Friday, 22 March 2013

Why do graduate studies? (General)

Why would one want to do graduate studies? Hopefully, your reasons are not the same as the ones in the ads – Now, there are a lot of discussions on the web on this topic. I am going share my personal experiences with you to help you make a sound judgement.

There is one BIG necessary condition that you have to satisfy if you want to do graduate study – you have to enjoy (or at least be able to bare with) doing research. If you hate not knowing enough information or exploring different solutions/ideas, then take my advice it is better not to go to do research stream graduate studies (regardless of your grades). On the other hand, if you like researching on certain topics and enjoys the process of “getting lost”, then you will be a great fit for research.

Moving on… Here are some of the reasons why you want do graduate studies:
  1. You like research (the key).
  2. You enjoy continuous learning.
  3. You enjoy living a flexible lifestyle (I am serious).
  4. Meet amazingly smart people (especially you are at some top school, this includes University of Toronto).
  5. Train you thought process and debugging skills.
  6. Learn how to do research effectively (this is taught from your supervisor to you and it should be your second main reason for doing a graduate study).
  7. To be a more independent thinker (the complete solution to your problem is often obtained by yourself since your supervisor won’t be able to help you with all your problems).
  8. Improve communication skills (since you need to write thesis and perhaps even be a teaching assistant).
  9. This last one is an odd ball. If you like earning a lot of money and were in electrical/computer engineering and never gotten a good chance to do a lot programming, then consider doing a computer science Master’s degree to hone your programming skills. The big IT firms like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon pays a lot for software engineers.
Here are the wrong reasons to do graduate studies:
  1. Believing a graduate degree will bring you more earning power in the long run. This depends on the field you work in and don’t expect to get high salary with just a graduate degree.
  2. Due to peer pressure or family pressure.
  3. Just to show you can do it.
  4. Thinking you want to be a professor. Being a professor is extremely competitive. If you don’t believe  me, just talk to a postdoc. You need to publish like there is no tomorrow.
  5. Thinking to use your research to start a high tech company. The probability of achieving is low. You better start planning before you even pick your supervisor.
  6. Because you cannot find a job and you have good grades. Probably not worth it if you hate learning.
Finally, there are the reasons that makes you not want to do graduate studies:
  1. High tuition (some universities don’t offer much scholarship)
  2. Low pay from university (don’t expect much. At UofT, we, engineering students, get roughly $1200 per month (after paying tuition) but you have further opportunities to earn a bit more).
  3. Don’t like the feeling of getting stuck in a problem.
  4. Cannot stand writing a lot.
That’s all. Hopefully, you find it useful. If you have extra questions or comments, feel free to let me know.

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