Five lessons that I learnt from my less rewarding PhD

This article provides an insight into the qualities that one should possess to complete a doctoral degree, namely, patience, perseverance, forming a support group, communication skills, and application-oriented projects would help them reach their goals easily. It also puts emphasis on the fact that scholars should look at building their career even outside the academia.

There are about twenty-five thousand graduates in India who come out every year hoping to land on their dream job after qualifying the highest degree-They often wonder if Ph.D. is a tradeoff for a great industrial career. After being a part of the Ph.D. program for almost seven years with a few sub-optimal publications, you feel intimidated to think about your future. The most daunting decision that you have to make is whether to set foot in academics or start your carrier from scratch at an industry?

Questions that may haunt you

Many questions that bog you down during PhD-Am I acquainted with all the skill sets to match the industrial needs? Will I have to work for a lesser pay when compared with a master's or an undergraduate? Which position in the industry suits me the best? Will I be able to take the pressure to meet the deadlines in completing real-time projects? Will I be rejected in the first place for being overqualified? Has Ph.D. been a dementor sucking out all the enthusiasm from me?

Well, I learnt five life- lessons during my Ph.D. I list them out for the benefit of all the students out there who are sailing in the same boat.

Five key skills required for pursuing and finishing PhD


This is the foremost skill that one has to develop after enrolling in a Ph.D. program. Your research experiments may often not be fruitful- results may neither be positive nor negative- you may have to figure out why experiments failed in the first place and optimize every step of the experiment and repeat several times to achieve concordant and publishable results. It teaches you to be patient and unassuming in all walks of life.


When you fail a couple of times, you are tempted to give up , it is frustrating when hurdles keep coming your way -making it impossible to complete your objective. Mary Anne Radmacher said-"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow." This quote keeps ringing in my ears whenever I feel like dropping out of Ph.D. When I was trying to publish my first manuscript; I faced rejection thrice. I kept reviewing my manuscript by taking all the comments positively and it improved the quality of the manuscript many folds when it was finally published.

Communication skills

As a research scholar, communication is one of the skills that call for improvement. As a part of the Ph.D. program; you will have to write manuscripts, present posters or PowerPoint slides to communicate your research findings. You should use every opportunity and participate enthusiastically to hone your communication skills. "Publish or perish"- it is one of the quotes used in a research career, as a prelude to your scientific publication, you can write on topics which interests you and post on platforms such as and Medium that would publish your work. It is ok if the write-up is not curated- ask your friends to read your write-up and give their honest comments. It would improve your writing skills.

Form a support group

A support system works efficiently during Ph.D. You can form a support group and extend your network easily. It helps in a great way to complete your objectives and find scope for improvement from a different perspective. For example, I was carrying out my work in the biotechnology department; my contacts from the crystal growth department extended a helping hand when I had to characterize my biological samples using spectroscopy studies. They were happy to help- I could draw relevant conclusions and their feedback helped me to fine-tune the experiments. It added a lot of value to my thesis. Similarly, when they wanted to centrifuge their samples, I offered to help them in turn.

Structure your project to make it application-oriented to begin a start-up

If the main objective of your thesis is application-centric, it's far easier to work towards it when compared with a cluttered and aimless objective. One of my friends worked on designing eco-friendly sanitary napkins and she completed her objectives with good publications. She is planning to give wings to her project and establish a start-up by receiving funding from the government bodies.

There's life outside academia!

Many ambitious students across the globe enthusiastically begin their Ph.D. program but are unable to complete due to so many hardships. It's ok to cry when your experiments fail, it's alright when you can't show any progress in your work during the weekly lab meetings. You are creating your unique identity- it takes time, so never give up so easily. Finish what you started in style. Remember, we have learnt the life skills to be a learner forever - firmly believe that we will fit into the groove even outside academia!


Guest Author: Mrs.Hema Rangarajan23 Aug 2020

I read the article.It is inspiring.It is an eye opener for all the youngsters persuading to do phd.Very clearly explained about all the vital points to be taken care of while doing phd.The last part
THERE IS LIFE OUTSIDE ACADEMIA is the best.I liked it very much.

Guest Author: Nithya23 Aug 2020

Well, as a researcher for 8 years myself I too definitely agree with the author on the qualities required to attain the Ph.D degree. And also more importantly, it shoud be taken as a course for further development in personal and professional lives rather than consider it as the ultimate goal itself.

Guest Author: Pn Vasundra23 Aug 2020

A lovely article , which is rather showing the efforts of an individual which expects nothing more but a job with a decent ,reasonable pay must be given. Having done a dedicated and genuine job , why are few thesis being rejected, once or twice is fine, but how would people get into such kind of courses if these rejections are becoming a regular continuous process. It's our duty to.motivate people who are doing doctorates, in no way their educational qualifications and their dedication are lesser.lets start considering and motivating such great achievements

Guest Author: Deepika24 Aug 2020

The article is very neat and conveys a positive approach to the readers about Ph.D.

Author: Sujatha raghu24 Aug 2020 Member Level: Bronze   Points : 0

Dear Rao sir,
Thank you for the comments. What would you suggest for people who finish their PhD in their thirties and want to be employed in govt jobs? Because by the time they complete their PhD they cross the specified age limit .

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao25 Aug 2020 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

True. We should not waste many years for our PhD. We have to plan our work in such a way that we should complete within a stipulated period. But some times it may happen that it takes more time. That is why many people always try simultaneously for a job also while working for their PhD.

I will tell you my example. I joined on January 1st, 1979 for my PhD with a fellowship from CSIR. I started working on the problem and I completed my work by August 1981. My thesis was ready by December 1981 and I submitted it the same month. I got a PhD in August 1982. I worked as a PDRF for a year and joined in an industry. I got a lecturer post also but I did not opt for that. My career in the industry was very good and I have gone up to the CEO level of the company and Director on Board.
If we aim for a government job we should not think of PhD. You may get a lecturer post in government colleges with UGC scales. You can think of Scientist C or D in government labs for which I think 35 years is the age limit. But I feel Industry is the best answer for them where the remuneration will be good and you will have chances for promotions also.

  • Do not include your name, "with regards" etc in the comment. Write detailed comment, relevant to the topic.
  • No HTML formatting and links to other web sites are allowed.
  • This is a strictly moderated site. Absolutely no spam allowed.
  • Name: