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TylerM's avatar

Should I get my Ph. D in Computing and Information Sciences?

Asked by TylerM (276 points ) January 25th, 2009

When do most people decide that they want their Ph. D—after achieving their masters or before they even start college?

I realize you can go to a different college for Grad school and that you don’t need to know immediately when you apply for college but when do most people decide to get their Ph. D?

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17 Answers

TylerM's avatar

Sorry if this makes no sense, I’m on Hydrocodone for a surgery I had and I’m kind of out of it. :-p

Allie's avatar

First of all, don’t worry about it making sense. I understand it just fine.
Second, I knew I wanted to get my PhD since the beginning of my sophomore year in college when I decided I wanted to be a professor. (I’m a junior now.)
I still have a long way to go.. I know.

TylerM's avatar

@Allie When you are in college is it best to make it known that you want to get your Ph. D. so they can fit in any prerequisites?

peedub's avatar

You have to start thinking about letters of reference. For grad school, they may determine (post grades, etc.) if or where you get in. Figure out what direction you want to go and associate yourself with the right people.

Allie's avatar

@TylerM I told my academic advisor my goal and she helped me set up a school plan. I’m still an undergrad so for now it’s just basic classes to get my BA, but I have started talking to professors in the field I want to go into and I’m trying to make some connections.

nikipedia's avatar

I had pretty much decided to try for a PhD by my senior year of college, but I took two years off and then applied.

When you do a PhD, you get a free masters degree on the way. Getting one pre-PhD is largely a waste.

Different programs require different prerequisites. It’s helpful to know what you’re interested in so you can get those out of the way (if they even have prereqs).

To answer your title question: Should you get your PhD? Frankly, I would discourage most people from doing it. What are your motivations?

TylerM's avatar

@nikipedia I’ve been building computers since the age of 10. I love to be challenged, and want to push myself to the limit of what I can do. I’m 18, oldest of 8 children, I run my own business… I’ve always loved the challenges in life. I feel like the pinnacle of knowledge is the Ph. D. and I desire to teach one day.

I’m genuinely interested in what you said “I would discourage most people from doing it,” please tell.

nikipedia's avatar

I think there are very few things in life that require a PhD that are worth doing, especially in the IT business. In fact, I know 2 people who never finished high school and another 2 who never went to college who have all made an extremely nice living for themselves at very young ages. I, on the other hand, will still be toeing the poverty line when I finish my degree at 28…if I’m lucky.

I know that there is a romantic idea that you should pursue your dreams and not care about money. That idea was made up by rich people.

Getting a PhD is long, exhausting, tedious, filled with artificial barriers, rife with ego, and basically involves a lot of bullshit. The payoff is that people are automatically impressed at dinner parties, and, if you are part of an extremely lucky minority, you will get to do something you love for an incredibly small salary (relative to how much work you do) and constantly compete for prestige, respect, etc. for the rest of your life.

Those are the lucky ones, remember.

TylerM's avatar

@nikipedia

You’re a very negative person…

haha, nah… thank you for your very honest answer. I don’t know if that’s true in all scenarios and I’d like to hear input from other people as well.

Also another benefit (I think) Don’t your kids go to college for free?

DrBill's avatar

I decided when I signed up for the GI bill, and they said “we will pay for college, how far do you want to go?”

My answer was PhD.

When I got there I went for two.

@TylerM
You, your spouse, and all your kids go for free, at the same university you teach at.

nikipedia's avatar

@TylerM: Nah, not negative, just want you to know what you’re getting yourself into. Given the chance, if I could go back and do it all over again, I would have gone to the exact same program at the exact same school I’m at now. I have no regrets. But a lot of people I have encountered are extremely unhappy and had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Even people who were cautioned about the hardships of grad school have the mindset, “But I’ll be different.” I did. I was wrong. It is exhausting and awful in a lot of ways. The question is: based on what you want out of your life, is it worth it? So far, for me, I think it will be. It was not for everyone in my program.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@TylerM, you’re thinking about a PhD in computing and information sciences when you can’t even code your own Web page? If you’re into building computers, perhaps an electrical engineering degree would be more up your alley.

I will tell you that what you think you want to do at age 18, is most likely not what you will end up doing as an adult. Perhaps you should get a BS before you think that far ahead.

sdeutsch's avatar

Even if you’re pretty sure you want to get a PhD now, I’m a big advocate of going out into the world and working for a couple of years after you finish undergrad, and then deciding how you want to proceed. It gives you whole different perspective on what you’re doing, and it can open up possibilities you wouldn’t have even thought of if you stayed in an educational environment.

@AlfredaPrufrock is right – many people I know (including myself) didn’t end up doing what they went to school for, and it sucks to figure that out after 8 or 10 years of school rather than 4. Plus, PhD programs are often happy to have someone who has real world experience to bring into the classroom, rather than just the theoretical experience of an undergrad degree – the way I see it, a couple years of work can’t hurt, but it can be really helpful in the long run…

cwilbur's avatar

@TylerM: what do you hope to accomplish with the PhD? And remember Dijkstra’s pithy statement that computer science has about as much to do with computers as astronomy has to do with telescopes: at its core, computer science is a branch of math that deals with computability.

The PhD is a long, grueling slog. It’s hard work leavened with brutal politics, for very little money. Practically speaking, you’re sacrificing 6 to 10 years of earning potential in exchange for that certificate. The starry-eyed romantic view is that the PhD is some kind of certificate of worthiness; the only place it really matters is if you’re looking to be a college professor.

And even then, the number of PhDs awarded each year is (depending on field) anywhere from twice the number of available openings to 20 times the number of available openings. So you’re sacrificing 6 to 10 years of earnings (and remember, you’re planning for retirement, so those early earnings plus compound interest are important) in exchange for a 1 in 2 to 1 in 20 shot at landing a job. Of course, if you don’t get a real academic job, you can always work as adjunct faculty for $2000 a class.

And so if you’re not looking for an academic job, I’d say don’t bother with the PhD. If you find you need it later, you can always go back to school for it, and by that point you’ll have enough of a frame of reference for it that you’ll benefit that much more.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

If you intend to teach at a university, then yes. Otherwise, once you have your Master’s, hit the job market. It will take you as far as anything you can do academically, and the sooner you enter the job market, the more money you will make in your life.

TylerM's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock

I think your statement is one of the least intelligent things I’ve read on Fluther thus far. “you’re thinking about a PhD in computing and information sciences when you can’t even code your own Web page?”

I’m not planning on going straight into my Ph. D., I’d do undergrad work. I don’t appreciate personal attacks. I’m sorry I had the audacity to ask a question about website design. And for your information, I’m proficient in CSS and PHP, I can’t be perfect at everything.

cwilbur's avatar

@TylerM: the point is, you’re thinking about a 10-to 12-year commitment to a field when you don’t have enough knowledge of the rudiments of it to do something that most people can do after 6 months to a year of experience.

You can’t know if you like computer science enough to pursue a PhD in it until you’ve actually taken some courses in computer science to see what the field is like. Right now, you simply do not have enough information to make that decision, and that’s what @AlfredaPrufrock is pointing out.

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