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Why would you study a PhD?

Maybe you’re a freshly-baked masters student wishing to apply for a PhD but unable to justify your decision.

Or a second or third year PhD student who has already forgotten their reasons for taking on the task of doing a PhD and wants to recall them?

Or perhaps you are simply someone who is not interested in doing a PhD but wants to know why other people choose to do one...

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Regardless of your future aspirations, motivation, and background, there are all sorts of reasons that you may have for wanting to do a PhD, and here are some of the most frequent ones that motivate people to apply for a PhD – see if you can recognise yourself in any of them:


Learning and solving problems is the most exciting thing in the world

Some people just want to learn, learn and learn, and then solve, solve and solve. These are the people who think that no amount of money can replace the excitement of learning something new or solving a new problem. And this is why they are inspired to do a PhD...

Hello Doctor!

Some people have the need to feel that they have achieved something in life, and want this achievement to be acknowledged officially. Being referred to as “Dr” fulfils that need on a daily basis. Such people study for a PhD to get the title.

Call me smart

We all like to think about ourselves as being very smart, but some people take in to another level and want to express their cleverness in every sentence they utter. And what is a better environment for overusing intelligent sentences without bothering anyone than that of a PhD course?

Freedom of thought

Every PHD course has its own constraints and limitations, but it usually allows far greater freedom of thinking than many “real” jobs do. Thus, it is understandable that many people are inspired to do a PhD for this reason. Indeed, having the freedom to think about one specific topic for 3-4 years is a privilege that not many people except for PhD students can afford!

Career advancement

It’s questionable whether studying for a PhD is lucrative for future career opportunities... Some people think it is, and they do a PhD because they hope it will prove to be a boost for their career. Indeed, for those who want to become an academic, a PhD is a must. However, according to some schools of thought a PhD could actually be detrimental to career opportunities, for example in certain fields such as engineering or technology. In certain areas there are of course financial benefits to doing a PhD – check out our blog To PhD or not to PhD

Changing the world

Idealists often choose to do a PhD because they want to change the world and make it a better place. Whereas in reality they are not very likely to change the world whilst doing their PhD, because of the time limit as well as other practical limitations. However having a PhD will make your opinion more credible and people will listen to what you have to say. Therefore, your chances to create a change in the world at some level will be higher once when the time for it comes!

Change of scene

For many people undertaking a PhD provides them with the first chance to leave their home country and live in a new and different environment. Such a new experience of freedom has intoxicating powers and may be enough to inspire someone to do a PhD!

Nothing better to do!

Some people do a PhD because they have nothing else to do. However, this may not be the wisest choice, because starting a PhD with such a weak reason is definitely not a firm basis for future success! 

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