Do you Need a PhD to be Competent?

You must have seen those intellectuals on TV. The news programs invite them as guest experts because they have PhDs and are considered to be competent in their field.

Does that mean you need a PhD too to be competent? It’s obvious that a doctor’s degree does give you some knowledge. But with only about 2 per cent of graduates having a PhD, it’s inconceivable that such a fringe minority of us are competent.

So do you really need a PhD to know a topic well? Let’s find out.


The Benefits of Pursuing a PhD

First, let’s take a look at how getting a PhD would add to your competence level.

You Produce Publications

You must know that writing about something provides you with an in-depth understanding of the topic. Sure, learning about it passively is also good, but it’s not enough.

It’s only when you can explain a concept to someone then it means you truly understand it yourself. This is what getting a PhD helps you achieve.

PhD students have to produce at least two publications before they can get their degree. This stimulates would-be doctors to explore new topics, research new ideas, and deepen their knowledge.

You Do In-Depth Research

If you want to get a PhD, you’ll have to go through much more academic effort than if you were getting a bachelors degree or a major. The main thing that you focus on is research for the dissertation.

This is hard, as your research has to be in-depth and bring something new to the conversation. In fact, this can prove to be so hard that many choose to buy an essay cheaply, even though it’s looked down upon.

However, what doing your research definitely grants you is deep knowledge within the field you’re studying. You surely know a topic if you’ve written a full dissertation on it.

You Talk to the Pros

Here’s where the main difference between getting a major and a PhD lies. If you’re doing a major, you probably read the abstract. If you’re doing a PhD, you read the whole research, understood the methodology behind it and talked to the authors.

This is arguably the crucial part that influences your competence after obtaining a PhD. Not only do you get to read papers but you can now also talk to the people who create them.

It’s is through this relationships with the already established scientists that you really learn. Someone may even decide to mentor you and set you on a path that leads to greatness in your field.

Being Competent Without a PhD

Well, the three arguments above suggest that you end up being pretty competent once you get a degree. But a PhD is not the ultimate answer. Here’s what you’re missing if you pursue one.

A PhD is more about science than competence

You have to remember that PhD students are very science focused.  After all, they’re getting a doctor’s degree.

Not all competence comes from scientific research. You can be considered competent in something if you possess some hands-on experience or have worked in the field for some time.

You can gain competence from studying something on your own. For some types of competence, you can only be considered an expert when you’ve had some type of experience yourself.

So while most PhD graduates are competent, not all competent people are PhD graduates.

Focus on Obtaining Knowledge

While this is not true for many PhD grads, some of them tend to focus only on gaining knowledge. It’s the select few that also learn to apply it. This bends the definition of competence.

For instance, you can be considered a competent person in history if you know a lot about a certain period. In tech, however, your competence is measured both by knowledge and your ability to apply it.

It Boils Down to the Field

The bulk of the argument eventually comes down to what type of competence we are talking about, and, what type of field we are concerned with.

If the subject in question is history or maths, pursuing a doctoral degree is going to make you more competent. If we’re talking about a tech field like welding, you can be competent after two years of trade school. If it’s about business, it’s more about the experience, even though an MBA degree doesn’t hurt.

The Ultimate Answer

Competence is a tough thing to define. Are you competent if you can do your job well? Do you need to be among the top two percent of people in the field to be competent? The answer to this question determines the outcome.

If competence is not something that can be achieved by simply being good at something, the answer is straightforward: you don’t need a PhD to be competent.

While working for a PhD will certainly place you among the most competent people in some fields, you can still do very well without one.

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