Author Topic: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?  (Read 11505 times)

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Offline Mechanical Menace

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #25 on: May 18, 2015, 10:00:24 pm »
Always remember that everse snobbery is just as bad as snobbery. You've a different goal in mind, doesn't mean your way is the only right way, or is wrong...
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #26 on: May 18, 2015, 10:14:12 pm »
Although I agree with Dave's assessment about being very specific, I disagree that you will not get practical skills by doing a PhD.

That's not what I meant. Any practical skills you do get as part of a PhD are likely to be quite limited, especially on the top level electronics side.

Quote
In this particular case (power electronics), keep in mind a PhD will probably be more focused in topologies designed at chip level - that is where the innovation is (usually a requirement for PhD grants).

Correct. I can't see much room for practical system level PhD stuff power electronics.
That doesn't mean thee isn't any room though.
For example, if it was me and I want to do a "practical" PhD in power electronics I'd try and sniff out an area of interest in say new converter topology to get the utmost volumetric efficiency. Think that the requirements for that Google prize:
https://www.littleboxchallenge.com/

Quote
All that said, where you live and what types of jobs are available in your area is a massively important factor. I am not sure if South America thrives on job openings for engineering PhDs (I am originally from Brazil and PhDs were only valued in Universities and a few research centres).

Correct. If you don't like academics, then why do a higher degree who's main job is to turn you into one?
From what the OP has said, a PhD doesn't make much sense.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #27 on: May 18, 2015, 10:17:38 pm »
Some of the best engineers I've ever met have had PhDs, and some of the worst engineers I've ever met have had PhDs.  The PhD does not automatically make you a good engineer, but it certainly doesn't preclude you from being a good practical engineer either, despite what a lot of the degree-bashers on this forum would have you believe.

I don't think anyone will say it would preclude you from becoming a good practical engineer, but in practice it can potentially hurt your chances at many companies for many reasons. This id not snobbery/bashing etc it's just stating a potential practical reality of the job market.
I know people who have hidden their PhD from their resume to get a practical job.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #28 on: May 18, 2015, 10:32:19 pm »
Ok, let me give you a specific example. An ex classmate who went straight up to get his PhD, spent a whole year developing a mathematical framework to control a converter using Non linear Programming. The thing works, it's a pain to implement, the math is pretty nasty, and... a PI controller does the same job and a monkey could do it. So yeah....that's mental masturbation, to pull your hair off trying to give a solution where there is no problem.
That's also bad engineering. So maybe a PhD doesn't teach you to be a good engineer?

And that's another potential aspect of PhD's and why they sometimes aren't looked upon highly by companies who need someone practical. One thing a PhD's won't tech you is how to engineer practical ideas quickly and efficiently, which is an often needed skill in industry. You'll generally learn the opposite in fact.
Ultimately though, in industry once you have experience, people care much less if at all about what qualifications you have. They only care about what you can do and how efficiently you can do it.
 

Offline Ecklar

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #29 on: May 18, 2015, 11:35:10 pm »
Hi All,

Here's the problem: I would like to have a general hands-on experience in electronics, as well as being an expert designer in a narrower fiels being both productive and knowledgeable.

Background
I am a 30 year old EE with just 2 years industry experience. My work has been mostly doing PCB layout for communications and power electronics and troubleshooting designs on the lab. Lately though, I've been thinking about going back to school to getting a PhD, as it seems to me that although I can be productive in several electronic related subjects I lack some basic underlying understanting and concepts. The working environment is just so fast paced, and the working hours can be so long to get things doone, I never really have quality time to study a converter topology,  a simulation, a test setup, a transformer design, etc. And, as I said I would like to excel at some area.

Question
If I keep on working to get, say, 3 years experience and go to school I'll get out by the time I'm 35/36. Will than render me as unemployable by the electronics industry

Thanks,

Simon.

NOTE: I wanna go for the kind of PhD were I get the full hands on + theoretical experience and not just mathematical mental masturbation.

