20-Something Crossroad: Higher Degree or Industry Experience?

two roads girl

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I’m 22 and at the cross-road. I can either start a PhD in physics on a topic I really enjoy (probably at my school) or I can find a job in the industry. I feel like taking the PhD-way because I love research and that’d let me time for side projects, but I wonder whether working in the industry wouldn’t offer me more opportunities (some people say industries don’t like people staying students too long). I also don’t really want to stay at my school for the next 4 years but my would-be supervisor is amazing and I’d work on a great topic.  How can I set up my mind ?


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Dear 20-something,  I worked for several years before going to grad school.   While some people can undoubtedly be successful going straight from undergrad to grad school, I benefited greatly by working first.  For one, I was older and had a different, more mature, perspective on life, my interests, my goals, and why I was in school. I was there for me, to satisfy my interests, not because I couldn’t get a job or it was just the next step in school. This made me much more focused on and interested in what I was learning.  My working experience also provided me with a great perspective on how what I was learning could be applied in the “real” world.  That is, the material wasn’t lost on me as some theoretical issue but rather I understood why the topics were being discussed and I retained the information better.


I would suggest that you talk to your would-be supervisor about the possibility of working in industry for a few years and then returning to do research with them.  Is this a feasible option?  It certainly should be.  Getting out and learning about the world is never a bad thing.  – PhD Environmental Engineering


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Dear 20-something,  The issue of the PhD in industry depends somewhat on the field. For research positions in industry, an advanced degree (either a masters or PhD) is essential.  From my experience, if you go to a good school with a good record of sending people to industry jobs, you will not be handicapped by getting the PhD.  However, a PhD is a big commitment, so if you are not sure, it is a good idea to look into masters programs – many of which have almost seamless transitions into PhD programs if that is what you end up wanting to do.


Most people dissuade students from going to graduate school at the same place where they were undergrads.  A good supervisor should be able to suggest three or four other schools that will offer great – and similar – research experience. –PhD, Geological Sciences


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Dear 20-something, If you really like it go for it, particularly if you are considering stayingin academia. You can always back off and do other things. There are so many things you can do with a physics degree and the economy may be even better and have more opportunities for you in four years. – PhD, Metallurgical Engineering


Here are a few posts answering a similar question from someone considering whether to go straight to higher degree or get some experience that could help y0u with your decision. Good luck!


Work vs. Study: The Benefits of Life Application

20-Something Wants to Know: Get a Job or a Second Degree?

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