Why a PhD?

Considering a PhD?

Whether you have already decided to pursue a PhD, or are simply exploring your options, you may have questions about how to choose the right program, what the program will be like, and what career paths will be available to you. While the decision to enter a doctoral program is a personal one, there are a number of factors to consider. Assessing your motivations, goals, and expectations realistically will help you to make the best choices and to make the most of your graduate experience.

Choosing a Program

When deciding which program to apply to, it is helpful to pay close attention to the faculty in various departments—their research interests, methodological approaches, appointments across departments, and other details. Where research areas and methodologies cross disciplines, exploring the required coursework or degree structure of each program may give you further insight into which one is the best fit for you. A cluster of relevant faculty or researchers, coursework, or related workshops or centers may lead you to one department over another. It is common, however, for a dissertation or thesis committee to include faculty from more than one program.

Contacting the staff member listed on a program site can also be helpful, as they may be able to offer insights based on their knowledge of the department. Examples of this crossover might include a student interested in South Asian texts weighing whether to apply to the South Asian Languages and Cultures department, or to the History of Religions programs in the Divinity School, or a student who majored in physics exploring the labs associated with Physics, Molecular Engineering, and Biophysical Sciences.

Is a PhD Right For Me?

Ultimately, this is a question that only you can answer. Pursuing intensive research at the college or post-baccalaureate level, or opting to enroll in a master's program, are potential pathways to explore whether a doctoral program is the right choice for you. Conversations with your faculty, mentors, PIs, or others who know you well, as well as career services staff at your school, may also help you determine if your goals and expectations will be met by doctoral study.  

What Can I Do With a PhD?

A doctoral degree provides career and professional opportunities in a wide array of institutions and industries. From academia and education administration to consulting and nonprofit work, the career services offices across campus will help you explore your options. Learn more about how we support our students here.