So I dropped out of a CDT a few years back and am due to restart my PhD next month. I'm really questioning whether it's right for me though. I don't particularly enjoy the job I'm in now, it's a secure job and has a reasonable level of stability but I'm questioning my career trajectory and I'm not overly enjoying it. I feel the PhD is in an interesting subject but it's a topic I had no experience in as an undergrad and I'm really worried about how difficult it's going to be to pick it up. I've tried to read up on it, read papers etc and I'm really struggling to get my head around it. I don't want to be an academic but a PhD in my field can be very helpful. I feel so torn. I obviously wasn't good enough last time and I'm scared I won't be good enough this time either. I'm also worried about the (quite substantial) drop in income and the obviously increased workload of a PhD vs working. I think I'd always wonder what if, if I didn't go for it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that this project is the right fit for me. I think it's very much a case of now or never too - if I leave it much longer it'll be even harder to leave my job and I already feel like I'm getting too old. My partner and I would love to start a family in the next few years, although this is an issue even if I start the PhD next month or next year and we've already discussed potentially trying towards the latter part of the PhD. I really don't know what to do or what's best for me.
A PhD isn't more work than a normal full time job and shouldn't think of it in this way, otherwise you will burn out early.
You can pick stuff up as you go along, but it is definitively more of a challenge. You may find you know lots about your subject but have forgotten the basics (I did). You might find it beneficial to attend undergrad lecture courses or reread text books (I wish I did).
You can pick up more money by working in the department if available (I got an extra £4k max this way).
Only you can decide what's right for you, but since you're back in the ring again, that probably means you will regret it if you don't go for this PhD.
I've bought a textbook and read a few chapters and am still really struggling with the concept :( thing is, the bits I'm struggling with they didn't even mention or ask about at my interview. So maybe I'm worrying about nothing? But if I get into this second PhD and struggle and end up quitting them I'm back to square one and where i was a few years ago although then I'll have more gaps in my CV so I'm probably in a worse situation.
It's a difficult one. There's been things I struggled to understand at the start of my PhD but I was fine with it at the end after having spent a lot of time reading and writing about it. Sometimes it just needs time to sink in.
In my job now I feel like I know next to nothing compared to other academics (well they do have 20-30 years on me right? That's what I keep telling myself anyway), so I've decided from now until Christmas to throw myself wholeheartedly into my lecture content to get a really deep understanding of the topics I'm teaching, which I already should know to be honest (or should I, since I last learnt it back in 2006??). Anyway, the point is, you are capable of learning it, otherwise you wouldn't have got this far, so with a bit of dedication you can do it.
If you need to ask specific questions, maybe you can find forum based on your topic area and ask questions there, I do that sometimes.
You have a lot of important points in your first post. I'll answer as best I can.
On your current job, you mentioned that the job is not enjoyable and has unclear career trajectory, but it is secure. You don't want to be an academic but a PhD in your field can be very helpful
- You have clearly outgrown your job. You could always look for another with more potential for growth. Could you ask your employer to sponsor your PhD, so you have a guaranteed job to return to?
Your PhD is interesting but you are struggling as you have no prior experience and you worry about fit and income reduction.
- No one knows for sure if their PhD is right for them until they start. You can learn, even if you have no prior experience. The important thing is whether you like the topic enough to want to try it and live a little poorly. Only you can answer this.
You want to start a family but worry about your PhD.
-You can always delay your PhD. My friend did hers at 50. It can be done. Having a child during phd can cause additional stress, on top of an already stressful PhD.
I wish you the best in your decision. Good luck!
Thank you both for your comments.
I really do think it's a now or never situation re the PhD. I only have one university within commutable distance from me and if I pull out now I've probably burnt my bridges there. Although, who knows where we'll be living in 10/15 years time. But apart from that I do think the more I work in industry the less I'm going to want to go back and do the PhD purely based on how much we'd be losing out financially. Sadly my current company would not sponsor my PhD, as long as one has a masters they don't care too much about PhD and sadly my current role isn't particularly highly regarded, it's more just seen as a necessity.
For us delaying a family isn't an option. I'm in my late twenties and my partner is in his mid thirties. Delaying it for another 4 years is not something we'd like to do. So I do think it's a case of do the PhD and make it work with a child (if we were lucky enough to conceive that is) or don't do the PhD.
TreeofLife i definitely don't think you should be able to remember something from 2006! I will look out for a relevant forum.
What would you class as a good reason to get a PhD? If not because the topic is interesting, to further ones career and / or to do something that's intellectually challenging / stimulating?
Re your other points
1) I'm not. More considering the impact having a PhD will have on our decision to start a family, something all adults should consider prior to starting one.
2) being too old or not is personal opinion. The vast majority of PhD students are in their early to mid twenties and with a general consensus the PhD becomes your everything (or perhaps that was just the case at the place I did my CDT year). As one gets older one is more likely to be earning a higher salary and become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, thus making it harder to walk away from to go back to earning the meagre PhD stipend. Furthermore as one gets older a PhD becomes less and less useful. With say 10 working years left ahead of you it's less useful than for someone who has say 40 working years left. Just my two pence worth though...
I concur with pm133, I am 55 years of age and run my own business as a sole trader.
I have been wanting to undertake a PhD for many years. Not for career reasons - for personal reasons - to 'finish my education' - and I have a real+passion for the area I want to research - dating back some 20 years.
My business generates enough income for me to survive operating on a part-time business and I am hoping that will give me the time required to undertake a part-time PhD.
My last period in academia was 25 years ago when I got a Masters and I am struggling to put together a proposal and to understand exactly what the various Unis want to see in the proposal so I am concerned that I will not be accepted anywhere. I don't know anyone who has done or is doing a PhD so its all somewhat a shot in the dark!
Will have to see if anyone will take me on!
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