Should I do a PhD?

Let’s accept it, doing a PhD can be intellectually challenging, physically tiring and emotionally draining. Your attitude and motivations will have a huge influence on your success

, Professor and Higher Education Studies PhD Co-ordinator, Rhodes University suggest five things to think about if you’re considering a doctorate.

"I was chatting recently to a group of PhD scholars who are about midway through their journey. They are all studying part-time, juggling this with full-time jobs, family commitments and other responsibilities. All agreed that the PhD is a difficult process which requires an enormous amount of time and energy.

"But I noticed that they could be roughly categorised into two groups. Those in the first group spoke of their PhDs only in negative terms and viewed them as a constant burden that offered little gratification along the way. Their PhD was a boulder they were bound to endlessly push up a steep hill without ever being able to stop and contemplate the view.

"The second group expressed pride in their work. They had a strong sense of being part of something important and contributing to something meaningful. They spoke enthusiastically about what the PhD had already offered them in terms of self-development and improved skills.

"Some of these scholars probably moved between the two groups depending on how they were progressing at the time. But I wondered whether there might be a way to spend more time in the second, happier group - after all, four or more years of satisfying and challenging engagement sounds great but the idea of spending all that time feeling grim and despondent is perfectly horrible.

"I decided to do a bit of sleuthing to figure out what might lead people to the second group and way of thinking. To do so, I collected reflections on the PhD journey from 28 doctoral scholars. Each discussed their own ways of working, their views of their own doctorates and their experiences of getting stuck and then unstuck again.

None of the findings are earth shattering, but there’s some good advice within their responses about how to do a doctorate and actually enjoy it.

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