So being a researcher is awesome, but..there always has to be a but right? ;) These are some factors that you may want to consider before you enter research.
You work-life balance may not be that great. I can assure you that there would be at least one person banging his head against the wall (umm.. I mean working) even on a Sunday midnight. Yes..people in my lab are pretty hardcore :)
Let me not get started on public holidays. Avoid social networking sites at any costs during these times. You would not want to know all the fun things your friends are up to as you try to rush for your next deadline. There are some perks though I guess :p
There is pretty much no time of the year where you can afford to relax. You think you can relax after you have submitted your paper to a conference deadline, but wait – the deadline to submit your artefacts approaching as well! You start making changes that your reviewers bombard you with and if everything goes well, you start getting your camera-ready version of the paper ready. After you finish working on your presentation (I think this would be fun – you get to show off all the work you have done!) it’s back to square-one as you rack your brains for the next big project. As you can imagine, you would be pushing yourself to the maximum pretty much throughout the year.
Research is difficult – if it was simple, someone else would have already done it right? At times you would wonder what you are doing with your life! It is very easy to get caught up with your work and forget about more important things in your life – friends, family, pursuing your hobbies, etc.
You could go months without achieving anything significant. The amount of work you put in may not always correspond to your expected results. Your will to push forward, even if it seems like all the odds are stacked up against you, will be severely tested.
Also your salary (I mean stipend :P) will definitely be lower than what you would expect! You should definitely not be in research if you are in it for the money! No signing bonus, yearly bonus, overtime (ah if only!), etc.
Don’t get depressed though. Think of it as a way where you do cool stuff, find out your limits in an accelerated time frame and some one is paying you to do it as well! It’s all about the perspective, isn’t it? ;) Let me put it this way – if you have the mental stamina to handle the pressure of being a researcher, then I can say with reasonable confidence that you would be good at pretty much anything else you try your hand at!
That’s my target for the near future – handle the pressure in a better way and take time out for the things that matter :)