Author Topic: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?  (Read 11514 times)

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Offline eecook

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Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« on: May 18, 2015, 01:04:46 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,

EECook

NOTE: I wanna go for the kind of PhD were I get the full hands on + theoretical experience and not just mathematical mental masturbation.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2015, 02:27:54 pm by eecook »
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2015, 01:24:27 pm »
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.

What makes you think doing a PhD will gain you any basic underlying concepts you might lack?
A PhD isn't a general course that "fills in the blanks" for you, it's a specific and extremely narrow area of study and research into one aspect of one topic.

Quote
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.

Why do you want to excel at one area?
I know this is a basic question but you are mentioning practical stuff here, and PhD's are generally involved very narrow academic areas.
What makes you think a PhD will gain you practical skills?
Perhaps a Masters is a better option?

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?
[/quote]

Not unemployable, but it changes the game.
Any company looking for a person for a practical position isn't going to give two hoots about a PhD, they will simply ask can you do the job or not. If your PhD wasn't in that area of interest they need, then you won't be considered, you may as well not bothered.
It is generally accepted that a PhD won't help you get a practical engineering job, and in some cases can hinder your chances.
On the other hand there are some research companies that like hiring PhD's for *insert reason here*, but they are not all that common.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2015, 01:25:55 pm »
NOTE: I wanna go for the kind of PhD were I get the full hands on + theoretical experience and not just mathematical mental masturbation.

I don't think that's what PhD's are about.
Also, it helps to state what country you are in, that can matter.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2015, 01:33:59 pm »
Sounds like an electronics degree, or some other more practical qualification might be more applicable,  though 3 years relevant experience may be more valuable to a potential employer.
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Offline Sigmoid

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2015, 01:41:14 pm »
The thing with PhDs is that employers kind of assume that a PhD will have some "specific" requirements, such as decent pay and not being used as a biodroid, and are therefore wary about hiring PhDs for biodroid tasks.

I'm not sure a PhD is what you think it is, but if academia and science itself interests you, I don't think you should be deterred - the jobs you can't get as a PhD are the jobs you probably don't want anyway.
 

Offline eecook

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2015, 02:05:08 pm »
The thing with PhDs is that employers kind of assume that a PhD will have some "specific" requirements, such as decent pay and not being used as a biodroid, and are therefore wary about hiring PhDs for biodroid tasks.

I'm not sure a PhD is what you think it is, but if academia and science itself interests you, I don't think you should be deterred - the jobs you can't get as a PhD are the jobs you probably don't want anyway.

I do like science and research, I guess you could say I like academia I also like getting my hands dirty and do actual stuff that works that can be sold as product. What I do not like, mostly are academics :p (at least the ones I've met)
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Offline eecook

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2015, 02:16:56 pm »
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.

What makes you think doing a PhD will gain you any basic underlying concepts you might lack?
A PhD isn't a general course that "fills in the blanks" for you, it's a specific and extremely narrow area of study and research into one aspect of one topic.
Those blanks would be filled beacuse of my personality and an attitude towards learning, I would have to take clases and probably teach stuff to undergrads, which might help reengage with the blanks

Quote
Quote
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.

Why do you want to excel at one area?
I know this is a basic question but you are mentioning practical stuff here, and PhD's are generally involved very narrow academic areas.
What makes you think a PhD will gain you practical skills?
Perhaps a Masters is a better option?

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.
On what makes me think I'll gain practical experience, some of this guys, for there PhD had to design and build a 10kW inverter to do power electronics control research.
I don't really now how a Masters work, perhaps it is a good idea. I'm gonna look deeper thanx!


Quote
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?


Not unemployable, but it changes the game.
Any company looking for a person for a practical position isn't going to give two hoots about a PhD, they will simply ask can you do the job or not. If your PhD wasn't in that area of interest they need, then you won't be considered, you may as well not bothered.
It is generally accepted that a PhD won't help you get a practical engineering job, and in some cases can hinder your chances.
On the other hand there are some research companies that like hiring PhD's for *insert reason here*, but they are not all that common.
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Offline eecook

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2015, 02:18:03 pm »
NOTE: I wanna go for the kind of PhD were I get the full hands on + theoretical experience and not just mathematical mental masturbation.

