Any product designer here who changed career to user experience research?

Hi, I changed career to tech 4 years ago. At the time I also decided to go back to college. Since graduation I have been gaining experience in UX/UI, but noticed that I have much more to give as a researcher than in product design role per se. Now I am really considering a PHD but I need to consider many things before doing so including how to delegate time. Also, I thought transitioning would be easier because as a product designer I used to do some research, but it’s not like this. I don’t if it is the market at the moment but so far what I am doing is going self employed and building websites for SME’S and rethinking about my career while getting interviews. So I am looking for advice ? What am I missing to work as UX researcher?Thanks
From my experience UX researchers with PhDs are very rare and I would do a lot of research in the benefit and cost of the program (including time spent). I also don't think I've come across any UX researchers roles where that is a requirement - curious if you're looking into it due to personal interest, or do you think it's a prerequisite to a UX role?
Hey Teresa, thanks for answering. Yes, looking into it due to personal interest, I feel it's more aligned to me. I have experience working in marketing inside hospitality and research was part of the process, so I am more interested in exploring deeper what I already know.
I've had the same experience as @teresaman, haven't seen a requirement for a PhD. If you're interested in going back to school, a Masters or a certificate program could be a good fit. I went to the University of Michigan for this program: It's been 10 years since I graduated (oh dear) and I think it could be easier to make UX projects part of your work as you go, without going back to school. The first job I got out of school actually wasn't a UX job, because I couldn't find one where I wanted to move, so I just shoehorned the work into my projects once I had built up some goodwill - "hey, you know what would be great - if this was easier to use! why don't I ask the people who use it? great, don't say no, I'll be right back with a report!" :) Over time I've continued that approach, built up a portfolio and shifted into a true UX job. Plus I added some other skills along the way, which is cool.
That's a great approach! Thanks for the insights!