fraud is rampant and that people honestly trying to do science are less likely to be recognized and obtain tenure
Dr. Weatherman PhD here. The above is mostly rubbish amplified by the media and those philosophers in Insane Clown Posse.
The first thing you need to realize is that all universities are different, and the requirements for obtaining tenure vary dramatically from place to place. I would presume for condensed matter physics you're not going to be at a small liberal arts college, teaching a heavy load to undergraduates, but you will be seeking out a research intensive (call them R1) university where you will, if you are lucky, interview well and get an offer with a nice startup package so you can begin to build your research program. While I am tenured at a school which tries to be both undergrad focused and research focused (the best - or worst - of both worlds) I have a pretty good feeling for what the R1 schools require. While it still varies from place to place, your national and international reputation in the field will be a major factor in determining tenure, as well as your ability to land grants and publish (the latter tends to help the former).
If I were you, I'd be asking myself the following questions: Am I willing to work 60-80 hours a week for 7 years at (comparitively speaking) low pay doing what is necessary to obtain tenure? And doing basically the same things afterwards (maybe at a slightly less vigorous clip) to obtain promotion etc.? What aspects of academia interest you the most - research? Teaching? Service? Are you willing to post-doc for a few years while putting your resume out there and interviewing? Would you settle for a non-faculty position at a research lab?The job market - in general - is pretty bad right now in academia in the US. I don't know specifically about your specific field of interest, but there are generally a lot more applicants than open positions, and in many cases, retirements are not being filled with new searches at state funded schools whose state funding has been shrinking every year. If I were you, I'd go for it and get the PhD if it's what you love to do. As much as I bitch about the job to my colleagues I consider myself to be a lucky bastard to have such a cool job where I get to do nifty science (for me, on supercomputers) and do everything I can to get those around eager weather nerd undergrads onto their own career path, whether it be grad school, the private sector, or, god help me, TV. So anyway I say go for it if you really really love learning new things and want to never stop trying to answer questions about the world around you. For me, that's mostly what it's all about.