Should I do a PhD?
A doctorate lasts for 3 years: 3 years of intensive work to complete a thesis.
It is a limited contract, which is less well paid than the worst of jobs that might be obtained with a Masters degree (this is particularly true for engineers, who easily find jobs). This precarious situation is generally during a period when most people start thinking about building their “nest” and their adult life.
The higher the diploma, the fewer the jobs which correspond to the degree: having more diplomas does not necessarily make it easier to find a job.
The PhD may even be a trap: a random chain of a thesis, post-docs abroad, followed by other post-docs may even render someone unemployable, especially in France: the eternal student, too old for jobs in academia, not interested in how results might be of use to businesses, disconnected from reality and from networks in their own country.
The thesis is, in general, a very exciting period.
A PhD prepares the student with high-level skills linked to research like: critical thinking, flare and creativity, formalization of questions, rigorous work, solidity of thinking, propositions, and broad perspective.
The thesis opens doors to many varied and gratifying professions. Private industry is seeking more and more highly qualified engineers seeking to innovate. Some jobs are open only to PhDs: public research, higher education, international development organizations, etc. In Anglo-Saxon countries, and more and more in Europe and France, a PhD is essential for high-level management positions.
Every career demands a wide array of skills. You must have them all in order to succeed, and this is particularly the case in the socio-economic sector.
A research career or a position in higher education seems to be the logical next step for doctoral students. However, a researcher and a doctoral student are not synonymous. A researcher must have flare, be able to communicate and persuade, have strong character and tenacity, must be both hard-headed and opportunistic, have administrative know-how and be able to manage both finances and people.
Diving into a doctorate must be a careful decision, based on careful reflection about the difficulty of the task as well as the positive professional aspects. It could be the best or the worst decision, depending on the situation. It must be a part of a carefully developed professional project.