I don't normally post messages online seeking advice but have found contributors on the Postgraduate Forum to be a helpful source of information. I am in a bit of a predicament about my future and wanted to seek some addditinal advice from PhD students after having spoken to family, friends, and my supervisor. I have received a fully funded PhD in History from the University of Cambridge although recently took up a role in diplomatic services. While I realise I do a fascinating job and get insights I would not get elsewhere, I've been constantly thinking about my PhD offer (to start in January or April next year). I never thought I would want to do or be good enough for a PhD but was pleasantly surprised to have received the requisite grades and funding. While I have worked in various roles in the public and private sector, I've never found them satisfying and have thought about pursuing my research in an up and coming area of world history. A bit of background about me: I did my undergraduate degree and Masters (on a scholarship) at Cambridge and am from a 'non-tradional' background.
Any advice or people's experience of doing a PhD in History would be much appreciated. Thank you!
You are making a very similar choice to the one I made nearly a decade ago. I was 5 years into a civil service job having gone in as a fast streamer and progressing reasonably well. I jumped to do a PhD and was one of the very few for whom an academic job did materialise, but I am less certain that I would make the same choice again if I was making it today. Things I think it's worth thinking about:
1) Your earning potential in the civil service is almost certainly higher than in academia even if you are very lucky on the academic track. Would never being a home-owner be an issue for you for instance? Unless you have a partner on a high salary, academic wages will not allow you to buy in much of the South of England these days. Civil service pensions and benefits are vastly superior to academic ones too so it really is a big financial hit to take. When I jumped the differences were less stark than they are now.
2) You presumably know that they think only about 6% of PhD grads will get a permanent academic job. Sadly the Oxbridge name is no guarantee. You're currently presumably earning a graduate salary now - it's not just the time to PhD but the history PhDs who made it into academia seem then to have spent an average of 4-5 years on temporary, part-time and poorly paid work to get a strong enough publication list to have a chance. It's one of the more overcrowded subjects. Again big financial hit to swallow especially if you'd like a family.
3) The civil service is a good employer much better than universities. Would your skill set offer a route back in (mine did which mitigated the risk a bit)? I ask that as many humanities/soc sci PhDs see the govt as an ideal second choice after academia.
you could just go back into diplomatic service & politics, mate did exactly that after a phd from oxbridge (law tho) and it didn't harm his career & salary prospects one bit, it's been the opposite for him really and the phd was a very valuable thing to do & he's raking it in. he's not working in england tho.... & abroad might be something to consider when you're from a non-traditional background...
Masters DegreesSearch For Masters Degrees
An active and supportive community.
Support and advice from your peers.
Your postgraduate questions answered.
Use your experience to help others.
Enter your email address below to get started with your forum account
Enter your username below to login to your account
An email has been sent to your email account along with instructions on how to reset your password. If you do not recieve your email, or have any futher problems accessing your account, then please contact our customer support.
or continue as guest