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PhD's in the Industry? 86

Posted by Cliff
from the career-aspectations-for-doctorates dept.
Taylor Flagg asks: "I'm about to finish up with my bachelor's in Computer Science, and am looking into graduate school options. My advisor is persuading me to go right into the PhD program but I know I don't want to be stuck lecturing for the rest of my life. Are companies in the industry hiring PhDs, and if so, what are their roles and is anything different expected of them (aside from making more cash)?"
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PhD's in the Industry?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @11:27PM (#10466702)
    Are you wanting an academic job? If so, get the PhD in Computer Science.

    For a career in industry, either start working now, or get a PhD in another area.

    It worked for me... (PhD in Mathematics, professional programmer for 8 years now).

    • For most newcomers to the world of IT, who want to be on the fast-track, without rushing yourself too much, I'd recommend a plan like this:
      Get your BSCS, BSEE, or whatever. While in college, try to gain as much knowledge and as many internships and "odd computer jobs" as possible. Spend a lot of time in the library, gaining as much depth and breadth as you can in your field. Write database-driven Linux-based web code for fun and profit. If you're single, you probably have an enormous amount of time a
    • I started with a BSEE then got a Ph.D. in Physiology because I was interested in Biomedical Engineering. I did 3 years of a post-doctoral research at Harvard and Columbia and then did the academic thing for 7 years. During all that time I did a fair amount of software development for my research. When I had it up to my earlobes in academic and medical school crap, I tried various stints as a programmer, finally getting some good positions doing S/W development work. My first one outside of academia was
    • Taylor Flagg, are you interested in doing exciting, cutting edge stuff? There are people like Ted Nelson [c2.com], and Larry Wall [c2.com], who don't any have formal training in Computer Science. But, when you look at the ranks of those who have done noteworthy, interesting things don't you find a disproportionate number have PhDs? So, they are good for something.

      A generation ago, when I was an undergrad, the Computer Science department at my University was sufficiently pressed finding PhDs that other departments within

    • Actually, a Ph.D. in computer science does not and should not restrict you to academics. Yes, it is true that you might be more inclined to to "academic work", but there are companies that value the Ph.D. for industry work. You might be surprised to know how many graduate degrees (masters and doctorates) there are at companies like Adobe, Apple, Motorola, IBM, Intel and yes, even Microsoft.

      On top of all that, you can really clean up with a Ph.D. in computer science. Even the post-docs in our computer sc
  • here... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hookedup (630460) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @11:40PM (#10466777)
    • It's funny that everyone points to Google as the place to go if you want to put a newly-acquired PhD to use. Looking through their pages, I don't see a very large number of jobs which need a PhD, and none of those are research-related.

      At the same time, I know that Google has a large number of PhDs doing research; where does it acquire them? Is there a secret jobs-for-really-smart-people page somewhere on their web site?
      • I know that Google has a large number of PhDs doing research; where does it acquire them?

        They do one of two things: they either ask around and find someone who knows someone, or they hire a headhunter. I doubt they'd actually post a job req for that sort of thing.

      • From what I've seen, look around at a few billboard signs posted in various areas.

        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?sto ry Id=3916173

        Nice new job recruiting strategy.
        • look around at a few billboard signs posted in various areas ... Nice new job recruiting strategy

          I'm not sure that I believe that. It really looks more to me like a publicity stunt.

          Any time they throw one of these billboards up, people jump all over the problems and the answers get posted all over the web. The people who end up responding to these are predominantly not smart people who solved them independently; rather, they are lucky people who happen to be traversing the right forums when the solutio
  • You'd be surprised (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yorgasor (109984) <ron AT tritechs DOT net> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @11:44PM (#10466798) Homepage
    I've been searching for a job since I got laid off in June. I've seen quite a large number of PHD jobs go by, mostly from big companies like IBM and Intel. What's expected of them varies from job to job, but they want them for the really important jobs. And yes, they get paid what they're worth.
    • by Dalcius (587481)
      Is it not also true that folks with higher level degrees tend to be put into more focused positions like research or management?

      It's been my perception that higher level degree folks go to the big companies. The jobs there are more focused and the large companies can pay the large paychecks and give good benefits. To be honest, you can keep them.

      I personally love the small company I work for. Great people, awesome environment, lots of room for career development where you can do what you want instead o
      • Is it not also true that folks with higher level degrees tend to be put into more focused positions like research or management?

