Why PhD?

I know some of you might laugh at me upon finishing reading this piece. But I will not stop writing it and it is a fact faces it!  Bachelor degree is not is a way to get some money. Now days not even a master’s degree will get you money that will help you to survive for whole month unless you are a lucky dog to get hired in one of foreign NGOs. It has been a little while since people have started to consider bachelor and masters degrees as a route to eternal poverty.

The idea that a master’s degree sometimes even a PhD is a barrier to rewarding employment is a popular joke in our society. There are so many stories of people with PhDs owning not more than a laptop, using taxi sometimes even a city bus for a transport or fighting for extension program courses with their colleagues in academics. Being an academician myself I can say the possible way out at least for Ethiopian academicians is to get some lucrative PhD programs abroad not home — but even abroad PhD is not strictly cool. Certainly not cool enough to hang with models as Serawit or Seifu does!   .

So why PhD? Is it for the title or for money? Is it for real pursuit of knowledge or as means to get of Ethiopia for a change? I want your responses please!



  1. Hi Endalk,

    Thanks for breaking the silence. You know what, some times the truth is in our heart and we prefer to hide ourselves. Your point is real one and I didn’t laugh at all. I even forwarded to friends to share their idea. I hope we will receive more idea from friends. I also hope some will not be disappointed about the following comments; this is just my view.

    My comment will focus on the final target of having a PhD. I will try to share my view from academic and business points of views. What I would like to stress is that, we shouldn’t consider exceptions (like, multi-knowledge individuals from both sides).

    Well, in reality, specially in academic institutions we know many friends with “BSc/BA or MSc/MA” who actually work better than the so called “PhD” holders. However we used to praise the title than the real ability of individuals. Let me give you a general example: we know some BSc/BA holder could offer better knowledge than specialized or PhD holder during our undergraduate study . Moreover, when we see those who are working in other governmental organizations(GOs) in Ethiopia we will find the same story. We sometimes assume respect comes with PhD. Of course, we know reaching at that position by itself has many ups and downs and from our cultural background we used to respect that. Cause you need to pass lots of academic exams, social challenges and the like. Another unforgettable issue is securing a fund that can cover your study is also a mystery. However, after passing all these ups and downs does that mean an achievement? Is that an academic achievement or a career achievement? May be someone could argue with me by saying it depends on your personal goal. I will say some on this on the next paragraph.

    Another issues is the goal for having a PhD. For some, it is to get more knowledge. Because they assume that specialists are better than generalists. For others PhD will open a wide area to make more business. The assumption of the later group is related with the culture we have here in Ethiopia. Because there is better market value as compared to BSc/BA or MSc/MA. As I mentioned in my introduction we used do praise Drs. I some times get surprised that what PhD holders raised at some point is considered as the so called “Dogima”. As the author of this blog said, we know some PhDs who really doesn’t have the amount that can support their transport too. Then the second assumption is still questionable.

    In conclusion, the question raised by the author is really a wide discussion area. I hope we will read more from others. The bottom line is having PhD seems narrowing your focus area in terms of getting knowledge. In terms of business, still it depends on the personal (in born) ability of individuals. Another view of mine is still if we see PhD holders in academic institutions and other GOs or NGOs, a lot of difference can be figured out. Those from academic institutions fear to get out of their compound and for them business is publication, and the next academic rank. For those from other GOs or NGOs business is the actual money in their transaction. Then another question comes which one is more satisfied? That seems to be the remaining question. One last thing that I want to point out is that it is not the status that matters in life, however knowledge has to be transferred to generation that follows us. And indeed if you transfer knowledge yes you can build national asset in general and personal respect in particular.

  2. Dear Endalk
    First of all I would like to appreciate for coming up with such a tantalizing article which questions all Ethiopians who always believe title is a gate way to economic achievement. No doubt, going for higher title could have several reasons. However some of the reasons could be 1. Misguidance by our evironment and community
    2. Absence of other options for change . I would like to share my own experience genuinely and try to relate it to these factors.

    I had the feeling go for higher education when I was a third year student at Addis Ababa University. All my dream was to be university instructor which I believed would lead me to do my MSc and PhD in ‘a very short time’. In other words I was in rush to hold of the economic achievement. Things went the wrong way and I had to look for a ‘professional job’ for over a 8 months. Again lucky, I joined one of the Ethiopian colleges and went to England for my Msc.

    This was the defining moment for me to learn from my environment on the relevance of highest degree; how to evaluate ones’s title vs sucess; title and real capacity etc.
    Most instructors I was taught by had either Bachelor or Masters. A man with a bachelor but once head of the Asian and African economic affairs for the World Bank and who taught of a course called project managment influenced my frame of Reference. The director of the institute who was with Bachelors but had a credible global experience caught my attention and found out no spot of land in this planet that he was not involved. I felt I was cheated, wrongly taught, misguided and also misunderstood about higher education. It did not take me time to learn about higher eduction scratching beyond the title. I came back home and started to evalute every action of individuals, the institution and the commission in a comprehensive way. I saw that the age old seniors (except few) were lying and had no experience even in their specialization. The fact of the matter is some of them have used it as a hiding bush. I heard a nagging voice inside me that said “KEMETEMTEM SERTO MAWOK YIKDEM”.

    I just planned for few months and stepped out of college to join a local NGO . I did not give any ears for those who tried to folishly argue that I had to do my PhD. In about 5 years time I reached to the top interms of both research and technical capacity. My confidence about my knowledge was deep in my heart while at same time I was was feeling sorry for the title chasing guys. It was very hard to communicate titile chasing buys just because of non-sensical agendas and fight amongst themselves for a peanut. The true story was that I competed with 3 title holders for a position and managed to win it. This resulted in unbelievable blackmailing by the title holders going extreme low to the extent of attempting to kill the vision of projects. The message was very clear that unless you have the title you are not supposed to be their team leader or manager. In short both the Environment and Community have given them a false status which killed the confidence of the title chasing guys.

    Mean while I just got a DV and learnt that I had to redefine my self. Of course I had to plan all possible senarios. And with very low interest I had to take the opportunity to do a terminal degree. Luckily, since I knew what I lacked in the real world experience I feel I have gained a lot out of it. By the way almost all terminal degree students are from other countries. Reason, to get a reasonable job in the education industry in which the citzens have given it thier back for its low salary. I think it is not a bad option for people who believe this is a leverage for the big change , not for the title per se.

    The common denominator is that doing a PhD for science does not seem acceptable. For that matter most of the donors are interested in achievable matters and the industry itself has a research wing. This is where most miracles are happening. In some cases individuals have the courage to do their own resarch in their home basement. The electronics industry has grown that way.

    In summary, higher education for economic achievement is a plausible judgement. It is the trend and also a requirement for teaching industry in powerful countries. It should be the same in Ethiopia. What is bad in our case is that, the title and the persona are not close to any body’s imagination. And this needs to be discussed further.


  3. Hey Endalk,
    First of all Merry Christ Mass.
    I very much liked your PhD versus serawit seifu staff.
    You know, most(I say most not all) don’t have options to get the models, otherwise they would have opt for it.
    I believe that most people(everywhere) want to be a celebrity than going for a tough thing like PhD. That is what we see, especially in the so called developed country where they have virtually either options. When we come to our country, I don’t think we are different in this sense though the opportunities are meager.
    So I believe PhD abroad is being used as a way to get out of poverty though I don’t dismiss the idea of pursuit for a research career in few cases.
    To add more, specially concerning the comments I read above which looks comparison between PhD versus non PhDs.
    I believe doing PhD adds quality especially in creativity, solving new problems, curiosity, independence and so on…..leaving aside difference of personality between different people.
    The knock on effect is usually they lost out of touch of social life, too academician, (neither is also a source of wealth specially from the developed country perspective) .
    So I believe
    one won’t be the same before and after doing PhD.
    they also deserve the society respect which is the case in all parts of the world.
    But I don’t mean also that others couldn’t get such skill apart from doing PhD. Neither I dismiss the possibility of finding a PhD holder who don’t have any of the qualities (pseudo doctors) .
    No offense, I believe pseudo doctors don’t like there job which is meant to be academics and research, in our country case they rather try to hide in their title, get a position usually in administration and end up messing everything.
    And finally I believe Phd is not the only way to live. Given all other opportunities the same I believe one has to pursue it if he has the fire (check out here http://www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/dec/essay.phd.html) otherwise he will end up in remorse, and finally being pseudo doctor

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