At UC Berkeley, when you file your PhD dissertation and everything is accepted—your committee signs off on the science; the administration confirms that your margins are the correct size—you get a lollipop.
I assume at some point you also get a diploma, but no one ever talks about that. Everyone just wants the lollipop.
If you had a lollipop that had taken you six years to earn, would you save it or eat it?
It seems as though, every few months, an article called something like “Never EVER Get A PhD, It WIll Ruin Your Life Forever!!” is published. It is then met with various response articles, either of the “Yes It Ruined My Life Too” or the “Actually PhDs Are Completely Worthwhile, You Jerks” varieties, and fades into obscurity just in time for the next article to come out.
I really don’t want to be another one of those response articles, but I think it’s worth writing a few things here that I generally don’t see mentioned in the PhD hate/lovefests. If you don’t care about PhDs, here is a fluffed-up Anna’s Hummingbird so this post isn’t a total loss.
The general public–and especially the media–appears to be conflicted over what it means when a person has a PhD. There are three main schools of thought:
1) A PhD means you are an awesome genius and know everything.
2) A PhD means you are an ivory tower elitist and know nothing.
3) A PhD means you belong to a nefarious conspiracy dedicated to lending credibility to lies in order to get money or fame.
Sometimes several of these are combined. Believe both #1 and #3, and you’ve got one of the main arguments of climate change deniers (“Climate scientists are lying and spreading false fear in order to keep their jobs secure, and we know this because we found one climate scientist who says climate change isn’t real!”).
The ivory tower elitist PhDs are in a conspiracy of lies to make the public continue to give them research money, and I believe this because the guy who told me has a PhD, so you know he’s right!
None of these three are true.