PhD - before, during and after

Why do a PhD?

Are you considering doing a PhD? Here we offer some good advice and present aspects you should consider before applying for a PhD.

It has become normal to sign up for a PhD after a STEM graduate program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Today, one fourth of natural science candidates obtain their first academic position at a university.

However, this does not change the fact that it is a considerable and key decision to apply for a PhD admission, adding three more years to your student life. It is normal, therefore, for PhD applicants to have periods of doubt.

Why are you considering admission to a PhD program? 

It is obviously a good idea to face the facts and ask yourself why you want to do a PhD, and what drives your passion for a subject or research topic.

Intrinsic motivation factors?

  • "My passion for research"
  • "I get the opportunity to work with a project and establish contact with an exciting research environment"
  • "The PhD title will open career opportunities that are attractive to me"

Extrinsic motivation factors?

  • "I have been motivated by my supervisor"
  • " Meet my parents' expectations"

Or is it a "non-choice"?

  • "I have no other plans"
  • "It's a job with a steady income"
  • "It is the best option"

It is evident that the more external factors and non-choices influence your decision, the more crucial it is to keep reflecting on it, e.g. you need to ask yourself whether a PhD is the only path to the professional life you wish to pursue.

Good advice for those who are considering PhD

We gathered a number of good advice in forms of quotes from IDA members, who have already started the PhD program:

  • "Generally, the thesis time is a very good indicator of whether you will flourish with another three years of intermittent progress and adversity."
  • "Are you willing to spend a large part of your life (including private life) traveling and staying for shorter or longer periods of time abroad?"
  • "It is crucial for you to get along with your supervisor, and it is a good idea to know this person either from a course or your thesis."
  • "How socially positive and cozy should the work environment be in a PhD group? Pay your group a visit and greet the other PhD students if you do not know them."
  • "Keep in mind that relevant contacts can be created prior to graduation. For instance, by attending conferences and meetings."

And finally: A final advice from a career coach:

  • "It can be extremely difficult to know beforehand how it will be for you to enter a research group as a PhD student. You should first think carefully about approaching someone in the group and get valuable insights about the environment before joining that group. Try to arrange half an hour to hear about how the group works and ask whether they will be willing to answer your questions. It gives you an insight that you hardly get through the job posting and interview, and it perhaps offers you a significantly better starting point for making a qualified decision."