Calculating ROI for PhD

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Texanbybirth
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by Texanbybirth » Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:14 pm

willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:17 pm
stoptothink wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:00 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 6:55 pm
market timer wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:06 am
Don't get a PhD for the ROI. Do it so you can study what you want and never have a boss.
And summers, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break off. And great benefits. And guaranteed employment. :D
I have interviewed literally hundreds of PhDs, for jobs requiring only a bachelor's, who were giving up after a few years of chasing those highly competitive jobs in academia.
It depends greatly on the area. If you're trying to get into the humanities, forget it. But literally anyone with a Ph.D. in business, especially accounting, can get a lucrative position somewhere. Computer science is another buyer's market.
Accounting you say? Really?? I should look into this...

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Cycle
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by Cycle » Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:25 pm

Even at a master's level, I'd advise getting something in a core engineering discipline vs systems engineering or human factors. You can take an elective in those subjects, but a cs or mechanical masters will have greater value than a systems PhD.

I'm saying this after I earned a master's degree in systems engineering. If I were to do it over, I'd have gotten a masters in CS or mechanical engineering and taken two systems engineering electives and gotten my pmp (instead of taking a project management class).

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willthrill81
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by willthrill81 » Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:29 pm

Texanbybirth wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:14 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:17 pm
stoptothink wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:00 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 6:55 pm
market timer wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:06 am
Don't get a PhD for the ROI. Do it so you can study what you want and never have a boss.
And summers, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break off. And great benefits. And guaranteed employment. :D
I have interviewed literally hundreds of PhDs, for jobs requiring only a bachelor's, who were giving up after a few years of chasing those highly competitive jobs in academia.
It depends greatly on the area. If you're trying to get into the humanities, forget it. But literally anyone with a Ph.D. in business, especially accounting, can get a lucrative position somewhere. Computer science is another buyer's market.
Accounting you say? Really?? I should look into this...
Absolutely. Someone with an accounting Ph.D. and a publication or two under their belt can command a salary starting at least $140k plus benefits. Many coming right out of their doctoral program are getting $160k or more.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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oldzey
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by oldzey » Wed Oct 31, 2018 1:20 pm

I found this guide to be useful. An oldie but a goodie: “So long, and thanks for the Ph.D.!”

Another old goodie: Randy Pausch – Time Management and the associated lecture video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blaK_tB_KQA
"The broker said the stock was 'poised to move.' Silly me, I thought he meant up." ― Randy Thurman

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jharkin
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by jharkin » Wed Oct 31, 2018 1:57 pm

market timer wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:06 am
Don't get a PhD for the ROI. Do it so you can study what you want and never have a boss.
+1000

Amongst me, my wife, and all our siblings there is a very obvious inverse relationship between number of degrees and annual income/net worth.

Cruise
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by Cruise » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:11 pm

For the OP: Some careers require a Ph.D., the the ROI is incalculable. In your case, if you are seeking advancement in your particular niche, only you can calculate the ROI for these conditions:

1. No change in degree status
2. Get a Ph.D.
3. Get an MBA or M.S. in another related field.

The opportunity cost is different if you are contemplating full-time graduate work vs. nighttime coursework.

As others have said, there is much more to success than scoring at a high percentile on a test: These measures are most predictive of future academic performance, but relatively poorly related to job success.

For others seeking ROI calculation (Not the OP): If you are single and looking for an interesting future spouse with high earning potential, you are likely to meet another Ph.D. with these qualities in a Ph.D. program. Again, the ROI is incalculable. :)

stoptothink
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by stoptothink » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:13 pm

jharkin wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 1:57 pm
market timer wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:06 am
Don't get a PhD for the ROI. Do it so you can study what you want and never have a boss.
+1000

Amongst me, my wife, and all our siblings there is a very obvious inverse relationship between number of degrees and annual income/net worth.
Similar to my family. My brother who doesn't even have a high school diploma makes the most (oil & gas consultant), followed by my little brother with a BA, and then me (MS and PhD). My sister with a BA from Brown and then MAs from both NYU and Oxford makes by far the least among all 7 siblings (including another siblings without a high school diploma). Outside of my sister with all the degrees from "name" universities, we all do pretty well. Not saying this is common, just my family's situation.

megabad
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by megabad » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:24 pm

magnificent wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:23 am
1. What are the ways to calculate ROI for graduate school? I've seen threads on this forum suggesting you can calculate a multiplier for school, but they don't seem to account for your pre-education income:
[post-graduation salary] * [years employed after graduating] / [cost of graduate school]

But shouldn't it be this?
[/b]([post-graduation salary] - [pre-graduation salary]) * [years employed after graduating] / ([cost of graduate school] + [opportunity cost of graduate school])

And since I don't anticipate working full time during graduate school, wouldn't the opportunity cost be this?
([pre-graduation salary] - [graduate school income]) * [years of graduate school]

I can't imagine that I've gotten this 100% right, so I'll appreciate any feedback.
The largest factor in your situation is time, thus I would not use ROI but rather NPV. Otherwise, you will not be able to account for wage growth, inflation, future career prospects, etc.

