I graduated from uni in Computer Science at the end of 2002. I was offerred a PhD scholarship at the time, and very nearly accepted it, but at the last minute turned it down and entered the workforce.
I’ve now been working for two and a half years, and have been wondering lately if I should re-apply for that PhD scholarship. The PhD program would take at least 3 years to complete, and I’d start at the beginning of 2006, which would mean I’d be at least 28 when I finish. More likely, I’d be 29. Either way, it seems a very late age to finish studying full-time.
But the PhD is still tempting. I don’t regret not accepting the scholarship after graduating, as I learnt a lot about IT from entering the work force - far more than I’d learn at any uni. But while I learnt plenty in the first year or so of working, it seems my current company has taken me as far as it can, and I’m definitely ready to leave, whether that be to go back to uni or to another job.
I find my current job challenging, but often for the wrong reasons, if that makes sense. It’s often difficult because I’m struggling to understand someone else’s poorly written code, or because I’m trying to track down a problem in thousands of lines of code with very little to go on, on where the problem lies. If I were doing a PhD, it would obviously be challenging, but it’d be so for the right reasons - the work I’d be doing would (hopefully) be groundbreaking and technically difficult, as opposed to what I’m doing now. And to me that’s quite appealing.
There are downsides, though. First, even if I’m offerred the scholarship again, it’d mean a massive paycut. Second, I’d have to present at conferences, give talks on my work, etc, and I hate public speaking. Third, I have only some vague ideas on the general area I’d like to do it in, never mind a specific topic. Fourth, to me it seems to be a fairly big risk, in that my work could fail miserably and I could end up dropping out after three years, meaning three years of my life were wasted. I’ve heard stories of people spending months or years researching something only to just be beaten to publication by someone else, or to only find out too late that the area has already been covered - a thought that scares me a little.
Plus, I’m not sure whether it’d actually benefit my career or not. I have no intentions on going into academia or becoming a lecturer, and I don’t know how valuable a PhD is seen in industry. From what I’ve heard, it helps, but the amount of experience that I would get while doing the PhD seems to help even more.
Well, that turned out far longer than I was expecting. Any thoughts? Any IT professionals with a PhD here, by any chance? Any advice would really be appreciated.