I’ve just started a PhD in Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School. People who have thought hard about how to make a difference seem to disagree about the value of PhDs. Having thought about this quite thoroughly for my own situation, I’ve decided to write up my decision process. Hopefully some of the considerations that were relevant for me will be generally applicable and useful to others making similar decisions.
Essentially, I’m doing a PhD because:
I want to use my career to do as much good as I can. However, I’m quite uncertain about which causes are most important and what I should do with my career long term. This means I want to spend the next few years learning and building “career capital” to keep my options open for whatever is highest impact later.
I believe that the PhD I’m doing is the best way for me to do this right now because:
It gives me the opportunity to build skills across a variety of disciplines/areas, whilst expanding my network and also giving me credentials that will help me later
At the same time, the research itself could be valuable – I’ve got a lot of flexibility with what I focus on, within an area that has the potential to be very important and useful (improving rationality/decision making)
I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to work on other high impact projects during the next few years alongside my PhD – volunteering for 80,000 Hours being just one example