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Does a PhD Change Peoples’ Minds?


Guest articles > Does a PhD Change Peoples’ Minds?


by: Sofia Rasmussen


After completing eight-or-so years of university studies or an online doctorate program, graduates may receive the prestigious appellation of “PhD” to their names. From then on, if they ever publish any kind of article or study or make any sort of professional presentation, they can garner respect and attention by including those three letters in the author line. However, some may wonder exactly what social and professional implications may be ahead for those who achieve such a level of postgraduate education.

The most common idea that people get about those three letters is that whoever has them must do extensive research in a particular field for a living. This conveys a sense of expertise and reliability. For this reason, when companies and political organizations want to publish a study, they like to have a name with “PhD” attached to it. Even if the person with the PhD does not personally carry out all of the research, his or her name and credentials convey a sense that the research is valid and reliable.

When it comes to the academic research that PhD holders usually engage in, publishing to field-specific journals is something that simply comes with the job. Tacking “PhD” onto their title does not mean very much when one’s article falls among a collection of other articles all written by people with the same credential in the same field. When it comes to publishing in more mainstream media outlets like magazines and news Web sites though, displaying that PhD may be essential in order to stand out and be recognized. However, in many cases people give weight to the information conveyed by PhDs under the false guise that they must know what they’re talking about.

Being a PhD isn’t all roses. One common negative perception of PhD holders is that they are nerds and geeks with exceptionally poor fashion taste. People also tend to assume that PhD holders are socially awkward and have poor social skills and may actually be irritable and difficult to deal with. While stereotypes usually exist for a reason, they are also usually gross exaggerations that simply do not apply to the group at large. Such is the case for those with the PhD distinction. However, even if the stereotype is not accurate, it is still something that PhD holders need to deal with in their professional lives.

Of course, such stereotypes are not an issue within academic circles in which virtually everyone holds a PhD. Outside of academic circles, however, a PhD holder may find this perception to be something of a barrier. For instance, if someone with a PhD intends to found a company, others may assume that he or she does not have the same level of interpersonal skill and didactic prowess that is common among those who have earned MBAs.

For the same reason that police officers have actually come to avoid doughnut shops like the plague, PhD holders may need to take extra steps to show that they are not the socially inept nerds and geeks that society has come to expect them to be. This is particularly important for entrepreneurs. While showing that he or she has a PhD may convey a sense of solidarity and reliability when it comes to things like product design or research and development, someone with such education credentials must also focus on exhibiting various social characteristics that starkly contrast the stereotypes that society has constructed.

Despite the slight negative perceptions of PhDs, for the most part having those three letters at the end of one’s name means only good things. Even if the audience continues to disagree with your conclusions after seeing your evidence, they cannot argue that you have insufficient credentials to comment on the issue.


Contributor: Sofia Rasmussen

Published here on: 01-Jul-12

Classification: Education



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