Written by Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D.
Less than 2% of the world’s population has a doctorate.
In the U.S. it’s only 1.63% (US Census Bureau).
This makes having a PhD very rare. But does this rarity indicate value?
Most PhDs, entered their graduate school program at the top of their class. At that time, they felt unique. Different. Valuable.
After several years in the academic system, most of these PhD candidates started to lose sight of their value. They started to develop a “less than” mentality. Slowly, they learned to accept less than they are worth. They learned to accept less pay than they are worth. They learned to accept less mentorship and support than they deserved.
Many of them started to develop limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs like, “I can either do meaningful work, or be paid well for my work”, “I can either pursue alternative career interests, or keep my advisor’s support”, “I can either do a postdoc after I graduate, or become unemployed”.
These same PhDs were told horror stories about working outside of academia.
They were told “In industry, you can get fired for anything” “No one in industry will sponsor your visa or permanent resident card”, “Don’t even try to get an industry job because it’s too competitive”, “You can’t get an industry job because you’re overqualified”, “You can’t get an industry job because you don’t have any industry experience”, “You’ll be miserable in industry”.
These PhDs started spending their waking hours surrounded by other PhDs and, as a result, they started to think that everyone had a PhD …they started to think that everyone could get a PhD …they started to think that their PhD wasn’t valuable.
A PhD Is Still Very Valuable, Just Not In Academia
If you’ve lost sight of your value or of the value of your PhD, it’s time to get focused again. It’s time to reconnect to your worth.
PhDs are not rare because they are close to extinction. In fact, just the opposite. More PhDs are being granted than ever before (National Science Foundation). PhDs are rare because they are valuable.
However, this value is dependent on context. PhDs are not valuable in academia anymore. There are simply too many PhDs in academia now. There’s an oversupply of academic PhDs and as a result, these PhDs are paid very poorly. PhDs outside of academia; however, are exceptionally valuable. Industry companies, which include for-profit, nonprofit, and government organizations, are hiring more PhDs than ever before.
3 Reasons PhDs Are More Valuable Than Other Job Candidates
As a PhD, you are more valuable than other job candidates but it’s up to you to communicate this value.
No one is going to communicate your value for you.
There are many reasons why PhDs are more valuable than other job candidates in industry, but the following 3 reasons stand out from the rest.
1. PhDs are expert innovators.
There’s a difference between discovery and understanding.
By definition, a Masters degree of any kind requires the recipient to master a field. On the other hand, a PhD requires the recipient to add to a field. You cannot simply repackage, or memorize and regurgitate information to receive a PhD. Instead, you must identify and organize new, cutting-edge knowledge that no one else in the history of the world has ever discovered.
Innovation is extremely valuable in industry. In today’s world, companies must either innovate, acquire other innovative companies, or die. This is especially true in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
2. PhDs are masters of conflict resolution.
Imagine walking into a television episode of Shark Tank and having your project, your logic, your career, your hopes, and your dreams mercilessly picked apart by 5 people. Now, imagine doing this every few months. Imagine also that these 5 people are doctors at the top of their fields.
Welcome to the life of a PhD.
PhD students have one of these “Shark Tank meetings” every few months before they graduate. (They’re called thesis committee meetings.) Postdocs and associate professors continue on to have lab meetings, advisor meetings, tenure track meetings, journal clubs, and many other variations of these Shark Tank meetings.
As a result, PhDs have been trained in conflict and conflict resolution. PhDs have learned how to navigate difficult relationships and how to respond professionally to hostile attacks. They know how to work together with very dominant personality types in very tight quarters for several years at a time.
Do you think everyone in the world has the ability to work with 5+ other extremely demanding people who are all working on different projects in a 10-foot by 10-foot box called a lab for 5+ years at a time?
This in itself is an achievement and makes PhDs very valuable in industry where managing difficult personality types, including your own difficult personality, is crucial to getting large projects done on time and on budget.
3. PhDs are doctors of learning.
A PhD stands for a doctor of philosophy. Philosophy is the study of knowledge and the nature of knowledge. This means that PhDs are literally doctors of learning and knowing how to learn.
Almost anyone can do what they’re told. Some people can learn new information after being told what to learn. Very few people can determine what they need to learn on their own without being told, and then take it upon themselves to go ahead and learn it.
PhDs can often learn anything faster and better than anyone else because they have been trained in learning at an expert level.
Do you think that just anyone can decipher a complex peer-reviewed journal article about some obscure protein or algorithm that only 12 other people know exist?
Of course not, but PhDs can.
Likewise, any PhD can learn how to understand a profit and loss statement, or a complex business case study, or an intellectual property legal document. Not only can they learn to understand these things, they can learn how to make strategic decisions based on their understanding.
If you have a PhD, don’t ever let anyone tell you there’s something you can’t understand. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that there’s something you aren’t qualified for either.
Know your value. You can understand anything. You can qualify yourself for anything.
As a PhD, your concern should not be that you may lack value. Your concern should be that others may not understand your immense value, which is why it’s your job to communicate your value to others, including industry employers.
Do you think your PhD is valuable?
If so, why is it valuable?
Tell me in a comment below.
***Enrollment into the Association, the world’s #1 industry training program for PhDs, opens on Monday, May 1st at 8AM EST.
The only way to learn more about the program is to get on the Cheeky Scientist Association wait list here.