I don't think that's what PhD's are about.
Also, it helps to state what country you are in, that can matter.

I am in Argentina, but I am also Italian and I don't mind moving to any other country (Australia would be nice  ;))
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Offline eecook

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2015, 02:20:09 pm »
Sounds like an electronics degree, or some other more practical qualification might be more applicable,  though 3 years relevant experience may be more valuable to a potential employer.

I have an electronics degree, but I would like to strengthen my theoretical skills
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Offline rsjsouza

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2015, 03:34:05 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. I know a few folks (including by brother) that have such degree and did their thesis and work on jobs that are massively hands-on. Another example is Shahriar from The Signal Path blog.

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).

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).
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Offline zapta

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2015, 04:15:47 pm »
EECook, it's never to late to have a Ph.D. and money is not everything, that's why people still climb the Everest.

A good grad school and advanced degrees will expand your horizon and will open new doors for you. Here in Silicon Valley it's very common to see foreigners that came to the US for grad school, developed contacts with the industry and stayed to work and live.

And, at of 30, chances are you will not be the oldest in your program, you will find other re-entry students as well. I met last month with an ex manager of mine, he is 63 years old and plan to get a Ph.D.

BTW, math is knowledge, not 'mental masturbation'.  ;-)

Good luck.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2015, 04:17:40 pm by zapta »
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Offline eecook

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2015, 04:38:12 pm »
EECook, it's never to late to have a Ph.D. and money is not everything, that's why people still climb the Everest.

A good grad school and advanced degrees will expand your horizon and will open new doors for you. Here in Silicon Valley it's very common to see foreigners that came to the US for grad school, developed contacts with the industry and stayed to work and live.

And, at of 30, chances are you will not be the oldest in your program, you will find other re-entry students as well. I met last month with an ex manager of mine, he is 63 years old and plan to get a Ph.D.

BTW, math is knowledge, not 'mental masturbation'.  ;-)

Good luck.

Thanx zapta,

I like math, I'm just saying that a PhD can become just math far removed from actual engineering, that's when it becomes mental masturbation.
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Offline tggzzz

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2015, 04:56:46 pm »
Speaking as someone who has recuruited graduate and PhD engineers, in the opinion of the interviewing team there is only one valid reason for doing a PhD: because you want to. Other reasons are almost invariably incorrect.

EEVBlog's reply #1 sums it up pretty well.

A PhD will require you to become expert in one narrow topic; it is unlikely that topic will be of interest to an employer, except for unusual cases where having a PhD was necessary to advance above a certain level e.g. the scientific civli service 30 years ago.

If you want to gain theoretical understanding, then goodfor you. I would suggest specific training courses might be applicable, or, if you want to change discipline (e.g. biology to EE :), seriously) then a masters conversion course.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2015, 05:02:00 pm by tggzzz »
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Offline mtdoc

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2015, 05:01:16 pm »
Regarding "mental masturbation":  One of the things I realized about 2 1/2 years into my PhD program was that I was learning more and more about less and less. I was on my way to being the world's expert on something that very few people have an interest in - even if it was adding another drop of water to the bucket of useful knowledge (about the brain in my case).  But this was not engineering which may be different in that I suspect graduate school in engineering is more applied science (rather than basic science). 

The point is that it is important to know oneself, what drives you and what you're ultimate goal is.  For me, I realized that I was more interested in broad knowledge and being a generalist  - which meant years later, when I went into medicine I chose a specialty (Family Medicine) that fits my personality better.

If you find too much math to be akin to "mental masturbation"  I would listen to that impulse and be sure that if you choose to go the PhD route it is in an area where the focus is not on the math.