2. How should I estimate my post-graduation salary? I assume I will earn above the median salary for my position for several reasons: I have experience in design and technology, I have performed above average in every job I've ever had, and my GRE scores are in the 99th percentile for verbal reasoning (so I hope there are typos in this post just to mess with me—lol), 91st for quantitative reasoning, 82nd for verbal.
This is easy--using real data. Most PHDs become professors. Public university professors commonly have salaries that are public record. Simply search the associated public employee database for where you plan on living for entry level Assoc/Assist professorships.
You indicate that you are an overperformer. It is my personal experience that a PHD will not help an overperformer financially over the long term. It may provide other benefits though (nonfinancial). Just my thoughts.

AnonJohn
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by AnonJohn » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:29 pm

I'd second this: "It is my personal experience that a PHD will not help an overperformer financially over the long term. It may provide other benefits though (nonfinancial)."

For me, probably not a great financial decision, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Seems to be working out OK in the longer term.

This made the rounds when I was in grad school:

Lord of the Rings: an allegory of the PhD?

The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite bright, a bit
dissatisfied with what he's learnt so far and with his mates back home
who just seem to want to get jobs and settle down and drink beer. He's
also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor, the very senior professor
Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a short project for him
(carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees.

Frodo very quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair
which will haunt the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on
his psyche, but he also makes some useful friends. In particular, he
spends an evening down the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the
world for many years as Gandalf's postdoc and becomes his adviser when
Gandalf isn't around.

After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head
of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He
assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and
Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo's own friends
from his undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project,
though he has mixed feelings about it. ("'I will take the Ring', he
said, 'although I do not know the way.'")

Very rapidly, things go wrong. First, Gandalf disappears and has no
more interaction with Frodo until everything is over. (Frodo assumes his
supervisor is dead: in fact, he's simply found a more interesting topic
and is working on that instead.) At his first international conference
in Lorien, Frodo is cross-questioned terrifyingly by Galadriel, and
betrayed by Boromir, who is anxious to get the credit for the work
himself. Frodo cuts himself off from the rest of his team: from now on,
he will only discuss his work with Sam, an old friend who doesn't really
understand what it's all about, but in any case is prepared to give
Frodo credit for being rather cleverer than he is. Then he sets out
towards Mordor.

The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey clearly represents the
writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom (submission),
finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part
of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure of
Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never wrote up
and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow; talking less and
less even to Sam. When he submits the Ring to the fire, it is in
desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the
world seems empty.

Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him,
and for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over.
But there is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the
Shire, he must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of
Gandalf, who seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival's protege. With
the help of his friends and colleagues, Frodo passes through this
ordeal, but discovers at the end that victory has no value left for him.
While his friends return to settling down and finding jobs and starting
families, Frodo remains in limbo; finally, along with Gandalf, Elrond
and many others, he joins the brain drain across the Western ocean to
the new land beyond.

DoctorPhysics
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by DoctorPhysics » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:40 pm

Do it because you want it.

If you enjoy what you do and are good at it, they money will follow, but ROI to complex to estimate.

The bragging rights are forever though 😎

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willthrill81
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by willthrill81 » Wed Oct 31, 2018 3:54 pm

AnonJohn wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:29 pm
I'd second this: "It is my personal experience that a PHD will not help an overperformer financially over the long term. It may provide other benefits though (nonfinancial)."

For me, probably not a great financial decision, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Seems to be working out OK in the longer term.

This made the rounds when I was in grad school:

Lord of the Rings: an allegory of the PhD?

The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite bright, a bit
dissatisfied with what he's learnt so far and with his mates back home
who just seem to want to get jobs and settle down and drink beer. He's
also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor, the very senior professor
Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a short project for him
(carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees.

Frodo very quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair
which will haunt the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on
his psyche, but he also makes some useful friends. In particular, he
spends an evening down the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the
world for many years as Gandalf's postdoc and becomes his adviser when
Gandalf isn't around.

After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head
of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He
assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and
Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo's own friends
from his undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project,
though he has mixed feelings about it. ("'I will take the Ring', he
said, 'although I do not know the way.'")

Very rapidly, things go wrong. First, Gandalf disappears and has no
more interaction with Frodo until everything is over. (Frodo assumes his
supervisor is dead: in fact, he's simply found a more interesting topic
and is working on that instead.) At his first international conference
in Lorien, Frodo is cross-questioned terrifyingly by Galadriel, and
betrayed by Boromir, who is anxious to get the credit for the work
himself. Frodo cuts himself off from the rest of his team: from now on,
he will only discuss his work with Sam, an old friend who doesn't really
understand what it's all about, but in any case is prepared to give
Frodo credit for being rather cleverer than he is. Then he sets out
towards Mordor.

The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey clearly represents the
writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom (submission),
finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part
of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure of
Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never wrote up
and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow; talking less and
less even to Sam. When he submits the Ring to the fire, it is in
desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the
world seems empty.

Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him,
and for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over.
But there is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the
Shire, he must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of
Gandalf, who seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival's protege. With
the help of his friends and colleagues, Frodo passes through this
ordeal, but discovers at the end that victory has no value left for him.
While his friends return to settling down and finding jobs and starting
families, Frodo remains in limbo; finally, along with Gandalf, Elrond
and many others, he joins the brain drain across the Western ocean to
the new land beyond.
:sharebeer That is...utterly amazing!
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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triceratop
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by triceratop » Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:57 pm

Cruise wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:11 pm
For others seeking ROI calculation (Not the OP): If you are single and looking for an interesting future spouse with high earning potential, you are likely to meet another Ph.D. with these qualities in a Ph.D. program. Again, the ROI is incalculable. :)
Note: if one pursues this strategy, then there are good schools where there are a balance of students of all kinds (genders, fields, possible future earnings potential) and there are also schools where attendance is utterly self-defeating or a piece of cake, depending on your gender at such a school. Roughly: STEM schools can be self-defeating for one kind of gender.

Note: this was not my strategy (I was informed of this strategy as an undergrad by a professor of mine), and had it been then I would have chosen the self-defeating route.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

megabad
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by megabad » Wed Oct 31, 2018 6:10 pm

triceratop wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:57 pm
Cruise wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:11 pm
For others seeking ROI calculation (Not the OP): If you are single and looking for an interesting future spouse with high earning potential, you are likely to meet another Ph.D. with these qualities in a Ph.D. program. Again, the ROI is incalculable. :)
Note: if one pursues this strategy, then there are good schools where there are a balance of students of all kinds (genders, fields, possible future earnings potential) and there are also schools where attendance is utterly self-defeating or a piece of cake, depending on your gender at such a school. Roughly: STEM schools can be self-defeating for one kind of gender.

Note: this was not my strategy (I was informed of this strategy as an undergrad by a professor of mine), and had it been then I would have chosen the self-defeating route.
Both of these posts provided a significant ROI in the form of my laughter. ty

InvisibleAerobar
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by InvisibleAerobar » Wed Oct 31, 2018 7:34 pm

AnonJohn wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:29 pm
I'd second this: "It is my personal experience that a PHD will not help an overperformer financially over the long term. It may provide other benefits though (nonfinancial)."

For me, probably not a great financial decision, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Seems to be working out OK in the longer term.

This made the rounds when I was in grad school:

Lord of the Rings: an allegory of the PhD?

The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite bright, a bit
dissatisfied with what he's learnt so far and with his mates back home
who just seem to want to get jobs and settle down and drink beer. He's
also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor, the very senior professor
Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a short project for him
(carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees.

Frodo very quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair
which will haunt the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on
his psyche, but he also makes some useful friends. In particular, he
spends an evening down the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the
world for many years as Gandalf's postdoc and becomes his adviser when
Gandalf isn't around.

After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head
of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He
assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and
Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo's own friends
from his undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project,
though he has mixed feelings about it. ("'I will take the Ring', he
said, 'although I do not know the way.'")

Very rapidly, things go wrong. First, Gandalf disappears and has no
more interaction with Frodo until everything is over. (Frodo assumes his
supervisor is dead: in fact, he's simply found a more interesting topic
and is working on that instead.) At his first international conference
in Lorien, Frodo is cross-questioned terrifyingly by Galadriel, and
betrayed by Boromir, who is anxious to get the credit for the work
himself. Frodo cuts himself off from the rest of his team: from now on,
he will only discuss his work with Sam, an old friend who doesn't really
understand what it's all about, but in any case is prepared to give
Frodo credit for being rather cleverer than he is. Then he sets out
towards Mordor.

The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey clearly represents the
writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom (submission),
finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part
of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure of
Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never wrote up
and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow; talking less and
less even to Sam. When he submits the Ring to the fire, it is in
desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the
world seems empty.

Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him,
and for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over.
But there is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the
Shire, he must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of
Gandalf, who seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival's protege. With
the help of his friends and colleagues, Frodo passes through this
ordeal, but discovers at the end that victory has no value left for him.
While his friends return to settling down and finding jobs and starting
families, Frodo remains in limbo; finally, along with Gandalf, Elrond
and many others, he joins the brain drain across the Western ocean to
the new land beyond.
:sharebeer

bravo

MandyT
Posts: 199
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 2:29 pm

Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by MandyT » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:23 pm

I have two comments.
stoptothink wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 6:36 pm
My dissertation experience was a nightmare, dealing with some professors who were by no stretch of the imagination experts in their field (regardless of the letters behind their name) and who were just miserable people in general who seemed to approach the process more as an initiation into academia than as something actually productive and meaningful. Made me very jaded towards academia in general. IMO, at least half the population has the intellectual capability to pursue a PhD, it is perseverance and grit that are the really important factors. Had it not been for my GF (now wife), I very well may have quit about halfway through my dissertation.
IMO, getting a PhD is qualitatively different from getting a bachelor's or master's degree. (I was going to say "any other degree", but I don't know as much about degrees such as D.M.A. or D.Eng.) Every student's experience will be different; you can try to maximize your odds of accomplishing what you want to, but there are no guarantees. I think it's crucially important to really be in love with your subject when you start, and it's worth the effort to try to pick a program and an advisor that will help you accomplish your goals, assuming that everthing goes well. If you want to have a rising-star advisor, you'll need to be prepared to have limited access to them, and possibly even some Darwinian competition among their PhD students. If you're not so ambitious, you might be better off with a middle-of-the-road advisor who may have more time for you (full disclosure: this was me; my only two PhD students successfully finished). Honestly, some professors just don't do a good job as PhD advisors. Before entering a PhD program, I'd recommend talking to current students; the grapevine should have a pretty good idea which professors are in those three categories, and how good a job the program does graduating its PhD students.

I was a bit concerned when I went back and read this:
magnificent wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:23 am
Background on my situation:
33, married, 1 child on the way
We're moving to a city with a lower cost of living where we can afford a larger home.
I anticipate needing to find a new job within the next 6 months, probably sooner.
Salary - $115k
Wife's income - $10k/year (potential to rise 2x soon and 5x once we finish making babies)
Assets - $300k in savings, bonds, and stocks
Debt - $0
I'm a little unclear where the PhD program fits into this. I would think that the first priority is to find a job in the new city. Are you considering entering a PhD program instead of looking for a job that would bring in six figures? Or are you planning to work on a PhD part-time? I don't think your age is particularly an issue, but I'm not sure that a time when you're moving to a new city, starting a family, and hoping to get a new job quickly is the best time to pursue a PhD.

CppCoder
Posts: 841
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:16 pm

Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by CppCoder » Thu Nov 01, 2018 8:17 pm

market timer wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:36 pm
CppCoder wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 6:51 pm
staythecourse wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:39 pm
market timer wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:06 am
Don't get a PhD for the ROI. Do it so you can study what you want and never have a boss.
What does having a phD have to do with not having a boss? Unless you own your own company you will always have someone above you who tells you what to do. The PHD from MIT working at Citadel has a boss (like my friend). The plummer who runs his own company does not (like the guy who did the work when we built our house). So level of education has no correlation to being your own boss.

Good luck.
Sure, you have a boss, but it's great because you get to tell yourself that you're smarter than your boss so it doesn't matter what she tells you. Or, you tell yourself you're smarter than your boss and it makes it worse because your idiot boss tells you what to do and makes more money than you do. Drat, I forgot which one it is :D.
When I say not having a boss, I mean doing self-directed work. PhD students are generally self-directed, maybe excepting some of the laboratory sciences where there is more hand-holding. Professors are clearly self-directed in their research. I've generally worked in the private sector with minimal oversight, even on the types of problems I tackle. Of course I have to justify my value a few times a year, but mostly I've always been free to do my own thing.

I think it takes a certain type of personality to thrive as a trailblazer, taking ownership of one's direction and not knowing exactly where one is headed.
I was making a joke. I have a PhD and have been doing research at an industrial research lab for over a decade. I know the academic life as well - my father was a professor for over 40 years before retiring.

MathIsMyWayr
Posts: 190
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Location: CA

Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by MathIsMyWayr » Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:31 pm

We are a PhD couple - me in engineering and DW in humanities. If your goal is teaching at a university, PhD may be a must. In my experience of many years, there are so many engineering PhDs doing works which definitely do not need a PhD. If your goal is oriented financially, I think the best ROI is MS, not PhD. My gut feeling is that today's PhDs are as competent as yesterday's MS. This is even more so with the wide spread use of engineering software.

MathIsMyWayr
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by MathIsMyWayr » Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:54 pm

CppCoder wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 6:51 pm
staythecourse wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:39 pm
market timer wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:06 am
Don't get a PhD for the ROI. Do it so you can study what you want and never have a boss.
What does having a phD have to do with not having a boss? Unless you own your own company you will always have someone above you who tells you what to do. The PHD from MIT working at Citadel has a boss (like my friend). The plummer who runs his own company does not (like the guy who did the work when we built our house). So level of education has no correlation to being your own boss.

Good luck.
Sure, you have a boss, but it's great because you get to tell yourself that you're smarter than your boss so it doesn't matter what she tells you. Or, you tell yourself you're smarter than your boss and it makes it worse because your idiot boss tells you what to do and makes more money than you do. Drat, I forgot which one it is :D.
No, a PhD does not make you smart and it is not true that only smart people get PhDs. If you want to keep your brain sharp, you should keep learning for life. That is the only way. PhD has nothing to do with being smart or sharp.

magnificent
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun May 06, 2018 8:10 am

Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by magnificent » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:20 pm

Thanks everyone for the fantastic responses! The clearest message that came through was, "Don't do it for the money." The entire discussion has been incredibly enlightening. Here are some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from the thread so far:

Don't decide based on ROI.
cinghiale wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 12:38 pm
Life it too short to make this decision based on a formula. There’s an intuitive, emotional, and visceral element to this. Unless you feel the warm hum of intellectual pursuit out ahead of you, you may want to re-think the whole thing.
Does your mission in life include creating new knowledge?
triceratop wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:00 pm
I think that when considering "ROI" one must consider what one's purpose in life is: if it is to quickly amass a pool of investment capital then a Ph.D. may not make much sense. If it is at least partly to further human knowledge and improve the world while also improving the types of positions one is qualified for, if not the raw compensation, then the 'return' is not accurately captured by a salary figure and the whole computation of ROI is very situation- and personally-dependent.
A PhD can lead to more interesting work.
Ragnoth wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:35 am
The experience was fun for me, and it opens up a lot more “interesting” job opportunities—even if they don’t pay that much more.
PMP and MBA are better certifications to advance in systems engineering.
Cycle wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:42 pm
I have a meng in systems engineers and sit in that role on two projects. Used to have a csep cert. An experienced indispensable systems engineer will have lots of experience writing requirements and modeling systems, and this experience is best gained from sitting in that role on a variety of programs, not from school.

You can take a couple systems engineering classes online to master the background, then get a job as a systems engineer to start honing your trade.

A pmp certification will hold more clout than your phd in the land of systems engineering in my experience.

The next step up the ladder in requirements land is defining the customer needs and analyzing markets, which an MBA would be more appropriate for... It for upstream marketing.

Anyways those are my thoughts. If you want to do research in the systems engineering discipline, by all means persue the PhD.
Just take a few systems engineering classes—don't do a whole degree.
Cycle wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:25 pm
Even at a master's level, I'd advise getting something in a core engineering discipline vs systems engineering or human factors. You can take an elective in those subjects, but a cs or mechanical masters will have greater value than a systems PhD.

I'm saying this after I earned a master's degree in systems engineering. If I were to do it over, I'd have gotten a masters in CS or mechanical engineering and taken two systems engineering electives and gotten my pmp (instead of taking a project management class).
Some specific advice about calculating the ROI:
Cruise wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:11 pm
Some careers require a Ph.D., the the ROI is incalculable. In your case, if you are seeking advancement in your particular niche, only you can calculate the ROI for these conditions:

1. No change in degree status
2. Get a Ph.D.
3. Get an MBA or M.S. in another related field.

The opportunity cost is different if you are contemplating full-time graduate work vs. nighttime coursework.
The ROI is negative...
Cycle wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:42 pm
At my megacorp, phds command maybe 2 years experience worth of pay premium... Since it takes longer than two years to earn a PhD, a full time PhD isn't worth it imo. Half the people I work with have phds (medical device r&d).
...but there are other reasons to pursue one.
jharkin wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 1:57 pm
market timer wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:06 am
Don't get a PhD for the ROI. Do it so you can study what you want and never have a boss.
+1000

Amongst me, my wife, and all our siblings there is a very obvious <B><s></s>inverse <e></e></B>relationship between number of degrees and annual income/net worth.
And finally, this epic post:
AnonJohn wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:29 pm
This made the rounds when I was in grad school:

Lord of the Rings: an allegory of the PhD?

The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite bright, a bit
dissatisfied with what he's learnt so far and with his mates back home
who just seem to want to get jobs and settle down and drink beer. He's
also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor, the very senior professor
Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a short project for him
(carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees.

Frodo very quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair
which will haunt the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on
his psyche, but he also makes some useful friends. In particular, he
spends an evening down the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the
world for many years as Gandalf's postdoc and becomes his adviser when
Gandalf isn't around.

After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head
of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He
assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and
Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo's own friends
from his undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project,
though he has mixed feelings about it. ("'I will take the Ring', he
said, 'although I do not know the way.'")

Very rapidly, things go wrong. First, Gandalf disappears and has no
more interaction with Frodo until everything is over. (Frodo assumes his
supervisor is dead: in fact, he's simply found a more interesting topic
and is working on that instead.) At his first international conference
in Lorien, Frodo is cross-questioned terrifyingly by Galadriel, and
betrayed by Boromir, who is anxious to get the credit for the work
himself. Frodo cuts himself off from the rest of his team: from now on,
he will only discuss his work with Sam, an old friend who doesn't really
understand what it's all about, but in any case is prepared to give
Frodo credit for being rather cleverer than he is. Then he sets out
towards Mordor.

The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey clearly represents the
writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom (submission),
finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part
of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure of
Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never wrote up
and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow; talking less and
less even to Sam. When he submits the Ring to the fire, it is in
desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the
world seems empty.

Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him,
and for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over.
But there is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the
Shire, he must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of
Gandalf, who seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival's protege. With
the help of his friends and colleagues, Frodo passes through this
ordeal, but discovers at the end that victory has no value left for him.
While his friends return to settling down and finding jobs and starting
families, Frodo remains in limbo; finally, along with Gandalf, Elrond
and many others, he joins the brain drain across the Western ocean to
the new land beyond.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by magnificent » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:22 pm

KlangFool wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 11:48 am
1) What do you have at this moment? Bachelor Degree? Master degree? In many cases, the Ph.D. will not provide additional income if you have a master degree now.
I have a Bachelor of Arts.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by KlangFool » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:38 pm

magnificent wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:22 pm
KlangFool wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 11:48 am
1) What do you have at this moment? Bachelor Degree? Master degree? In many cases, the Ph.D. will not provide additional income if you have a master degree now.
I have a Bachelor of Arts.
Deleted.

KlangFool
Last edited by KlangFool on Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by triceratop » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:45 pm

KlangFool wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:38 pm
magnificent wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:22 pm
KlangFool wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 11:48 am
1) What do you have at this moment? Bachelor Degree? Master degree? In many cases, the Ph.D. will not provide additional income if you have a master degree now.
I have a Bachelor of Arts.
magnificent,

<<I'm weighing the ROI of a PhD in human factors and systems engineering,>>

Are you kidding? Bachelor of Arts in what? What makes you think that you can get a PhD in the first place? The University will always take your money. They do not care whether you can graduate.

KlangFool
Many of the best PhD computer scientists began their graduate studies with only a Bachelor of Arts (in mathematics, which is the formal degree at many schools for math majors). It's a mistake to react so strongly to the Arts in BA. Also many PhD programs do not charge tuition.

In any case, language like "Are you kidding?" may not be the friendliest way to communicate with an OP who has opened up an interesting discussion for us all.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by KlangFool » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:57 pm

OP,

<<Does your mission in life include creating new knowledge?>>

What has that got to do with a Ph.D.?

1) I had spent my spare time over the last 20+ years studying system engineering.

2) I had filed 20+ patents. And, I am in my employer's patent review panel.

This is my personal and honest opinion. I had met and observed many people. People that have a "Can Do" attitude will get the thing done. They will ask what they "Can Do" to achieve their goal. They do not need Ph.D. or any formal program to create new knowledge. They do not ask about ROI. They do it because it is fun for them.

So, my simple and basic question to you is what had you done to create new knowledge so far? If you have not done so, why do you think a Ph.D. program will do this for you?

<<A PhD can lead to more interesting work.>>

Why do you need to work in order to do interesting stuff? What is there to stop you from doing interesting stuff in your spare time?

KlangFool

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by KlangFool » Sun Nov 04, 2018 5:01 pm

deleted.

KlangFool
Last edited by KlangFool on Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by triceratop » Sun Nov 04, 2018 5:28 pm

I must just be confused because I was responding to this statement by KlangFool:
The University will always take your money. They do not care whether you can graduate.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by Cruise » Sun Nov 04, 2018 5:41 pm

KlangFool wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:38 pm
magnificent wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:22 pm
KlangFool wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 11:48 am
1) What do you have at this moment? Bachelor Degree? Master degree? In many cases, the Ph.D. will not provide additional income if you have a master degree now.
I have a Bachelor of Arts.
magnificent,

<<I'm weighing the ROI of a PhD in human factors and systems engineering,>>

Are you kidding? (inappropriate - my apology) Bachelor of Arts in what? What makes you think that you can get a PhD in the first place? The University will always take your money. They do not care whether you can graduate.

KlangFool
Klanfool,

In the world of BH posts, the one above is about the most cynical and most lacking in tact I've seen. No ROI in the post,

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by MathIsMyWayr » Sun Nov 04, 2018 7:01 pm

KlangFool wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:57 pm
<<A PhD can lead to more interesting work.>>

Why do you need to work in order to do interesting stuff? What is there to stop you from doing interesting stuff in your spare time?

KlangFool
There is a sea of difference between simple interest and interesting work. There are so many things interesting in life, but simple interest does not lead to interesting work for itself. Nowadays it takes a thorough preparation and deep knowledge to get involved in works which are both interesting and productive. I remember reading a story in an IEEE journal. Whenever an editor staff receives a manuscript on some truly interesting topics for publication, he asks around "older" colleagues. Almost without exception, the topic has already been discussed long ago. If OP is truly convinced that a lack of advanced degree is a road block to interesting work, he may consider some more structured study though I doubt it has to be a PhD program. Reading through some papers may enable you to talk in a fancy way, but true knowledge is achieved only through long and focused work including going through all the equations manually if necessary.

KlangFool
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by KlangFool » Sun Nov 04, 2018 7:07 pm

MathIsMyWayr wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 7:01 pm
KlangFool wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:57 pm
<<A PhD can lead to more interesting work.>>

Why do you need to work in order to do interesting stuff? What is there to stop you from doing interesting stuff in your spare time?

KlangFool
There is a sea of difference between simple interest and interesting work. There are so many things interesting in life, but simple interest does not lead to interesting work for itself. Nowadays it takes a thorough preparation and deep knowledge to get involved in works which are both interesting and productive. I remember reading a story in an IEEE journal. Whenever an editor staff receives a manuscript on some truly interesting topics for publication, he asks around "older" colleagues. Almost without exception, the topic has already been discussed long ago. If OP is truly convinced that a lack of advanced degree is a road block to interesting work, he may consider some more structured study though I doubt it has to be a PhD program. Reading through some papers may enable you to talk in a fancy way, but true knowledge is achieved only through long and focused work including going through all the equations manually if necessary.
MathIsMyWayr,

That is my point. If this is more than a simple interest on the OP's part, OP should have been working on this with or without the Ph.D. program for a long time.

KlangFool

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by drk » Sun Nov 04, 2018 7:15 pm

OP, I don't see where you noted your current job and your expected job after your graduate studies. That will play into all of this because it will definitely impact your opportunity cost if you have experience in the field.

Aside from that, I agree with those saying that it doesn't make sense to think about the ROI of a PhD in purely monetary terms. Assuming that you're seeking to return to the same field, your fulfillment will have to play into it.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by mlebuf » Sun Nov 04, 2018 7:33 pm

MathIsMyWayr wrote:
Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:54 pm

No, a PhD does not make you smart and it is not true that only smart people get PhDs. If you want to keep your brain sharp, you should keep learning for life. That is the only way. PhD has nothing to do with being smart or sharp.
+1 Not all well educated people are smart and not all smart people are well educated. In my years in academia I met more than my share of Ph.D.'s who were a few fries short of a Happy Meal. I also met many who were very smart. Getting an advanced degree does not change the way we are wired.
Best wishes, | Michael | | Invest your time actively and your money passively.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by carolynb2 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:56 am

If you plan to work in higher ed as a faculty member you need to go to the highest status school with the highest status advisor you can get into. THAT, not your past experience, will influence where you get a job which will then influence your salary. Usually you work at a lower reputation school than the one you graduated from and then work your way up a bit over time. BUT resources are differently allocated at different level reputation schools and it is harder to work your way up from the bottom.

You likely will not be paid more because you have past industry experience although that might increase the odds you get a particular job. Publications as a grad student for a research institution (eg division 1 and some division 2 schools) also is critical. Fail to do that and likely you won't be employed in those schools. Salary is higher at division 1 than division 2 or 3 schools.

Figuring the ROI depends on accurately converting these unknowns into something quantitative and that isn't easy. As a result you will likely find your range of "likely outcome" to be pretty broad.

DO NOT EVER go to an online PhD program if you plan to teach (and likely for many other kinds of jobs too). The ROI is likely negative as you are likely putting a match to your money and will end up with a ton of student loans. At decent PhD programs you get a 1/2 paid job, a part or full tuition waiver and so school is substantially cheaper. The reputation of online PhD programs is in the toilet and finding well paying full time tenure track jobs at good reputation (thus higher paying) schools is nil.

If you are planning to stay in industry then ask your employer for advice about where to get it, pay increase...

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Nov 09, 2018 4:06 am

willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:17 pm
Computer science is another buyer's market.
Is it?

I recognize there are hot fields. If you have a PhD in AI from Carnegie Mellon then you can write your own ticket. I think Google hired the entire U of Toronto AI research lab?

But, overall, the number of CS undergrad majors is something like half what it was in the 1980s - on a larger population.

That's going to cut the demand for CS teaching.

Whatever the pretensions of academe, the vast amount of work universities do is warehousing 18-23 years olds for 4 years and educating them hopefully in a way that makes them better employees and better citizens*. That's a huge amount of teaching, and university budgets do, in the long run, fluctuate with the demand by students. Much teaching now is done by contractually limited term adjuncts, but still.

Very few people get pure research jobs - and that's more likely at an institute funded by private industry.

You have to teach - because there's a lot of it. But less demand in it for CS.

* I am all for liberal arts. Unfortunately when I was in undergrad I don't think most people got a lot of benefit out of university education.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Nov 09, 2018 4:11 am

MathIsMyWayr wrote:
Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:31 pm
We are a PhD couple - me in engineering and DW in humanities. If your goal is teaching at a university, PhD may be a must. In my experience of many years, there are so many engineering PhDs doing works which definitely do not need a PhD. If your goal is oriented financially, I think the best ROI is MS, not PhD. My gut feeling is that today's PhDs are as competent as yesterday's MS. This is even more so with the wide spread use of engineering software.
Did you mean "today's MS are as competent as yesterday's PhD?" I would tend to agree with that.

In your field of expertise, I would reckon a 1-2 year MS is x2 your knowledge acquisition over a 4 year undergrad degree. It may even be higher than that.

Depending on your university, the top 10-20% of undergrad Seniors may be ahead of the MS programme students.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Nov 09, 2018 4:16 am

Cruise wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:11 pm


For others seeking ROI calculation (Not the OP): If you are single and looking for an interesting future spouse with high earning potential, you are likely to meet another Ph.D. with these qualities in a Ph.D. program. Again, the ROI is incalculable. :)
That is almost assuredly not true.

