Application deadlines for US PhD programs are coming up over the next month. We think many of our readers who are considering grad school at some point in the next few years should apply this year.
We’re writing this informal list of pros and cons now because a number of people we’ve coached recently have been more reluctant to apply for grad school than we think they should have been.
Why should they take the option seriously?
- You have to plan far ahead of time. If you apply now you will only begin the program late next year. Even if you don’t feel ready to start a PhD today, you should consider whether you will be in a year’s time. If you aren’t sure, applying keeps that option open. We’ve spoken to many people considering grad school but thought they would work for a few years before returning, only to have their situation change and grad school seem like a much better option. Early in your career, your mind can change more often than you expect.
- An increasing number of the paths we recommend, especially in research and policy, are much easier to pursue with a PhD. For example, if you want to work on improving our ability to control pandemics, the best options appear to be research (most likely in academia but perhaps also in the private sector), or policy reform (in think tanks, government agencies, congressional, or elsewhere). Some of the best roles are only open to people with PhDs.