Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why a PhD isn't for me

Well, it's the eve of my masters thesis defense and for my last pre-masters blog post I've settled on a somewhat topical topic (can topics be topical? or is that ridiculously redundant). I've been asked a lot over the last few months about continuing school and getting a PhD. I've had a wide variety of inquires about this possible future (some inquires more coercive than others) from professors, classmates, family and friends and there is always a necessity to explain yourself. And the explanations seem to need to be better than "While that PhD assistantship in a remote corner of Idaho studying the viscosity of mud on a rainy day is hard to pass up, I value my sanity and would like to be able to afford to buy a new pair of socks in the next 10 years." So, aside from issues of money, connivence, and sanity I give you my top three reasons (well maybe not the TOP three, but three good ones anyway) why a PhD is not for me:

  1. I want to live where I'll be happy, near home. I want to have mountains and ocean and sun and rain and snow and feel like I have the conveniences of civilization without living anywhere near a mega-city. Professors that are just starting out need to be free to move to the best job, not the best location, and PhD positions with private industry invariably put you in mega-cities.
  2. I have no desire to be a book-keeper or accountant, especially one with no training. It's amazing that without financial training professors are expected to juggle budgets, manage grant money, and find ways to magically make money appear and disappear in different places so that labs can have a functioning staff and equipment.
  3. I want to be happy. It's sad and hard to admit but I don't think many professors I know are very happy. I know a lot of it is connected to current budget crises and the added stress of pay cuts and a uncertain future for the University. I think they are frustrated and unhappy, and kind of stuck because of the massive investment they've made too their programs. It's a lot like the stress of being a small business owner without having much control over improving the situation.
So for now this is it, no Phd for me, just a lowly Masters of Science and a plan to be happy.

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