Considering a Ph.D.: Why and How

By Sopheap Chak

Even while struggling with MA degree?s thesis writing, I joined today Roundtable Discussion with International University Japan?s faculties members concerning on student?s future plan for pursuing Ph.D. It was a great experience sharing and recommendation for those who intend to go further for higher education and career plan. The IUJ faculties members includes:

  • Cooray, Nawalage S.: Associate Professor of International Peace Studies Program
  • Oh, Jinhwan: Associate Professor of International Development Program
  • Mori, Masaki: Associate Professor of International Management
  • Shinoda, Tomohito: Professor of Graduate International Relations
  • Siddique Zafrul Quadir: Assistant Professor of International Development Program
  • Sugai, Philip: Professor of International Management

About 30 Students attended this event which only few students raised their hand while asking if they would continue Ph.d. It seem they are considering about all the recommendation from the professor (or it seem they are being discouraged ;-)).

Here are questions being discussed:

  • Should I go on to a Ph.D.?
  • How Should I choose a program?
  • What should I consider in Preparing for a Ph.D. and What should I avoid ?
  • How can I fund the studies?
  • What was your program like and would you recommend it?
  • What career are open to those with a Ph.D. in your field?

Here are main key messages from all the professors which i think it worth to share:

Ask ourselves the reason why we want to continue Ph.D.

It is an important question because we have to understand the necessity of Ph.D. investment to our future career life. Ph.D. is both financing and time consuming investment. Before going to Ph.D, we have to find out what is our future career plan. For example, if we intend to be businessmen, Ph.D is apparently not so important since many firms (the case of Japan) would not value Ph.D so much. But if our career is shaped to academia, then of course Ph.D is a value added and some university (the case of western once) would required Ph.D level.

Preparation to attend Ph.D and Financial issue

Think of program and research interest that we are going to work for Ph.D. dissertation. This is crucial since we have to pursue it for the whole Ph.D program and it can be difficult for us if we choose the topic that we are not interested as well as it will shape for our future career and speciality.

Also we need to be careful with financial issue since no scholarship is guaranteed for the whole Ph.D program and period. Some scholars may take up to 5 years or 10 years to finish their Ph.D (though some who can complete in 3 year period). So, we have to make sure that our financial support are well secured by acquiring different sources of additional fund or make sure the school or program we are applying will be well-supported.

Program and School Selection

We have to be careful in selecting the school. We need to look at the Global Scale of Opportunity meaning the school reputation and recognition will be important for your degree and future careers. (Some professors recommend US schools rather than Japan since Japanese Ph.D degree is limited in term of value and labor opportunities outside of Japan).

Things to Do and Avoid:

Do not pursue Ph.D for just title (Being called Dr. sound nice, but it should not be the only ultimate goal).
Do not value Ph.D goal with monetary term, the reward to gain Ph.D is more beyond this monetary value.
Apply cost-benefit analysis for our Ph.D pursuance decision.
Ph.D is mainly training people to be researcher and well-discipline.
If we think of non-business career, going for Ph.D is encouraged.
Need to aware the different between Ph.D degree and Doctoral Degree. It is recommended to go for Ph.D rather than Doctoral degree since it is more valued in academia.
Be persistence since Ph.D pursuance is quiet stressful and lonely during dissertation writing. (for married scholar, the spouse can be also stressful together, said Gretchen, the IUJ alumni and manager of Student Service Office)

After all the discussion and recommendation, it seem Ph.D level is quiet a tough job and considering Ph.D is not an easy decision making process. Will you apply for Ph.D?


If I have not failed at the university, I would probbly try to get to the Ph.D. The Ph.D. is what the French call “doctorat”, in fact, the second step to the career of researcher. Being in scientific course, career of resercher would suite me well. Not really interested by working in any big international laboratory for (alot)money.
Most of my friends are “docteur es science” and I know that their work is rather interesting. So is their life !
So, go for it if you’re paid for the work. The knowledge have no price. The opportunity to get to that level is rare.
Maybe I’ll be there in three or four yers to see you presenting your ultimte work.

Dear Sopheap

Thank for sharing this article, I am on the time to consider for pro and con for pursue futhure education too.

Anyway, Our country are really need the Ph.D or Doctor degree to improve our eduction system.


Dear Poupou: thank for your encouraging message while my professors are scaring me ;-). Of course, i will consider it but only after few year vocations once i graduated here. Hehe, i hope to be your prospected student to present the ultimate work.

Dear Samphors: Go for it but making a great plan for this as i learned fr my prof that it is important step for our life career n path. So, think of your research interest, country you are going to, and financial support. All the best to you.

Dear Sopheap and Everyone,

Good discussion. If I may give you an insight to pursuing Ph.D. Let me begin by telling you something about me. In 1984, I left my education (Red School – Medical School in PP), and escaped from Cambdoia to the west due to the K-5 Plan and Circular 351. Finally, I came to the US in 1989 from Khao-I-Dang Camp (I was 24 then). After passing GED in 1989, I continued to higher education. By 2000, I became the first Cambodian to graduate with a Master Degree in Family Nurse Practitioner from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Currently, I am practicing medicine at Lowell Community Health Center/Metta Health Center ( In 2004, I again passed GRE (Graduate Record Examination) [GRE is required for graduate schools entry] and was admitted to pursue my Ph.D. in nusring at UML as well. Yet, after completing more than half of the entier program, I realized that my interest is in clinical practicum – not in academia or research. Thus, I changed my major into DNP (Doctor of Nurse Practitioner) in contrary to my advisor’s protest. I came under tremendous pressures from several professors who would like me to complete my Ph.D. – a significant image for UML since I was the first Cambodian to have entered Ph.D. in nursing. Yet, I decided to follow my dream. It is very difficult, long, and expensive to finish the entire program. Thus, you should carefully think about what you really want to do with your life and career. Failing to evaluate my interest, I have lost several years in addition to monetary means. Hopefully, none will ever make mistake like me. I would like to say that I really admire your achievement and wish you best in your future career.


Chhan D. Touch, MS, FNP-BC

I am noob in blogging and have just had my own blog and right now I am doing my best to study as many as possible regarding this short of new world. I really like this blog layout, may I know what template is that? Is it custom design or is that paid one? However I don?t have the funds to buy paid design nor got the skill to custmozied design myself. Sorry for this noob question, thanks.

Leave a Reply