At what age PhD is completed?

Erik Demaine was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, and took a somewhat unusual approach to his upbringing. When he was seven years old, his father – an artist and sculptor – picked him up from school to travel across North America. Demaine taught himself at home from the age of nine, and his early interest in computers was his introduction to mathematics.

At the age of 12, despite having no academic records or grades, Demaine began his studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and earned his bachelor’s degree at 14 age. He then pursued a doctorate and completed pioneering work in computer origami at the University of Waterloo before his 21st birthday.

Career matters

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. It’s a long road.
    • If you already have a masters, you might get a 2-3 year PhD at some universities (eg in the UK), but never in the US. Allow at least 5 years, rather than 6-8 years, depending on the field of study.
    • Ideally, your program will cover your tuition and living expenses, and you won’t graduate in debt. You can calculate the monetary value of your winnings and it is likely to be significant. Many people are comfortable with this decision (I am), but they make a conscious choice.
  2. Know yourself and recognize your possibilities.
    • Remember that your PhD counterpart is to invest 5-6 years in something else: your current job, a new career, skills outside of the PhD, etc. Some of these opportunities could actually be paid for. They will give you experience, respect and great opportunities. The opportunity cost of a PhD is high in terms of salary and other work. Of course, this applies to all ages. However, your opportunity cost as a more experienced person is likely to be higher.
    • Make sure you understand your career opportunities after your PhD. In some disciplines, such as economics, PhDs are in high demand, and almost all get a well-paying professional or academic job. Political science too, I think. Academic and even professional positions in your field are becoming increasingly rare in the social sciences and some humanities. I once heard that less than a third of the graduates of the best history programs in the world get a university job.
    • If you are not thinking about becoming a professor, think twice about a PhD. Yes, it could promote you in your field. But most jobs I know would require six years worth of intensive experience in many fields, not just a PhD. I don’t know if the promotion is more rewarding. You have to ask it for yourself.
    • Many people complain about the terrible opportunities for many graduate students and the poor treatment of associate professors. This tells me that many people are doing PhDs with the wrong expectations.
  3. Older people will bring many good things to the table.
    • PhD students are not known to be good with people, projects or money.

      You’ve probably learned a few things about being a professional no matter what you do. It will serve you well and offset some of the inconveniences of old age. Maybe even more than in return. My experience as a management consultant has certainly helped me manage large research projects better and earlier.
    • Once you graduate, faculty hiring committees will probably focus more on what you can do compared to your cohort than how old you are under 35 or 40. You can’t even look at your age or past experience. If you are over 40, then yes, I think you will see discrimination in the job market because of any major career change, regardless of career.
  4. But there are some disadvantages.
    • You may or may not like being around a lot of 25-year-old classmates and your teachers will do the same.
    • If you have no savings or are in debt, you may end up living a much worse lifestyle than you are used to.
    • You’re more likely to have family or financial obligations in retirement, so after you graduate you’ll have less freedom to make high-yield investments that are distant or outstanding. Some jobs, postdocs or fellowships are not suitable for a more complex personal situation. You may be unable or unwilling to work 12 days for the same reasons.
    • Of course, this applies to all career changes later in life, especially in the non-profit or public sector.
  5. Once you are in, remember that promotion is not easy for anyone. It’s a constant source of existential anxiety when you’re in the middle of it. Know that everyone thinks the same way and it’s not a special product of your age or what you brought with you.
  6. As one commenter said, “I am tempted to fight, when you are too young?” Good point. Here is another person expressing the same view. A topic for another day.

And the other domains? How often do you start your PhD in your 30s or 40s compared to your 20s?

Again, it is quite common to see people starting a PhD late in life. Although the percentage of young people is much higher in many areas, you will still see some in their 30s and 40s. One thing you will realize with a PhD is that there are a wide variety of reasons why people choose to pursue a PhD or a research career. Doing a PhD is a very personal affair as you need to be motivated to stay in your career.

How do you know which is the best PhD program? Check out R3ciprocity’s PhD Program Ranking to help you make your decision.

When is it too late for a doctorate?

As a college career coach, many people have asked me if it is too late to get a PhD. Some of these people were even in their twenties and they feared that working for two years after their disability would inevitably exclude them from the world of academia.

Others were past middle age and looking for a career change. In both cases, the answer is ultimately no, it is not too late to start your thesis. However, there are some important things to consider when considering this.

Erik Demaine

Date of birth: February 28, 1981 PhD Age: 20 Subject: Mathematics Nationality: Canadian and American

Photo source: uwaterloo .ca

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