6 Questions to Ask Before Getting Your PhD

Getting a PhD is one of the greatest academic feats you can achieve, but it isn’t for the faint of heart. PhD students spend countless hours studying, researching, and applying their knowledge to their field. Crafting a contribution that is worthy enough to merit a PhD doesn’t come easy, but it can be one of the best decisions you make if it aligns with your career goals. Ask yourself these six questions to decide if getting a PhD is worth it for you.

Do You Want to Become a Leading Expert in Your Field?

People earn PhDs because they are so passionate about their field that they want to help transform it in some way. Rather than passing on information they’ve learned, PhD students aspire to contribute something new to the world through their work. It can be intimidating, and many graduate students wrestle with self-doubt. If you’re worried you may not measure up to your favorite professors or other professionals, take a moment to reflect. They were once exactly where you are now. It was their desire to make a difference that ultimately pushed them forward. Does that same desire ring loudly enough for you?

Are You Comfortable with Long-Term Student Debt?

Graduate students take on even more student debt, and they could easily push their balance over six figures. Studying at a prestigious school known for its research or academic advancements will cost you years of work. This may be a fair trade-off for some, but it isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Consider the cost of a PhD and how much you’ll likely earn back over the course of a lifetime. Borrowing a private student loan can help you cover the cost of your doctorate and propel you forward. With the right lender, you can customize your loan terms to fit your budget. After graduation, you’ll be able to consolidate or refinance to lower monthly repayments and build greater financial stability.

Do You Want to Challenge Yourself?

Openness to growth requires a certain degree of comfort with hardship. Graduate students are often pushed to the edges of their knowledge, which requires them to question and reevaluate many ideas and theories. They have to apply their skills in new ways to generate new ideas and contribute something relevant to their field. It can be difficult and, at times, discouraging to struggle during your dissertation. But if you are up for the challenge and want to develop yourself more, then a PhD program could be right for you.

Do You Dream of a Career in Academia?

If you aspire to become a professor, then you’ll likely need a doctorate to get the best positions. Professors with advanced degrees can bring a greater level of insight to their students. You may even inspire them to reach higher in their own lives. In addition to teaching, graduate students also go on to pursue careers in research and development. Their degrees grant them opportunities to perform research and discover meaningful results that can reshape the world.

Are You Prepared to Sacrifice Your Free Time?

If you’re already a working professional, adding a PhD program into the mix will dwindle your free time to practically zero. You have to set study goals that work for you but you also need to be dedicated to your field so much that you are comfortable making it the center of your life for a few years. People who have children or are married may wonder whether earning their graduate degree is the best idea. You have to juggle your priorities with your wants, and it can be hard knowing the right call. Ultimately, it should come down to timing, desire, and a willingness to sacrifice now for a greater reward later.

Are You Doing This to Make Yourself Proud?

Furthering your education solely for profit or acclaim is never a good idea. While you may find success, it will ring hollow without a genuine sense of fulfillment from within. You may have practical reasons for wanting a PhD, but the biggest should be your own desire to reach your fullest potential. You can’t work or build a career on anyone else’s dream. Decide on your own beliefs, set expectations, and act accordingly. With your own ambitions and belief lighting the path, you’ll find yourself able to persevere even during the most challenging times.