Statistical distribution of comments

We categorized the comments from students about how to select a doctoral program into 6 categories.  These quotes are sorted by discipline.  The differences between disciplines can be seen by looking at the graphs below.  For every category of advice, you can see what proportion of the survey respondents in that discipline offered such advice.

Know yourself, know why you want the PhD., know what doctoral education is all about. (Click here for graph).  Students in chemistry, math, philosophy and psychology were least likely to emphasize taking time to understand why a prospective student wants a PhD.  By contrast, survey respondents in history, molecular biology and English were most likely to offer such advice.

Investigate the program.  (Click here for graph).  Thirteen to twenty-four percent of the students offered specific advice about the kinds of things to look for in a program.  Of all the categories of comments, the response level to this was the most uniform.

Understand the job market.  (Click here for graph).  Students in English, history and philosophy expressed the most concern about the job market, and generally counseled students to understand how limited career opportunities are with a Ph.D., and to be cautious about starting a Ph.D.  

Get funding. (Click here for graph).  Humanities students expressed the most concern about funding.  The least concern was expressed by students in math, psychology and chemistry.  

Select advisor carefully. (Click here for graph).  The science students, particularly those in the life sciences, were most vocal about the importance of advisor selection.  Humanities students found this to be far less important.  

Take time off.  (Click here for graph).  Although fewer than 15% of students in any field specifically counseled taking time off, it was advice most likely given in molecular biology and art history.

Get a master's degree first. (Click here for graph).  No more than 5% of students in any field suggested getting a master's degree before the PhD.  Nevertheless, this was rarely mentioned in philosophy, math or psychology, and relatively frequently in ecology or geology.

Don't get a Ph.D. (Click here for graph).  This comment did not appear often, but it was more prevalent in chemistry, philosophy and English.

Quotes from  other disciplines.   | Article of advice for selecting a doctoral program | Distribution of quotes in all fields. | Survey of Doctoral Education and Career Preparation.