Throughout our entire lives, we have been told about how important it is to continue our education and that a terminal degree such as a Ph.D. will differentiate us from others on the job market. But the financial realities of obtaining such a degree might be overwhelming, particularly now as the world slips into a global financial crisis thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Ph.D. is a long-term commitment that can take quite a bit of time away from you and saddle you with expensive student loan payments. Learn about the commitment behind a Ph.D. so you can decide if it is a realistic goal for you at this time in your life.
The average time to complete a Ph.D. is about six years.
According to U.S. News, the average Ph.D. student takes 5.8 years, or about six years, to complete a Ph.D. degree. Some degrees may take almost eight years to finish, which is just about twice as long as it would take to obtain a bachelor’s degree. That is a lot of your most valuable resource—your time. That is time you could be spending on developing your career and focusing on those goals. Add to that the process of writing a dissertation, and it could take even longer. Dissertations are incredibly involved and are often the reason that only about 56 percent of Ph.D. students finish their degrees.
Take time to assess whether the cost of the degree is worth it.
Obtaining a Ph.D. is not cheap. If you are considering an Ivy League school, Harvard’s yearly tuition for Ph.D. candidates is almost $50,000 for the first two years. After that, tuition is about $13,000 each year. That cost can add up to some hefty student loans if you did not get any financial aid for your degree. Take time and sit down to assess whether the cost of a Ph.D. degree is worth it for your career. Some perks to getting a Ph.D. include:
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for those with doctoral degrees is projected to grow by 13 percent by 2026.
- The median wage for all occupations in 2017 was $37,690 while the median wage for jobs requiring a doctoral degree was $103,820.
If you do end up deciding that getting a Ph.D. is beneficial for your career goals, consider consulting with an investment manager like Mark Wiseman. An experienced investment manager such as Wiseman, who was the global head of active equities at Blackrock and the senior managing director last year, can help you plan out your financial realities and give you information to help you decide whether or not getting a Ph.D. is a valuable use of your time, taking into account the career path you are on as well as any current debts you may already have.
Consider whether you plan on pursuing a career in academia.
More often than not, those who obtain a Ph.D. end up going on to pursue a career in academia, most likely at a university where they can be a professor in their area of expertise. Keep in mind, it can take a while to reach tenured status and on average, postsecondary teachers make around $80,000 a year, according to the BLS. If you think that salary will be enough to offset the cost and the time spent on your Ph.D., then take some time to think about the pros and cons of obtaining a doctoral degree. It could immensely benefit you in the long run or it could put some of your life on hold while you earn the degree—the final choice is up to you and what you feel is best for your individual goals.