Should I do a Ph.D.?

DO a PhD if you have the inclination for research and knowledge! You live once in life and you can always make more money later.

DO your PhD when you are younger - not having a spouse and kids helps in not worrying about money and traveling to conferences.

DO a PhD - it will help you with non-quantifiable life experiences

I have a Ph.D. in Natural Language Processing (A branch of Artificial Intelligence), and an M.S. and B.S. in Computer Science. I graduated with my Ph.D. in 2011, and since then I have given birth to 2 children. Ph.D. still remains one of the hardest things that I have done in my life - emotionally, physically, mentally and all other “-allys” that you can think of.

If I were to do it again I will still do that Ph.D. and make the same choices that I made - in a heartbeat.

Over the years so many people have asked me whether they should do a Ph.D. or not. Here are some of my short answers to the most frequently asked questions:

  1. Does a Ph.D. guarantee that I will make more money in life?
    • No. Ph.D. does not equate to more money. If you want to make more money take up a job as soon as you get done with your B.S. or M.S.
  2. Is a Ph.D. a course? Like M.S. or B.S.?
    • Not at all! You spend your days thinking, and reading on past research, and writing and running experiments. It is not like anything that you have done in your life. It is extremely open-ended. You can make whatever you want from it. (The lack of structure is one of the reasons for a high rate of dropouts from the Ph.D program.)
  3. Will I be able to get a nice job in academia?
    • A Ph.D. is a minimum requirement for an academic job. It is just a start of a whole slew of requirements which includes - number of published research papers per year, organizing conferences and workshops, speaking at events, writing grants and others.
  4. Do I need a Ph.D. to be a data scientist?
    • No. You can learn the basics of Statistics, Machine Learning and other required topics from online courses on Udemy or Coursera, to complement your background.
  5. What will I gain from a Ph.D ?
    • Failure! Lots and lots of failure. If you want to gain life experience and accelerate it - do a Ph.D. You will find your 999 ways of not to build a light bulb. When you find that one way to build that light bulb - you write your dissertation and graduate. If you make it though the program, you come out stronger, humbler, more resilient and more honest to yourself. I am a great startup founder because I did a Ph.D. I am desensitized to a lot of types of failure - they are bumps in the road for me rather than roadblocks.
  6. Other reasons I should do a Ph.D.?
    • You should do a Ph.D. if you really want to pursue knowledge and learn about topics that you are interested in. You get paid (probably minimum wage, but still money is money!) to study and learn and pursue knowledge. You get to interact with the most amazing academic (and non-academic minds of the world.) I got to work with the team at IBM Watson that defeated humans in Jeopardy. I worked on very cutting edge research in commonsense and language understanding. I got the opportunity to learn so much about language and philosophy and life - all from my experience doing a Ph.D.

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