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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How Beneficial Is A PhD?

Does A PhD Title By Itself Open Up More Occupational Opportunites? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by John Challis, Health Data Scientist. physics PhD, on Quora.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I see two distinct questions:
  • Does getting a PhD open up opportunities compared to the next best alternative?
  • Does it make sense to someone getting a PhD in neuroscience who wants to be a data scientist to complete a program vs getting experience?
As someone who faced a similar decision and decided to complete the program, I hope I can offer some perspective:
  • Getting a PhD definitely opens some opportunities. Many attractive data science roles will not consider anyone without a PhD. These roles tend to be well-paying and have a thinner application pool than more general applications.
  • Getting a PhD absolutely closes many, possibly most, opportunities due to overqualification. A PhD signals the market that you are highly trained, highly valuable asset and that it only makes sense to hire you if an organization can make good use of your extra training compared to someone with fewer credentials. The majority of organizations cannot effectively benefit from the extra value a PhD brings to the table. 
  • Most likely this means most organizations will not even consider your application. Hiring overqualified staff means they will shortly expect 1) a big bounce in pay or responsibility or 2) will get rapidly dissatisfied and jump ship. Any experienced HR team would rather hire an underqualified person and train them than hire an overqualified person and hope they stay comfortable.
From a financial perspective, getting a PhD makes sense if you focus on organizations that place a premium on a PhD. In my first role, they hired PhDs almost exclusively into the Scientist role and those without the credential into the Associate role (roughly equivalent to commissioned and non commissioned officers). While it was possible in theory for an Associate to be promoted across the bridge and receive the increase in pay and responsibility, in practice it was very rare. +1 for the PhD.
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Source: Huffington Post


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