Should You or Shouldn't You?

Should you get your PhD? (in science)

I added the parenthetical in science because I’m not sure how well the advice works well outside of it — it may have less applicability outside of physics. I have quibbles with a few things, as I’m an experimentalist and an atomic physicist, and Ethan is a theorist and is trained as an astrophysicist. There are bound to be some differences, but I think most of it is going to hold up for science PhDs in general.

There are plenty of brilliant people who get them, of course, but there are also plenty of people of average or even below-average intelligence who get them. All a PhD signifies, at the end of the day, is that you did the work necessary to earn a PhD. There are many people who have PhDs who will dispute this, of course. There are plenty of people who are insecure about their lives, too, and base their entire sense of self-worth on their academic achievements and accolades. You probably have met a few of them: they are called jerks.

This was probably the biggest surprise in grad school to me — how much the ratio of intelligence to stubbornness actually was in the student population, vs. the larger value I had naively expected it to be.

One thought on “Should You or Shouldn't You?

  1. Special Olympics for the mind. American education has devolved below the pre-med (then neutered by Obamacare) to the diverse student. The pre-eminent disqualification for support is empirical ability (stealing from the deserving). Grant funding is a zero-risk business plan with a PERT chart. Young faculty who survived education and retain apostate ideas are quickly disabused of the notion, or are starved and forgotten to death.

    The SAT is being reworked so everybody gets the same score. Can the bar go lower than sitting on the floor? Yes, a basement. Do YOU know of anybody with the Evil IQ? Report them. The unabled maximize self-esteem to be credible – effectively selecting for the deluded, hence advocacy. Run for the cure!

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