Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Monday, August 15, 2005

How much is a Ph.D. worth?

As I was approaching the end of my Ph.D. I went through a phase that I think many(all?) doing that go through. I wanted to quit and never finish this. Massive annoyance and the feeling that the PI I was working for was probably the dumbest person on the planet. Essentially, I hated everything and knew that I did not want to grow up and be a PI in any sort of biologic science. I wanted to get out and DO something. I wanted to go work at a software company, become a gazillionaire and retire at 30. As I was wrapping up in 1999, this seemed very possible....Unfortunatly I didn't finish quite fast enough and I got out just in time for the dot.boom to take place and I did not become a gazzillionaire by 30. Sad really.

However, I did get my Ph.D. This is my wifes fault. My mother too, but mostely my wife. I don't know what she said, but essentially it was "you will hate your self if you quit", and so I didn't quit, and in fact finished.

This leads to my current job. We awhile ago parted ways with another Bus Dev guy here, and I got more insight in to the budget. Translation: I now know how much he was making. I can see that he had an MBA but had joined straight after getting that MBA. I joined with less than 5 years experience post Ph.D. I was making $40K more per year than he was.

That is what a Ph.D. gets you in real dollars. Yes, I was better at selling myself than him and did some other things, but the core point I think holds true that 3 letters = $40K/yr with no glass ceiling to bump in to as I go up in companies.

Now, others will have another opinion. For example this blog talks about how a Ph.D. isn't that important to you to complete and the world won't end etc.... I totally agree with her as well. There are an awful lot of bright people without Ph.D.'s. Many of them smarter than me. BUT - I will get paid more than them. Also, others will pick up the phone, answer the email, or in some other way acknowledge me, whereas the folks without have an extra hoop to jump through. It isn't right, but it is totally true. The woman above was NOT in a hard science, so I can't speak to her life at all. In the hard sciences, at a Biotech company, the Ph.D. is a glass ceiling more than any other thing. Without it, you better not want to be in charge or have too much responsibility. You won't get it. There are some exceptions, but those folks have problems when they want to leave the company they 'grew up' at, as other companies will push them back down the totem pole.

I freely admit that I judge people based on their reaction to learning I have a Ph.D. If it impresses them, I think less of them. I also freely admit to including it in my email sig, as for those to whom it matters are all over the place. I don't want to be judged to not have it and then miss out on the deal/conversation. But it shouldn't impress you.

oh yeah, the $40K/yr is nice too.....


Anonymous said...

How much is a Ph.D. worth?

Anonymous said...

Just wondering.. are you in academia or industry right now?

yes said...

Me (author of blog) or prvious sommentator.

I am in industry and was thinking of updating this entry as I have recently been laying people off (a bunch of them) and hiring some other people.

I will say the discrepancy in my little world has gotten worse in terms of money.

Ph.D.'s in our company earn more and advance faster sooner.

There are exceptions, but that is a pretty broad true rule.

yes said...

I would guess the first commentator is still in school and is as disgruntled as I was at several steps of school.

Anonymous said...

I know this blog is very old and it's unlikely you'll respond but i thought i'd post anyway on the off chance.

I've just finished my masters in electronic engineering and i'm having as dilemma: PhD or Industry? The general consensus on the web is mixed with raw data with figures being regularly contradicted across the board. I'm quite confused on what approach to take and i'm finding myself wondering is it really worth it these days? I had an interview at UCL (london) recently which is a fairly prestigious university for a PhD studentship and frankly, didn't like too much what I saw. The prospect of being locked away in a dark dingy room for 3 years wasn't too appealing. Should I suck it up and pursue it though? In the long run would having a PhD be beneficial? I've had to watch my peers graduate at Bachelors level and lead (seemingly) successful and full lives with holidays twice a year (I know that sounds superficial but at 23 it's hard not to think of these thinks with no prior experience of the professional working world) and i'm beginning to wonder if having a PhD or not really gives you a better job / quality of life / more opportunities in the long run.

Sorry for the long comment, just generally confused and if you did reply after all this time would greatly appreciate any incite you can give me!

- James

Anonymous said...

The value of a PhD seems to vary greatly by discipline that one is in and what goals one has. In my field (ecology), there is a glut of PhDs. A PhD is primarily of value if one wants to become a professor and, with far more PhDs than professors, this is a difficult goal. In the consulting and government agency work where the majority of ecologists end up, a PhD provides a slight edge over a Master's, but not as big of an edge as the seven years of work experience gained while not pursuing a PhD. The PhD can also run the risk of making one appear excessively specialized and trapped in an academic mindset or make one appear focused on an academic career and ready to leave the company/agency when a teaching position opens up. The PhD also of course brings debt and sacrifice of personal relationships and health. That said, I know that there are many fields, such as biochemistry and physics, in which a PhD is crucial for advancement into higher ranks. I also know people who have obtained PhDs in rather obscure liberal arts disciplines who loved the process of earning the degree but found it actually hindered their search for work and took considerably lower paid less glamorous work than they had before returning to school. In any case, I feel that the people who get the most out of PhD programs are those who go into them for sheer love of their discipline and dissertation topic.

yes said...

James - the comment above mine does a great job summing things up but I would add a specific comment for EE's - I think a Ph.D is useless. The company I am at has several billion dollars of revenue in the electronics space. Thousands of employees in that space. While I am sure they are there somewhere I have yet to meet a phd in EE. The conversation I have with them is always a bit weird - they think bio, where as noted a phd does have value, is odd.

So- for you- I would argue that unless you really want it - it is unlikely to help you too much in electronics.

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