PhD, 4

GlenTheMachine on Aug 28, 2018 | next [–]

I have a PhD in aerospace engineering. I loved grad school. Loved loved loved it. I wouldn’t give up the worst day I had in grad school for almost anything. And I love having the skills it taught me. I am a much better engineer and researcher than I could possibly have been had I taken almost any other route. I was given freedom in grad school that just would not have been present in most industry jobs. I was given a hardware project – a submersible robot – that I was completely in charge of on day 1. I had to teach myself machining, how to do electrical and electonic works, how to do embedded programming, how to tune a PID loop, how to work with other students, how to give a persuasive presentation, how to come up with my own ideas, how to convince other people that they were worth pursuing, how to quickly become an expert in a topic.

That being said, I am not under any illusions about the financial loss I experienced. I spent ten years making a pauper’s wage, when if I had chosen to go into industry I would have been a software engineer… in the Valley… in 1993.

I also was in a remarkable lab in grad school. It made top-ten lists of “coolest college lab”. And that wasn’t hype. The caliber of student and of professor was off the charts. And they were not only smart, the vast majority of them were good people. A lot of places aren’t like that. And as the article correctly said: a toxic graduate school environment is worse than most toxic work environments. In any practical sense, students don’t have HR protections. If you can’t get your advisor to write you a recommendation, getting into a different program is nearly impossible. You can be worked 100 hours a week. You can be blackballed for getting sick, for taking vacations, for taking maternity or paternity leave (even if it is – and it almost certainly will be – unpaid).

The key is to find an advisor who is doing good work and who is sane and moral. If you can find that you’re golden. If you can’t you may be completely screwed.

— What You Need to Know Before Considering a PhD

— Hacker News



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