When I speak to undergrads, I always get asked: “Should I go straight into industry with just my Bachelor’s degree, or should I get a PhD first?” This was a common question this week when I visited my undergraduate alma mater, Truman State University.
First, I always suggest that you don’t count on the degree doing all of the work. It’s not the letters behind your name that matters the most, it’s how you sell the skills and knowledge you developed while getting those letters. And as you might imagine, the further you get from graduation, the less your specific degree matters and the more people look to what you’ve done since then.
That said, the first 10 years or so of your career path will be very different if you get a PhD and go into industry vs if you finish at a bachelors and start getting industry expense right away.
Here is an important distinction to help you decide which is right for you:
If you want to launch your career based on your technical expertise and the ability to lead a technical team or development project early on, a PhD will help you a lot in this area.
If you are more interested in sales, marketing, product management, or other business roles that require more of an understanding of how business works than technical details, you are probably better off getting business experience as soon as possible. Finish your Bachelor’s degree and get out there!