In the Science & Engineering fields, the vast majority of PhD students tend to be male? And half or more of them are non US citizens, and may not even be able to remain resident in the USA post PhD?

Perhaps in life sciences & biomedical the gender ratio is more balanced?

In the liberal arts the numbers of PhDs are more balanced. Unfortunately a liberal arts PhD is a ticket to penury - there are 200 or 300 qualified PhDs, often with post doc experience and publications, for every tenure track job. There is, literally, no point trying to go into academe in liberal arts. My one friend who stuck it now works for a major US government bureaucracy.

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by Afty » Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:30 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 4:06 am
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:17 pm
Computer science is another buyer's market.
Is it?

I recognize there are hot fields. If you have a PhD in AI from Carnegie Mellon then you can write your own ticket. I think Google hired the entire U of Toronto AI research lab?

But, overall, the number of CS undergrad majors is something like half what it was in the 1980s - on a larger population.

That's going to cut the demand for CS teaching.

Whatever the pretensions of academe, the vast amount of work universities do is warehousing 18-23 years olds for 4 years and educating them hopefully in a way that makes them better employees and better citizens*. That's a huge amount of teaching, and university budgets do, in the long run, fluctuate with the demand by students. Much teaching now is done by contractually limited term adjuncts, but still.

Very few people get pure research jobs - and that's more likely at an institute funded by private industry.

You have to teach - because there's a lot of it. But less demand in it for CS.

* I am all for liberal arts. Unfortunately when I was in undergrad I don't think most people got a lot of benefit out of university education.
I don't know about the 80s, but at least since 2006 CS enrollments have been skyrocketing while the number of faculty have increased at a much lower rate. See this study from the Computing Research Association: https://cra.org/wp-content/uploads/2017 ... ion-CS.pdf:
The increase in the number of tenure-track faculty and teaching faculty in no way matches the growth in the number of
undergraduate CS majors, as is illustrated in Figure B.4. As a result, faculty are teaching larger classes and more classes
are taught by visitors, adjuncts, postdocs, and graduate students.
I have a CS PhD and agree that it's a hot market. Departments are increasing faculty hiring, but industry is also happy to hire PhDs. I work in industry doing applied research (not ML). It's great, I love it. I'm also hiring, by the way. :)

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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by triceratop » Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:40 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 4:16 am
Cruise wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:11 pm


For others seeking ROI calculation (Not the OP): If you are single and looking for an interesting future spouse with high earning potential, you are likely to meet another Ph.D. with these qualities in a Ph.D. program. Again, the ROI is incalculable. :)
That is almost assuredly not true.

In the Science & Engineering fields, the vast majority of PhD students tend to be male? And half or more of them are non US citizens, and may not even be able to remain resident in the USA post PhD?

Perhaps in life sciences & biomedical the gender ratio is more balanced?

In the liberal arts the numbers of PhDs are more balanced. Unfortunately a liberal arts PhD is a ticket to penury - there are 200 or 300 qualified PhDs, often with post doc experience and publications, for every tenure track job. There is, literally, no point trying to go into academe in liberal arts. My one friend who stuck it now works for a major US government bureaucracy.
This is correct, but it all depends on your perspective. I mentioned earlier in the discussion:
triceratop wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:57 pm
Cruise wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:11 pm
For others seeking ROI calculation (Not the OP): If you are single and looking for an interesting future spouse with high earning potential, you are likely to meet another Ph.D. with these qualities in a Ph.D. program. Again, the ROI is incalculable. :)
Note: if one pursues this strategy, then there are good schools where there are a balance of students of all kinds (genders, fields, possible future earnings potential) and there are also schools where attendance is utterly self-defeating or a piece of cake, depending on your gender at such a school. Roughly: STEM schools can be self-defeating for one kind of gender.

Note: this was not my strategy (I was informed of this strategy as an undergrad by a professor of mine), and had it been then I would have chosen the self-defeating route.
The life sciences and biomedical are indeed more balanced, but at least at my STEM-only institution the overall graduate student ratio is about 75:25, or even more skewed. And, you are right about the foreign student issue post-PhD (especially at the better schools there tend to be many internationals), though if they become your spouse I don't think any residency issues are a problem. ;)
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Re: Calculating ROI for PhD

Post by 22twain » Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:51 pm

Cruise wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:11 pm
If you are single and looking for an interesting future spouse with high earning potential, you are likely to meet another Ph.D. with these qualities in a Ph.D. program.
This requires a reasonable gender ratio in your field, of course. And if you do find a suitable long-term partner, you will likely be faced with the infamous "two-body problem": finding positions for both of you at the same (or at least nearby) institutions.

I ended up meeting and marrying another professor at the college where I landed my tenure-track position. Her humanities field is completely different from my STEM field, but I have an interest in hers and I took several courses in it as an undergraduate, so we have something academic to talk about. In fact, now that I'm retired, I'm sitting in on one of her courses. (She's technically also retired, but still teaches a couple of courses as an adjunct.)
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