Don't Go to Grad School

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Manton, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. james_timothy

    james_timothy Senior member

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    I don't know Manton- we really need the steady supply of research grade engineers and scientists, and that relies on lots of people wanting to be graduate students.

    Having said that we need graduate students, I'll add that the happiest end-of-the-academic-track people I know were those bailing out after a Masters degree. Folks are especially bitter if after getting a PhD they can't find a Postdoc. Postdocs that can't find a faculty position tend to be resigned to their fate.

    Here's a link to Nature's special issue on it in April 2011
    but it may not be free (non-communists!), so here is a link to their editorial.
    Even the hard sciences are coming around to the idea that creating Ph.D.s, then dumping them onto the job market may not be a good diea.

    I swear I once saw a paper on "The Pollution Model of Ph.D Overproduction", back in the early 90's, but I can't seem to find it.
     


  2. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    True enough, I guess, but we are talking degrees of waste here. If you want a $ and # oriented degree that will help your career, an MBA is a much better bet than an MA in Econ.

    To j_t., it's worst in the humanities, slightly less bad in the social sciences, and least bad in the natural sciences. But it's a myth or misperception that there's no problem in the hard sciences. You have more options outside of academia, but chances at a professorship are still terrible and most of the private sector jobs could be had with less education (i.e., time and money) than an advance degree.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011


  3. arced

    arced Senior member

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    ^ Good, it's far better to be crushed before grad school than to go and find out the reality later. A lot of ABDs and not-so-recent PhDs are crushed, but they're 40 years, heavily in debt, and can't figure out with to do in their lives.
     
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  4. cam

    cam Member

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    I just turned down graduate school admission. I originally got a ba in economics and minored in spanish literary studies. I'm having a lot of fun, but I'm also not working... I often wish I had taken a sabbatical in college to go work for free somewhere cool or start a creative project before I had to pay the liabilities that came with graduating.

    I learned the hard way that a good career is about telling an interesting story about how and why you do and did certain things and convincing people that you would be valuable to have around in the future. Borrowing $50,000+ often isn't very interesting. I know that this thread is more focused on academia, which I considered, but all my professors were very open about how much they hated being economics PhDs.
     


  5. Gibonius

    Gibonius Senior member

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    It is certainly very difficult to get a research professorship. However, you really do stand to gain a lot in the some of the sciences with the PhD over a BS. A lot of fields have a pretty hard ceiling on advancement for people without the advanced degrees, justified or not. There's a very large jump in salary, both average and lifetime earnings, if you complete your PhD. This obviously varies by field, I can only really speak for chemistry. You also get out of grad school with no debt and you make ~70% of the average BS chem starting salary while you're a grad student. Not a bad deal overall, quality of life while in grad school notwithstanding.

    It's still chump change compared to more lucrative fields, but that's another story.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011


  6. youngScholar

    youngScholar Senior member

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    There's a good article in the NYT regarding on how the MA is the new BA: Link
     


  7. feastmaster

    feastmaster Active Member

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    I currently work in the college setting and sat in a few interview presentations for the Dean of Graduate Studies. Every candidate said that the undergrad degree is the new high school diploma and the graduate degree is the new bachelor's degree. I was astounded to hear this. I feel sorry for kids today who are incurring large amounts of debt and have no idea what they want to do when they graduate.

    Grad school is definitely not for everyone (and so is college) and a colleague has continuously said to me (I was his former student as well), if you do not have the drive or competitive nature, you will not succeed in grad school. He attended an Ivy for his Master's and PhD (and here too, a student has to find the right fit...don't just go somewhere because of the name). Like the articles state, if your advisor is not honest with you, you'll end up disillusioned. I agree, don't go to grad school unless you're required to or you don't want to grow up. I've heard that a scholar's most productive/creative time is when he/she is in his/her 40s to 50s...
     


  8. Dewey

    Dewey Senior member

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    The world definitely needs many, many more Ph.Ds in the sciences.

    We also need many, many more Ph.Ds in math.

    I can't emphasize those two points enough.

    Also, more Ph.Ds in the humanities will NOT hurt. It's profoundly anti-intellectual to suggest otherwise.

    Employment prospects for American Ph.Ds are changing. Around 2020, the last of the massive baby boomer generation retires. Maybe 50% of all professors in the US are within ten years of retirement. Boomers dominate the tenure-track ranks. They have perhaps 80% of all the really good high-paying professor jobs. They will not live forever.

    Not all will be replaced, but either schools will hire more tenure-track faculty when they retire, or schools will better treat their part-time faculty.

    There is little chance that a college education will become less valuable by 2020. The only scenarios that I can imagine where this is the case, are Mad Max post-apocalyptic-type scenarios, and if you think this is likely, learn to shoot guns and farm.

    Assuming the planet is still much the same in ten years, there will be a need for accredited faculty. Schools will not begin to mint BAs by staffing upper-level courses with BAs. Not in the next ten years. Younger Ph.D.s will be needed to replace the retiring boomers.

    A major context for what has happened with higher education in the US is what has happened with higher education globally. In the 1960s and 1970s, the US had an enormous advantage in this department. For example, what percentage of 20-something British workers had a BA in 1969? Under 5% I am pretty sure. Now so many other nations are building up their systems of higher education. The growth of Indian BAs is one reason so many call centers are now located in that nation.

    The American BA is not as valuable, in the global workforce, as it once was, because all these other nations are now cranking out large numbers of their own BAs. All kinds of highly-educated things can be done without involving Americans -- seriously, that was not so much the case when the baby boomers were young.

    The irony though is that the BA, while less valuable, is even more essential to any American teenager who aspires to what we might call professional employment. You can make it without the BA, of course, but the odds are long.

    People will be hired, with the appropriate credentials, to teach the courses that are required for the BA degree.

    If someone is really interested in a humanities Ph.D. right now -- considering that this means they will finish around 2019 or 2020 -- I think it might not be the worst gamble, in a buy-low kind of way, provided that they are willing to conduct not a national job search but a global job search. Our BA programs may be matched by more schools overseas, but American Ph.D. programs should retain their edge for another decade or two. Already I am hearing anecdotal evidence that I would be better paid & generally live larger were I to take my humanities Ph.D. & higher ed experience abroad.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011


  9. mkarim

    mkarim Senior member

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    Interesting. I agree that the American BA is not as valuable. Was it ever though?
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011


  10. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    OK, the trope that "the boomer generation of professors will retire soon" has been around since before I started grad school. They are not really retiring so much as dying on the job and they are not being replaced by tenure track faculty.
     


  11. erdawe

    erdawe Senior member

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    Do you have any specifics what routes abroad you're describing? Are you referring to teaching specifically?

    Also, how good is an American Ph.D. "experience" worth if many Americans are so poor at having learned non-English (Foreign) languages. Many Americans are just not all that fluent in other languages. For whatever reason it's not all that well emphasized in our education system starting with primary school on up.

    How effective is a teaching gig with a Ph.D. if you can't communicate to your students and not teaching English?

    There might be ways around this and I'd be curious to hear for those who know more about it.
     


  12. arced

    arced Senior member

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    I'm confused by this. There's a tremendous glut of PhDs on the market at the moment. Social science jobs will get 200-300 applicants and Humanities will get upwards of 600. Are you saying these PhDs will merely disappear or there'll be an incredible increase in the number of tenure-track jobs (here and abroad) in the coming decade to absorb them? Also, the system that's overproducing PhDs continues. I'm not sure how the current glut won't continue.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011


  13. youngScholar

    youngScholar Senior member

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    I think you need to do more to explain the first bolded point. You seem to be conflating having a particular credential and being an intellectual. What anti-intellectualism there is in American society - and there is a lot - has much to do with the overall culture and institutional framework within which people live and not whether someone has a cool piece of paper on their wall. What is the difference - other than age and debt - between a barista who actively reads and hungers for knowledge and an under-employed Ph.D. in philosophy working at the same shop?

    Secondly, I think there is more going on with regards to the value of an American BA than the quantity of non-Americans gaining a BA. I would look more closely at the quality and rigor of large-scale undergraduate education in the US. The business model of most universities in America require pumping out large quantities of BAs, first and foremost.
     


  14. Teger

    Teger Senior member

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    Manton you actually posted this in my thread! I've also read it several times before and there was a big discussion about the article in CE when it first came out.

    Anyway, happily enough, I do get to graduate school for free and already have a job lined up after graduation if I decide not to pursue a PhD.
     


  15. Eason

    Eason Bicurious Racist

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    For me, as a teacher, grad school is absolutely necessary. For most other jobs, it's obviously not.
     


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