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How Do I Know if I Should Pursue Becoming a Professor?


PonderingSoc
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Hey all, 

 

I'm a third year student, and I'm really struggling with this question and it has to do with a lack of confidence in my abilities. I always do quite well in my classes (A to A+ range generally) but I simply cannot seem to decide if pursuing academia is the right call for me. I know I would love being a professor, but everyone is telling me that it's so hard to get into a PhD program, then it's so hard to find a job after, and it takes so long that I'm wondering if it would even be worth it? I could easily go to teachers college if I want to teach (I know jobs are minimal but it's less time), or law school. 

What should someone honestly consider in my position? I am very scared that I will begin trying to accomplish this, only to find out years later that it was a bad idea and that i've wasted time and money. Is it normal to feel this way? Everyone else in honours programs seems to confident.. 

My current GPA is ~3.9/4.0 

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We're in different fields, but I say this to everyone considering academia/professorship as a career: What else could you do with a PhD in your field? The reality is that very few (less than 5% in some cases, less than 20% in others) PhD graduates end up with permanent positions at a University. However, depending on your interests and your field, there could be lots of good opportunities for PhDs in other sectors. 

Personally, I knew that academia was the right call for me when I researched all of the career paths I could want and almost all of them either required a PhD, or you would have a big advantage if you had a PhD. Some career paths in Canada that required MA/MSc seemed to be mostly hiring PhDs too (due to the overflow of PhDs). And finally, I found some PhD programs that provided a decent salary, benefits so that I was not going into debt or paying too much "opportunity cost" to pursue the PhD. 

I see that your sidebar info says you're in Canada, where Masters programs tend to be more meaningful than masters in the US. Not sure if your field follows the same format, but in Canada, my field generally wants you to do a Masters first then a 3-4 year PhD. So I decided to use the Masters program as a test to see if I would enjoy it. Academia is a lot more than just coursework! I really enjoyed my Masters program so I applied to PhD programs in the 2nd year of my Masters. However, my field was very small in Canada back in 2011/2012, so I applied to US PhD programs. 

My partner and I also have the goal of settling down eventually near our families in Canada, so we were also concerned about the nomadic nature of academic careers. In addition to the good salary/benefits above, we also decided that the PhD program needs to be a very good one to maximize the chances of getting to live where we want. So I ended up applying to only the top tier programs that also paid well. My reasoning was that it's better to just leave the academic path now (with a Canadian Masters) instead of spending 10+ years in grad school and postdocs until giving up anyways. Note: It's certainly not true that you must be at a top tier program to get a job, but we wanted to maximize our chances or it might not be worth the risk. In the end, I did the top tier PhD program (but since it was in the USA, I started grad school over again, so it took 5 years to do the US PhD). We did a similar thing for postdoc positions and luckily ended up in a perfect location. So, it's working out so far. Still don't know if I will be a professor one day but I do feel that my PhD and my experience will allow me to find something I like in this geographical area!

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