Do you need a PhD to progress in a career in research roles?

Amazon / Eng epoch0
Aug 19, 2018 13 Comments

I was an Applied Scientist Intern this summer at Amazon, got a return offer, also interviewing for ML Scientist at Apple. I will be graduating with a machine learning focused MS, was wondering what career progression looks like if I don't do a PhD. I understand that a PhD would help to get into roles like these, but would not having one adversely affect my chances at promotion? (assuming everything else equal, i.e. same quality of work).

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TOP 13 Comments
  • Twitter Zardoz
    This is also very different at different companies. Some companies *cough* *cough* don’t have a very strong intellectual culture and may not value a doctorate as highly. Not sure how to find out about that because most people won’t know that their company is or isn’t like this
    Aug 19, 2018 4
    • Microsoft meeseeeks
      This is absolutely true. I don't know many companies with C-level or A-type execs who'd have the patience of being in the same room with people brighter or better-credentialed. Too many fragile egos used to throwing their weight around by fiat.
      Aug 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng onMyWay
      Trying to think of examples of these kinds of people @meeseeeks. Are you referring to people like Goslings at Amazon (inventor of Java), for example? Seems we hire these people and they don’t really do anything aside from positions like “distinguished engineer” or something
      Aug 20, 2018
    • Microsoft meeseeeks
      I think we recognize them when we see them. Maybe to some extent every company has these types of managers lurking in real positions of influence. I worked once for a subprime auto lending company whose CISO could not tolerate anyone that didn't stroke his ego or contribute to his image with the board. It was there I came up with a somewhat satisfying theory:

      Some people are very skilled ass-kissers.

      And some people are just skilled.
      Aug 20, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng onMyWay
      Gotcha
      Aug 20, 2018
  • Amazon fhsM57
    It depends on your strength and the strength of the team . To be honest, if your team is hiring MS candidates as applied scientists, it is probably not the strongest team, so you will have an easier time progressing. If you were on a team of mostly PhDs, the gap in experience would make it harder to stand out.
    Aug 20, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Eng epoch0
      OP
      That makes sense - I guess then it's a matter of whether I want to invest those 5 years to ensure I have a better chance and future prospects in the best teams, or if I am ok with a not so strong team as long as I like the work.
      Aug 20, 2018
  • Microsoft meeseeeks
    I have to think that of course it helps. It brings more gravitas when there is potential for disagreement on some topic, or if they are looking for someone to head a program, and you're one of several candidates. But, I think at minimum they will expect you to have some graduate-level education to be able to just Converse at that level. If you can show yourself to have that kind of background, and the chops to hold your own, the practical Talent will at least keep you in the game.
    Aug 19, 2018 0
  • Nvidia beyblad
    Can i ask how much is applied scientist return offer?
    Aug 20, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Eng epoch0
      OP
      I haven't asked for the money value yet, if I take the offer letter I have two weeks to accept. In Seattle I would guess an average of 140k base? Based on glassdoor at least
      Aug 20, 2018
  • Amazon mDFL15
    Simillar situation.. What did you choose and why?
    Aug 27 0
  • Amazon zal
    So how much was the offer after all if I may ask?
    Sep 23, 2018 0
  • Microsoft / Product @zzz
    Applied scientist not so, but you will be competing with phds. pure research roles I think PhD is min bar, and then it's super competitive especially in the Googles and Microsofts of the world.
    Aug 19, 2018 0