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Don't Go to Grad School

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

  1. Concordia

    Concordia Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    The prisoner's dilemma.
     
  2. Redwoood

    Redwoood Senior member

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    In any given 10-year period, a tenured professor probably graduates an average of 3 PhD students or more. Yet, after the same period, this professor is not likely to have retired, nor is the number or tenure-track professorships likely to quadruple.
    Anybody who thought about this for at least 5 seconds would come to the conclusion that the likelihood of any given PhD candidate getting tenure is quite low, especially at a university of the same ranking as the one granting their degree.
    So why do people still pursue PhDs? Maybe it's that they just enjoy research in their field. Maybe they think they can make it against all odds, that the payoff at the end is worth the high risk they are taking.
    If I had to guess, I'd say more people go to grad school because they yearn for education (and maybe try to avoid real work) than to one day become a professor. I'm including Master's programs here as PhDs are more likely to want to go the academic route, though not nearly all PhDs want to be professors.

    Is restricting PhD admissions really the answer here? What are the societal benefits of having less--in absolute numbers--research performed by PhD candidates and professors (who now have to spend more time teaching)? who is to say what is the right number/ratio? Some people who are only ok undergrads become stellar graduate students as that type of work more suits them. Would they still be admitted under a more restrictive regime?

    I think a better approach would be to partner up with industry and require graduate programs to have one or two mandatory intership terms. After all, despite what some people say, grad students tend to be higher achievers than the average BA. This will give students more work experience and let companies try them out risk-free. In this way, they will have better fall-back options if they choose (or are chosen) not to pursue an academic career.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011
  3. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    The problem with this logic: there are many, many colleges and universities in the country that don't have Ph.D. programs.
     
  4. Redwoood

    Redwoood Senior member

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    While this is true, who would want to be faculty there? ;)

    Seriously, though, the ratios are still bad even including those, and many PhDs would consider ending up with a teaching position at a small college a professional failure.
    Others would probably take whatever they can...
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011
  5. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    How droll.

    I teach at a small liberal arts college. Most would consider my job a plum position. I chose my school over an R1 with a PhD program.
     
  6. Redwoood

    Redwoood Senior member

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    My apologies, I meant no offence.
    Admittedly, I don't know too much about arts.
     
  7. james_timothy

    james_timothy Senior member

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    See, the part I don't understand is why a Ph.D. is only an academic track degree (and I'm only talking about the physical sciences and engineering). In the physical sciences, it is a way to learn and master the very best tricks of the trade.

    It just seems to me that academics focus exclusively on making junior copies of themselves; those students that go off to industry "don't count".
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011
  8. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    No worries.
     
  9. youngScholar

    youngScholar Senior member

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    If the article is accurate, then not only is the BA becoming more watered-down but the MA may come to be as well.

    Manton, thank you for putting the IQ and status issues out in the open.

    I think it is less about any explicit ideology driving students to college than a variety of social forces converging. There is a great deal of marking done to paint college as the only real ticket to a "good life." I"m not saying this marketing is all wrong, but students are seeing a picture where there is only way to go to avoid waiting tables the rest of their life. Things are even more desperate for those in the (expanding) ranks of the lower classes, who also tend to be those least likely to be equipped - intellectually and financially - to successfully take on college.

    I'm hoping the college bubble bursts soon, and hard.
     
  10. arced

    arced Senior member

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    It won't burst. Everyone, especially the elites, are invested in the system of prestige (otherwise known as educational or social capital), so it's only going to get more intense. There's some interesting arguments about the increase in globalization or general social mobility that intensifies the need for mobile credentials which were unnecessary when people stayed in their home town or within a local region.
     
  11. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    Also, the "college bubble" isn't bursting, it's spreading worldwide. Schools like NYU are marketing themselves heavily as a global brand. Was talking to an NYU prof about all the crazy perks she'd get if she taught for a semester at their Abu Dhabi campus.
     