        Probably depends on the size of the company. I work for a corporation that has thousands of employees. I have an MS in software, about 4 of my co-workers have PhDs (though not in CS/software engineering) and I'm slightly senior to them. Now we do have research departments that are highly populated by (mostly biochemistry) PhDs, but in the SW dept, there isn't a lot of differenti

  • phd vs CCIE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mnmn (145599) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @11:52PM (#10466866) Homepage
    I saw a thread of this name and most people recommended the CCIE. Now I dont know if you are talking about IT or not, but I also dont know if you love research.

    I love research. I could play with hilbert spaces and QED all day, even if that requires putting up with the odd lecture. But I know for more $$$ I'd aim for the CCIE if heading for IT, or EE if heading out in Physics.

    I can think of many places where a CS PhD will be useful but those markets are small. Think of the data scientists at CERN, raking in the data using rooms and rooms of server farms, obtaining data at terabytes per second, and processing it in real time. For that stuff, you need CCIEs, CS PhDs and Math PhDs. Also at places like Google I'd imaging.

    Not at your run of the mill IT house, or corp that needs an IT dept though.
    • Re:phd vs CCIE (Score:3, Insightful)

      by macz (797860)
      I think that the comparison between a PhD and a CCIE is like comparing a GED to an MBA. The two are ostensibly related in that they are both acronyms, and there are requirements to obtaining them as a suffix to your last name, but that is about it.

      But I have known some worthless PhD's and some pretty smart Cisco Guys, so maybe the comparison is apt.

      I just have a bachelor's, these thoughts are way above my pay grade...

      • Re:phd vs CCIE (Score:3, Informative)

        by mnmn (145599)

        Consider the amount of time and effort required to get a doctorate versus a properly earned CCIE. Theyre about the same.

        Sure, this being IT, youll find 20 year olds with the CCIE, just as youll find 14 year olds with the MCSE, but the PhD needs you to go through the course of time. Youre right about the dumb PhDs and smart cisco guys too.

        The thing is, cisco has really been jacking up the difficulty of their certs increasing their value, and in the market, geeks truly obsessed in their own fields head more
        • Well, I don't understand your last paragraph fully: A doctorate is actually required to know his field in a lot of detail - depth, not breadth.

          But I guess, you were referring to: PhD - many disciplines (and specialize in one), CCIE - already specific to one discipline?
  • (God help me, management hat on)
    First off, you will probably expect higher compensation than someone fresh out of school. When I look at what you will be asking for starting salary, you will be competing with some fairly seasoned veterans out there. I'll very quickly go on to your real world experience - and compare that to someone who has been doing this for many years. You don't stand much of a chance.

    Secondly, I'll have a strong suspicion that you will probably move on to another gig once you do get that real world experience under your belt. It costs a fair bit to ramp up a new employee. Again, I suspect the extra years of groveling on a pittance of a salary will leave you expecting a big payout.

    Lastly, I'll wonder if you can really do the work. Even if your graduate work truly was world-class stuff, it will be hard to get past the 'it was only in school / hobby' status.

    There are exceptions out there... some shops are very focused on the sciences, and a PhD would be considered the norm. These places tend to be the exception rather than the rule. I have worked in shops where they would specifically target physics post grads because they would be *happy* to work for half of what others expect. Not saying it is right...
    • so...
      what "shops" are these (so that I can avoid 'em)?
      • Most shops avoid hireing fresh PhDs unless they really need them. Everything (H)elix1 wrote is basically true. The fear of an overqualified employee leaving is a valid concern. It is an employers market right now, so employers can be selective.

        In contrast many employers appreciate an employee who earns a PhD while on the job. Part time graduate work is quite common. Even the few R&D shops that really appreciate PhDs seem to prefer PhDs earned while on the job over fresh PhDs.

    • by Brandybuck (704397) on Friday October 08, 2004 @12:24AM (#10467072) Homepage Journal
      There are exceptions out there? some shops are very focused on the sciences, and a PhD would be considered the norm.

      That's the key right there. If you've got a PhD, don't go applying for web development or desktop administration. On the other hand, my company is hiring PhDs right now to program digital signal processing. We make embedded medical imaging systems, and we've even hired MDs to do SQA testing! My immediate boss has a PhD from Brown. With only a bachelors degree, and a bachelor of *arts* at that, I feel like the dumb guy at my job.
    • Lastly, I'll wonder if you can really do the work.

