Reader Mark asked our advice six months back about whether to do PhD or not in bioinformatics.
I have a Masters in bioinformatics. I have been accepted to several top 10 programs for PhDs starting in the fall but have a full time job paying ~$80K a year. I am about to be 28 and am very torn between whether or not I should do the PhD at this stage in my life or not.
I have no interest in academia, I want to be in industry for life, and would only use the PhD as a stepping stone to a higher level position than the technician (actually my title is scientist, but I understand that its basically a technician/specialist ceiling with a masters) role that I am delegated to. I want to be a director of research or a VP in industry not some academic developing algorithms and earning $70-80K my whole life.
What the hell do I do?
We wish he instead asked about whether to get married or have kids, because such questions are a lot easier to answer. We pointed out two minuses and one plus -
1. Opportunity cost - minus
2. Chance to meet and know many smart people - plus
3. A system run by through government grant - minus
Others offered various suggestions in the comment section and you can read them here.
Two days back, reader Timothy asked about what Mark decided and we pinged him for an update.
Ladies and gentlemen, the final answer is -
I decided that I still needed more time to think about the decision and got a 1 year deferral. I very much would like to return to research, but losing two years (essentially replicating my Masters degree at the new institution) before picking a lab (already know which lab I would be in, ultimately) is a big turn off for me.
Also, speaking with so many people with PhDs that I work with who have said it would be a waste of my time unless I wanted to teach (which I dont, at least not right now) isnt much help either.
Our congratulation to Mark for thinking through a problem and coming to an answer that is not yes or no !! That is what PhDs do :)
Incidentally, we are finding out that our point 2 (Chance to meet and know many smart people at the universities) are less of a constraint, thanks to various Meetup groups popping up in different towns. For example, we often go to a Sequencing Meetup in Seattle and find it to be an excellent source of information and a place to meet bright people. The same is true for online communities like Biostar, which brings together smart bioinformaticians from all around the world. We wrote about Biostar in several commentaries linked below -