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Over the years this channel has inspired a lot of people to think about doing PhDs. It’s time to change that.

Of course, this title is a touch hyperbolic, but it’s also an accurate (albeit negative) summary of the video. There are lots of reasons to not do a PhD, and doing one is really, really hard. Do not apply for a PhD if you want to earn lots of money, or want an easy continuation of university, or a cushy job, or even if you want to call yourself a professor one day. The only reason you should apply for a PhD is because you love doing something specific academically, and want to do that all day for three years. It’s that simple.

Something which didn’t come across too well in the final edit is that the point of the PhD then isn’t to become an academic, or do anything for that matter, other than what you are passionate about. When you finish your thesis and submit your research to the wider world, your contract with society is up – having returned on their investment – and you decide what you’re going to do next.

Lots of people decide to stay in academia because at the end of the PhD they still value doing the thing that they love more than they value lots of money or an easy life. Being an academic allows them to continue with what they’re passionate about. But plenty of people leave academia after graduation because their priorities change over the course of the project, or discover something new that they’re passionate about. My PhD afforded me opportunities to pursue my video making interest, and got me to the point where it was feasible for me to pursue it full time – which I did after graduation, because I valued doing that more than anything else. I’m one of a vast number of PhD exits, because there is no one ‘right’ thing to use a PhD for!

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Music by ProleteR

Filmed on my Canon 80D:
Editing done in Premiere and Audition.

Huge thanks to my supporters on Patreon: Dan Hanvey, David Efird, Charles Bray, Elliot Conway, Syafiq Kay, Xavier Chesterfield, Jay Wright, Myles Kornfeld, Louis Gillet, Michael Phillips, Neudys Almonte, Fraser Birks, Martin Hermes, Anh Duong, Luca Schumann, Rhys Rickard-Frost, Cameron Matchett, Lachlan Woods, Tim Boxall, Simon Vaes, Gabriele Mozzicato, Jawad Alalasi, Gaia Frazao Nery, Kodzo, Josh Ruby, Claire Anthony, Eve Dillon, Rowan Gow, Matthias Loos, James Bridges, James Craig, Angela, Sanaa Al Derei, Mark Anthony Magro, Liam, Theresa Wang, Kieran Kelly, Wendover Productions, Kendra Johnson, Caitlin Louise.

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Thanks to Vlogbrothers for their sponsorship of this video. Money from the Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck contributed to equipment used in this video.

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23 Comments

  1. Simon Clark Reply

    Something which didn't come across terribly clearly:
    People do end up getting money and prestige and power with PhDs, but the point I'm making in this video is that people who make it through PhDs are the people who didn't apply to get those things. They applied for the thing they would be doing during the PhD. Also I don't mean to romanticise what it's like to do a PhD or be a researcher. As I tried to impress at the start, doing a PhD is a colossal grind, and passion alone isn't enough. You need to have grit and determination, and a romantic notion of passion overcoming all is unrealistic. So perhaps a more realistic conclusion for this video is apply if you are passionate AND you are ready to do a whole lot of hard work. More depressing still, yay!

  2. FGB Enquiries Reply

    I'm still awaiting the ROI from my Master's 2 yrs ago, working in admin, £19K a year.

  3. scirpus 123 Reply

    I have a Ph.D in a stem subject and if I had the chance would I still bother? – hell no.
    My Supervisor was a complete asshole – every one of his students got out of academia as soon as they finished – he sucked out all the passion for the subject from each and every one of us.

  4. i don't know how to say this so I'll just say chapstick…the girl/care in me wants to help but i can't cause its a comp screen..so I just thought id say it…please don't take it as an offence

  5. ala' Arabyat Reply

    I'm retired at age 40 I have a master degree in accounting. Now I'm preparing my self to a PhD degree. Do you think it worth it after I had passed my 40s

  6. agresifadam Reply

    Most of the PhD students have no motivation as described in the video. Professors on the west find students from the ruined countries (Turkey, Iran, India, China etc.) and then pay them as small as possible, just to maintain their basic human needs and make them satisfy only the first level of Maslow's hiearachy in this "new" country which they couldn't before. Overall, Professor will have more publication with a very cheap, slavelike student and the student can have a better life (but way worse than the average life of the country they now live in), win win.

  7. kiran sharma Reply

    Ph.D. = Poverty, Headaches & Depression
    If you want this for 4-5 years then go for it
    personally, I don't like this academia thing at all so I decided to do something different & new in life

  8. JamesJoyce12 Reply

    The idea that all PhD's are equal is quite silly. The idea that all schools that award PhD's are equal is just as silly. If you are not getting paid about $30K/year to do your PhD then you are just silly. If you pursue a useless subject matter PhD at a bad school where you are paying them tuition then you just have an expensive hobby.

  9. Beeley Wood Reply

    Just found your channel, love it. I have just turned 54 and I am in my final BA(hons) year in education and professional development. I enrolled after doing my CERT ed. My academic career started as a result of quite serious mental health problems. My goal is a PHD or eDe. I will achieve it one day, not because of financial gain or to change my passport and bank details (although that would be a day to remember) but because I want to do it. If only I had started sooner… My advice to anyone, stay in education for as long as it allows, and then come back to it when ever you can.
    Thanks for the videos.

  10. Personally, I feel like all you would have to do to learn the new things that no one else has learned is to pursue your curiosity. "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."
    Albert Einstein

  11. I am a Ph.D. and I definitely do not recommend getting one, basically because the cost-benefit ratio is very low or simply negligible. What I mean by cost is time and/or money. I work in industrial R&D, I have a relatively decent job and I consider myself as the lucky ones; HOWEVER, I am convinced I got my current job, not because of my flamboyant title, it was due to another soft-skills, such as fluency in different languages and my previous working experience in the industry. Make a master if you will. If you are working in the industry keep moving upward, but do not except that a Ph. D will help you to climb in your professional career, trust me, it will never do.

  12. Jack Cleary Reply

    12 hour days?…that's not what I found. At Masters level working for HD's I spent very often 18 hour days 7 days/week at likely very low efficiency. I knew I was functioning at about 1% efficiency but drove myself into virtually a breakdown. The course was distance learning only, adding a very heavy burden when dealing with lazy, useless or reactive if not pathological lecturers. The pressure one accepts really needs mentoring.. "sorry, no mentoring available"…to get one's head together on effective time use. Ridiculously low time estimates for courses are given….to suck-in clients. You'd be pushing it to even 50% pass on that investment but getting past credit and Di to Hd may mean rewriting submissions 50 times or more, fine tuning, learning to surrender self to outcome.

  13. Jack Cleary Reply

    The title is an immediately obvious inversion as is seen during the progress. Not all he says in favour of PhD commitment is necessarily true…be that as it may people want to do them. The personal cost is something you may not see clearly at the outset and failure is possible. There are other problems which a PhD may or may not solve. Some may be personal change for the worse or better as a functioning person but I am thinking more of the 'education revolution' in which over my life I have seen significant deterioration particularly in trades. I also am aware that Soviet bloc graduates are very well trained, perhaps better than ours. I asked 'why' of a Polish Nuclear physicist employed at Lucas Heights, some years ago, she said that you don't get second chances as you do here….if you want to live around alcohol sex drugs and not studying your results will see you out of the university. If you get good results you will be paid higher than for poor results. I think that system should be introduced into UK and Australia.

    Then comes the absurdity that I am told (as a masters "high end" graduate) that I willnot get a job at a university ..in any academic field…unless I have a PhD. Some of the worst, most reactive, slimy lecturers I had, were completing PhD's or were PhD's…nasty people protected from responsibility
    able to punish and inhibit the progress of students at will..

    Then comes one of those 'don't mention the war'…'don't question the holocaust' scenarios. The purported purpose of University is to educate and encourage orderly and even eccentric research. That exists but is being overtaken by greed. Offering places to aliens is a cash cow operation with the cash cows looking for immigration for themselves and families. Some of the placements are scandalous as a couple of 4 corners programmes have revealed. Cheating ,plagiarism and buying submissions is rife. Put to me by one of an incredibly well organised cheating arrangement, certainly supported by the TAFE teachers was "we don't care how we get the piece of paper…we do what has to be done"….so you don't know the work but you have the qualification. Will you return home to train others?….Oh no….we will be staying here.

    The nett effect of educational greed, setting aside the appalling VET exploiters is that vast numbers of people are being awarded under-graduate and post-graduate transcripts. The value of such qualifications is plummeting as happens in any oversubscribed market. By sucking cash out of aliens who often have no chance of passing but threaten suicide if not passed we are ruining the value of our education. Murdoch University in Australia was recently exposed as one of the 'cash cow' operators

    A professor there put the matter of safety for students who had no chance of passing, could not even speak English, to its Board and was rejected so he went public. His particular concern was for the safety of Asian students who's families borrow and invest money to have the student get a piece of paper over several years and open the door to their immigration.

    The professor worried about what would be done to the student who was one so inadequate that even the most rewarded lecturer could not pass them. As a result Murdoch is suing the professor for $42M. over 'reduced enrolments'.

    The PhD is becoming perhaps the last bastion against Educational fraud and illusion. When a chancellor is being paid $1.5m/year plus perks and a Vice chancellor not much less , maintaining the accounts through cash-cow chicanery becomes important. Their contribution to students is quite obscure but they are usually political left overs. A PhD on the integrity of universities might be a worthy subject.

  14. I think one of the best parts of how PhDs work here (at least in my department at my university) is that everyone is assigned to a two person office. None of this 'days and days without barely talking to anyone' stuff. You have to basically try to be lonely doing a PhD here.

  15. Blair Santillana Reply

    Ii definetly value money and prestige more. Thank you so much.

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  17. Kevin Fleming Reply

    Hey Simon, I really appreciate the honesty! I am an undergrad aspiring to a PhD in the near future, and watching your video has definitely forced me to clarify my own motives for going to grad school. Please keep on making awesome content!

  18. Isabella Beckett-Smith Reply

    Ha! I hate academia and academic philosophy but I love doing philosophy research and writing, so I have no clue what to do!

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