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Should I Pursue a PhD?
5 points by rebelhit 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 3 comments
I'm struggling about deciding wether or not I should pursue PhD. Answering this question is not definitely objective and depends on my background and my values. So I try to explain a little bit then I would like to get advice from you guys.

Currently I'm studying for my M.Sc in Vancouver. My field of research is natural language processing and more specifically neural machine translation. I recently published a paper in a workshop of a major NLP conference (EMNLP 2019) and attended the conference in Hong Kong. I also have two published papers in my undergrad in top tier conferences.

In my home country, I used to work as a software engineer in a top tech company in which millions of people were using our products and it was somehow the google of my country. I did software engineering 2 years part time and 1.5 years full time.

Why I'm struggling:

Advantage of software engineering to me:

1. Team work (much more than research)

2. Less stress compared to being a PhD student (you are worried about conference deadline and wether or not this idea is gonna work)

3. Features are delivered faster and you feel the impact.

4. You are directly having impact on your customers.

5. Good money -> Use my youth -------------------

Advantages of a PhD:

1. Research is intellectually satisfying as fk.

2. Diversity of the problems (Much more than engineering)

3. Future is AI.

I was not even considering pursuing a PhD but after attending the conference I got inspired but still have my doubts. If I pursue a PhD it takes a couple of years of my youth. You are still a student and students are somehow poor financially. I want to use my youth to explore life as much as possible.

The reason I'm asking it on HN rather than reddit is that people here are generally curious and understand what I mean by saying that research is very very intellectually satisfying.

Any advice for me to consider?






Your options are not binary. You could become a teacher. Or a bartender. You could move to Santa Cruz, work the night shift at Walmart, and go surfing every afternoon.

Sure people will tell you should do the one. Or tell you to do the other. Enough of that and you might think that shanting them both is a moral failing. There are important problems in AI, but there's much recognizing hotdogs and putting lightbulbs of maximum profit at the top of the search results.

You could get an MFA with a focus on computational art. Or take up oil painting. Or write a novel. Or a play. Or be a stay at home parent. There are lots of worthwhile things to do in the world. Some are stations on the STEM train. Some are not.

The internet can give you permission for any and all of them. Because you don't need permission. Maybe a rain jacket though. To keep off all the should that people will should on you. It will even keep off some of the should we should on ourselves.

What now? is what an existential crisis looks like. An inflection point. Inflection points are good. They allow us to climb away from local minima. Your future isn't AI. Your future is your life. Working in AI is one (possibly very good) path along which your life might run for a while. Same for a PhD. But "PhD and worked in AI" doesn't make for much of a tombstone. They are potential features. Not a product.

Good luck.


This reads like a reddit post, but with a hakcer news twist. As always,in these kind of situations, I would suggest looking deep inside your heart for an answer, and not the forums.

It might be worth talking directly with your lecturers / Faculty Staff. For example: maybe ask how may placements are available each year? What sort of average grade would indicate success in the PhD program? what type of research is available? Who will be coordinating the program?



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