Deciding If Getting a PhD Is Right for You

As an undergraduate, I participated extensively in undergraduate research opportunities. Because of this, I knew early on that a PhD might be something I’d like to pursue. However, making the decision to actually apply to a PhD program was a lot harder than I thought it would be. A few factors made me hesitant to push “send” on my application.

My Biggest Fears

First, I was afraid of the time commitment. I mean, I was already a poor college student, and adding more years of full-time schooling to my life was not remotely appealing.

Second (and I’m a little embarrassed), I was afraid of statistics. I barely made it through my college math classes; scraping by with Cs (don’t laugh!). I knew that a PhD program would require higher level stats classes. I was afraid I’d fail.

Finally, I didn’t want my clinical degree (AuD) to go to waste. I mean, what’s the point of getting a clinical degree, and then never working with patients? If I got a PhD, would I be able to find a job that allowed for me to combine a healthy mix of research and patient care?

Calming My Fears

Time Commitment—Although it can be discouraging, there’s no way around the fact that getting a PhD means spending more time at school. However, as I was deliberating this, my wife shared some insight that I want to pass on to you…

Time will always pass no matter what.

Your PhD program is three years? Well then, in three years you’ll either have a PhD or you won’t. Even though it seems like a lot of time out of your life to get a PhD, the ultimate reward of having a life-long career of producing meaningful research to help individuals with communicative disorders makes that three-year sacrifice worth it.

Statistics—I’ll be honest, statistics is still hard for me. But when you get into a PhD program, you’re mentored and surrounded by faculty and peers who want to see you succeed. This field needs more researchers! If you were selected into a PhD program, then you stood out to your reviewing committee as someone who can handle the programs’ challenges and as someone who can make a difference.

My mentor often told me, “You can do it!” …and she was right. Last semester I finished the hardest stats class in my life—with a solid A! Your challenge may be something different, but you can do it. Just power through and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Working with Patients—I’ve found many ways to balance my personal need to both work with patients and produce research. Because our grad programs are clinically based, there are several faculty positions that ask you to juggle the roles of clinical supervisor and researcher. Furthermore, working at research hospitals is a wonderful way to have access to a large patient base for clinical research. You can treat patients and recruit them for studies—keeping it ethical, of course!

Decide What’s Right for You

As you decide whether or not a PhD is right for you, you may encounter different obstacles than the ones I faced. Maybe you decide not to pursue a PhD—that’s okay! Just don’t let the fear of challenging work be your deterrent. It’ll be hard, but if you’re curious and driven to make a broad impact on the lives of those with communicative disorders, research may be the right direction for you. And you’ll be supported every step of the way!

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