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Don't pursue a PhD if...

Young African Magazine

Don't pursue a PhD if...

This is always a difficult topic to consider when you are about to do a PhD and often needs in-depth thought. For example, are you doing this for money, because of the undergraduate lecturer that made life hard, or because you want to make a difference in a new field of study? From my perspective, a PhD comes with a lot, and I will discuss below those things you should not do it for.

Published 29 November 2022

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Don't pursue a PhD if you are not passionate about discovering something new. It is a journey to learn new things and challenge the status quo, which is generally a big decision to make that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It should thus be the passion and drive to find new solutions to burning world problems. If you are not passionate about such, don't pursue it.

Don't pursue a PhD if you are seeking a life balance. A PhD study does not come with a life balance. I saw myself waking at 2 am to write some stuff I dreamt or thought about while sleeping. I missed certain weekends with friends working in the laboratory or writing papers for publications. I missed calls, ignored loved ones, and travelled for conferences. It is not a balanced life because you will be immense in the process and frequently forget there is more to life and enjoyment.

Don't pursue a PhD if it is for your ego or as a means of your next step. Most people are either convinced by their professors they are exceptional candidates or clever or told once they have started, they are smart. This can easily build on their ego, which should not be the way forwards for doing it. Also, please don't do it because you feel it is the next step after an undergraduate or a master's, it will consume you if you have these thoughts, and the mental health of thinking about one aspect of life for a significant long time will or may frustrate you for this reason.

Don't pursue a PhD if you are motivated by money. The truth is academicians don't earn as much as other professions if you look at sports athletes, musicians, or the entertainment industry. Although I have different beliefs on this aspect, it is crazy as a PhD will not give you that money, at least for now, if things don't change. Hence it should not be a motivating factor to do one because you will see your efforts wasted.

Lastly, a crucial point to my heart is Don't pursue a PhD if you want to prove to someone. It would be best if you don't do this to prove to someone as your whole life may be centred around the frustration of building the correct thing or being overqualified. A great motivation to want to do better should be that drive and obsession about doing the right thing and doing it better.

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