A PhD is a research, teaching channel.  That is quite a bit different from a BS in EE.  You really need to decide what part of EE you enjoy and build on that.  If you really like a certain track then go for it and you will find where you belong as you progress.  If you go for the advanced degree you will make new connections along the way and find your place.   It's really a question of who YOU are and where you belong. 
« Last Edit: May 19, 2015, 12:51:36 pm by Ecklar »
 

Offline NiHaoMike

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #30 on: May 19, 2015, 01:34:36 am »
Couldn't you "downgrade" yourself on the resume by omitting some education?
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Offline eas

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #31 on: May 19, 2015, 01:53:21 am »
My undergrad  alma matter graduates a lot of people who think they should get PhDs, and a lot of them go on to do so, in fact, as a percentage of graduates, more of them go on to do so than all but a handfull of US schools, at least in sciences, engineering and mathematics. I've made it a personal mission to get as many of them as possible to consider other options. So, I talk to a lot of people who have PhDs and are looking for options outside of academia, and also a lot of people who exited early with a masters, not to mention a lot of current students and recent grads.

I agree, the only good reason to get a PhD is because you want to, but I'd say that you can't really conclude that until you've got an idea of more of your options, not to mention a better understanding of what your options are as a PhD.

Regarding those options, unfortunately, in the US, there is a long-term effort to seriously screw up our university system, which means that traditional career paths for PhDs into academia and teaching are a lot worse than they used to be. At the same time, graduate students have become the cheapest of labor, which has created an incentive to have more and more of them, which makes the job market for PhDs and Masters degree holders even worse. Even if other countries don't have these same problems with their own university systems, it probably still has an impact outside the US, since the US university system hires and trains a lot of international students.

If I were you, I'd consider the opportunity cost of graduate school. It will be 4-6 years of your life. There is a good chance that it will demand more of your time and energy than your job, and, in the US at least, will pay much less than your job. Is there a better way to spend that time and forgone income? Could you take a job that paid less but gave you more opportunity to learn things that interest you? Could you teach part-time at a technical high-school or two year college (I assume there are analogous institutions in your country)? Could you pursue a masters degree? Some combination? Consider also, how much you'll learn if you remain in your current position. If you've been at your job for two years, then, at the very least, the PhDs you work with likely have at least 2 years more EE experience than you.

As for whether a PhD will hurt your chances of an electronics job, I can't say one way or another. It will influence how employers evaluate your application, and if you don't make clear to them why you are interested in a job that doesn't require a PhD, they will make their own assumptions about you, including the concern that you won't be happy with the work, the pay, or the responsibility and will leave the position before they've gotten their money's worth -- new employees are expensive, it takes time to find them, and time for them to learn enough about the organization to be productive, and the time of other employees to help new employees get up to speed.



 

Offline c4757p

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #32 on: May 19, 2015, 02:49:18 am »
If you have a degree in mechanical engineering and you're looking for a job wielding spanners on shop floors, you're looking in the wrong place for a job...
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Offline zapta

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #33 on: May 19, 2015, 03:19:05 am »
If I have to be honest, exceling at one area, like say power electronics, would make feel better about myself. I see some PhDs at my work place and when they discuss problems I feel a know nothing about engineering. This guys can get things done too.

eecook, once you will start the program and study with different professors, you will get exposed to many research areas that may interest you so you don't have to limit yourself to one topic. Furthermore, studying toward a PhD in a university environment,  interacting with smart professors and students with similar interests can be a once in a life time experience. It doesn't matter if you will work later in exact same area or not, the experience will enrich you regardless. Just make sure to eventually get your degree ;-)

My advice to you is follow your heart and go for it, and don't restrict yourself to university in your locality or country of residence. The world is open to you, including universities at world class technology centers.
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Offline Rupunzell

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #34 on: May 19, 2015, 06:35:14 am »
What do you want to do with your life knowing your time on this earth is limited? What are your goals?

From the perspective of Silly Valley USA.

Several of my PhD and grad student friends started their own companies or have become part of academia. Only one works at a large company.

