Doing a PhD is a lot of work (trust me, I know) and it’s often poorly understood by those who haven’t spent enough time in academic (post-graduate and beyond). That being said, there are many benefits to doing one – not least for being called “Dr so-and-so”.
Even outside of academic, having a PhD can be really valuable as a lot of skills can be transferred to other domains. This can be highly desirable in some cases.
Career aims aside, completing a PhD has many personal benefits too, and so I thought I would take the time to reflect upon my own experience as a former PhD student and list some of the benefits I’ve observed.
You become an expert in a field
This point should come as no surprise, but the whole purpose of doing a PhD involves developing a deeper understanding and knowledge of a topic at a more advanced level. In fact, so advanced to the point of becoming an expert.
The benefit of this is that you become a valuable asset in your area of research and to others in your network. This gives you the chance to fully capitalise on your skills by offering them to others.
For example, if you’re an expert in dieting and health, you could make the most of your knowledge on your skills by writing articles offering tips on how to live a healthy life to members of the public.
Develop communication skills
An important part of doing research is the ability to communicate your findings to others and, on occasion, to non-academic audiences. Being able to communicate your work to those who are not familiar with your area of research is an important skill.
By doing a PhD, you’ll find yourself doing this quite a bit. You’ll be given opportunities to develop your public speaking skills by presenting work at conferences, events and within your own research group.
Become more organised
One of my favourite things about academia is that it gives you the complete freedom to explore and test your ideas. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost of being organised.
While you’ll be working under the supervisor of a doctoral advice or “supervisor” you’ll be expected to manage your own time and how you conduct your research activities. This includes things like studying the literature, writing papers, conducting experiments and a bit of admin occasionally.
Become a better thinker
Doing a PhD taught me to become a better thinker by challenging everything I see. The ability to perform critical thinking (also called “thinking outside the box”) certainly wasn’t a skill which came naturally to me until I started my PhD.
The process of working towards the PhD involves finding gaps within the literature as you, the PhD student, attempt to fill that gap. This involves knowing your area of research in great detail and finding areas where there is a lack of knowledge.
Become a better writer
Not only do you become a better thinker, but also a better writer. As a PhD student, you will be expected to produce a thesis and publish papers of your findings.
Again, much like thinking, developing good quality writing takes time and I never really got the chance to refine this craft until I started the PhD. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m still learning! I am by no means an expert at this.
Personal growth and development
The blunt reality is, doing a PhD is hard and involves a massive learning curve! I remember being told that if it were so easy, more people would have PhD’s.
That being said, on a personal note, completing a PhD has given me the chance to explore myself at a far greater level. I have learnt far more about myself in the five years it took to complete my PhD than all my life in full-time education.
The PhD gave me renewed sense of wonder and natural curiosity. It also gave me the confidence to think and act as an independent researcher. I certainly got loads out of it.