PhD Fail: What It Means to Me

If you spend any amount of time on social media, you’ve probably seen a many posts tagged #PhDFail which is about PhD candidates and their struggles. These sentiments are not uncommon among those undertaking the PhD program, making it all the more important for those considering this career path to understand what exactly #PhDFail means and its implications for current and future candidates. In this blog post, we’ll break down and explain what #PhDFail means to us as individuals, and share some tips for other individuals who might be thinking about pursuing a PhD program in academia or another research-based career path.


What is a PhD program?

A PhD program is a 3-5 year program almost exclusively found in the fields of research-based fields like Science and Technology, IT and Business etc. The core premise of the program is to train students to become experts in their field in order to become professors and leaders in their respective fields of research. The main difference between a PhD program and a Master’s program is that the PhD program is designed to produce independent researchers who are capable of generating data from scratch.


So, what exactly is #PhDFail?

PhD programs, on average, take longer than expected to complete. In fact, the average completion time for a PhD program is 3-7 years, which means that many PhD candidates do not actually finish within the standard 5 year limit. The common feelings of depression and anxiety that many PhD candidates feel during their programs, which is why many in the online community have used the hashtag “PhDFail” in a way to flip the script on the public perception of the program.


3 Reasons for the Fail

– Poorly-designed career path – The career path that many PhD candidates choose to pursue is a poorly-designed system that does little to encourage research excellence. In fact, many PhD programs are designed to produce a high volume of research, regardless of quality. This is due, in large part, to the fact that the research PhD programs produce is funded by the government.

 – Lack of mentorship – In addition to the poor design of the research itself, many PhD candidates fail to receive enough mentorship from their professors to help them navigate the program and produce quality research. Even when students do receive mentorship, it’s sometimes of poor quality due to the fact that professors, who have a limited amount of time to spend with each student, aren’t always equipped to help PhD candidates navigate the challenges of their program. 

– Poor financial planning – Many PhD candidates lack the financial planning necessary to sustain themselves while completing their program. Many PhD programs do not offer any types of financial support and do not provide PhD candidates with a path towards a sustainable career. Because of this, many PhD candidates, often while still in school, are forced to take out crippling student loans that make it harder to finish their program and transition into their desired career path.


Why does it matter?

As we’ve discussed, the public perception of the PhD program has shifted significantly as of late. The fact that the PhD program is experiencing a bit of a “public relations fail” is important for a few reasons. First, negative public perception often leads to decreased funding and support from those who fund PhD programs and those who are considering participating in them. This could create a shortage of PhD programs and researchers in the future, which would be bad not only for the individuals who want to pursue this career path but also for the public as a whole. Research is an important part of society, and having enough researchers to produce high-quality research is critical.


2 Things You Should Do Right Now

– Think long and hard about why you want to pursue the PhD program. The PhD program is not for everyone, and this article proves that point. Before diving headfirst into any program, it’s important to be sure that it’s the right choice for you. Think long and hard about why you want to pursue the PhD program and make sure that it’s not out of a lack of direction or passion. – Explore other research-based career paths. The fact that the PhD program is a “fail” could actually be a positive for those who are thinking about pursuing it. It could mean that you have a wider range of options available to you. Explore other research-based career paths to make sure that the PhD program is actually the right fit for you and your future.


3 More Tips for those considering the PhD path

– Don’t let this article scare you off. While it’s important to be aware of the challenges that come with pursuing a PhD program, it’s also important not to let this article scare you off. – Get a taste of the life you’re about to lead. It’s important to understand what life as a PhD candidate is really like before signing up for the program. There are many ways to get a taste of what a PhD program is like without actually going through the program. From shadowing a current PhD candidate to joining a research lab as a research assistant, you can get a better sense of what life is like before taking the plunge. – Talk to current PhD candidates. When all else fails, talk to those who are currently in the program. They can help you understand what to expect and what you need to do to be successful.



This article is just one snapshot in time of the PhD program at a specific university. While it’s important to understand the challenges that come with pursuing the PhD program, it’s also important to note that the program is not inherently a “fail.” The article paints a picture of a system that is not working for everyone and needs to be fixed, not necessarily the end of the research PhD program as we know it. In fact, the rise of #PhDFail could actually be a positive thing for the future of the program and the future of academia. It could be a sign that the system is not working for everyone and needs to be fixed. It could also be a sign that people are becoming more aware of the challenges that come with pursuing the PhD program and that academia is moving in a direction that values quality over quantity.

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