Do I want to stay in Academia?

I’m constantly asked what I plan to do when I finish. After all, it’s only 2, 3, or 4 possible years away. So I need a plan. Where am I going to go next? One of the things I really like about Computer Science, is that at least in this field, a PhD is not very limiting in terms of job prospects. And, there are kind of four main avenues I can explore once I finish.

  1. Faculty. I could stay in school even longer, transitioning from the one who has a supervisor to being that supervisor. There are lots of things I like about this idea, the big one being able to continue to do research that interests me. However, then there’s also the scary and terrifying thoughts that I’d have to a) supervisor students, b) get grants to be able to fund my research and c) publish and teach enough to get tenure. Ahhh!!! Then, let’s add in all the political B.S. that happens in any department/faculty/university. Depending on the day I’m either completely for or completely against this idea.
  2. A post-doc. Which is really another chance to hold off on entering the real world. It’s a chance to sort of continuing being a PhD student, except your not focusing on a giant dissertation and defense at the end of the line. However, it’s also kind of like entering into a publishing-mill. Your goal is suppose to be to publish as much as possible in a small amount of time. And that doesn’t really interest me. Sure, I like getting stuff published and going to conferences, but I’d rather do a really good job on something, instead of publishing every tiny step just so I have more papers at the end.
  3. Industry. There are lots of big companies (and some small ones) that hire PhD graduates to do their research. Companies like Google and Microsoft and IBM. But, I’m slightly concerned that I don’t know of any companies that are doing research on topics similar to what I’m doing. And so, I’m not sure how much I’d be able to do research that I want to do, should I go down that route. However, the starting salaries at most of these companies would be a welcome change from being a grad student.
  4. Entrepreneur. The fourth choice (and one that holds, at the moment, absolutely no appeal to me) is to go out and start my own company. I could be a consultant on my area of research. Or figure out some way to possibly monetize it. Some people are meant to do go down this route, I’m quite sure that I’m not one of them.

So what will I be doing in 2 (3 or 4?) years when I graduate? I’m not sure. All I can really say, is at the moment I’d like to continue down a similar path to the one I’m on right now and try to keep pushing my research to new levels. But, then again, my research has already hugely changed direction from the first path I started down, so who knows what path I’ll be on by the time I finish. And, depending on the climate of who’s hiring and who’s not, I might not be able to make much of a decision.

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