Congratulations to the winners of last month’s Answer an Undergrad contest:
Jackie F. asks, “I hear some PhD students make less money than a Masters degree. Why are you crazy enough to want your PhD?
The simple answer is that pursuing a PhD is not about the money you may earn when you are done. A PhD is a considerable investment of time, energy, and, believe it or not, emotions. If you are considering pursuing a PhD because you believe it will make you more money then I would strongly recommend you against it. People choose to pursue a PhD (or at least they should) because they are passionate about the subject that they study. They love their subject enough to spend several years thinking about it most of the day, every day. They get a PhD so they will have the skills and knowledge necessary to significantly advance the field that they work in because they believe it is critically important.
I do it for the glamour! It’s all about the daily struggle… where can I eat lunch for $5 and not gain the equivalent in pounds, or how bout if that sweater has been washed recently… or better yet, does anyone know where my glasses are or what day it is? Not sounding like the adventure of a lifetime yet? How about if I said I spent two years gaining international travel experiences paid for by someone else, made connections with students across the globe, and developed a true multidisciplinary background? Because that my friend, the latter half, made the unique struggles for personal motivation and living on a 1/3 of the income I used to make, all worth it. I seek to attain a new level of mastery in my communication skills, pedagogy, andragogy, and overall growth as an educator and mentor of others. The PhD is about “acting on the want” for expertise to support your endeavors, regardless the paycheck attached.
I’m going to assume that you’re trying to say that you’ve heard that some people who hold PhD’s make less money than some people who hold Master’s degrees. Master’s degrees, after all, don’t earn money. Mine hardly even lifts a finger to answer my emails, so I’m pretty sure other people’s Master’s degrees are just as lazy (or don’t have fingers. or brains. or the ability to work because they are just pieces of paper).
But guess what! Some people with GED’s (or even no high school equivalency at all) earn more than some people with Bachelor’s degrees. So what the heck are you doing here wasting your parents’ money and/or getting yourself into debt when you could be in Costco middle management by now or developing iPhone apps? Huh? Are you crazy!?!
But you know what? I have a secret, Jackie: for some of us (maybe even you), it’s not about the money! A shocker in this capitalist paradise/living nightmare of a country we thrive in, I know, but the real answer lies in the field you are talking about and our individual goals.
Some of us need PhDs to pursue the kind of work we want to do (earning full professorship at a university, for instance, or opening your own counseling practice as a psychologist). Some of us want the pleasure of knowing we’ve met our life’s goal. Yes.
And some of us have realized at the ripe old age of 23 (or 33. or 43. or 53.) that it’s about the journey, not the destination. And of all the things other people can take from you in life – your belongings, your jobs, your money, your dignity, even your children – one thing they can never take, no matter what, is your education.
Whatever our reasons, they are probably not any crazier than your being here to earn a Bachelor’s degree that may or may not get you into the job you want, or even if the field you want, and may or may not help negotiate the salary you want.
Good luck in your future endeavors, Jackie. The crazier the better.