Fred Terman (Stanford, Father of Silicon Valley) encouraged his graduate students to start their own companies rather than going to work for a large established company. Starting companies promotes economic growth along with both good and bad that comes with all that. Having a good idea and a graduate degree can give access to funding that would otherwise be more difficult to secure. Yet, starting your own company does not require a college degree at all, Steve Jobs of Apple as an example. What it takes to make a successful company is being in the right place in the right time with an idea that looks towards the future and enough passion desire and proper funding to make it all go... above all, individuals involved and wise management skills can make or break a young company.

Academia has a different set of challenges, difficulties, politics and potential great rewards. For PhD's in status driven education institutions, they are driven to publish or perish and get grants-funding for increasing the status of their university (Think Nobel Prize). If you're not up to this, there is a line of other PhDs waiting to take your place. Oh, those undergraduate students, they are often more of a labor pool for your research or trying to teach those that might not really matter in advancing "your PhD's academia goals". Beyond this, there is definitely politics with an expectation of conformance to a certain academic standard. There are many examples of how the scientific and academia establishment will hammer down those who do not conform until they have been proven wrong.

The, "knowing everything about nothing -vs- knowing nothing about everything." does apply. It is a matter of finding balance and what works best for you.

I'll add that gaining an understanding of art, literature and history matters for technical folks.

If experience is what you're after, it is easy enough to set up a home lab these days. Spend time working and learning on your own following your interest and passions. Doing both the academic and lab work on your own can give FAR more real-world experience than most any structured college or university program. One of the most famous engineers who took this hands-on approach to learning about electronics since childhood is Jim Williams.


Follow your dreams, follow your passions and much of which road to travel will become apparent.


Bernice


Hi All,

Here's the problem: I would like to have a general hands-on experience in electronics, as well as being an expert designer in a narrower fiels being both productive and knowledgeable.

Background
I am a 30 year old EE with just 2 years industry experience. My work has been mostly doing PCB layout for communications and power electronics and troubleshooting designs on the lab. Lately though, I've been thinking about going back to school to getting a PhD, as it seems to me that although I can be productive in several electronic related subjects I lack some basic underlying understanting and concepts. The working environment is just so fast paced, and the working hours can be so long to get things doone, I never really have quality time to study a converter topology,  a simulation, a test setup, a transformer design, etc. And, as I said I would like to excel at some area.

Question
If I keep on working to get, say, 3 years experience and go to school I'll get out by the time I'm 35/36. Will than render me as unemployable by the electronics industry?

Thanks,

Simon.

NOTE: I wanna go for the kind of PhD were I get the full hands on + theoretical experience and not just mathematical mental masturbation.
 

Offline Galenbo

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #35 on: May 19, 2015, 09:33:55 am »
I would like to have a general hands-on experience in electronics, as well as being an expert designer in a narrower fiels being both productive and knowledgeable...

...I've been thinking about going back to school to getting a PhD,
What a strange combination.

In my country, "some" phd is useful to get employed in education, govt and very big companies.
A work-industry-related phd (<5% of the cases) can get you employed in private companies.

I know of phd's working next to masters like us, didn't make more money, but were involved in 'larger' projects.

I'll get out by the time I'm 35/36. Will than render me as unemployable by the electronics industry?
Will the wage you expect at that age/level correspond to the usability the company sees in you?
Don't answer it. Apply and try to get the answer from the guy that is interviewing you.

I wanna go for the kind of PhD were I get the full hands on + theoretical experience and not just mathematical mental masturbation.
If your "hands on" means the same as my hands-on, don't do phd and buy a soldering iron.
What is the big difference you see in what you mean by theoretical expierience and the mathematical mental thing?
What kind of theoretical expierience do you want without mathematics? Does it scare you?
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Offline Psi

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #36 on: May 19, 2015, 09:37:30 am »
I'm of the opinion that its better to get a secondary qualification in a area that compliments your main qualification than to advance your main qualification into masters or phd.

Eg, having both an electronic degree and a computing degree.
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Offline Galenbo

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #37 on: May 19, 2015, 09:41:57 am »
...into masters or phd.