I would add that the best thing I got from my graduate school education was not any specific knowledge but the ability to think more critically, understand the true nature of science and how to properly evaluate data.   There's a lot of bullshit egoism and one upsmanship that comes once you get into the competitive academic world - best to try and avoid that.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2015, 05:08:56 pm by mtdoc »
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2015, 05:04:48 pm »
NOTE: I wanna go for the kind of PhD were I get the full hands on + theoretical experience and not just mathematical mental masturbation.

In my experience, the appropriate maths is a necessary prerequisite for theoretical understanding. Doubly so at Phd level.
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Offline eecook

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2015, 05:12:57 pm »
NOTE: I wanna go for the kind of PhD were I get the full hands on + theoretical experience and not just mathematical mental masturbation.

In my experience, the appropriate maths is a necessary prerequisite for theoretical understanding. Doubly so at Phd level.

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.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2015, 05:15:42 pm by eecook »
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Offline IanB

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2015, 05:42:16 pm »
I never really have quality time to study a converter topology,  a simulation, a test setup, a transformer design, etc.

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

I see some kind of disconnect here. The deeper you get into things, the more you should find that everything comes back to mathematics. You cannot design or optimize or troubleshoot anything successfully unless you have a deep appreciation of the theory behind the operation of that thing, and the theory is expressed in mathematical language.

That said, a PhD is most often useful as a qualification for an academic career. It varies by country and by specialist area, but industrialists don't generally need a PhD to succeed in their job. Academics generally do.

What everyone needs to do is to be continually learning and developing their knowledge. Continuing Professional Development is vital to progress.

So, do a PhD to fulfill a personal goal, out of a desire to learn, because you want to.

Don't do a PhD to improve your employment prospects. Don't do a PhD with an expectation of being taught lots of new things. If you do a PhD you will be expected to learn for yourself.
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Offline IanB

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2015, 05:44:31 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?
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Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2015, 05:50:54 pm »
I've got to add my vote to the "because you want to pile".

Now a little explanation and background.  I went back for a PhD after a few years in the workforce, but quit after completing the coursework and before finishing a degree.  While I valued the coursework I just didn't value the result enough to continue through the rest of the process.

The pluses for an electrical engineering or physics PhD (at least for schools in the US, I assume that this is generally true worldwide) are that you are forced into learning some fairly comprehensive and useful math and other tools, often get some very hands on and useful experience during lab work, and will have a ticket punched that is required for some types of employment.  While a portion of the math and theory may seem like "mental masturbation" I found those tools in my toolbox very useful at various times in my career, allowing me to solve problems quickly that others did not even realize were solvable and to quickly understand products and applications that otherwise would have been tougher to learn.  The value of the "punched ticket" will vary with the organization, obviously quite high at universities, and also high in various large organizations and government positions.

The minuses for the PhD include lost pay, education expenses that may or may not be compensated by increased salary upon completion, entry into the grad school slave labor pool, and entry into one of the toughest environments for political infighting there is, and strangely a possibly slower education rate.  While a degree program forces you into knowledge areas that you may not have entered otherwise, I have never learned as fast in an education environment (with the possible exception of lab projects) as I have when pursuing a new topic either at work or at home.  If you have the right mindset you will get the deeper understanding you crave faster on your own than at a university.  Libraries and the web make resources available to you that are in some ways better than even the best schools can offer.
 

Offline photon

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2015, 06:00:40 pm »
PhD's are a European invention. The point is to educate future scientists, where by definition a scientist is a person who adds new scientific knowledge, "new" being the operative word. Think of it as survival of the species.
 

Offline Tabs

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2015, 07:06:06 pm »
A PhD is a good way to enrich your understanding of a particular topic, but in terms of increasing employability, the knowledge you gain is less useful than the skills you develop. Skills such as critical/logical thinking, planning, evaluating ... etc. These are more useful because the knowledge you acquire will have a half life 2 years according to http://www.newelectronics.co.uk/electronics-blogs/engineering-knowledge-half-life-when-is-it-okay-to-not-know-the-detail/20564/. Its obsolete very quickly.

