the regular academia roles. Private R&D (research and development) cells gladly recruit them too. But the biggest boom, which has just come in, is entrepreneurship. Start-ups have now increasingly become a nucleus for innovation. Consequently, a lot of PhDs either join start-ups directly or join them after spending some years in academia.

It will be important to mention here that the freedom and flexibility offered while in academia is unparalleled. It draws most of the PhDs into academic profession. Now even the remuneration is not a constraint anymore and is on a continuous rise. Considering the provision of free accommodation, a nearly permanent job with all other additional perks, the salaries are now fairly competitive with what is offered in the industry.

I would like to conclude this post with the famous saying, “If we pursue the things that we love, life often finds a way to show us, how we can contribute the passions that drive us to a bigger cause.”

For “lighter” reading, head over to this article to find out about the daily routine of a PhD student!

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