Eg, having both an electronic degree and a computing degree.
What is the difference in your country between degree and master?
Do you mean bachelor degree?
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Offline IanB

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #38 on: May 19, 2015, 12:31:58 pm »
What is the difference in your country between degree and master?
Do you mean bachelor degree?

Bachelor's degree -> Master's degree -> Doctorate

A Master's degree is a graduate degree, sometimes a taught degree in a specialist area, sometimes a research degree at a lower level than a doctorate, sometimes a bit of both.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #39 on: May 19, 2015, 01:13:31 pm »
Bachelor's degree -> Master's degree -> Doctorate
A Master's degree is a graduate degree, sometimes a taught degree in a specialist area, sometimes a research degree at a lower level than a doctorate, sometimes a bit of both.

Typically in EE a masters is as high as you can get in the practical design food chain. A doctorate is academically higher, but as has been discussed can have some drawbacks in industry depending upon the position. A Masters does not typically have potential for such "over qualified"/"too academic" stigma.
Not uncommon to see senior EE positions being advertised as a Masters being preferable or even mandatory.
A Masters is totally want the OP should be aiming for I think.
 

Offline zapta

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #40 on: May 19, 2015, 04:40:04 pm »
Interesting reading

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_mentality

Edit: here are some relative numbers of EE base salaries by degree level

Bachelor 53 - 98
Masters  58 - 124
PHD - 80 - 145

http://www.payscale.com/index/US/Degree

« Last Edit: May 19, 2015, 05:15:46 pm by zapta »
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Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #41 on: May 20, 2015, 12:09:02 am »
Not sure who is exercising "crab mentality" or being accused of it. 

There clearly is a relationship (at least in the US) between degree level and financial reward.  It is less clear which is the chicken and which is the egg.  Qualities which lead to achieving a high level degree are also usually rewarded in the marketplace be it as an employee or entrepreneur.  Things like intelligence, persistence, creativity, ability to join and lead teams.  People with these qualities tend to be well rewarded, with or without a degree.

There is also clearly value in the education and experience gained while pursuing an advanced degree.  But the path to success and/or life happiness is different for each person.  Jobs, Wozniak and Gates did just fine sans higher degrees.  I know many others who by most folks standard are quite successful without completing formal academics.   Many others who are widely respected and nearly as financially successful as the big three named before hold one or more PhDs.  So the top end is filled with those with and without advanced degrees.  The other end of the scale doesn't lend itself to Google research but most of us can name individuals with and without advanced degrees who have made failures of their lives, and others who are what Harry Potter might call muggles, just getting by.
 

Offline Galenbo

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #42 on: May 20, 2015, 02:17:36 pm »
What is the difference in your country between degree and master?
Do you mean bachelor degree?

Bachelor's degree -> Master's degree -> Doctorate

A Master's degree is a graduate degree,...

Bachelor, Master and Doctorate are universal now.
Here, Master is what's given by (mostly) a university.

But in our country, a Bachelor degree is also called graduaat. Pretty confusing.
It's an education where students go from their 18 to 21 years, called "hogeschool", not to confuse with "high school"
College here is a school where kids can go to from 12 to 18 years.

 
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Offline eecook

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #43 on: May 20, 2015, 02:27:37 pm »
Thanks to everyone for the input. It's been helpful.

EECook
Nullius in verba
 

Offline zapta

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #44 on: May 20, 2015, 02:41:01 pm »
Bachelor's degree -> Master's degree -> Doctorate

A Master's degree is a graduate degree, sometimes a taught degree in a specialist area, sometimes a research degree at a lower level than a doctorate, sometimes a bit of both.

Here a Bachelor is called 'undergraduate degree' and Master and Doctorate are called 'graduate degrees'. Also, it's common to skip the Master's degree and go directly from Bachelor's to Doctorate.  The courses for Masters and Doctorate are about the same, both in content and number. The main difference is that 'dissertation' (for Doctorate's) need to have more depth and innovation than the 'thesis' (for Master's).

That's a rough generalization and it changes from school to school.
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