      If you aren't asking the applicant to actually do some of the same type of work in the interview that they'd do on the job, you are wasting everyone's time.

      Please tell me you have something more than "So... I see that ... you worked at Acme, Inc ... for 2 years ... Do you know... HTML? ... Hmmm... where do you see yourself in five years? ... What is your greatest weakness? ... (etc)"

    • by merdark (550117) on Friday October 08, 2004 @01:32AM (#10467375)
      Whoa! Don't listen to this guy. It's obvious that he hasn't the first clue as to what it takes to get a PhD at a good school in a difficult feild such as computer science or mathematics.

      PhDs are definately hired, but usually right into a management position. Also, you will end up looking at different type of jobs, usually research related rather than simple a progammer or similar.

      Only hiring PhDs:
      http://www.research.att.com/areas/stat/rese arch/jo b.html

      Again, mostly PhDs only:
      http://domino.research.ibm.com/hr/research/ resumes .nsf/USAindex.html?Open&count=2000

      Note the mention of 'postdoctoral-researcher' at the bottom of each job description:
      http://research.microsoft.com/aboutm sr/jobs/fullti me_positions.aspx

      Again, *requiring* PhDs:
      http://www.caprion.com/content/careers/bioi nformat ics.html

      And I could go on and on. Basically you will be looking at totally different types of jobs. Jobs that the parent can't even get! And yes, they will pay you well. But no, you can't get a job doing basic programming easily. You are over qualified.
      • I agree with But no, you can't get a job doing basic programming easily. You are over qualified. But would add it may be difficult to get initial advanced programming job. You may be underqualified. The problem is there is a perception of a large gap between the two. I'm also willing to bet someone just finishing a Csci degree goal was not to be management.

        Perhaps I sound a bit bitter, because I am... I was a bioinformaticist, who slowly devolved to a soulless code whore (and then worse) when the money
  • Something Good (Score:5, Informative)

    by XsynackX (775111) on Friday October 08, 2004 @12:02AM (#10466935)
    After reading this post, I went on the Google to check for some reasons on why to get a CS PhD. I came across a really nice article you might like called A Graduate School Survival Guide [unc.edu].

    It's by a guy who got his doctorate and he discusses reasons to do so or not to do so. Hope it helps!

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday October 08, 2004 @12:09AM (#10466989) Homepage
    A good rule of thumb is that you should only do a PhD if you think you'll enjoy the PhD process for its own sake: working for several years on a really hard problem that nobody else has ever been able to solve. A PhD typically takes 4 to 9 years. (4-5 years is typical in the humanities, where grad students are a financial liability to their departments. 5-7 is more typical for people in the sciences whose research goes well, and 7-9 for people in the sciences who find out that their first project simply didn't work.) You can't possibly justify 4-9 years of extremely hard work on the basis of the (non-academic) job it'll get you, or the increased earning potential. If all you wanted was a fancy job with a high salary, you'd be much better off putting the 4-9 years of extremely intense effort into a job.
    • "If all you wanted was a fancy job with a high salary, you'd be much better off putting the 4-9 years of extremely intense effort into a job."

      That assumes that working extremely hard on a job will earn you a higher salary than those that don't work quite so hard. There's no guarantee of that. Bad luck, office politics, or economic conditions can have you back on the street no matter how hard you work.

      At least with a degree you basically understand what the requirements are and if you achieve them you'll g
    • TAN: In some humanities departments, graduate students are a financial liability. In English departments, however, they teach all the required composition classes for freshmen, at much lower cost than a full-time or even adjunct faculty.
  • If you're eventual plan is to go into industry, just do that now. After a few years, re-evaluate whether or not you want to go back to academia and for what purpose.

    My experience with academics is that they are generally very disconnected from reality. During my undergrad (97-01), most every major software development project was an interpretter or a compiler for some simple language. During the peak of the internet boom, we didn't even have a class on web development. I'm not sure if we have one gea
    • The end result is that we crank out hundreds of graduates who only have experience working with C++ (and a week or two of lisp plus a quarter with a few assembler labs) and we call them software developers.

