Academic vs. Industry Career Track
As T approaches the end of his PhD, it is a good time to ask ourselves: Was it worth it?
This isn’t speaking generally. I have no idea if a PhD is right for you or anyone else. This is also from my perspective rather than his (because it is my blog and he isn’t interested in making a guest post). Keeping in mind we can’t see the path we didn’t take, and I think we would have had a great life either way, the answer is still yes*, it was worth it. Here’s a few reasons why:
1 – It got us to California, which is an incredibly good fit for us. I’ve experienced so much living here that I otherwise would have had a hard time doing. Maybe we would have got here anyway, but probably not. It is much more likely we’d be somewhere else, possibly still in the Midwest.
2 – He missed out on a lot of income, BUT he still made some income and ended up with a net postivite gain. The financial part was mostly opportunity costs. These are significant, but we didn’t pay anything specifically towards his education.
3 – He loves it. I have a feeling he would have brought passion to whatever path he had chosen, but it is clear this really makes him happy and he’s been really successful at it.
About that asterick… T has some great opportunities for next year, and he’s taking them. If these end up NOT leading to a tenure track position at a top school in a location we want to live, I might demote the “yes” to a “sort of”. That is the ideal outcome, and we will be very lucky if it happens to work out. The “location we want to live” criteria doesn’t have a large intersection with “top schools in his field”, and even smaller if you add “that are hiring next year” into the mix. Still, I’ve seen how he works, his passion, his talent, and his willingness to market himself, and I have no doubt he’ll have opportunities no matter how these things turn out.