Wednesday, November 13, 2013

PhDs: Should You Be a Researcher?

Science PhDs, near-PhDs, and postdocs frequently ask me, "Should I stay in research?"  This self-assessment may help. Rate yourself on each of these:

1. Cognoscenti frequently praise your ability to design and lead implementation of important experiments ___ (0 to 10 points.)

2. You love doing research so much it would be very painful to give it up.   ___ (0 to 10 points.)

3. Your area of research expertise is well-funded (for example, cancer, Alzheimer's, and autism yes, intelligence, botany, history of science, no)  ___ (0 to 10 points.)

4. You have and are likely to develop strong connections with luminaries in your field. ___ (0 to 10 points.)

5. You have the patience necessary for research. Typically many, many carefully done experiments must be conducted over a number of years to make even a modest contribution to your field. ___ (0 to 10 points.)

6. You are quite willing to do your research for a company as well as for a university or research institute. ___ (0 to 10 points.)

7. If you're not able to land a researcher or professor position, you are willing to (or already have done) a few-year post-doc. ___ (0 to 10 points.)

8. Your reports on your research will be of excellent integrity even though there are ample opportunities to fudge results.   ___ (0 to 10 points.)

9. Your PhD and, if applicable, your postdoc are from an institution renowned for research, especially in your field.  ___ (0 to 10 points.)

10. You are happy to put in 60+ hours a week and, if you have a spouse or other long-term domestic partner, s/he truly accepts that. (0 to 10 points.)

11. You are an excellent communicator, able to persuasively present your research in written proposals and articles as well as in oral presentations. (0 to 10 points.)

95-110  You almost certainly should persevere in pursuing your career as a researcher
80-95     You probably should
60-80      Perhaps you should
40-60      You probably should try to identify other career options
< 40     You almost certainly should try to identify other career options.

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