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What makes someone want to do a PhD?

There are a variety of motivations for undertaking doctoral study, and degree of overlap between them. Fundamentally, prospective researchers must have an abiding interest in the field within which they are intending to work. Composing a doctoral thesis can be a long, complex process, and the level of individual self-motivation required means that without a sustained enthusiasm for their topic such an undertaking can prove to be an arduous task.

Enthusiasm by itself, however, is rarely a sufficient reason to undertake a PhD. Other considerations must be taken into account. For many doctoral students, the PhD is an essential step towards a career in academia. It is very unusual indeed for scholars and lecturers not to possess a doctorate in the contemporary university environment; showing a commitment to producing high-quality research is a fundamental prerequisite for securing an academic post.

However,  a doctorate does not have to lead to a career in a university setting. It has been suggested that holding a PhD can add at least £10-15,000 a year to your annual salary in a variety of fields outside academia. What is more, possession of a doctorate can extend the range of jobs that are available, opening up new opportunities for employment across the arts and sciences.

Not everybody undertakes a doctorate in light of the commensurate career opportunities it offers, whether inside the academy or beyond it. Increasingly, people who have recently retired, or who have left academic work years (or even decades) prior in order to start a family or pursue other career opportunities, are returning to scholarship to undertake PhDs. Whether at the beginning or the end of one’s career, a PhD offers new opportunities to expand one’s horizons and make a contribution to academic life.



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