Is a PhD Worth It in 2024?

Philippe Barr, PhD
10 min readApr 24, 2023

Let’s not beat around the bush: may people in 2023 are asking themselves the same question — is a PhD worth it? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here as there are so many factors at play.

Still, that hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands of prospective students from playing academic roulette and betting on a career path most don’t actually understand that well! Sure, the prestige associated with holding an advanced degree is compelling — but will your future spending habits be ready for those inevitable student loans or other financial consequences? Let’s take a look past hype and conjecture; let’s figure out if getting your PhD in 2023 is definitely worth it.

Should I Get A PhD in 2023?

Pursuing a PhD in 2023 can be a great way to enhance your career prospects and develop new skills. With the ever-changing landscape of the job market, having a higher degree can give you a competitive edge. A PhD also offers more opportunities for research and knowledge building — enabling you to gain an in-depth understanding of your field as well as gain valuable experience as a scientist or researcher. Additionally, if you are looking to open doors in academia or take on leadership roles within established organizations, a doctorate can help set you up for success.

In short, pursuing a PhD in 2023 is an opportunity that should not be overlooked! Along with giving you the credentials and expertise needed to stay ahead of the competition, a PhD is also an enriching experience that can provide you with invaluable knowledge and skills. Investing in higher education now could pay off in the long run, enabling you to become a leader in your field. So, if you’re looking for ways to pursue your dreams and maximize your career potential, then obtaining a doctorate may be the perfect choice for you.

Is Getting Your PhD Worth it Careerwise?

A PhD can be a great career choice depending on your goals and interests. It can open up many doors in academia as well as in industry, research, and consulting. A PhD provides the opportunity to develop expertise in a specialized field of study along with the skills to communicate knowledge effectively. Not only does it provide access to great job opportunities, but it also allows for more autonomy and leadership roles within organizations. However, there is no guarantee that obtaining a PhD will lead to a successful career; this depends greatly on your work ethic and dedication during your studies as well as your ability to find the right job after graduation. Therefore, whether or not getting a PhD is worth it careerwise comes down to each individual situation; it is important to consider the pros and cons before making a decision.

(Would you like to know what PhD admissions committees are looking for? Watch this quick video to find out key elements to highlight in an application)

A PhD degree opens the door to a variety of career opportunities, depending on the field of study and individual interests. In some fields, such as medicine or law, a PhD may open up opportunities for advanced research positions, teaching at the collegiate level, and consulting roles. In other fields, such as business or technology, a PhD can potentially lead to managerial roles in corporate settings. There are many other possibilities for those with doctoral degrees; from data analysis and software development in the tech industry to policymaking in government bureaucracies. No matter which field you pursue your doctoral studies in, there is likely to be an opportunity available to use your skillset in meaningful ways. The wide range of options that come with having a PhD means that you can craft your ideal career path. With the right combination of research, education, and experience, a degree can lead to a wide range of exciting possibilities.

Many people choose to pursue careers outside of academia in fields such as consulting, finance, or data analytics. A PhD can be incredibly valuable in these industries and positions, as it provides the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed. It also offers the potential for higher salaries than those without a doctorate, making it an attractive career choice for many. Additionally, having a doctorate degree may open up pathways to leadership roles that would otherwise not be available without one.

In many cases having a PhD gives job seekers an edge over other applicants because it demonstrates dedication to learning and problem-solving. Those with doctoral degrees may find themselves in high demand for roles that require analytical skills and knowledge about specialized topics. By leveraging their expertise and broad understanding of their field, individuals with doctoral degrees are often able to land competitive positions that allow them to use their skillset in innovative ways. All in all, the career opportunities available for those with doctoral degrees are vast.

As a PhD student, it is essential to be strategic and proactive to ensure that you have a wide variety of career options after graduation. It is important to gain experience and get involved with research projects or other activities related to your field of study. By doing this, you will build up your skillset and make yourself more desirable to potential employers. Additionally, networking is key — attending professional conferences, seeking out mentorships, and staying active in online forums are all great ways for PhD students to establish themselves as thought leaders in their respective fields. Finally, actively exploring job opportunities before graduation can give you an edge when it comes time for interviews and allow you to find the perfect post-graduation fit. All in all, investing the time and effort to be strategic and proactive as a PhD student is key for future success.

Is a PhD worth it financially?

A PhD can be a great financial investment, as it often opens up many new career opportunities that would not otherwise be available. In some areas, such as law and medicine, having a PhD is almost essential for certain high-level positions. However, getting a PhD requires a significant amount of time and money to complete, so it’s important to weigh the costs against the potential benefits before making a decision. Additionally, there are numerous scholarships and grants available to help pay for graduate school tuition and living expenses, which can make pursuing a PhD more cost-efficient in the long run. Ultimately, if you have the dedication to pursue your academic goals and believe in the value of furthering your education, then getting a PhD could be an excellent investment.