      That's your fault then. You should call them Computer Scientists not software developers. Computer Science is the theoretical aspect of computers such as classifying languages, developing new paradigms, and developing more theories. Computer Science is not meant for "practical" usage. If you want someon

      • I can appreciate the fact that a computer science degree is not supposed to produce a software developer or a system administrator. The problem is that at my university (Ohio State), we only have one big Computer Science program and everyone who wants to be a software developer or a system administrator goes through this program. Very few people in the program actually want to be computer scientists, a fact recognized by faculty.

        The numero uno objective of the computer science program at Ohio State i
        • Do not speak ill of "fortran 77". It is a great tool when used for its intended purposes. For example, I am preparing to use zipper [washington.edu] to help create graphics for my upcoming talk. Another tool is PLTMG [ucsd.edu]. These are both written in Fortran. (Of course, Surface Evolver [susqu.edu] is also a great program.)
    • I completely agree. I graduated from Edinburgh Uni in the UK with a BEng in Software Engineering 2002. I then went on to do an MSc in Cognitive Science and Natural Language (seemed like a good idea at the time...). It really piqued my interest in research, some of the stuff I was doing was particularly cool. I didn't do it to develop my career, just to keep my mind active while I sorted out what I wanted to do. Now I know i want to go into research....just have to pay off those annoying student debts (
  • Get it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Friday October 08, 2004 @12:11AM (#10467001) Homepage
    "in the day" you only had to know your subject to get a job. Than it took at least a HS diploma. Then after the Dot Com Bust, you had to have a BS. But, for the really satisfying and interesting jobs that both pay well and allow you to stretch your mind, yes, you need a PhD. You do not have to "lecture" just because you have a PhD, though you may need to lecture to GET a PhD. Look at Google, they seem only to hire PhDs. But they are not the only fish in the sea. Get it.
    • But, for the really satisfying and interesting jobs that both pay well and allow you to stretch your mind, yes, you need a PhD.

      I would argue that you are expressing a very strong bias on multiple points here. What do you consider satisfying and interesting? Personally, I derive satisfaction in pursuing a breadth of knowledge, not just in different computer related topics like administration and development, but in areas like design, business, marketting, and relationships. Many small businesses allow
      • Someone with a PhD spends much more time focused in a particular area

        Yes and no. The other thing to say about getting a PhD is that it is an indication to any potential employer that you are both intelligent and also able to follow through on a project. This is also why companies also require a BS: The ability to meet standards and follow through. Is this concept always right? No. But, you have a lot better chance of finding an intelligent employee if they have a BS or MS or PhD, it shows they are directe

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Friday October 08, 2004 @12:16AM (#10467034) Homepage Journal
    Companies love to get highly qualified people. Provided they don't have to pay too much for them. However, companies prefer to pay as little as possible to get the job done. This is one reason outsourcing is so popular - they can find people just as skilled in countries where the average pay is less. It's also why younger people are preferred over experienced people - younger people have less earning power.


    Companies also don't like people who are likely to move to a competitor or who might become a competitor. That is threatening - and I can understand why. As a result, people who are "too smart" can get left on the shelf, because they are perceived as being a danger to those who might hire them.


    Related to this is an atmosphere of companies not wanting to hire someone who is "over-qualified". Such people are seen as likely to move on at the first opportunity, wasting the company's investment in training them to do the job they were hired for.


    Those are the negatives, but as I mentioned right at the start, there are positives. An experienced and well-educated employee can be trusted to do the job right. That's one reason certifications are popular. They "prove" (in theory, anyway) that the person is competent.


    A skilled employee, especially in an R&D division, may very well generate revenue by producing cheaper, quicker, easier processes. They're also a primary source of "Intellectual Property" and patents. Given the choice, companies prefer to make money than to give it to one of their rivals.


    PhDs are also relatively rare. The value of the degree, as a degree, is relatively small. But its uniqueness draws attention. That makes it a very powerful tool, when you've a saturated job market. Being seen, when you've a few thousand people vying for the same job, is critical if you are to get even to the stage of an interview.


    Finally, although "academia" is relatively poorly paid (fools that Governments are), academics are valued in industry, where the money is much more forthcoming. Why? Because academics can give a project much more credibility. A company is expected to spout bullshit and offer vaporware. An academic, especially from places like Harvard or MIT (in the US, Oxford or Cambridge for the UK) is expected to be honest - or, at least, more so. As such, it is not unusual for projects that might raise eyebrows with shareholders or consumers to be carried out by Universities, sponsored in the background by the companies who actually want the work done.


