Don't Go to Grad School

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

  1. stylemeup

    stylemeup Senior member

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    The article linked to above seems to have a somewhat contrary message to those of the articles linked to in the OP.

    The article linked to above seems to say that grad school will make a student more employable than if he/she has only a BA.

    Is that not a good reason why going to grad school may be worthy of consideration?

    What is the response of those who say "Don't go to Grad school," to the idea that because "the MA is the new BA," going to grad school is good?
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011


  2. Gibonius

    Gibonius Senior member

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    Most of the articles in the OP were about PhD's, which are a bit of a different story than MAs. Lot longer time, energy, and money investment and the focus is on research moreso than classwork.

    I still doubt that an MA in "esoteric humanity subject X" makes someone any more employable than a BA in the same. But who knows?
     


  3. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    At least in the humanities, the terminal M.A. is a whole different beast. Yes, it's a much shorter time commitment, but usually, M.A. programs are cash cows for universities. I got a terminal M.A. before getting into a Ph.D. program, and I was lucky to get a half-tuition waiver. That still meant taking out a rather sizable loan to cover the other half and living expenses.

    The question of employment obviously boils down to what kinds of jobs you're interested in. An M.A. in the humanities made it a lot easier for me to find a job teaching at a private high school, but I have no idea if it would've helped me land some sort of office job. (I did, however, somehow land an interview to be an administrator at an architecture school at a major university. The job itself wasn't all that great, but the title was "Associate Dean" or something absurd like that. Would be really funny to have that on my CV now.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011


  4. arced

    arced Senior member

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    Unfortunately, some sort of advanced degree is quickly becoming expected for many white collar jobs. I survey my students and only a couple plan to stop at the BA. They all understand that to do anything in this world, some sort of advanced degree (MA at the minimum) is required. This trend towards over-credentialization is terrible, resulting in extenuated adolescence (the same students say that they'll be adults at age 30) and increased debt loads. While the system as a whole makes little sense, on the individual level, with the way things are, it makes sense to go to graduate school.
     


  5. Concordia

    Concordia Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I was lucky enough not to step on the grad school treadmill out of college. It would have postponed some decisions, and had I pulled up my socks to go through yet another application process that might have been a good thing. But I had sense enough to know that I was personally burned out and that the tool to work through it all was not an advanced degree that I didn't have a specific plan for.

    Flash forward a quarter century-- I did get a master's (from a liberal arts sort of trade school), which did do for me what I wanted as well as being a nice two years. But that was a completely different sort of track from the (very small) PhD program at the same school. I had to interact with some of the doctoral candidates when I was a TA for a class, and they were from a completely different planet when it came to personal and professional expectations.

    Now, as it happens, I'm thinking of some kind of MA or MPhil in my original history major, but that's more about staving off dementia than gunning for any kind of career. If I stumble on a subject worth writing about at length, that would be a nice bonus. But it's hard to see how it would relate directly to anything slightly involved with making money. And a PhD, barring some kind of Road to Demascus experience, is quite out of whack in terms of costs vs. benefits. Costs at this point include the investment of several years, which are in shorter supply now than when I left college.

    It will be interesting to see how this all plays out for my daughter. She's a sophomore at a good private school, and will-- with any luck-- have a few decent options for college. Whether she chooses/is chosen to go to a larger research university or aims at the liberal arts colleges where you actually get taught by your professors is an open question. And after the BA, what kind of MA, if any, will help her get organized for the working world or get her better noticed is even less clear.

    Given the way the economy is (still) shifting around, along with the related geopolitical and social environment, it may be better not to plan too much at this point.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011


  6. Concordia

    Concordia Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    The prisoner's dilemma.
     


  7. 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


  8. 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.
     


  9. 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


  10. 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.
     


  11. Redwoood

    Redwoood Senior member

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


  12. 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


  13. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    No worries.
     


  14. 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.
     


  15. 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.
     


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