All in all, the decision to pursue a PhD is a personal one depending on various factors like career goals, the availability of scholarship opportunities, and the cost/benefit analysis of completing such a degree. Therefore, you need to weigh all your options before making this big commitment. Ultimately, if you are comfortable with the time and financial investment that comes with getting a PhD and have faith in its potential rewards, then the answer may be yes. However, if any part of this equation doesn’t make sense to you or seems daunting then pursuing a doctoral degree may not be worth it at this point in your life. Only you can truly decide whether getting a PhD is right for you financially.

Will a PhD Impact Your Earnings?

A PhD can lead to an impressive salary increase post-graduation. Graduate degree holders typically have higher salaries than those with just a bachelor’s degree, and this is particularly true for PhD students. The median annual salary for doctoral graduates in the U.S. was $97,000 as of 2020 according to the National Science Foundation, meaning that many PhD graduates can earn quite competitive wages. Furthermore, some highly specialized fields require a doctoral degree and employers are willing to pay top dollar for those individuals with these qualifications. A PhD can open many doors into high-paying professions and help you make a better living once you graduate. With the right combination of hard work and perseverance, earning your doctoral degree will likely result in a significant boost to your earning potential.

In addition to increased salary, PhD graduates can also look forward to more job opportunities and even better career prospects in their chosen fields. A higher level of education usually allows individuals to move up the professional ladder faster, as well as access more specialized positions that require higher degrees of expertise. Earning a doctorate is often necessary for professorships at universities, executive positions in industries with high levels of specialization (such as medical research or aerospace engineering), or other prestigious roles. Therefore, those who have completed their PhD can expect greater job security and stability post-graduation. Furthermore, having a doctoral degree often leads to more respect from colleagues and peers and can create greater networking opportunities, both professionally and personally.

What Are the Potential Drawbacks of Pursuing a PhD?

Getting a PhD is not always the right choice for everyone. If you plan to pursue a career in an industry where advanced degrees are not necessary or valued, such as marketing or advertising, then obtaining a PhD may be a waste of time and money. Additionally, if you find yourself uninterested in completing coursework, researching, or attending conferences related to your field of study, then investing in a PhD is likely not the best decision for you. Finally, it’s important to consider that getting a PhD will take years of hard work and dedication — if you’re not committed to this process from start to finish then there’s no need to invest the energy and resources into pursuing this degree. Ultimately, it’s important to consider whether getting your PhD is right for you on an individual basis.

In many cases, a master’s degree can provide the same career opportunities and benefits as a doctorate with less time and financial investment, so it’s worth considering this alternative before committing to earning a PhD. Additionally, if you’re passionate about your field of study but don’t plan on pursuing advanced research or teaching at the college level, then choosing another path may be more beneficial in the long run. In such cases, taking part in professional development programs or obtaining certifications related to your profession could be better investments of your time and money than getting a PhD.

A PhD Might Be Worth It If You Pick the Right Program

In the ever-changing job market, having a degree that opens up more than just academic opportunities is becoming increasingly important. For those considering pursuing a PhD in 2023, it is essential to research and choose programs that go beyond merely preparing students to become professors or researchers. It is also important to consider the variety of career options you may be interested in after graduation, such as positions within the industry, government policymaking roles, non-profit work, and consulting. A well-rounded PhD program should offer courses and experiences that will assist you in gaining the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in these fields. Additionally, many universities now have specific tracks designed with this kind of career advancement in mind.

Finding a PhD program that prepares you for an array of potential career paths is essential if you want to remain competitive in the job market and maximize your potential beyond academia. You should not limit yourself to choosing programs only related to research, but also consider interdisciplinary tracks and those with greater emphasis on professional skills development. Doing so will ensure that you are better equipped to explore the varied opportunities available after completing your degrees, helping you truly make the most out of your education.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, deciding whether or not to pursue a PhD is a difficult decision and only you can decide what works best for your situation. It’s important to take the time to consider the lifestyle and commitment involved, as well as the pros and cons to determine if a PhD is worth it. While there are challenges associated with working towards any higher education degree, pursuing a PhD could open doors of opportunity that wouldn’t be available with any other credential. If you’ve weighed all the pros and cons and you still feel uncertain about getting a PhD, why not check out our PhD application services? I more than a decade of experience in advising for higher degrees so I can help put those pesky thoughts at ease and give you the confidence to make the right decisions for yourself.

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Philippe spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Philippe has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on April 24, 2023.

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Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/