Should I do a PhD?


Hi guys!

Hoping for some advice - I've just come to the end of my English literature Masters and am wondering whether to pursue a creative writing PhD. My undergraduate degree was in English/creative writing and as a career I've been looking at the possibility of writing and also lecturing in creative writing. However, I know a PhD in creative writing is no guarantee that I would achieve this, as publications are more important - I could therefore just get another job and write in my spare time, and then if successfully published I could return to teach creative writing in universities without a PhD.

However, I feel that doing a creative writing PhD would be rewarding, would allow me to write solidly for three years and publish as much as possible, and gain valuable contacts and teaching experience. The risk is that I fail to publish and come out with a PhD which doesn't offer me many job prospects - I've heard that having a creative writing PhD alone is unlikely to lead to a lecturing position. This plan also depends upon me securing funding, but I have a first class honours and may get a distinction for my Masters, so I would be eligible for this.

The alternative I am considering is to retrain as an academic librarian and thus obtain a back-up career and more secure income, while still attempting to write in order to possibly re-enter academia as a published author who lectures. The downside is that although I find librarianship interesting, it is not my real dream, which is to write and be part of a writing community. It would also mean taking another postgraduate qualification and having to fork out excessive amounts for tuition fees because of ELQs, although there are ways round this with career development loans and so forth.

Basically, I can follow my heart, take the high risk strategy and do a PhD, risk coming out with nothing and having to retrain anyway as I'm not sure what other jobs are available to someone with a creative writing PhD, or, follow my head, become a librarian, write in my spare time and hope to be successful, but perhaps regret leaving academia behind. I've been told that I could take an English literature PhD instead, but this really isn't what I want to do as I want to study literature within the context of creative writing and produce my own creative work.

Can anyone offer me any advice?


Hi Fricklesnarp

Hard life decisions! I think there's a lot to be said for going where your heart is. Yes, you might end up without a job, and it's risky, but it is satisfying doing a PhD (despite all the grief we go through!). The 3 years doing a PhD is a long time, and lots of things happen, opportunities present themselves, so you never know where it could lead. I don't know about science PhDs, but in humanities and social sciences, I think there's a lot of us who are doing this not solely for career reasons, but because we love our areas and love learning. If you really want to do a PhD, do it. That said, you also need to consider where you're at in your life - if you're young, then it's easier to take the high risk road. If you're older, going for a steady job is obviously more appealing.

Could you talk to your lecturers and find out where a creative writing PhD could lead? They'd know how else it could be used, apart from academia. Good luck!


I'd go for the dream if I was you. Keep the librarianship as a backup option for the future - if after the PhD things don't work out job-wise you could always do a postgraduate course in librarianship. But definitely consider going for the dream. The risk if you don't is that you might regret things down the line.