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I am having trouble getting along with my Principal Investigator and have not produced many publications. Is it worth it for me to finish my PhD degree?  

 

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jen
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January 2, 2019 9:48 pm  

I am having trouble getting along with my Principal Investigator and have not produced many publications. Is it worth it for me to finish my PhD degree?


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Dave Jensen
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January 2, 2019 9:58 pm  

Everyone goes through some difficult periods during graduate school, and some people experience many such episodes. Long hours, difficult research, and isolation are typical. This is also a time when friends from college often begin to earn significant incomes, to have more free time, and to start families, all of which may seem out of reach during graduate school. You’ll know someone with a BS in Business, or your parents will point him or her out, and they’ve taken up a role as a stockbroker or financial advisor and they are raking it in. You’ll always hear about this stuff.

But finishing your degree will be important if you plan any kind of academic career. In addition, there is also considerable value to the PhD degree beyond the traditional academic track. It is important to weigh how much additional effort will be required to complete the degree against the costs of that effort, whether in terms of frustration or financial impact.

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Jen
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January 3, 2019 3:36 pm  

Dave’s comments are great, but you may also need to consider leaving the lab you are in.

 

It may be possible to find a position at another lab or even another institution if the damage is irreversible. Some people advise that you should give your situation at least a few months of serious thought before making this kind of move. But, if things don't turn around, staying longer may mean that that you will eventually need to account for a greater period of poor productivity. If you decide to leave before spending years in a frustrating position, it may then be easier to explain to a future employer that the position did not work out from the start.

Success in any career is just doing something that you genuinely enjoy and being able to have a good life supported by that passion. Keep that in mind and this will enable you to deal with the inevitable setbacks that affect everyone as your career progresses. Also keep in mind that your career path will likely evolve over time. Opportunities will change, the environment will change, your interests will change. If you start with a base of something you enjoy doing, you can continue to build successfully on top of that.

From a financial perspective, leaving early with an MS degree and finding a job might mean an extra two to four years of income. However, in some disciplines individuals who have PhD degrees are paid much more than those who have only earned MS degrees. Perhaps the biggest decision is whether your love of science will hold up for the additional years it would take to do the PhD.


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