    Conclusion? A PhD is a gamble. If it pays off, it'll pay off extremely well and you'll not be short of cash. If it doesn't, then it's cost you a lot of money that you might never earn back. But there's only one way to find out, and that's to give it a try.

  • Get a Ph.D. if... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oddman (204968) on Friday October 08, 2004 @12:45AM (#10467198)
    Get a PhD. if you love your field. The process is very demanding in just about every way there is to be demanding. You get paid next to nothing, you teach only the course professors don't want to teach and the work is considerably more difficult than anything else you've done in school by orders of magnitude.

    Even in a field like mine, Philosophy, where a PhD. is required just to get interviewed for a position getting the degree is incredibly difficult and often tedious. In a field where you can get a good job without one there is little incentive to get a PhD. beyond personal desire.

    Succinctly, if someone where to ask you, "Why are you in the doctoral program?" Your first answer should be, "Because I can't imagine myself doing anything else." If that isn't your first answer then you should probably do something else.
    • Right. I can't help feeling that getting a PhD in order to get a job is completely the wrong way around. For me, getting a PhD is part of the process of avoiding getting a job...
  • by Screaming Lunatic (526975) on Friday October 08, 2004 @01:02AM (#10467266) Homepage
    When I finished my undergrad, looking back at my high school education, it seemed trivial in comparison. Now that I have a couple years in industry, looking back at my undergrad, it seems trivial in comparison. That's assuming one takes on a challenging job in industry.

    Even comparing 1st year with 4th year. In 1st year, we would go through 1 chapter of a textbook a month. In 4th year, it was about 1 chapter per week. These days, I try to get through 1 technical book a month and 1 non-technical book a month. That's on top of the 50 hour work weeks that I put in.

    It's just a whole different ball game. If you continuely challenge yourself, you will adapt.

    Btw, this is not a knock against academia. Do what you love. Do what challenges you. If that happens to be academia, go with academia.

  • by Jerf (17166) on Friday October 08, 2004 @01:19AM (#10467329) Journal
    I got my Masters degree in computer science because I read the course descriptions and said "I gotta have some of that."

    If you aren't drooling over those courses like I was, I can't recommend post-grad work at all.

    If you also don't know you want that PhD, but you are drooling over the course descriptions, consider a Masters. My institution offered a course-only Masters program, and I took that, because I looked around and I thought the Masters projects were a joke, and I figured I was better off working on my own. Can't say if I was right yet but it has at least been fun.
    • Heh, well PhD's tend to only take courses their first 2 or so years. After that, they tend to focus soley on research(and possibly teaching, depending on what type of funding you geT)
    • I got my Masters degree in computer science because I read the course descriptions and said "I gotta have some of that."

      [Jumping up and down] Me too!! me too!!

      Substitute "Software Engineering" for "computer Science" and you'd have the same thought that sent me off to grad school.

      It wasn't a means to an end, it was the means itself that interested me. Now that I completed my degree, it's nice that my employer recognized it by giving me a raise & a promotion (I think it was at least in part due to t

  • It beats spending six months after graduation wondering why employers never call you back. In the current market, you should probably consider the idea of starting your own company seriously. If you think a PhD will help you on that track, by all means.

    It also depends on the nature of what you'll be doing in the program. Software engineers vs Computer Scientists. Very few companies need the kind of expertise a PhD provides in CS. You should probably be looking for who they are. Essentially, you'd be workin
  • by GreatDrok (684119) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:14AM (#10467519) Journal
    First off, let me say that I have a PhD. However, I didn't do it straight out of my BSc, I took a couple of years out, did an MSc, took a couple more years and then did my PhD. Even then I was only persuaded to do the PhD because it was clear I was suited to it, something I didn't know when I did my BSc. I think too many people go straight into a PhD from their undergraduate work and these people can often struggle. I have seen a number of students who did well at their BSc but who didn't fit into the PhD style of work.

    Is it worth having a PhD? I did mine because I was told by someone I respected that if I didn't do it then I would always be someone's assistant rather than ever get to lead my own research. This is true within academia but is less true in the commercial world. If anything, a PhD can make you less employable because you may be seen as too expensive, too 'brainy' or too much of a threat to the higher ups. If you think about getting into management the MBA people are likely to look down on you as a PhD because they will think you are far too interested in research and less interested in making money. This is a sweeping statement I know but it does come from my personal experience.

