Before deciding to embark on another 5-10 years of education, know the facts about getting a PhD (see my previous blog on myths of getting a PhD). If you’re still confident a PhD is the right path for you, ask yourself the following:
1. Can I afford it?
If you are considering student loans, mean graduate debt was $14,479 according to the Survey of Earned Doctorates (NSF, 2012). Also take into account the cost it takes to apply to multiple PhD programs. Can you afford moving to another region of the country? All these things add up before the first day of classes.
2. How much money could I be making during the time it takes to get a PhD?
In addition to thinking about out-of-pocket expenses, consider the opportunity cost of getting a PhD. Think of both time and money. Figuring your opportunity cost will help answer the question, “Is it worth it?” To know how much money you will make after graduation, you will need to ask yourself the next question below.
3. To what industry do I want to enter as a career?
This question will better target what kind of salary you are likely to make in the future. There are plenty of people with master’s degrees who rake in $90k+ a year. How did they do it? They went into industries that pay well. The degree you hold is not the only factor in how much money you will make.
4. Is it impossible to get my dream job without a PhD?
If the answer is yes, then you need to get a PhD. Be realistic about the type of job that you are likely to get upon graduation, as well. When choosing programs, ask what type of jobs people get when they graduate.