How to Answer “Why Did You Pursue a PhD?” in an Interview

flat art illustration of a phd student

Why do employers ask about your PhD pursuit?

Employers often ask about your pursuit of a PhD in a job interview as a way to understand your motivations and goals, as well as your commitment to learning and professional development. They may also be interested in the specific skills and knowledge you gained during your PhD program, and how they may be applicable to the job you are applying for.

How to answer the question

When answering the question "Why did you pursue a PhD?", it's important to focus on your personal motivations and how your PhD program has prepared you for the role you are applying for. Here are a few tips for crafting a strong response:
  1. Highlight your passions and interests. Explain what sparked your interest in your field of study and how your PhD program allowed you to explore and deepen your knowledge in this area. Emphasize your enthusiasm and curiosity, as these are traits that are often valued by employers.
  2. Discuss the specific skills and knowledge you gained. Talk about the courses you took, the research projects you worked on, and the presentations you made, and how they have prepared you for the job you are applying for. Use specific examples to illustrate the skills and knowledge you gained, and how you have applied them in the past or how you plan to apply them in the future.
  3. Emphasize your commitment to learning and professional development. A PhD demonstrates a commitment to learning and professional development, and employers often look for candidates who are eager to continue learning and growing in their careers. Talk about your goals for the future and how you plan to stay up-to-date in your field.

How to prepare for the question

To prepare for the question "Why did you pursue a PhD?", consider the following:
  • Reflect on your personal motivations. Why did you decide to pursue a PhD? What sparked your interest in your field of study? What were your goals for the future?
  • Think about the skills and knowledge you gained. What courses did you take? What research projects did you work on? What presentations did you make? How have these experiences prepared you for the job you are applying for?
  • Consider your future goals and how a PhD will help you achieve them. Do you have specific goals for your career or for your personal development? How do you plan to stay up-to-date in your field?

Common Mistakes

  1. Focusing too much on the prestige of a PhD. While a PhD may be a prestigious degree, it's important to focus on your personal motivations and goals rather than the prestige of the degree itself. Employers are more interested in your passion for your field of study and your commitment to learning and professional development.
  2. Not connecting your PhD to the job you are applying for. It's important to show how your PhD program has prepared you for the role you are applying for. Talk about the specific skills and knowledge you gained and how they are applicable to the job.
  3. Not demonstrating enthusiasm or passion. A PhD is a significant undertaking, and employers often look for candidates who are passionate about their field of study. Make sure to highlight your enthusiasm and curiosity when discussing your PhD pursuit.
  4. Not discussing your future goals. Employers often want to know that you are committed to learning and growing in your career. Be sure to discuss your future goals and how your PhD will help you achieve them.

Sample Answers

  1. "I pursued a PhD because I have always been fascinated by the human brain and how it works. I was drawn to the opportunity to delve deeper into the field of psychology and gain a greater understanding of the complexities of the mind. My PhD program allowed me to take a range of courses and work on research projects that have helped me develop a strong foundation in the field. I am now excited to apply this knowledge and these skills to a career in research or academia."

  2. "I pursued a PhD because I wanted to make a meaningful contribution to the field of computer science. I have always been passionate about solving complex problems and developing innovative solutions, and I saw a PhD as an opportunity to delve deeper into these areas. My program allowed me to work on a range of research projects and gain expertise in areas such as machine learning and data analytics. I am now excited to bring these skills to a career in industry or academia, where I can continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with technology."

  3. "I pursued a PhD because I wanted to become a subject matter expert in my field and contribute to the body of knowledge in my area of study. My PhD program allowed me to delve deeply into the history, theory, and practice of education, and I am now excited to bring this knowledge to a career in academia or research. I am particularly interested in using my skills and knowledge to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and I believe that a PhD has prepared me well for this goal."
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