Once you get your Master's degree, is it better to stay in academia and take a PhD, or should you move over into industry and start working on real-world problems?
I just received an email from a student who we shall call Razi (because that's his name). This fine fellow is currently studying computer science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany.
Razi is in the process of writing his Master's thesis on the topic of soft errors in memories. His email started by saying, "Hi Max, I am a big fan of your articles." Well, what can I say? Razi is obviously a very discerning, discriminating, and perceptive young man.
It seems that it's coming close to the time when Razi has to decide whether to remain in academia or to move into industry, and he wondered if I had any suggestions to help him make up his mind.
Now, I should point out that when we say "remain in academia," we aren't talking about him becoming a lecturer or anything like that -- what we mean is staying on to take a PhD and then coming out to work in industry. As a starting point, I asked Razi to come up with a "Pros and Cons" table, to which he responded as follows:
Pros and Cons of moving into industry vs. staying in academia.
Well, that does sum things up, but -- to be honest -- I'm really not sure what to advise. On the one hand, I would love to have a PhD (or even a Master's degree); quite apart from any other consideration that it would make my dear old mom very proud. On the other hand, attaining these qualifications takes a lot of time and effort. On my part, as soon as I got my BSc I was eager to move into industry and start working on computers and robots and spaceships and... well, everything, really.
Taking the industry path has worked well for me, not the least that my name is known around the world (my wife knows it in America and my mom knows it in England). Also, since I didn't take the Master's and PhD route, I'm really not qualified (pun intended) to waffle on about that option.
Personally, I think everyone is different and you have to follow your heart (and wallet) with regard to this sort of thing. What do you think? What advice would you give to Razi?