Should I do a PhD? Top 5 reasons a PhD is a Good Idea

rishabh jainRishabh Jain is an entrepreneur and Ph.D. candidate at MIT you can connect with him on Twitter via @rishabhmjain


With my own PhD graduation upcoming, I get asked this question a lot. So I decided to share this post in case it is helpful to others. To me the most important part of that question is the ‘I’, meaning that there is really no way for anyone else to know what the right decision is. However, in my 5 years at MIT, I have seen the full gamut of success and failure during a PhD, and based on that, the following are my top 5 reasons to say yes to the PhD:

1) You have an irrational LOVE for research

A PhD is and always will be a devotion of some of your best years to research. So you better love it. I mean really love it. There will be several late nights where you are breaking your head over what to do next, or trying to get a piece of equipment to work. I have seen only one thing truly motivate grad students out of those slumps, their desire to discover.

2) You enjoy challenging assumptions

The most successful PhDs I know have always worked on projects that are fundamentally challenging an assumption in their field. Essentially, these people have such a strong desire for the truth, that unless it breaks a thermodynamic law, they believe it is possible! Needless to say, this is how great discoveries happen, and how we have technologies that can do insane things, like controlling a living mouse with just light (if you don’t know about optogenetics yet – google it!).

3) You know exactly why you want a PhD

I know this sounds circular, so I’ll elaborate. I have seen too many of my peers join a PhD because it was the thing that the smart kids do after college. That is the exact wrong reason to do a PhD. You should do a PhD ONLY if you know exactly what you want to accomplish at the end of the PhD. Remember, the PhD is a path, not an end. So if you want to be a professor or a lab head at a national lab for example, those are the obvious reasons to do a PhD. But please, do not sacrifice 5 years to do a PhD just because you are the smartest kid in your class.

4) You have a desire to invent

This is distinct from the first point, where I say it is import to love research. There I am referring to the process. Here I am pointing at the result – the invention. A PhD is one of the best ways to have intellectual freedom to invent things you are passionate about. I have been fortunate to have had this opportunity several times and trust me, it’s an awesome feeling. If you are lucky, you invent something so critical that the marketplace licenses it from you and your impact translates from lab to the ‘real world.’ While this does not always happen, having the desire to produce is instrumental in having a successful PhD.

5) You enjoy the learning-teaching process.

Being a graduate student means you are constantly either teaching someone or learning something. Unlike other jobs, where you acquire a skill and produce a lot based on that skill. Research is quite different in that you have to constantly stay updated, read papers, learn new techniques or ideas, and so on. So even if you don’t want to be a professor after the PhD, you have to enjoy the process.

While the above points may sound general or obvious, it is vital to be honest with yourself about them before making the decision. This is especially true if you are thinking about doing a PhD after having worked for a few years (this is increasingly common these days). For those of you making this decision right now, I wish you luck and success!


Don't be shy, please leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Facilitating a narrative across the social sciences

Creativity through collaboration

Facilitating a narrative across the social sciences


Politics, philosophy, history . . . thinking, writing, teaching . . . the blog of Adrian Blau

Nick Hopwood

Education research, PhD study, academic publishing, research methods

Facilitating a narrative across the social sciences

This Sociological Life

A blog by sociologist Deborah Lupton

Dr. Matt Donoghue

Politics and Society (and a bit of Economy) from a Critical Perspective


cars, environment, geography

Geography Directions

The latest journal content and related new stories from the RGS-IBG journals.

letter from chiapas

Facilitating a narrative across the social sciences

Department of Sociological Studies Blog

Engaging and accessible sociology

Donna Peach

Facilitating a narrative across the social sciences

that space in between

exploring life and that gap where we sometimes find ourselves...

politics of the hap

a life worth living

Welcome to the AAA Blog

Conversations in Anthropology


This site is the global hub for dementia students


dtbarron blog

Notes on a Theory...

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

between the lines

feminism & 'race' / cultural studies / sociology (a phd research blog)


Blog site for Karen Strickland

%d bloggers like this: