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Ph.Ds in IT - Good or Bad for a Career?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the is-the-extra-education-worth-it dept.

Education 781

LordNimon asks: "I'm thinking about getting my Ph.D. (I currently have a Master's) in computer engineering. I've heard all sorts of stories about Ph.Ds being less likely to find a job than their less-educated counterparts, but not a lot of credible evidence. So, I was hoping to hear from Slashdot readers on their experience. Do you think getting a Ph.D. in CompSci or CompEng will improve or worsen my career outlook in the industry? Has anyone witnessed someone being turned down for a job because he had too much education? If you're a hiring manager, what is your opinion on someone who has a Ph.D. and is otherwise already qualified for the position?"

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781 comments

Degrees? (5, Funny)

Nick of NSTime (597712) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732702)

"Carl and I have our Master's, but Homer just showed up when the plant opened."

Re:Degrees? (-1, Troll)

twoslice (457793) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732726)

"Carl and I have our Master's, but Homer just showed up when the plant opened."

Let me guess. Homer is now your boss?

well.. (2, Informative)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732710)

All the PhD's I know have stayed in the education field. Two teach, and one has a research position at Microsoft's Education dept.

Re:well.. (4, Informative)

Frymaster (171343) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732745)

the key here is research. if you want more of a research position, a phd will go a looong way. if you are more into implementation, a masters might already be too much.

Too much is better than too little (4, Insightful)

floppy ears (470810) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732711)

It's conceivable, sure, but you're a lot more likely to get turned down for a job for a lack of education than too much education.

Re:Too much is better than too little (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732816)

"Do you want fries with that?"

Re:Too much is better than too little (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732845)

yes, I want FRENCH fries with that!

Re:Too much is better than too little (5, Interesting)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732822)

Having just interviewed more people than I wish to remember I would say that a PhD doesn't hurt you when looking for a job. The problem is that if you have only gone to school for many years and have no real software development work under your belt, that will hurt you if your looking for a development job.

Of course if you want a research position then a PhD is the only way to go. You probably need to end up asking yourself what you want to do and figure out the best way to get there. Getting your PhD is right for some paths, going to work is right for others.

how dare you! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732714)

You insensitive clod! I'm a business major.

Who cares? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732715)

Who cares?

Depends on your experience (5, Informative)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732719)

My experience with having a PhD differed depending on which side of the
Atlantic I was on. When I was in the UK (where I got the qualification) I
definitely met resistance from some companies who asked me bluntly why I had
bothered to get a PhD if I wasn't going to do research, and seemed suspicious
that I might be too "academic" for their jobs. Only one company, ICI, was
positive about my doctorate stating that I would start at a higher pay grade
because of it.

In the US I've found that the PhD was a plus, people respect that you did
the work to get it and generally are interested by the topic I choose (security).
I have not had a negative reaction here.

In my current position where I hire people the more education the better, as
long as the person has the skills required for the job. So I have had to choose
between a person with a PhD who had just learnt C++ and a person with a Master's
who's spent 2 years coding in C++ then the Master's wins. What's going to be
important with your PhD is to demostrate that you have practical experience along
with the studies (could be through a summer job, for example).

John.

More important (1, Funny)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732721)

More important than a Ph.D. is excellent karma on slashdot.

Re:More important (1)

IIRCAFAIKIANAL (572786) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732794)

Of course!! That's why I keep getting raises while I spend time on Slashdot. I guess I should spend more time here and I should be making seven figures in a year or two!

Thanks dude, you've changed my life!

Phd problems (1)

Mr.Zuka (166632) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732722)

One of my co-workers tried ofr other jobs and they always thought they would not want to accept the offer since it what they assumed would be lower then what a PHD would accept so he had to call back everytime and make a first offer in this economy when he was just happy to have a job.

Too much education (2, Insightful)

BeninOcala (664162) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732724)

Well i have some experience in this as my mother has two master degrees. She has alot of trouble getting her foot in the door because of her education. Most heads of departments do not want someone with better backgrounds then them.

Re:Too much education (2, Interesting)

geekmetal (682313) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732871)

Problem with a PhD I would see is that it narrows your field. Unless you are damn sure your PhD topic is what you want to work on its probably not worth it, but then if you end up working in the University after that you still have considerable flexibility. The problem would be if you want to get into the industry and find a 'job', some companies will invariably consider you to be over qualified mostly due to insecurities of the company (you might leave or be more qualified than your boss and hence have lesser respect for him yada yada..)

I have a master's myself and have been contemplating a PhD, but haven't been able to make the move due to the doubts regarding my need for it

Given that Slashdot's readership is probably (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732725)

99.9% free of PhD's, is this even a relavent question?

You inconsiderate clod! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732946)

I have a PhD [goatse.cx] in TROLLING!

ComEng fo ?IT? (1, Informative)

EnderWiggnz (39214) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732728)

I dunno about a phd in CompEng for an /IT/ job, but if you were designing boards/chips/big ass systems, then yes, it will help...

Re:ComEng fo ?IT? (5, Interesting)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732835)

The editors changed the subject after I submitted my story. Here's the original:

  • 2003-08-18 19:46:10 Ph.D.: Good or bad for career? (askslashdot,ed) (accepted)
I never said anything about IT in my post, because I don't consider a computer engineering or computer science to be part of IT.

On a side note, apparently persistence helps when submitting stories:

  • 2003-07-30 16:34:45 Will getting a Ph.D. improve employment options? (askslashdot,ed) (rejected)

$ is all that matters, sometimes. (5, Insightful)

LePrince (604021) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732732)

Do not forget that 40K$ jobs are much more frequents than 100K$ jobs.

So, yes, having a PHD means that you will request a higher salary (which is ENTIRELY normal), therefore reducing the number of opportunities you can have. But is it a bad thing ? I do not think so. Maybe you'll end up looking for a job a bit longer, but you'll most likely get a high-pay job, with many benefits, and a job you will like, or in which you'll have some type of control/supervision.

Re:$ is all that matters, sometimes. (1)

bigpat (158134) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732902)

Location matters too, there will likely be more PHd level jobs in larger companies or defense contractors, since they will use the qualifications of their staff to get contracts. Also, with a PHd you could probably get some Venture Capital to turn that research project into a company.

Just don't expect to be getting a mid level or even upper level programming job, so you may indeed go longer in between work.

Or else your fallback is teaching someplace, unless you are still single in which hitting on hot 20 year old females that you teach everyday might get you fired someday.

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Professors (2, Insightful)

XJEEP.org (633878) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732735)

the last professor that I had was a PHD. He was a moron. I think that your knowlege base and work experience should stand on its own.

A Job? (5, Insightful)

statusbar (314703) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732737)

Is a job the only reason why you want a Phd?

--jeff++

Re:A Job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732847)

Usually, Ph.D. students are those who were too lazy to search for a job after their master.
This is certainly my case ;)

Re:A Job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732850)

A PhD will also allow you to dick around in academia for 3 to 5 more years. You don't have to work all that hard, and you get to take a lot of time off. Writting a thesis is a bitch, but if you've stayed in school this long already, then you're probably a pretty good bullshitter anyway. I say, go for another degree, but get it at a school near a beach or some ski slopes.

Re:A Job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732884)

Is there a better reason? You're not getting out of that apartment into a house on $35,000 a year with a wife and kids.

Although you didn't explicitely say it in your post, I hate it when people say that the knowledge is more important than how it will help your career. BS. Your career is your life. You will spend a great deal of your time at it and it is the means for survival and supporting a family.

Money CAN and DOES buy happiness.

Re:A Job? (5, Interesting)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732942)

I strongly agree with the parent.

The only valid reason for chosing to do a PhD is that you really want to. Forget career - that should have nothing to do with your decision. Doing a PhD is hard work, and you will almost certainly go through times when you wish you'd never started and wonder if you should just cut your losses. On the other hand, it can be immensely rewarding, and will teach you a whole new way of thinking.

As for jobs afterwards, outside academia at least, it's a lottery. Some companies value them, others don't. So that shouldn't really affect your decision.

Its been my experience (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732744)

and my preference when interviewing to select people with solid commercial experience rather that mostly academic backgrounds. I suppose for specialised applications a Phd will be a benifit but not for the vast majority of positions.

Education or programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732747)

I would think in education a PHD would help as schools like to have those.
As for real life programming I don't think it would hurt you as long as your salary requirement didn't skyrocket and you attitude doesn't put you 'above' doing some trivial work. Having seen phd's hired and not hired I think it is mostly in their attitude.

Yes, it happens (5, Interesting)

marktoml (48712) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732749)

I not only saw this happen...I contributed to it.
We had an opening for an entry-level or mid-level developer position. Had a fellow apply with 2 masters and a Phd. I couldn't really see that the job would be challenging/interesting enough.

Most employers are not interested in being a way-station on someones career. I figure if I really need a job, tayloring the resume to suit the position is essential.

Re:Yes, it happens (1)

MSBob (307239) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732950)

You're ridiculous. Most companies keep their employees for no more than a couple of years and shed them as soon as it's necessary to adjust quarterly figures. You just prevented someone valuable from entering the employment market.

It's better to be underemployed than unemployed. It's because of employers like you that people nowadays, fear obtaining higher education and are reduced to doing mediocre jobs and become disposable .

PhDs in my department (2, Insightful)

GeckoFood (585211) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732768)

There are at least two people holding PhDs in my department (I am in the MIS department of a large retailer). Both of them are worker bees, although they are definitely well respected. They are not part of the "good ol' boy network" so they probably won't make management, but management around here definitely listens very closely to them.

Higher degrees (2, Interesting)

Mahonrimoriancumer (302464) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732770)

Since I am still in school working on my degree in applied physics, I don't have a great deal of insight to offer. However, I have heard from several of my friends that are working and there seems to be an unwritten rule that bosses like to hire smart people but don't like it when employees are smarter/better educated than them. To me, it appears to be an inferiority complex.

Re:Higher degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732899)

What exactly are your career plans with a degree in applied physics?

money drives all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732771)

you'll spend 4-5 years on this. you won't make money these years, but barely survive. after that to take advantage of the degree, you must go post doc (no money for 2-3 years), only after that your PhD is recognized, then you go to research labs to make some decent money, still less than sr engineers.

so, you'll ruin 6-8 years: not earn 500-600k, which is a lot of money if you look at the interests etc.

a biased opinion (from an undergrad) (5, Insightful)

Jucius Maximus (229128) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732773)

PhDs are more likely than others to have careers in Academia. So if a statistically larger number of them, compared to Master's or Bachelor's degree holders go into academia, then there would obviously be a smaller percentage of the total number of PhDs in industry compared to the others.

And since the number of people with PhDs is relatively small to begin with compared to the other groups, the perception that they don't get indistry jobs as often is easy to understand.

I'd say you should go for it and get the degree. I don't see why it would decrease your chances of getting a job in industry, and in the case of a tech downturn (again,) you could probably still turn to a job in academia.

Experience... (2, Insightful)

ivanmarsh (634711) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732775)

Take it from a guy that's been in I.T. for 15 years and doesn't have a degree in anything... it's easier if you have an education. Though A PHD might be a bit much for the average I.T. shop.

Dont get the PhD unless you want to teach. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732777)

I dont think you should get your PhD unless you know you want a job that specifically requires it. That would pretty much be college professor or running a large research group. It is true that people will be reluctant to hire you for jobs that do not need a PhD if you have one.

If you want to go back to school and learn more about computers, perhaps you could pick some other field and get another masters applying computers to solving problems in that domain. Not only might that be fun, but it will make you a lot more marketable as well.

Pragmatic response (1)

gazbo (517111) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732787)

Only do a phd if you really really want to research in that field. Many people spend a few years hating their lives because they have to work on a sucky dissertation that it turns out they weren't really very interested in.

But having done a phd, if you're concerned about it, just leave it off the CV. I doubt anyone will ask you to account for the missing years, but if they do it' not exactly hard to talk about your 3 years' work as a volunteer teacher in Mozambique.

Honestly though, I doubt a phd will have a negative effect on any applications. Equally, lack of a phd will have very little effect (except in very specialised roles), so I don't think you need to worry. The correlation is likely to be an extremely weak one, but newspaper just love publicising such reports, no matter how significant or otherwise the results are.

education = good... (1)

lennart78 (515598) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732788)

A friend of mine applied for a job he was more than qualified for. He lacked a piece of paper that said he had done an education. If I would have applied, I'd get the job (I think), without being nearly as experienced.

In my experience, businesses are more interested in diplomas then in experience. Having completed an education doesn't prove you're an expert in a given area, but that have mastered a basic skill in working as a professional. And that is probably of much more value than in this case technical knowledge. (Most of which you'll learn on the job anyway...)

Is it better to apply for MS or PhD? (1)

ghoul (157158) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732792)

As a B.E. in Comp Engg I am planning on applying for further studies. However the authors question brings a question to my mind. Should I app for MS or PhD. It is generally considered more difficult to get a PhD admit but easier to get aid in PhD than MS. Of course the point raised by the author of the post seems to add another facet to these questions. Would some of you post-grads out there have any advice?(Note I have 2 yrs of Job experience and am also seriously thinking of going for an MBA but selling my soul for money is turning out to be a bit of a drag:))

Re:Is it better to apply for MS or PhD? (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732923)

If you don't already have an MS, then you'll need to take additional classes to make up for it, so in the end, you'll be doing the work for an MS but not getting the degree per se. If for some reason you fail to get your Ph.D., you'll have almost nothing to show for it.

A lot of colleges have a program where you can get an MS in two years taking classes only on the weekends. I recommend that you do that first.

Cheapness. (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732796)

Unless he really needs to be able to brag that he's got a rocket scientist on the team, or the position actually needs that level of qualification... then he's going to go for the cheaper option.

Just having a Ph.D doesn't mean you're any good at the job... it has to be relevant to it in order to open up the doors to get the interview. After that, you actually have to be able to "cut the mustard".

ps. I've stopped mentioning my honours degree and don't put the letters after my name in normal correspondence. I only use them in a job application when the job requires them, otherwise I run into the "sorry chum, you're too qualified" response if I'm lucky to get a response.

Overeducation (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732797)

As a hiring manager PHD's arent particulary atractive in and of themselves. With the poor state of pratical education persoanly I would rather hire a person with more experience than an over educated one. The only roles that generaly seem to be looking for PHD's are CTO and senior research positions and either of those again want to see a lot of expereince.

Do you care about research? (4, Insightful)

stomv (80392) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732800)

A Ph D (in engineering and science) is a certification in the ability to do research. Generally theory based, and often without a "real world" product in sight.

Read lots of papers, write some papers, get published.

This has as much to do with computer engineering in most companies as having your IBEW (electrician) certs.

If you want a career in research -- either in an academic institution or a semi-private or private lab (think Bell Labs or Lawrence Livermore Lab), then get a Ph D. If you want to "do" computer engineering, than a Ph D won't likely help you.

It is certainly not likely to result in a pay differential from a master's degree equivalent to the time lost earning the Ph D (4 - 6 years generally).

P.S. I'm a Ph D student in Systems Engineering (similar to operations research)

Not good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732801)

A friend of mine went for a job with a Phd in systems design. He had done alot of research into the process of software design and use and was told.

"We are looking for someone with experience in this area - but not as much as you have"

Fear of the egghead no doubt.

He found employment in a company that had no interest in him having a Phd or not.

But your best bet is to get your Phd and set your sights higher, become a PHB!

His present job title starts 'Director of ...' and he thought he might hack it as a Perl programmer. I am so green with envy.

Just remember... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732803)

The purpose a Ph.D. is to prepare you to do research. I don't think learning the ins-and-outs of literary searching, statistical analysis and hypothesis testing, etc... will help in most jobs in the industry. The time/money might be better spent elsewhere.

Most schools I think the Ph.D. is about 36 credits beyond a masters, typically 6-12 are dissertation credits. Of course, the big part of the Ph.D. is the dissertation, which in some schools you can opt-out of and earn an A.B.D. degree, which is "All But Dissertation".

Disclaimer: IANAPh.D.

I worked with Computer PH.D (0)

thePancreas (690504) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732805)

Everyone just called him "the doctor" and no one could figure out what he did. I did see him complain about the printer/fax machine alot, though.

Same deal with me getting my masters (2, Insightful)

Lovebug2000 (195893) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732808)

Well, maybe not exact same, but currently I am a college student working for my BSCS from a technical school. They have a 5 year masters program, and given the current market, I can see where that might be the wise move. However, I have heard some things that give me pause, mainly that people with a masters fresh out of college don't get the jobs.

The reasoning is that a masters demands more money, after all, I've been to college for longer and know more. However, I don't have the work experience to compete with other people who have recently gotten their masters (after being in industry for 10 years). Also, it sounds like I will get the same job with a masters degree that I'll get with a BS unless I go into some academic area (like research).

I don't know how many of these apply to you, but I know I'll take a good hard look at the market next spring and decide whether I should stay in school for another year.

hrm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732811)

My experience is this - you want to teach or do research, then PhD is the way to go, otherwise, I wouldn't bother. If you are a hands-on guy that wants to have an IT job, I would save my money...go buy your wife something nice...you'll get more out of it.

Book Knowledge vs. Practical Knowledge (1)

mencik (516959) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732813)

Most PhD folks I've known in industry were full of book knowledge but had almost no ability whatsoever to apply that knowledge. Obviously there have been exceptions. I'd suggest that for most jobs a BS or MS in Computer Science or Engineering is more than sufficient.

Berkeley says it's all good... (2, Informative)

register_ax (695577) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732817)

...of course they are biased, but it makes for a good read in your situation. Basically they say that you will be better off in the long run. Maybe not more money, but happier.
Despite tales of English PhDs driving taxis and science PhDs endlessly bouncing from one postdoctoral position to another, a new survey by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, finds that most of those who earn a PhD are relatively satisfied with their career 10 to 13 years later.

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/99lega cy/9-2-1999.html [berkeley.edu]

PhD's (1)

gotvim (610753) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732820)

I don't think it will do much good nor harm in today's job market. And you don't have to advertise that you have one when job searching if you feel it's going to scare employers away. However, a PhD is still a pretty assume accomplishment in my book!

possible degree envy?... (1)

zubernerd (518077) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732823)

If you're a hiring manager, what is your opinion on someone who has a Ph.D. and is otherwise already qualified for the position?
A hiring manager may fear (or envy) your higher education, or fear you may displace them (your higher degree may make you look better suited for management.)
Now for the field I'm want to enter (mol. bio.), research and teaching (at the college level) you need a Ph.D. to be taken seriously and get a job. (Not to say I agree with that, but that is the impression I've gotten from others).
Just my 0.02 USD...

Don't waste your time employing a PhD student (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732824)

I'm working with a couple of PhD students on my current contract, and they're a nightmare. One is around 35 and clearly has never worked anywhere outside toy projects at university (Cambridge, UK). It's impossible to get him to cooperate with a team of developers, use source control at all (let alone effectively), use a sensible build system, write code which works on Windows (that's what the client's got - duh!), etc. I've only worked in industry for about 7 years, but I'm already lightyears ahead of the PhD students in terms of working code produced and delivering to the client on schedule.

(Posted anonymously by a regular contributor).

McDonald's (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732828)

Is always hiring friendly faces. I'm sure your PhD won't be held with disdain there, in fact, it'll probably be a non-issue!

the point of education (1)

514x0r (691137) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732829)

is not necessarily to get a job. it may be a nice side effect from time to time, but isn't there value in the learning itself.
for the record, i'm satisfied with certifications and an AA in computer science; philosophy is the only higher degree i persue.

From both sides of the fence (5, Interesting)

mrob2002 (564229) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732830)

As an IT manager who also has a Comp Sci PhD hopefully I can give an answer from both sides. This is also from a UK perspective.

My PhD was based around networked information systems like the Web and Gopher, back in 1992-1996. My PhD improved my technical skill set a little, with extra programming experience, and early awareness of protocols such as HTTP, and standards such as HTML. But the real advantages came from the other part of earning a PhD - the ability to present your ideas to others, whether that's on paper, or stood at the front of a room. The ability to organise my thoughts, to analyse problems and come up with solutions, to think outside of the already known base of information and come up with new ideas, to manage my own time, these were all the skills that I picked up between graduating with my first degree, and being given my PhD.

As a manager looking to hire someone, I would expect someone with a PhD to have the skills mentioned above. But you can also pick up those skills "on the job", or just have them as innate abilities, so as ever it would come down to how you present yourself at the interview. Having a PhD would certainly not count against you.

Maybe I'm lucky, but I've never come across the "overqualified" argument myself, and I'm very happy that I had 4 or 5 years dedicated to researching something that I found extremely interesting, in a superb learning environment. I think the skills of analysis and logical thinking are very handy in the IT and programming enviroments.

When I hire... (2, Informative)

decairn (669433) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732832)

I just look at degrees as a piece of paper that shows someone has learnt some discipline towards accomplishing goals. The subject and type of degree are secondary, it's the process the degree program puts you through that is important to me. PHDs - generally show a (perceived) higher IQ and ability to theorise and write copious amounts. It will make you stand out from that bunch of resumes, but it also raises a red flag over you; are you too intellectual to be pratical? Only an interview can find that one out. We did hire a guy with a PHD once, he applied for a systems administrator job. He quickly got promoted a few levels as he was unbelievably bright and 'wasted' doing Unix installs and the like. Now he's director of IT at a brokerage.

just don't expect your PhD to count as experience (1)

Fjord (99230) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732833)

When I look for a candidate, being a PhD is impressive, but it doesn't say a lot about how well you would work in a corporate environment. Deadlines and attitudes can be different at a company than in a university setting. While interviewing one PhD, it was apperent to me that he wasn't used to a very fast paced schedule with indefinite requirements.

Basically, you're going to have to start at the bottom like any other college grad. I wouldn't worry to much about it much though, once you get out here, you'll prove yourself pretty quickly and be fast tracked as far as raises and promotions go. Just don't expect the PhD to land you even 80K (in florida) out of the gate.

I've been there (1)

wavecoder (695422) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732840)

It happens - I've been turned down for jobs, because people look at my education and think, "He's not going to be here in six months." I know Ph.D.'s who can't get work; my mom has two degrees from Vanderbilt and can't find work. It definitely happens...

It can be harder to get the job... (1)

arete (170676) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732842)

My mother definitely seemed to have had a harder time getting a job because she had a PhD. (In English, for a teaching job) The basic deal is either

1) A big company has to pay you more for a PhD because they have policies and don't have the leeway to say that a PhD took a Master's level job. Therefore sometimes relatively equivalent candidates will be decided in terms of who's lighter on the pocketbook.

2) A company with the leeway to offer you less money and benefits thinks you won't take it.

But I think it's worth it, because when you find a job it'll probably be a better one. My advice is to find a job, get a PhD, and then you have the leisure to look for a GREAT position.

In response to another comment: Even if 99.9% of /. is PhD free, 0.1% of /. is a helluva lotta people ;)

Education is a great thing... (1)

bagboy (630125) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732844)

but a proper balance between the qualifications in most fields lies between practical experience and education. Too much on the scale in either direction can often have an adverse affect when compared against others who are better balanced.

My penny and a half.

Education (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732848)

I have interviewed 1000's of potential engineers for my company, and I have learned one important fact while doing so.

In engineering education doesn't amount to squat.

You either have it or you don't. It seems to be like art. Education can make a good artist a better, but the raw talent must already be there.

In fact of my 3 best engineers 1 doesn't have a degree and the other 2 do, but low level and not in engineering.

I am also as yet to interview a EE/SE PHD that has any ability or talent, and I have interviewed hundreds of them.

Evil Man

academics vs. industry (1)

doowy (241688) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732851)

Unless your research topic is somehow directly related to the job, I would given other candidates serious consideration before hiring you.

There's also a stigma that Ph.Ds are too accustomed to the life of academia. While sometimes you need to impress to get a research grant or whatever, it is much different than industry in terms fo goals and objectives - and thus, would you really be a good fit in my company after having spent all of that time in academics?

You're also specialized. You've focussed yourself on a single research topic and closed a lot of doors by doing it. This, of course, can also happen in industry with years spent in the same position. You close some doors - but you have the key to that one specific area - just make sure you choose the area wisely!

Did I mention Ph.Ds are convinced they are deserving of higher salaries than others?

I'm sure you've heard all of the above arguments before. I don't neccesarily prescribe to them myself, but they do hold some merit.

If it came time to fill a position I can't imagine ever seeking a Ph.D - if an application rolled in from one, I would give it the same consideration as any other, only it might be tainted by the above mentioned negatives.

I /know/ I wouldn't pay more for a Ph.D candidate in IT - unless, like I said, the position was somehow related to their research topics.

[OT] Old Joke (4, Funny)

4of12 (97621) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732855)


"So you know what B.S. is?"

"Yeah."

"Well, M.S. is More of the Same, and PhD is Piled Higher and Deeper."

I Have One, It Has Helped (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732857)

I have a Ph.D. in Applied Math (not exactly computing, but close). I started out teaching at a small college, that didn't work. Now I work in a corporate programming shop. I know that I make more and have more interesting things to do because of the degree (and having done the job well for several years). I even started in an entry level job, since I had no full time work experience in programming.

On the flip side, that degree is your ticket to teaching. If you want to work at a small college, you can do so any time. Many schools are in a near constant search for a good computer teacher. You can do that part time or full time, your choice.

All that said, don't go for a Ph.D. unless you know why you need it. You don't need it to work in a corporate setting. If you don't have a need, you probably won't finish. Ph.D.'s are not like other degrees, there is no date when you know it will be over. Those without clear goals usually quit.

Experience counts for more (0)

breandandalton (673542) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732864)

If both candidates are equally qualified, then I'll have the Ph.D. candidate; but usually, experience is an important qualification - if both candidates are the same age, I'll often take the one with more experience before the one with a Ph.D. What would really make my mind up was the references they could both bring with them from other companies - that will help tell me a little about how they work in a team, how they get on in a work environment, lot's of "soft" issues that aren't easily checked in an interview.

think less do more (1)

muirhead (698086) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732865)

I'm thinking about getting my Ph.D. (I currently have a Master's) in computer engineering...

It's not being over educated that stops you from being employable, it's too much thinking.

If you really want to get a PhD make sure it closely tied in to a real commercial application. Education can just be a great way of avoiding any real work, and employers know it.

(I've got a single BEng desmond and "work" as a line engineer)

I turned down a PhD applicant once (1)

bnavarro (172692) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732866)

I was a senior programmer for a small software company, and myself and another senior programmer were designated the "front line" for filtering resumes and performing first round interviews for programming positions. One resume that came across my desk was from a Russian immigrant who had a doctorate's in computer science from the Univeristy of Moscow. His cover letter stated that he was looking for either a Junior or Senior Programmer position.

We rejected it right off hand -- he was either WAY too qualified for the position, and would abandon ship as soon as a better opportunity came along, or he was not nearly as bright as his Resume would indicate, and had fudged his way through University. Either way, PhD == Not qualified for a simple programmer's position anymore.

Unless you wish to become a professor or a top researcher/scientist at a prestegious lab somewhere, my advice is to stop at a Master's degree.

Get the Ph.D. for yourself (1)

jocknerd (29758) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732875)

I don't think it will make much of a difference in the job market, so do it for yourself.

What do you want to do? (1)

Dr. Bent (533421) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732876)

It all depends on what you want to do once you graduate. If all you want is to me a coder, and maybe move on to management later, there's no reason to get a Ph.D.

However, if you want to work on real Computer Science, like in a research lab somewhere, go ahead and get it. But software development today doesn't have too much do with the theoretical Computer Science they teach in most Doctoral programs. You'd learn more working on a real-world project.

it's about research (1)

russellh (547685) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732877)

funny, I just decided recently to get a PhD, because I've always idolized the Alan Kays of the world and the famous research labs, where of course a PhD is a minimum requirement (so far as I know). So it's no question in my mind. So I guess the question for you is - do you want to do research? do you want to be the world authority on one subject area? I think those are the key questions.

Depends on the Job. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732880)

When you have a PHD you are able to get into a lot of the really cool R&D stuff that people with their Masters and especially Bachelors wont even be considered. But you may have a harder time getting into entry level or mid level positions just because you are over qualified. But I am sure most companies will hirer a PHD if they know that you are really interested in the job and you are not just taking it to pass some time before you got a better one. As well if you want one of those lower level jobs don't expect to get higher pay because you have the PHD. A lot of companies just dont have a budget for a 120k a year job. so you may have to settle at 30-60k

Academia - Industry (1)

djtrialprice (602555) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732883)

I'm a final year AI PhD student.

Once down the road of Academia, it gets harder to get back into industry from what I gather. Not impossible, but if you take a post-doctorate post for an extra few years or so, you may suffer.

Also, when I graduated with my first degree it was simple: I looked for CompSci graduate jobs. I had loads of offers. Now, I'm going to be looking for a job fairly soon and I'm so specialized, I'm not sure what's best to look for. I could get a graduate job and hope that my PhD will help me climb the corporate ladder quickly or I could try hard to get a job in my chosen field. This could be quite hard (anyone else heard of constraint programming [unh.edu]?).

Actually, I'm off to read the comments posted now because this is gonna useful for me too.

Worsen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732885)

Obtaining a PhD in "Computer Science" is irrelevant.

First, after 25 years of computer science degrees, there has been no significant development in this field. Yes, processors have gotten faster and systems smaller, but there are no radical or revolutionary changes. Why? "Computer science" is an undefined field. It wavers between mathematics, physics, engineering, business, and management -- unfortunately doing none well. It is an anathma -- a hold over from the gee whiz 60s. Businesses continue to hire "computer science" grads to do "the computer work." The insinuation is that someone who "knows computers" can somehow solve business problems. Rarely is this the case. I usually compare it to hiring a materials science engineer (someone who researches new types of building methods) to build a kitchen cabinet. You probably are not going to be happy becuse you hired the wrong person. I feel sorry for the companies that continually advertise "great new IT position, BS in Comp Sci required" and then grumble that the IT department has lost touch with the business goals.

Second, the IT industry, as we know, it will not exist in five years. By the time you graduate, you will have a worthless slip of paper. If you really like computers, go into intellectual property law. Intellectual property law will supplant "computer science" in the near future. Not only will IT "not matter;" it, moreso, will no longer legally be able to matter.

I wish the outlook were more positive, but I would not waste time this dying field. (Sorry to thepp sci grads.)

That's going to depend on who you ask (1)

subrama6 (157306) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732893)

I have an MS in CompSci, and I have a job, but let me say that I'm not real pleased with it. It took a long time to find, I've had to make a lot of sacrifices to pay the rent, and I've got my eyes open for something better. Typically, more people pursue graduate school when the economy blows. That's something to take into account here, because we're in a downturn, but by the time you get the PhD, we might be in an upswing again. The other thing to consider is the kinds of jobs PhD's get. There's always going to be opportunities to teach. There's 3500 colleges in this country, not counting courses you could teach at high schools, online universities... etc. The research is part of the sticky issue. There are PhD research positions out there, but they're hard to find. Most of the folks I know got the PhD and then went on to academia or started a business based on their research. When I was making the decision of whether to pursue the PhD or not, my advisor (who worked in industry with an MS for quite a while before coming back to get the PhD and teaching) told me that relative to the amount of time you invest in getting the PhD versus what you make out of it, you're basically taking a lifetime paycut. That may or may not be true, but I think the thing that will have to govern your decision is how much you want it. If you're doing it with a terminal job in mind, you're probably not going to be happy with the result. If you get the degree because you have a genuine interest in theory, and want to be at the bleeding edge, then the job will create itself as you start a company or work in academia to continually stay at that bleeding edge for the rest of your career.

PhD in CS/CE != PhD in IT (1)

Pvt_Waldo (459439) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732896)

CS is not IT. IT is not CS. There's crossover, but there'a big difference.

If you get a PhD in CS/CE and spend your time doing IT type tasks, you'll be bored. You'll be doing "mundane" tasks instead of higher level research and development.

Booksmarts vs. Streetsmarts (1)

BobSutan (467781) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732906)

Degrees have their place in IT just as certs do, but as we all know experience reigns supreme. I can see the author's point in wondering if a higher degree will be 'employable'. I too wonder what those in HR may think of people who spend so much time hitting the books (presumably instead of dealing with real world situations).

win some, lose some (2, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732912)

My experience as a Ph.D. (though in cognitive science and robotics, not computer science) is that you do tend to become disqualified for some kinds of work. Essentially, grunt work programming, run-of-the-mill system administration and so on will be pretty much off-limits to you.

There are three reasons, generally, for this: first, you spent years in school whereas your peers went out and got work experience (or just learned a lot about unemployment benefits), so you will compete with people that have experience, whereas you do not. Second, your prospective employer will fear that you will want a higher salary (or other benefits) due to your degree, and they won't want to hire you when they can get a cheaper programmer that can do the job just as well. Third, they will (rightly) suspect that you will not find the work stimulating, rewarding or career-enhancing enough, leaving them with the need to do the hiring process all over again in six months or a year.

That said, a Ph.D. opens up whole new career paths that you really aren't qualified for otherwise. You of course have the research and teaching career path sort-of-open (though that is for masochists only, the way academia is going). You are also suddenly eligible to pursue an R&D career in big corporations. Last (but not least), the added knowledge and insights you get, the contact network (especially if you do a post-doc as well) and the skill you get in doing research means it is feasible to go out on your own with your own company R&D-oriented company (alone or with colleagues).

So, you lose some opportunities at the lower end, but gain some at the top. Of course, doing a Ph.D. is also a lot of fun (at least afterwards :) ). It's your call.

Think about the "why" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732917)

IANAPhD, but I'm married to one and I've often thought about getting one myself.

Her advice has always been that the PhD is a **research** degree. You have to **add** to the field of computer science/engineering. That, plus you have to have a clear reason **why** you are doing it, or else you'll never have the fortitude to finish.

Oh yeah, you also have to **publish**. I think the better programs want you to publish every year or so, then assemble them all into some sort of coherent dissertation. If you can't publish, you may be asked to leave.

So, to recap, a PhD is not just "another degree" to make you look better in an interview. You are learning how to be a publisher/researcher and how to add to the knowledge in your field.

To hell with that. (1)

Rev. Null (127972) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732918)

If you want to get a Ph.D, then get it. Don't think about its effect on your career. Do what you love and love what you do. If this means doctoral studies, then go for it. Conversely, don't do something out of character just because it might give you a +1 to an ability check. That's for weenies.

Salary Requirement (2, Informative)

Hasie (316698) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732922)

I had a friend who decided that while he was studying he would go ahead and do a PhD. He is a highly skilled person who didn't really need the extra qualification because of his experience. The problem now is that nobody wants to hire him because they think he is going to want a larger salary! He doesn't, he just wants a job, but he can't seem to convince anybody of this! Just something to consider...

how long will it take? (1)

grid geek (532440) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732924)

I'm going into the final year of my PhD in the Uk at the moment (in Grid Computing / Particle Physics applications) and the last few students to leave have had little difficulty in getting $80,000 start salaries.

I know this is a bit less than the US PhD's seem to get (at Stanford it was about $105-120k) however it only takes 3-4 years to do your PhD in the UK compared to 6-8 in the US, which means you're only 25 when you start in industry.

From what I've seen its more age than qualifications which are the problem. The guys who stay on as post-docs until their 30s have problems as they're starting to have families and wanting to settle down while the younger guys are still willing to work long hours and go where work sends them.

Stick to hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732928)

If you get a Phd in Comp Eng and stick to hardware, the Phd will not hurt you. I don't think it will help too much in the software field though. I think there is more demand for experienced and highly educated engineers in hardware than there is in software (at least relative to the size of the respective markets).

It depends... (1)

conan_albrecht (446296) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732929)

on what you want to do. I received my PhD 3 years ago, so I speak from some experience. PhDs vs. Masters graduates do *different* types of work (usually). Let me generalize for a moment (of course, exceptions occur frequently).

PhDs either work in academia or work in research labs. Many of my classmates went to Microsoft Labs, IBM Labs, AT&T Labs, etc. Others became professors at universities. A PhD education is 100% research, 0% teaching. It's all about researching new technologies, new patterns, new methods.

Masters or BS graduates normally work in more professional jobs: consultants, programmers, administrators. A Masters is very much a "specialization" and continuation of a BS degree. (A PhD is not a specialization in IS as much as it is an entirely new education in research methods).

I've also heard of some PhDs that find jobs only in research after earning their PhDs. It's said that recruiters won't let a PhD do on-the-line programming because PhDs are researchers rather than professional programmers. I haven't had this experience, though. Although I have a PhD and do lots of research and teaching, I also do side programming jobs in J2EE and Python. I haven't found my PhD to negatively affect my "Masters"-type work or recruiting at all.

YMMV

PHD is not even interviewed... (1)

makaha (668244) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732934)

I work at a very large aerospace contactor. We have been told that we are not looking for PHD's as they usually have too little practical skills, require too high of salaries and cause compensation compression.

Myopic yes, but HR rules the "getting your foot in the door"

Get your PHD because YOU want it. That will see you through all the politics of getting a PHD over the technical issues. Most teach, a few consult and fewer are considered SME's (subject matter experts) in large companies.

Do it for the knowledge not the money.

Too Much a problem (1)

MountinMan (699506) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732935)

I have noticed some people getting turned down for a position because of too much education. If the intereviewer knows the job doesn't pay as well they seem to discard the more educated people because they may leave sooner for better paying jobs.

Just don't get the attitude (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732936)

I've been in the IT field for about 17 years and I've seen all kinds. The only consistent issues I've had with individuals with a Ph.D., and I mean people that have 5 or less years of professional experience, is the attitude. They seem to think that because they've had more schooling than most they actually know more. Well, maybe they can explain a left handed grammar better than I can, but most of us out in the real world find little use for the finer points of some theories (I've got a BS in Computer Science and have taken my share of theory classes - RIT in case you're wondering). Yes, there are certainly exceptions and having a good theoretical understanding of Computer Science/Engineering is a good thing - I'd even go so far as to say the more the better. But good professionals have continued to develop their skills and knowledge and new Ph.D.'s would do well to listen to what they have to say and not look down their noses at the rest of the world.

Ph.D. offers no benefit for the company hiring you (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6732939)

a company hiring someone (except as a head of RnD, where for formal reasons they all want to have a guy with a Ph.D.) has no interest in your Ph.D.

reason: you expect more pay, but your additional qualification is nothing that would have an added value for the company. they would prefer you to work after you masters and to gain real life work experience (that they can use) rather than additional academic lab-experience (that is of no use for most companies)

Only if you really want it (1)

krygny (473134) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732941)

You sound a bit ambivalent, based on career prospects rather than passion for the work. In the business environment over the past 20 years, I've seen more career paths close than open up. So, just do what you love, as long as it pays the mortgage. Most career prospects are hit or miss, anyway. It's all about who's across the interview table. Remember: First rate people hire first rate people. Second rate people hire third rate people. Be first rate.

My .02 (1)

HuggyPaul (675727) | more than 10 years ago | (#6732948)

I worked with a PhD who was explicitly hired into our group of ~7 or 8 developers because the director of the group wanted a "heavyweight" to lend some academic credence to our R&D group. We developed firmware for laser printers. We also worked with a number of PhD's at IBM's Almaden facility. Later in my career I worked at a smaller firm that hired a PhD into a SW development position, and another small startup firm where a PhD with quite a bit of industry experience was hired as CTO. I've also worked at other companies where PhDs (CS, CompE, or other engineering fielsd) were part of the upper management food chain. In summary, over a 12-year career I haven't encountered a lot of PhD's in the workforce, but the ones I have encountered seem to have gotten along OK, whether it was "grunt" positions, or management, etc. I am currently trying to finish my Masters'. Personally, if I had the time/inclination/opportunity/drive/etc to go further, I would/may do it; I haven't seen or heard anything in the industry that would otherwise deter me from doing so.
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