Where will a PhD take me?

It’s one of those busy weeks – blogging’s been pushed to one side a bit, and I’m writing this at home with a cat on my lap who wants to walk all over the keyboard. So any bizarre sllepingh msitkaes or random characters *&fh$f{ are probably not my doing.

I was talking with a student earlier this week about his choice of PhD topic. He wants to disappear off to Australia to research dark matter, and was asking about what would happen to his career opportunities if dark matter met with a sudden demise.  Would he be better off researching something more mainstream?

My view is it is unlikely to make any difference – at least, not long-term.  While it is true that some people use their PhD as a gateway into a particular area of work and make their entire career out of it, I suspect it’s more common for someone’s area of work to change, maybe several times, after their PhD. That’s certainly the case with me. It would be interesting to find out what percentage of people with, say, a PhD acquired 25 years or more ago, are still working in the area that their PhD was in. I suspect it’s quite low. For one thing, science research changes a lot in 25 years – new things come up and old areas fall away.

Having a PhD is a statement in itself, regardless of what topic it is in. What it says is that you are able to carry out quality independent research – and that’s what employers are going to take note of. So, if your PhD doesn’t open up career doors in your particular topic area, don’t worry; it will certainly open doors in other areas.

In my opinion a student should go with what they are interested in -and enjoy the experience. So Dark Mattter will be a great topic to research for a PhD, even if it turns out to have serious problems.



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