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But Mostly Satisfying

While pursuing a PhD can be a nerve-wracking experience, three-quarters of researchers tell Nature that they are satisfied with their decision to do so.

Nature surveyed more than 6,000 early-career researchers from around the world and from a number of scientific disciplines to ask them about their time as PhD students. Overall, it reports that its findings illustrate "a story of personal reward and resilience against a backdrop of stress, uncertainty, and struggles with depression and anxiety."

For instance, about a third of respondents reported seeking help for anxiety or depression during their PhD studies, and about 40 percent ranked work-life balance as a source of emotional strain and others, particularly in Asia and the Americas, identified debt concerns as another issue, according to Nature's survey. In addition, 21 percent of respondents said they'd directly experienced bullying or harassment.

Still, 38 percent of respondents said they were very satisfied and 37 percent said they were somewhat satisfied with their decision to pursue a PhD. Many respondents said that they enjoyed the intellectual challenge of their PhD work as well as their ability to work with smart people.

"Even with many of the negatives now being highlighted about pursuing a PhD and career in academia, I enjoy what I get to do every day as a graduate student," one US-based survey respondent wrote in.