Why Do I ‘Still’ Choose To Pursue PHD?

Picture Credits: www.ed.ac.uk


“Academia has become very toxic now. The pay is not good, there’s exploitation, there’s expectation of unlimited free labor, and you should definitely go somewhere else.”

This is what I see on Twitter; not all the time but quite often, frankly. It makes me disappointed in the working culture of academia. I feel sad and angry at the same time. Sometimes the words are so negative that I feel like dropping the idea of pursuing a PHD. It also feels like good examples are not being set up for young people (like me) who want to become a good scientist. Maybe something is wrong and it needs to be fixed?

I don’t completely understand why but in spite of all the negativity, I have this voice that always tells me to choose academics over everything else. Whenever I imagine my professional life, this is the one and only thing that comes to my mind. I once did a one month internship in a corporate company right after my undergraduate degree. It was one of the worst experiences of my life because I was deprived of intellectual ideas & people, and my intellectual growth had stopped. I am not saying this is the case with corporate sector in general; I am only talking about my first hand experience in a corporate company in India. I missed not been able to nurture my intellectual curiosity and that made me hate the work I was doing. I didn’t feel like going to the office (although I had to). There is a different kind of satisfaction some people get when they discover something (no matter small or big) using rigorous and scientific means and it’s hard to let anything else compensate for that kind of satisfaction. When you’re trying so hard to connect the dots and your head starts to hurt but then you eventually get the answer, you feel on top of the world. This is something some people wish to live for, including me. Knowing deep down that you’re working hard to find answers to some of the most pressing questions is very rewarding and degrees like PHDs prepare you for that kind of work. You don’t simply work for others but you work for yourself too. Sometimes you can be your own boss and that kind of independence brings out the best in you. Also, you get a chance to shape the upcoming generations with your knowledge and wisdom. Personally, I believe it’s a privilege.

Yes, academia isn’t perfect. But last time I checked nothing is perfect in this world. Life is all about trade offs and what matters is what you want at the end of the day. You should always go after something that makes you happy. Although sometimes reality can be different than what we imagine but taking a shot is totally worth it. So that we are not left with any regrets. Academia isn’t the only place where you find an intellectually stimulating environment. But as I said before, this is something what I want  and I don’t want any regrets. If it doesn’t work out, I am sure I’ll be fine. 

The Field ‘Switching’ Cost

Picture Credits: Christin Hume- UnSplash

Switching fields is not a big deal these days. It has become relatively common now which is a good thing because people don’t have to stick to the fields they don’t like or enjoy working in.

Just like a coin has two sides, switching fields isn’t always a smooth journey. There are hurdles and it gets quite frustrating sometimes. Why am I saying all this? Do I know of someone who had switched fields in the past? Actually I am talking about me. I am the one who did it. I pursued Economics in my undergrad. After completing my undergraduate degree, I started losing interest in Economics (why this happened is kind of a long story and will write a whole new blog on this in the future). One day I decided I wanted to pursue Psychology and make a career in this field. Right now, this is going well because currently I am pursuing my Master’s degree in Psychology from The University of Edinburgh.

If you had told me 5 years ago that one day I’d be sitting in Edinburgh writing this blog, I would have said a big ‘NO!’ because getting acceptances from universities felt like a dream. What happened in those 5 years is something people don’t know about because we all have a tendency to see only a ‘tip of an iceberg’. Getting an acceptance from The University of Edinburgh didn’t come easy and I could not have done it without the support of my family- my parents and my siblings.


1. You’re Behind in Life

This is a very common feeling in people who decide to switch fields or careers. But it can be quite pervasive. You may start feeling like your friends and everyone else around you is moving forward while you’re stuck. Stuck badly. You start feeling as if you’re behind in life; behind everybody. People around you are finishing their degrees while you’re not.

People around you are getting jobs while you’re not.

People around you are getting promoted in their workplaces while you’re not.

Even though these are mere thoughts, they hit you hard. And it becomes an everyday chore to fight against these thoughts.

2. Starting from Scratch

This one is related to the previous challenge I just mentioned. Making a move to start afresh in a field that’s completely new to you can be taxing. This is for the obvious reason: you have to start from the scratch now. It’s like you’re born again and you have to create everything from the beginning. It eventually makes you feel you’re behind in life. You don’t build upon what you had already built in your life so far rather you have to build new things from the surface. I am not saying your previous knowledge or experiences stop mattering. They do matter. But since you’re a novice in a new field you have to be willing to take baby steps and it slows you down in your career which affects you for sure.

3. Closed Doors 

It’s such a bad feeling when you’re curious about something and you aren’t given an opportunity to utilise your abilities. Personally, I had limited options for my further education because of non psychology background. I just wanted ‘a single’ opportunity let alone ‘too many’. But there weren’t many (almost next to nothing). It literally felt like all the doors were getting closed.

4. Mental Well-being is Suffered

Mental wellbeing is suffered when you’re surrounded by hurdles. This happened with me and I am sure it happens to people who are in the situation I was in a few years ago. Your brain starts playing tricks with you because it doesn’t want you to focus on the solutions. Why? It’s too overwhelming for it. So it makes you think about the trivial stuff like you’re not good enough and you don’t deserve what you’re striving for. In those moments, a strong social support is very crucial. This is life saving. As mentioned earlier, I was fortunate enough to have full support of my family and that helped me persevere.


But I don’t want to make you all gloomy because there’s always more than one side to everything. If switching field from Economics to Psychology had challenges, there are good things too that (eventually) happened. At least now I am doing and studying something that I love and enjoy. I have nothing against Economics. It’s a really interesting subject. But it wasn’t for me. I feel more satisfied and happier working with psychology. I know well enough that switching careers isn’t pragmatic for everyone and because of that I am grateful for the support I had from my family.