I am about to finish my masters degree in AI, and I am considering the possibility of doing a PhD. Honestly I am not very willing, I would rather stay working where I work (I work with AI research in a company) or go for another similar jobs. However I see that most people working in AI have phds. So that leads me to wonder if this will be a problem for me in the future. So the question is, will the next ~4 years be better used in a PhD or getting work experience?

  • 4
    Once you are 5 years out of school and have some tangible work experience, no one cares anymore. I have a Ph.D. but most people at work don't know or don't care about it. Only do a Ph.D. if you are truly passionate about scientific research. Career wise, work experience is almost always better.
    – Hilmar
    Dec 10, 2021 at 15:23
  • 1
    When computers were first invented, nearly every computer programmer had a PhD. That was because the field was very new. The same is true for AI today. As the field matures and new versions and tools are made available, high school students will be able to use AI. So, a PhD needs to be considered for what else it brings besides employment.
    – David R
    Dec 10, 2021 at 15:28
  • David R: Dijkstra didn’t have a PhD in computer sciences. Knuth didn’t. There were no PhDs.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 10, 2021 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


Four years in industry would give you one or two promotions (assuming you're doing well of course), which would mean that your title then would be medior/senior AI researcher/Data Scientist/Algorithm Developer/whatever and that should offer you enough ways to keep your career developing.

Four years in academia might get you a medior position from the get go, plus possibly a higher salary. But then you'd still need to make the switch from academia to industry, which can be hard for some academics.

Consider that you also need to be able to finish the PhD, which is not a guarantee obviously, especially since you say you are not very willing to do this PhD in your question. 2 years of industry experience looks better on your resume than 2 years of PhD that you didn't finish.

So - unless you are actually excited about a PhD, I would advise against it and go for industry.


As always, look at the job offers that you would like to take up 5 to 10 years down the road.

What do they look like? What do they require? Do they need a PhD?

Some probably do. Some probably don't. So it's up to you to decide which job you would like to have in the future and whether a PhD is worth it.

  • Thanks for the answer! I do that. Job offers often demand 'Msc OR PhD'. I assume that they wont treat a fresh msc graduate and a fresh phd graduate as the same, but is the difference worth the time spent? Im not sure
    – Manveru
    Dec 10, 2021 at 12:28
  • Well, you would need to ask those that make the decisions in the individual companies and add a good look into the crystal ball on how this might change over the next half decade. It's probably not unheard of that they pay PhDs better than Mscs. If that pay difference is big enough to make up for a few years of lost salaries and promotions? That's probably way to specific to where you live and who you hypothetically work for to have any globally valid answer.
    – nvoigt
    Dec 10, 2021 at 12:33

I'll offer some general advice, I typically recommend your higher level degrees are in a different field. A lot of people study the same subjects for their BS, MS and Phd but I don't think that's a great idea.

I wouldn't recommend quitting your job, many people take a class or two while working a "40 hour" job. Ultimately it's up to you what you want to do.

As far as how it will help in the future, depending on the position you're applying to even if you had a Phd sometimes you're better off not mentioning it (for a mid level position it may make you sound like a more expensive option). Do note that if the job description explicitly states that a phd is preferred then often it won't necessarily matter the exact field as long as it's reasonably related.

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