  12. austinite

    austinite Well-Known Member

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    I think the problem is at the undergraduate level. Students, who were frequently high-achievers in HS, graduate with a BS in a subject of the humanities and have no real job prospects available. The reality is that they are now less employable than their low-achieving high school classmates that have spent four years working full time. Graduate school offers a path to hide from this reality for another 4-8 years. Going to a university to study the humanities is equivalent to taking a year off to travel the world. It may be very rewarding on a personal level, but it needs to be looked at as a luxury, not a means to an end.
     
  13. imatlas

    imatlas Senior member

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    Sorry, this is false. It's a common enough canard, but it's painfully myopic. Granted, a humanities BA doesn't offer an obvious path to a career, unlike say a degree in accounting, however the humanities grad has (potentially) developed a broader skill-set (analytical tools, critical thinking, communication, etc). Take a look at the following table (from Economics: Good Choice of Major for Future CEOs
    By Patricia M. Flynn and Michael A. Quinn, http://www.cswep.org/papers/FlynnQuinn2006.pdf) - 34.3 percent of all S&P 500 CEOs in 2004 had undergraduate degrees in the Humanities:


    Table 1. S&P 500 CEOs by Undergraduate Major, 2004

    Number Percentage

    Science & Engineering 141 28.1%

    Biology 6 1.2
    Computer Science 6 1.2
    Engineering 103 20.5
    Health Sciences 6 1.2
    Sciences, n.e.c. 20 4.0

    Liberal Arts 172 34.3

    Economics 46 9.2
    English 9 1.8
    History 25 5.0
    Liberal Arts, n.e.c 46 9.2
    Math 17 3.4
    Political Science 21 4.2
    Psychology 4 0.8
    Sociology 4 0.8

    Business 143 28.5

    Accounting 24 4.8
    Business Administration 104 20.7
    Finance 15 3.0

    Other (Education) 1 0.2

    Unspecified 37 7.4

    No Degree 8 1.6

    Total 502 100%
    Note: There are 502 observations due to 2 companies having more than one
    CEO in 2004; "n.e.c" stands for not elsewhere classified
     
  14. austinite

    austinite Well-Known Member

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    I'd tend to guess that most of the people on that list went to extremely elite schools. No question a humanities graduate from Harvard is employable. I was talking about the the other 90-95%.
     
  15. Dashaansafin

    Dashaansafin Senior member

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    Agreed. It's like those people who claim that college doesnt matter and say Bill gates and zuckerburg dropped out.....of Harvard. And Lloyd blankfien was a polisci major....at Harvard. Soros was a philosophy major....at LSE.

    Give me a break. If you are a sociology/philo/Theo etc major at some middling college you aren't going anywhere.
     
  16. imatlas

    imatlas Senior member

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    Google is hard!

     
  17. Viktri

    Viktri Senior member

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    you're not comparing the same population or accounting for luck
     
  18. Dashaansafin

    Dashaansafin Senior member

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    Sigh. Same argument is always presented when one is questioned why one didn't go to a good school.

    "Oh I dont need it. Look at this report! It says the school with the mist CEOs went to Xavier! Xavier is better than Harvard!"

    Brilliant. The CEO of my company went to a state school. Great. Want to know where everyone else under him went to? All ivy/top 20 schools. IT guys went to Texas.

    No one is saying that it's impossible to become elite with a non ivy education, but it sure is harder.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2011
  19. imatlas

    imatlas Senior member

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    Which I agree with 100%, and actually this is a complete distraction from the point that I was responding to, which was the rant against majoring in the humanities at all that was posted above.
     
  20. austinite

    austinite Well-Known Member

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    I hope you aren't referring to my post as a rant against majoring in the humanities. I have absolutely nothing against the study of the humanities, and am very happy that it exists. I simply believe that an 18 year old who believes that going to a university to study the humanities will improve his employment outlook is very misguided.

    It should be said that I went to a highly ranked university, but one that is a very large state school. I can certainly see how someone from an tiny elite liberal arts school would have a different perspective, but that isn't really a relevant comparison, as the vast majority of people in college are not at this type of school.
     

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