Is PhD a waste of time?

Mar 22, 2019 34 Comments

Except for those who got their PhDs in Data Science or Computer Science, everyone else with a PhD (that I know) seems to be struggling financially. Recently, I heard that it's common for folks in biology to do a postdoc for more than 5 years (40k$ yearly salary, no benefits). They also seem to be all stuck in a cycle of poverty and being too specialized. Increasingly, PhD students are foreigners as Americans dont want to waste away their lives. So, is it a waste of time to do a PhD in a non-CS field?

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TOP 34 Comments
  • Google camelCase
    A friend of mine has a PhD in math. She is one of the smartest people I know (in her field). She can barely afford food.
    Mar 22, 2019 4
    • Booking.com Hooli++
      Edison was a business guy, just saying
      Mar 23, 2019
    • Oracle alwzangry
      Yeah, but you get what I meant
      Mar 23, 2019
  • Intel tbYt72
    Depends on what you want to do. If you want to have a research career, a PhD is a must in academia and highly preferred in the industry.
    Mar 22, 2019 4
    • Google / Eng EIFY
      G sometimes gives PhD L3 treatment these days
      Mar 23, 2019
    • Microsoft / Data rets
      OP
      Google doesn't care about degree, and might as well hire a high school dropout over a PhD.
      Mar 23, 2019
  • Apple
    InfiniteBS

    Apple

    PRE
    AMD
    BIO
    Spittoon of Upper Mgmt
    InfiniteBSmore
    If your passion is academia, then a PhD is mandatory
    Mar 22, 2019 0
  • Fuck this people. What’s wrong with you? Education is never a waste of time. You can’t measure everything by money. Tech is the new Wall Street, the only difference is that people in tech is more ugly and nerdy
    Mar 23, 2019 1
    • Microsoft datasc
      I appreciate the sentiment, but someone thinking of going into a phd does need to at the least acknowledge the hard reality (see below).
      Mar 23, 2019
  • Microsoft datasc
    1. Phd has “intrinsic value”, in terms of dedication and focused work on a specialised topic, potential benefit to humanity, and the furthering of the Search for Truth.
    2. Phd has little economic value in terms of earnings potential, in fact it may have negative value in terms of lost earnings, lock-in into an economically unviable specialization, and exclusion from many jobs aka “overqualified”.
    3. The cost we ask people to pay in exchange for wanting to follow their dreams is unreasonably unacceptably high, and yes there are thousands of phds in hard sciences living in penury hoping for a permanent position that they may likely never get, and thousands of people in soft sciences/arts in teaching positions that barely feed them, homeless, etc.

    These three statements are simultaneously factually true (well the first one is more of an opinion), and belief in one of them does not make the others go away.

    Source: I have a phd and over a decade of experience interacting extensively with phds of all stripes.
    Mar 23, 2019 4
    • New / Ops
      tooQ10

      New Ops

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      Rakuten USA
      tooQ10more
      All of this is absolutely true. I knew it and finished my PhD anyway.
      Mar 23, 2019
    • Microsoft datasc
      Good on you. People just need to go in with eyes open, an exit plan, a stop loss and a willingness to trigger it. Many folks going into a phd are naively idealistic and in denial.
      Mar 23, 2019
  • Oracle alwzangry
    We invent chat and gossip tools and are considered more valuable than any other professionals.
    Mar 22, 2019 1
  • BYTON Dof
    Oh boy, apparently you don’t know how much they make after graduation. It’s not a waste of time.
    Mar 23, 2019 3
    • Microsoft / Data rets
      OP
      They would be lucky to make 80k$.
      Mar 24, 2019
    • New / Ops
      tooQ10

      New Ops

      PRE
      Rakuten USA
      tooQ10more
      80k would be a dream come true.
      Mar 24, 2019
  • Google / Eng RMI
    My group is ~85% non-CS PhDs
    Mar 22, 2019 3
    • Google / Eng RMI
      It’s in Applied Sciences, so lots of physicists. DM for more info.
      Mar 23, 2019
    • Microsoft / Data rets
      OP
      DMed!
      Mar 23, 2019
  • Walmart.com xeYp26
    Education can never be a waste of time. Stop tagging $ amount with everything.. collecting food stamps after defending..seriously dude!!!!
    Mar 22, 2019 1
    • Microsoft datasc
      I’m sorry you find this incredible. Doesn’t make it any less true. Look on the web for articles about adjunct faculty living out of their cars and hooking to survive.
      While I agree we “should” value education the sad fact is we don’t in practice.
      Mar 23, 2019
  • Nvidia bdei51
    No, it is not a waste of time. If your only goal in life is to maximize your TC by the time you die, it might be though
    Mar 22, 2019 0

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