Don't Go to Grad School

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

  1. Teger

    Teger Senior member

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    i also just think it's less doom and gloom than they make it out to be. let's say i want to be an astronaut. very, very, very few people get to be astronauts - but there always are some astronauts. and if i don't get to be an astronaut, it's not of all the steps i took on the road to becoming an astronaut were worthless (as long as I didn't take out student loans to do them)
     
  2. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    No, it's really not like that at all.
     
  3. arced

    arced Senior member

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    I suspect that students often take the 'gloom and doom' speech personally, thinking that I'm doubting their abilities or drive or that I don't really know them (no matter how much I insist that they don't). As a strategy against this, I announce my views in class to everyone.

    Of course, it's just easier to encourage students, write letters of recommendation, and hope that it all works out for them...
     
  4. Teger

    Teger Senior member

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    well, as in my earlier post, is there really a huge downside to going to grad school for free for 2 years while hedging my bets with a job offer upon graduation?
     
  5. kwiteaboy

    kwiteaboy Senior member

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    As someone who just left a PhD program in clinical psych (with an MA), I'm not so sure. Professorships are terribly hard to come by, and while you can always become a practicing therapist, 7 years of grad school plus two of post-doc to make ~$60k (and likely to diminish) seems like a pretty poor outcome.
     
  6. StephenHero

    StephenHero Black Floridian

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    You gotta think of the lost earnings, Teger. In this case, free still means you have to pay for costs of living without a full time job. I don't know what you're worth, but it's greater than getting paid zero at school.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
  7. Sancho Panzo Christ

    Sancho Panzo Christ Senior member

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    i assume by "free" he meant that he's getting a stipend which will go for food and accommodation (and nothign else). i don't see a whole lot of downside to doing it so long as he's getting tuition and living expenses paid for, so long as he doesn't have any illusions about eventually working in the academy.

    a serious problem is that the skills he'll be picking up doing a humanities grad degree won't impress future employers when he has to enter the capitalist job sector (that's why the analogy to the astronaut is stupid). some guy interviewing you for a job at a bank isn't going to give a shit that you can read virginia woolf.

    i actually think Manton's posts are filled with wisdom on this subject. Interesting thread.
     
  8. thinman

    thinman Senior member

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    Although I can only speak with any real knowledge about my field of chemistry, several comments in this thread should be emphasized:


    This is certainly the case in the physical sciences and chemistry in particular. I forget the exact number, but IIRC 75% of professors at the top 100 chemistry programs graduated from the top 10 institutions in the NRC rankings. If you don't have credentials, don't even think about an academic job. Even if you have credentials, you're playing the lottery because there are so few jobs available. And manton is correct about the baby-boomers dying on the job. I know of one large state school where 38% of the chemistry faculty are over 70, no longer research active, minimally engaged in teaching, and won't retire. Anyone wanting an academic job should be informed of the odds as early in their careers as possible.


    +1 to this. It is virtually impossible to go into management with a BS in chemistry and no advanced degree. PhD chemists should view the degree not as the first step to a career as a research professor, but as an entree to a management position. Whether or not there is a better, quicker, or easier path to that position is a different question (and the answer is almost certainly 'yes').


    I am ambivalent about whether the world needs more PhDs in the sciences since my crystal ball is broken, but I agree that people should think globally, as job opportunities in the US are declining rapidly. For the first time since WW II, the unemployment rate for US chemists (not just PhD chemists) last year was higher than the overall unemployment rate. The pharmaceutical industry used to be the largest employer of chemists in the US, but they are downsizing and outsourcing overseas. If the downsizing turns out to be permanent, then producing more PhD chemists would only contribute to their unemployment or underemployment. Nonetheless, the immediate strategy for anyone graduating with a science degree at any level and wanting to optimize job opportunities should be to search for a job globally (the pharmaceutical industry is moving to India and China).
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
  9. Teger

    Teger Senior member

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    yea you're right. i have assistanceship that includes a tuition waiver and a stipend. it's not a lot but enough to pay my bills and let me drink and occasionally buy clothes! i also have some grants/scholarships that help out.

    and true, having an MA in humanities isn't super useful for interviewing at say, an investment bank, but what if I don't want to work at an investment bank? as I said, I've already been offered a position wherein the requirement is an MA, which is a nice option to have (and which hopefully will still exist in two years)
     
  10. AldenPyle

    AldenPyle Senior member

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    By coincidence, the same author published a similar article in Slate today.

