Should I Get a PhD in Engineering? 10 Key Factors to Consider

A PhD degree in engineering is a must! It opens many opportunities for you and your career. For instance, a PhD gives you the ability to start-up research programs, gain experience with new technologies, and become an expert in your field of study. A faculty position is also easily attainable with a PhD. Engineering positions are always highly competitive so having your PhD will set you apart from the rest.

Having a PhD in engineering is one of the most prestigious titles out there. You’re by far better off with one than without one. the benefits of having a PhD in engineering are numerous and can affect almost every aspect of your life.

Getting a PhD is a huge commitment that requires serious thought and reflection. As an engineer exploring whether to pursue a doctorate you’re likely weighing the pros and cons of how this advanced degree could impact your career and life overall.

I’ve been there myself. As someone who opted not to get a PhD in engineering, I want to share the key factors I wish I’d considered more deeply at the time. My aim is to help you make the decision that’s right for you and your goals.

Below I cover 10 crucial considerations around getting a PhD in engineering. For each one, I’ll outline the main upsides and downsides to weigh up. I’ll also include some real-world examples and data to put each factor into perspective.

Let’s dive in!

1. Career Impact

Pros: A PhD opens doors to specialized engineering and research roles, particularly in exciting new fields. It also boosts your credibility and can fast-track you into senior positions.

For example, hot areas like robotics, renewable energy and biotech are prime for PhDs to flex their expertise. A doctorate signals you’re at the cutting edge of new technologies shaping the future.

Cons: It may overqualify you for many mainstream engineering jobs. Some employers see PhDs as overspecialized or too academic. Unless R&D is central to the role, a Master’s may suffice.

Per ASEE data, only around 1.5% of the engineering workforce has a PhD. So weigh how far the degree would boost your career goals.

2. Research Interests

Pros: A PhD lets you fully indulge research passions and contribute original work to your field. For some, this intense focus makes the long haul worthwhile.

You’ll join a community of scholars to collaborate with at conferences and in academia. If you love research, a PhD can be incredibly rewarding despite the demands.

Cons: The narrow specialization may not excite you long-term. Picking a hot research topic is key, but your interests can evolve. Ensure your area has real-world impact to stay engaged.

Also know that a PhD may overfocus you for generalist engineering roles. Be clear on your research ambitions before diving in.

3. Financial Investment

Pros: PhD programs in engineering are usually funded, covering your tuition and providing a stipend. While not a large income, it’s one way to mitigate costs.

Certain fields like biomedical and software engineering may offer more funding options. Carefully researching programs can help reduce the financial load.

Cons: A PhD can stall earnings growth for 5+ years. Missing early career pay hikes has huge opportunity costs. Unless you get great value from the research itself, finances may suffer long-term.

For example, software engineers with just a Bachelor’s earn a median $110k. Compare that to a $30k PhD stipend – the gap gets hard to close.

4. Program and Advisor Fit

Pros: Finding the right program and advisor makes a monumental difference in PhD success. An encouraging advisor who mentors you through research and publishing is invaluable.

Thoroughly research programs’ focus areas and faculty. Visit campuses and current students to get a feel for fit. This takes work but pays off enormously.

Cons: A disengaged advisor who doesn’t support your research and career growth can derail your PhD. Poor program fit with clashing research interests also diminishes the experience.

Vet potential advisors carefully via their publications and lab alumni. Don’t underestimate the impact of this relationship in motivating you daily.

5. Work-Life Balance

Pros: Academia offers more scheduling flexibility than industry. While PhD workloads are intense, you can better manage personal responsibilities around research and teaching.

University holidays also provide more time off. If you secure a faculty job afterwards, balance may improve over private sector norms.

Cons: Achieving work-life balance while actively pursuing a PhD is extremely difficult. Expect long hours in the lab conducting experiments and analyzing data. Frenzied publishing pace also detracts from personal life.

Be realistic on how the demanding workload will impact relationships and mental health. Burnout is very real at the doctoral level.

6. Family Planning

Pros: If raising a family is a priority, some find combining this with a PhD doable by pacing themselves appropriately. Extended programs with lower course loads help here.

Having kids while pursuing a doctorate requires immense motivation and support, but can be rewarding for some determined individuals.

Cons: Besides financial pressures, the overall workload of PhD study often conflicts heavily with family time. Pregnancy needs may also require leaves of absence that extend an already lengthy program.

If you want kids in the next 5-7 years, carefully consider how that timeline aligns with your PhD plans. The priorities may clash.

7. Personal Fulfillment

Pros: For those intellectually stimulated by deep research immersion, a PhD can provide incredible personal satisfaction. You’ll regularly tackle complex problems and make discoveries that thrill and challenge you.

If you love your research area and enjoy academia, a PhD can be life’s work – not just a degree. The process itself is fulfilling.

Cons: The constant pressure and uncertainty around publishing, funding, graduation timelines, and job prospects afterwards wears many down. Anxiety and mental health issues are very prevalent.

Know yourself, and how you may handle the PhD journey’s ups and downs. Burnout can zap the joy and deflate your motivation.

8. Career Alternatives

Pros: If you’re already advancing well in your career with a Master’s or Bachelor’s alone, carefully weigh the costs of a PhD. Will it open up new opportunities you can’t access otherwise?

Or are you content in your current trajectory? There are no right answers, just insight into your own goals and passions.

Cons: Don’t assume a PhD is the automatic next step if you excel academically. Many successful engineers build their careers just fine without doctorates. Make sure the degree aligns with your aspirations.

A PhD might not benefit you substantially if alternative career paths already motivate you. Stay open-minded.

9. Lifestyle Change

Pros: Being immersed in a university for 4+ years can be an exciting adventure all its own. Campus life and student communities create memories to cherish.

You may also travel for conferences and research collaborations. For those who enjoy academia, it’s a stimulating period in life.

Cons: PhD students often struggle with isolation and lack of work-life separation. The consuming workload makes it tough to maintain hobbies, friendships, and adequate self-care.

Be ready to fully commit your lifestyle, not just your studies. The change can take acclimating if you’ve worked full-time already.

10. Job Prospects After Graduation

Pros: Those who ultimately seek professorships benefit immensely from having a PhD. It gets your foot in the door for academic positions and research funding.

It also signals advanced expertise to industry employers seeking high-level R&D talent. In many science and engineering occupations, it’s a prerequisite.

Cons: The overall academic job market is competitive, with limited faculty openings in many fields. Just 20-30% of PhDs ultimately find tenure-track professor roles.

Industry options are broader. But certain jobs may still view you as overqualified. Have a clear post-PhD employment strategy.

Key Takeaways on Earning an Engineering PhD

  • Gauge research and career interests against required sacrifices
  • Understand advisor relationship impacts and program culture fit
  • PhD may close some doors by overspecializing you
  • Weigh financial costs against funding support available
  • Lifestyle changes are demanding – know your stress coping limits
  • Timeline carefully if planning a family amidst studies
  • Ensure personal fulfillment from research immersion
  • Compare to alternative paths if you excel without a doctorate
  • Target viable job options in academia or industry post-graduation

Whether you should get a PhD in engineering depends wholly on your motivations and values. There are certainly big upsides, but also many downsides to evaluate honestly. Take time to reflect on your unique goals. For some, a PhD unlocks their dream career. For others, it may not be the optimal path forward.

should i get phd in engineering

Do you need a PhD to get hired by a good company with nice benefits?

It depends on your specialisation within the engineering field. If you hold a PhD in electrical engineering. There are chances to get hired as a senior research scientist at a major tech company (like Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon).

What skills do you require to have a PhD in Engineering?

If you have your heart set on a career in research and development, then a PhD in engineering is the way to go. Interested to teach at a university, then it will also be very useful. You have to be way more technical around subjects and have a passion to dig deep.

Getting a PhD as an Engineer or Not? – Engineering Career TV Ep. 10


How many engineers get a PhD?

Number of degrees
Health professions and related programs
Legal professions and studies

Do you want a PhD in engineering?

The answer depends on what you want from your engineering career. Do You Enjoy Research? The greatest advantage of the PhD is that it gives you experience in carrying out detailed research.

Should you get a PhD or a master’s degree in engineering?

Students looking to get a graduate degree in engineering can choose between a master’s program and a Ph.D. It’s a big decision, experts say, and one that can significantly affect a student’s career. likely to get hired.

What is a PhD in engineering?

A Ph.D. in engineering is a research degree that provides candidates with highly specialized knowledge of a specific engineering subfield. Candidates learn about quantitative research methods and complete advanced coursework. They also conduct independent research to prepare a written dissertation and an oral presentation.

What can you do with a PhD in engineering?

In addition, students working toward a PhD in engineering can expect to complete a written dissertation based on original research. Graduates of PhD in Engineering programs can work as professors at research universities, dedicate their expertise to industrial or government research labs, or create a business around their own innovation.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *