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Should I Continue to Pursue My PhD? I Need Help

A quora user who had went to the trouble of applying for PhD programs realized upon visiting the campuses that they actually may not want to pursue research as a career anymore. Although they had thought they wanted to be a professor, actually talking to the graduate students put new doubts in their mind.  They wondered if instead, they should return to something they know they enjoy doing – working in a campaign office on political issues.

“…I started thinking of working in a campaign office again and pursuing my masters degree in a few years, and that idea seemed to alleviate my stress a little bit. I also realized that pursuing my PhD isn’t something I wanted to do for ME; I realized I only wanted to do it for the title and the prestige that comes with it….not whether or not it would make me happy.

I need some advice; if I have realized that this is now something I may not want to do, do I pursue it anyway?”

The best way to tackle your future is one step at a time, with a clear goal in mind. A PhD can serve you well even if you don’t want to be a professor. However, it’s up to you to decide how to use the degree and your time in school.

I know it feels like you’re being a bad person if you don’t go through with something after getting support and recommendation letters from your professors.

Do remember that they likely did PhDs themselves, so of course like to see others follow the path they did, if it was successful for themselves. However, that’s doesn’t mean that this is the only path to success.

It’s very important to do things for you. Do not go through life letting other people pressure you into what they think is right, or you will turn around 5 years from now and not know who you are anymore.

If you don’t want to do it, take aggressive steps to move in a different direction.

The best way to counter fear is to get the evidence against it, which means taking action. If you’d like to work for a campaign office again, go do that.

If you want to teach, you can do that too.

Just note that there is a financial difference between doing a Masters and a PhD, so take that into account. There are people who chose the PhD for the money and the prestige with a specific end goal in mind after the PhD, which was not being a professor.  And that has worked out for them, not because they have the degree, but because they put in the time and effort to move their entire career trajectory in the direction that best suited them.

No degree, qualification or certification alone can do that for you.

You do want to make sure you are mentally prepared and ready to take the challenge no matter what you do, on your own terms.

Your undergrad professors aren’t going to live your life.

You are.

Good luck!

The best way to tackle your future is one step at a time, with a clear goal in mind.

By Vay Cao, Ph.D.


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