Trying to leverage a PhD in industry implies that you want to be employed by a leader or innovator in the field of you PhD. Consider which employer/industries you would be able to target with your chosen topic of study.
How many are there? and what would you need to change in your life to work there? [relocate, ...]

Compare that with all the other EE employers/industries who need their engineers to be jack of all trades. 90% of a product will use hardware that is going to be considered of the shelf. A SMPS, a controller, a CPU like embedded architecture. If you can't find it off the shelf, a standard EE will just use app notes or crib from dev boards for their chosen device. Suppliers like intel offer free services to review and check your motherboard or CPU interfaces. ST Mirco has design centers that will do the same for anything related to what ST sells (I'm about to use them to review bluetooth antenna designs, inside enclosures with existing electronics).
In the 1% of cases where standard EEs get stuck, we just hire a contractor who specialises in SMPS, ADCs , CPUs or whatever field is required (for as little as a month).

All the contractors I've come across have decades of experience in that field. A newly PhD 'd EE is no comparison.
Hiring such a contractor for 1-3 months in 1% of cases is way cheaper than employing another standard EE full time, let alone paying the extra that's usually expected of someone with PhD.
As someone who is recruiting for someone to complement my skillset, I regularly review resumes/CVs. After a few failed interviews with PhD applicants, I find myself naturally favouring someone with proven experience over a new PhD with no experience.

The 2 years of experience you already have + 3 years (min) of PhD study will probably make you less employable than someone who has 5 years of experience. This is especially true for the majority of employers who want someone general.

As a final note; consider what happens when you get employed by the leaders or innovators in your chosen topic and 2-3 years later, the industry has moved on to the next thing. How quickly will you find yourself sidelined or redundant and how hard will it be to find a new job?


 

Offline Howardlong

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2015, 07:06:50 pm »
A positive benefit: my sister has a PhD, she's a nearly life-long academic, but when travelling, anecdotally it seems she gets upgraded way more than the average Jo on overbooked flights, due to being "Dr Jo" on the passenger manifest. What they don't realise is that she drinks like a fish too.

Seriously speaking, if you are 30 now and only have 2 years' in industry, and the longer term goal is to work in industry, I'd get that real job now rather than spend three years or so on a PhD now.

But if you want to remain an academic, the PhD is the obvious choice.

This is just my opinion of course. As an observation/correlation, the best PhDs I've worked with don't call themselves Dr, and you only find they have one over a beer one day after work, whereas the worst to work with make sure you know about it.
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2015, 07:44:26 pm »
The half life thing is a half truth.

Specific ICs, including their machine languages/architectures will have a very short half life, perhaps only two years.  But resistor and capacitor technology changes much more slowly, and there are classes of less complex ICs that are still in use decades after their introduction.

Maths such as Fourier methods, linear algebra, diff equations and statistics have half lives measured in decades or centuries.  Same for basic concepts like power/energy/maxwells equations/diffraction/ohms law/radiation theory/optics/control theory.

In between are things like filter architectures, coding methods, high order computer languages, manufacturing methods and so on. 


The message is:  If your job is based on being the worlds leading expert on the ARM chipset used in the latest cell phone you better spend a good part of your time upgrading your skills, either to the next generation ARM or something else.  Others might not be as vulnerable, although all will benefit by updating their skill set.
 

Offline skipjackrc4

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2015, 08:59:40 pm »
As someone who is about finished with a Master's and will soon start on a PhD, my recommendation is to go for a Master's if you want to continue with school.  In your case, I don't think a PhD makes sense.  My PhD will be in physics, which is highly appropriate for my field (electromagnetics and plasma).  For power electronics, unless you want to be a professor, a PhD will be way overkill.

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.
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Will doing a PhD render me as unemployable?
« Reply #24 on: May 18, 2015, 09:45:34 pm »
Don't do a PhD to improve your employment prospects. Don't do a PhD with an expectation of being taught lots of new things. If you do a PhD you will be expected to learn for yourself.

Very true; a key point. PhDs students are expected to go into uncharted territory.
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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 »
 

Online 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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