    So, a PhD is hard work, the effect on your pay and job prospects is likely to be minimal unless you want to stay in academia, and people who don't have one will consider you a threat and you may have to hide the fact that you have it. IMHO.
    • How'd you work the BS->couple years->MS sequence? I've considered doing the same thing, but I'm worried that I'm too far gone from undergrad and won't be able to get the requisite academic reference letters. (that and I was rather quiet at the time)
      • How'd you work the BS->couple years->MS sequence? I've considered doing the same thing, but I'm worried that I'm too far gone from undergrad and won't be able to get the requisite academic reference letters. (that and I was rather quiet at the time)

        When I finished my BSc I had no idea what I wanted to do. The field I was in was in serious decline rather suddenly so I ended up drifting about trying various jobs. I hadn't done well enough at my BSc to qualify for a grant to go onto postgraduate wor

  • My advice (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Get some input from recent PhD grads who are now working in industry, and some who have been in the industry for several years. Contact the school that you are looking to study at and ask them for contact information for some of their recent grads. Most schools will also have overall statistics about where their PhD grads have gone and what they are doing. I would think that the ACM would have some data as well, but I am not sure that they do. Most Slashdotters are not going to be in a very good position to
  • If you want to get a PhD level job that uses your chem PhD, then try a pharmaceutical job - the best spot for those is to move to New Jersey, wherealmost ALL the major pharm companies are. I think that you can get a job around 60-100k with that.

    If you're better qualified for another aspect of chemistry, like photo chem, plastics or inorganic - then I don't know. You should be able to do OK
    You are not limited to academia with a chem PhD - it's VERY hireable.

    • If you want to get a PhD level job that uses your chem PhD, then try a pharmaceutical job - the best spot for those is to move to New Jersey, wherealmost ALL the major pharm companies are.

      Geez, that's depressing if you're a chem major. The best they can hope for is to live in New Jersey, the armpit of the country? That really sucks.
  • I graduated in 2001 and I decided to stay for my MS. After 1 year, I had the almost the same discussion with my advisor if I should get a PhD or start looking for a job. If I wanted a PhD, I was going to do a thesis and I also needed to start writing papers or I could just take more courses and finish my Masters without a thesis. He asked what I really liked doing...did I like doing research in lab, do I find myself reading textbooks and papers becuase the subjects were so interesting. The answer for
  • The NSA has the highest concentration of PhD's anywhere in the world, and they're hiring in droves over the next 5 years (10K openings). Also, each branch has a Research Lab, and the DoD itself has labs. That's just the DoD, there are a lot of other gov't institutions (DoE, etc) that need to hire smart Americans who can also get cleared.
    • Friend of mine was contacted by the CIA just prior to getting his PhD. He would be the lead in some obscure segment of (at the time) of Cold War intel.

      His thoughts:
      "Working for those guys...you can be the absolute best in the world in what you do, but you can never tell anyone about it."
      The NSA would be the same.

      He passed.

  • Ms or PhD? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by den_erpel (140080) on Friday October 08, 2004 @08:19AM (#10468620) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me that the situatin is a bit different in North America, in Europe, you need a Masters' in order to do a Ph.D. (It's actually a bit more complicated than that, but with the reform, it should be this simple from now on).

    Even if you want to stay at the university, you have to consider that a lot has to do with politics and the chance if you get a professorship depends on this.

    I would think you need to do a Ms before starting on a Ph.D., just to get the 'practical' and 'theoretical' background required.

    You have to consider that, once you have a Ph.D., the expectations in industry are also larger: if you just want to 'score', go right to industry; if you like a challenge, get the degree (challenge 1) and next fulfill the high expectations of your employers... (challenge 2..n).

    And most importantly, don't do it for the money (in any case): do it because you are interested in the field and have a passion for it; you like to dig into a problem where little is known of and you don't get to sleep easily unless you figured out the problem... If you have this, you will not mind the pushing around that much and still love what you are doing and work with collegues with the same passion.
    • There are plenty of schools that require an MS to get a PhD - most of those that don't require you to do coursework 'equivalent' to the MS (followed by a compentancy test) before you can officially move on to the actual PhD work.
  • It is about doing research. I am in a PhD program atm. The reason I am is my drive to learn and build things that no one else has done before.

