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DUKE GRADUATE STUDENT WONDERS WHEN TO GET A PHD

By MAX LEISTEN

When I speak to an alumni or advancement leader, about 15 minutes into the conversation I typically get: “Well, can anybody ask a question? Can alumni ask? Faculty? Staff? Parents?”. 

In short, yes. To make a community truly inclusive and establish it as the first and best destination to get support for professional challenges, you’ve got to let everyone in. So that nobody who feels part of your community has to wonder “is this for me?”.

One category that is often overlooked are graduate students – below is a great example of a Duke University student looking for advice on timing and value of a PhD in industry. 

Happy Friday!

The "ask"

I am pursuing MS in Biomedical Engineering and I am in First semester at Duke University

1. I just wanted advice on whether I should pursue a PhD immediately after my MS or go work in an industry and get some experience and then come back and get a PhD or a professional doctorate?

2. Since I am not sure whether to pursue a PhD or work in an Industry should I go for a summer internship or work in a lab over summer? Or should I work in a lab for graduate independent study in spring semester and get an summer internship so that I know which path to choose in future a PhD or working in an industry?

Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions, your any advice or suggestions are highly appreciated.

The "give"

Congrats on getting close to completing your MS in BME! That’s a huge milestone. With a Masters, there are a lot of lucrative opportunities open to you, and since you are wavering between industry and academia, I would recommend pursuing an internship in industry to help solidify this decision.

Personally, I have a PhD, and since I did not go into academia post graduation, my PhD was actually not necessary for a lot of the industry positions that I applied for. Your thoughts on pursuing an independent study during the semester, complemented by an internship in the summer sounds right on point. That way, you are able to maintain some optionality.

Some additional insights, is that, there are now a few academic labs that essentially function as businesses (and vice versa — an example is at my company, Microsoft, in which they sponsor biomedical research labs). If these industry / lab hybrid positions are of interest to you, then a PhD is generally required.

Hope this helps, and please take this advice with a grain of salt.

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