    I doubt at this point, though , that anyone going into a Ph.D. program is unaware of the job market situation. I suspect that most entrants understand that there is a very high probability that after graduation they will go through a long period of marginal employment and may not ever land a satisfying job in their field. The problem is that most young people going into Ph.D. programs already are marginally employed in unsatisfying jobs. What they fail to understand is how much worse that will be when they are in their late 30's. Being a barrista at 40 is a lot different than at 25.

    During the 1990's, there was a huge expansion in the number of humanities Ph.D's produced by American universities (upward of a 50% increase between 1989 and 1999) despite stagnating demand. I guess administrators wanted to increase the fraction of courses by non-tenure track teachers. Going to full time adjuncts would probably be the cheapest route, but doing it with grad students was almost as cheap and was more acceptable even pleasing to tenured insiders. This stuff about the huge number of job openings that would become available as the boomers retired was just some junk people passed around to justify themselves (though I have to admit I am a bit surprised to read someone still trying to pass this off w/o irony).

    It seems clear that what they need to do is cut back admissions to 1980's levels. This is a bit of a collective action problem, but most Ph.D's are being produced at 10 or 15 universities and if just a few people would show some leadership, the culture could easily go back to those levels of production. In fact, over the last decade, the number of humanities Ph.D's has stabilized. Given there is a 10 year lead time, they may have already cut back admissions.
     
  11. AldenPyle

    AldenPyle Senior member

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    I'm an academic (in a field toward the quantitative end of the social sciences) who moved overseas about 15 years ago. It worked out great for me and I would go so far as to say that any PhD who does not conduct a global job search is pretty much a fool (personal circumstances permitting). Particularly in smaller countries, universities care about their global reputation, happily hire American trained PhD's and often teach classes in English. These days there are quite a few non-US universities that provide pay levels, support, and research environments that are the equivalent of all but the top 20 universities in the States (whichever those are in your field). With the internet and jet travel, keeping up with the global conversation can be pretty easy as well.

    But as usual, the best opportunities overseas are also in professional fields. In addition to the fact that non-US undergrads are about as interested in majoring in the humanities as Americans, humanities disciplines themselves tend to be very localized. An important part of what the humanities are about is deciding the standards regarding the way that a cultivated lady or gentleman should think and behave and most societies are inclined to decide that for themselves, thank you very much {this bien pensant aspect is precisely what PC is in American academia, other countries will have their own manner of right thinking).

    International schools are more eager to hire American trained scientists, but since most American trained scientists aren't Americans anyway, most countries have plenty to pick from anyway.
     
  12. AldenPyle

    AldenPyle Senior member

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  13. Teger

    Teger Senior member

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    I'm curious - what's the standard of success here that's appropriate? 150k a year? 100k? 75k but great benefits? it seems that one of the main arguments is that you have a humanities PhD your choices are barrista or college professor - what about say, working in university administration? is making 80k a year doing that still not enough money?
     
  14. Humperdink

    Humperdink Senior member

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    Please go to graduate school. Please, please go to graduate school, especially if it's free. Read through this thread and the articles linked beforehand and understand what you - whoever you are - have to offer to current discourse and challenges to intellectual tradition, hopefully well grounded. Then, choose to go to grad school (twice, as Manton did).

    Go to graduate school directly out of university, so that you'll have your PhD around age 27 - that'll maximize your opportunity to pursue a tenure track position or enter the private sector as a consultant/ CIA operative. Guess what? Learning GIS to pinpoint the movements of Han Dynasty poet-bureaucrats could actually be useful in targeting the whereabouts of known terrorist cells. There are all kinds of real world applications for the skills one can develop in the humanities/ social sciences at the graduate level.

    A BA is for pussies. Get an AM or PhD to prove your alpha-ness, and get your Ivy League school to pay for tuition and expenses.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011
  15. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    I think there are a number of different problems here. One is that many twenty-one year olds can't imagine what it might be like to be, say, thirty three or even forty and without a stable income. If they're dead set on becoming an academic, all the talk of financial instability isn't going to convince them much. And I'm guessing there are a lot of undergrads (especially at the institution I'm at currently) who come from pretty wealthy families who don't really worry about money all that much. I'm not really in the position to ask them how badly they'll need a decent salary after ten years.
     

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