    There are plenty of jobs outside of academia if/when you want to leave (speaking of PhDs from physics/math/CS ie technical fields)
  • Go for the PhD but get your Masters along the way. The MS will help you get a good, well-paying job, and decent job security. The PhD will get you challenging, enjoyable, and ground-breaking assignments (not to mention respect) in that job. But of course that depends on what kind of company you work for. Does the company do ground-breaking work? or are they just making more pop-up blocker software?
  • If you plan on being technical at all in your job, get a Masters, but not a PhD. I have a Masters in Computer Science, and I get plenty of respect. However, anybody with a PhD gets treated like they can't handle the simplest of technical tasks, and for the most part, it's true. They sit around and write documents that are of no use to technical people and spout off ideas that never work in practice. The PhDs that can handle technical stuff try to keep people from finding out that they're doctors. (Yes, this
    • I want to second the parent poster's suggestion to get your Masters right after you get your Bachelors. I am currently working full time and trying to get my Masters in CS part time at night.

      If you try to go part time, your school options will be very limited. Luckily for me there's a local university with a decent CS program, so I can continue to work and pay the bills while I'm trying to further my education. There's no way I could afford to quit my job and go back to school full time.

      Also, I could b
  • by neep (160155)
    I'm not a PhD, but I did get the opportunity to help recruit for a Fortune 500 company for several years. We had a number of PhD grads talk to us, and not one made it past the screening interview, because their interests didn't match our needs. PhD's gave the impression of desire in research and more esoteric computing activities - very valid, but not what most companies need. Combine that with the fact that most wanted more money than their backgrounds appeared to merit, and it was no-go. Most companie
  • Do what you want to do. A Ph. D is for someone who wants to pursue research in a field. Don't commit to 3+ years of study at any university just because your prof thinks it may be a good thing to do. If you don't have the interest/aptitude for research, you should not be getting into it. As for the industry, let the examples speak: Google hires Ph. Ds Apple hirese Ph. Ds NVidia hires Ph. Ds (There would be more, but I'm not your google assistant) OSK
  • PHDs specially today are playing vital part in development of systems that are goin to be the future be it networking or real time systems. However, people who do PHD chooses academics so that they can find time for their respected research and to really focus on it!! I think if you have an aptitude to study and like to work on lots of hardware you should opt for PHD as it will definately help u stand out in a queue. As according to the current trends that i see There is lots and lots of work to be undert
  • Are top-heavy with PhDs. Companies like that might hire over-educated people for the immediately available positions in hopes the extra smarts pay off later on.
    On the other hand you'll find some companies that wont take a chance with a PhD because they think a PhD wants too much money or feel certain types of work are beneath them.
  • Apostrophes are NEVER ever used to denote plurals! Common examples of such abuse (all seen in real life!) are:
    • Banana's for sale which of course should read Bananas for sale
    • Menu's printed to order which should read Menus printed to order
    • MOT's at this garage which should read MOTs at this garage
    • 1000's of bargains here! which should read 1000s of bargains here!
    • New CD's just in! which should read New CDs just in!
    • Buy your Xmas tree's here! which should read Buy your Xmas trees here!

    See: http://www.craz [crazycolour.com]

  • If you're primarily concerned with being employable, there's not much point in spending the extra 2yr as a PhD. For 98% of positions, there's very little practical difference between a PhD and an MS (the only place it makes a difference is if you want somebody with very specialized knowlege of a specific area of the discipline) and for most of those jobs, there's not much of a pay difference between the two. Don't get a PhD for the money - you'll be disappointed.
  • I have a 1983 Ph.D. in computer science, and I'm now a "software architect" working at a startup. First, I agree with many other posts stating that a Ph.D. is the long and uphill path to a good job in software development.

    If your ultimate goal is to write software for a living, but you don't like doing independent research (reading books and journals, pencil & paper research, writing and publishing your research), don't do a Ph.D. You'll be miserable doing it, and if you manage to get through, which is
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Simple math demonstrates that most PhD's don't go onto a teaching-style academic position. People in said positions have students under them, and tend to graduate at least one new PhD every year or two. That's Fibbonaci growth--we'd be overrun with PhD's if that were the case. The majority go into industry.

    The result of getting a PhD is two-fold: it teaches you to think/do totally orginal things on your own, and teaches you to focus on one small problem. Those two qualities are universally useful, but

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