How much are Ph.D. programs worth? For some, the road to a Ph.D. is filled with intangible rewards, such as gaining knowledge and becoming known as an academic expert in their field. Others pursue doctoral programs with the belief that an advanced degree will bring them professional prestige and a large salary. Whatever your motivation, you may be surprised to find out that a Ph.D. degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the big bucks, nor does it guarantee a prestigious career in academia, although it certainly increases your odds. The road to a Ph.D. is a long and arduous one. You should be sure you want to travel it before embarking on it.
Earning power after a doctoral program
There is something to be said about being able to measure the value of a Ph.D. degree's earning power. The fact is, on average, people with graduate degrees, especially professional degrees, make more money than people without them.
However, once you have a Ph.D. -- along with thousands of dollars of debt in student loans -- and you can’t find a decent job, a high salary is just pie in the sky. Many graduates, Ph.D.'s in hand, have had doors shut in their faces time and time again because they are considered overqualified. In recent years, there was even a surplus of Ph.D. graduates in relation to job openings. Fortunately, that trend appears to be reversing itself.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job outlook for postsecondary teachers (jobs commonly sought by graduates of Ph.D. programs) should be much brighter than it has been in recent years. Employment in that area is expected to grow by almost 40 percent by 2012, whereas overall employment is expected to grow by only 15 percent. So, your timing may be just right if you’re just starting a Ph.D. program and hope to take root in the world of academia.
Consider the Ph.D. degree: Value to you
Regardless of your salary aspirations, before you enroll in a doctoral program, ask yourself very honestly what it is you’re seeking. In the end, the degree may be priceless if it opens the door to a subject or career you love…but it's also a serious commitment. Make sure you're ready to handle it.