Monday, September 10, 2012

86. It is a state of being.

Graduate school is not school in any sense that you have experienced school before (see Reason 47). Nor is it a job, although a job is often part of the bargain (see Reason 7). Graduate school is a way of life. It is all encompassing. From the moment that you begin your existence as a graduate student, you have to worry about your courses, your labor obligations, your faculty committee, your reading lists, your comprehensive exams, and your thesis or dissertation. You have to worry about conferences, publications, and positioning yourself for the perilous job market waiting for you in the distance. You have to worry about competition (see Reason 2). And, more likely than not, you have to worry about money (see Reason 17). You don’t leave any of these worries on campus at the end of the day. They follow you home every evening, they tag along with you on your trips to the grocery store, and they loom at the back of your mind at the beach and at Thanksgiving dinner (see Reason 62). When you enlist in graduate school, you enter a new state of being.

Ironically, this totally engrossing and exhausting experience does not count for much in the world beyond academe. (For far too many people, it does not count for much within academe either.) Americans tend to define themselves by their careers, but graduate students don’t have careers. In the eyes of others, graduate students are defined by what they’re not. Your unkind relatives and acquaintances will call you a “professional” student to remind you that you don’t have a profession. Your work and your worries are every bit as real as those of anyone else, but somehow your “in-between” status renders you a non-entity (see Reason 30). While graduate school is consuming your life, others will regard you as if you were trapped in a state of suspension. Of course, you look forward to a career—a career in academe. But graduate school can only offer the hope of an academic career. It’s an extraordinarily costly roll of the dice. For about half of those in PhD programs, it does not end well (see Reason 46).



210 comments:

  1. FIRST!!11!one!!1

    And glad to see you're back to updating this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. An interesting Reason, but still too much rehashing of / drawing on past Reasons. I'll echo the sentiment of many past comments in saying that coming up with 100 reasons not to go to graduate school is splitting a few major, powerful reasons into myriad (and often-repetitive) rephrasings.

    I also find it a tad ironic that many of the Reasons in this blog reference each other in a sort of loop, much like a body of standard academic writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny observation! I agree with your main point, too, though I still find the blog enjoyable. Maybe someone should compile all of these reasons into a "50 good reasons not to go to grad school?"

      Delete
  3. Very true. I sometimes hear people say "Treat grad school like a job," which is good advice but not unique to grad school, since I heard it a lot regarding undergrad, too. And what's cruelly ironic is that it isn't quite a job -- as much as people talk about it like it is and our department reminds us to treat it as such, the university itself explicitly states that GTAs are not technically "employees" of the university and thus are not eligible for benefits such as unemployment or vacation days. We get subsidized health insurance here, at least. My department recently sent us a nice set of guidelines for how to be a "good citizen" of the department and reminded us that 'Being a grad student has more in common with being a professor than being an undergrad." It has some in common with being a professor, but not much more than with being an undergrad, I'd say.

    Speaking of how all-consuming the life-state of being a grad student is, let's look at some numbers. Let's say you're a new grad student taking a full course load to make good progress in your degree. Adding in the recommended 2 hours outside of class per 1 hour in class for homework, that comes out to maybe 40 hours, average (likely a few more at least, considering the arduous nature of most grad-level classes). Add on top of that a 50% GTA assignment which assumes you are spending 20 hours in total each week for teaching and related work. That's 60 hours -- difficult, but doable, and many people work those kinds of hours in the "real world" in jobs they hate. But then you have to add in the "hidden costs" against your time. The guidelines I referred to above suggested a minimum of 3 hours a week for independent research so you can actually finish your MA in a reasonable amount of time, and increasing this amount of time as you go on. They further recommend attending as many professionalization workshops as possible that are offered through various university offices and the department itself (in larger universities, these will be very frequent). Not to mention being expected to keep up with various mailing lists and journals in your particular field. There are also many additional lectures or other events within your department at which your attendance will be either mandatory or at least "strongly recommended" (i.e. mandatory). What's more, if you need to take an additional class or two because you are behind in some area, add this to time spent devoted in class and on homework while still being expected to obey the same level of commitment to all of the extracurricular obligations just listed. As a personal note, in my department we grads are expected to attend and help run the foreign language conversation table meetings (2 hour meetings per week) just for the benefit of undergrads in the department. You might be able to get work done there, but if you can't, then just add that time to your total. It's in a horribly inconvenient off-campus location, too, but I suspect that the grads keep it there year after year because they have easy access to alcohol there to take the tedium away. So, in total, let's say a minimum of 70 hours per week if you follow all of the expectations that your department has for you (even if they don't explicitly state these expectations).

    Again, some people work even these kinds of hours in the "real world." But they at least are receiving remuneration for their time and gaining practical experience and skills that will help them advance their careers or find a new job, and aren't just doing it to impress department heads or help them reach basic levels of competitiveness in the academic job market (since there are hundreds of grads in your field putting in the same level of commitment each year).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "[S]ome people work even these kinds of hours in the "real world." But they at least are receiving remuneration for their time and gaining practical experience and skills that will help them advance their careers or find a new job, and aren't just doing it to impress department heads or help them reach basic levels of competitiveness in the academic job market (since there are hundreds of grads in your field putting in the same level of commitment each year)."

      Your point here reminded me of an initiative I got involved with at State U when I was a Rhet/Comp grad student there. I will call it Bullshit Initiative, because that's what it was.

      The point of Bullshit Initiative was to encourage students to focus on the importance of writing in all of their classes (this is a fairly widespread initiative now I think). One of the things we as TAs did as part of Bullshit Initiative was offer writing workshops where students could come and discuss their papers with us from their various classes and we'd look at style, format, length, citations, and so on.

      Of course in reality, students would just show up and have us proofread their papers and correct errors. They'd heard from other students that if they asked us to just proofread and correct their errors, we couldn't really say no, which was true. They had no interest in discussing their papers or their ideas, they just wanted to bump up their grades so that they wouldn't fail.

      I spent 30 hours every month for a year sitting down and proofreading/correcting students' papers just so that I could look like I was embracing Bullshit Initiative and be competitive with other students. After I finished grad school I looked back and laughed at the whole thing, thinking how much time and energy I'd wasted, and how hardly any students got anything out of the experience.

      Delete
  4. Yes - grad school is a state of being. It consumes who you are and colours everything you see, think, and do.

    This is why there is no separation of personal and professional in academe. If someone disagrees with something you say or write about, it is seen as a personal attack on who you are and everything you stand for - rather than being seen merely as a contrasting view. A simple question at a conference can be interpreted as a massive slight that warrants never speaking to the person again - or worse, it might spawn a monograph-length rebuttal to prove some innane point. The kicker, of course, is that no-one cares the slightest outside of academe or your sub-field of study.

    Grad school is akin to a religious cult. You have no idea of this until you leave.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I find it amusing that many of the people who criticize this blog for rehashing, rephrasing, hair-splitting, repetition, and whatnot do not seem to appreciate that the blog is an argument against going to grad school not only in its content but in its form.

    If you're bothered by the looping and self-referencing, you probably have yet to do your full penance in graduate school.

    On the other hand, if you get all warm and and tingly when somebody brings up the nuances of form and content on a blog ... well, you probably belong in graduate school and deserve the myriad of punishments that come your way.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'd add to this that because academia is a 'state of being', it can completely mess you up when you leave. I enjoyed my grad program and have lots of good memories, but I decided the professor's life wasn't for me so I left after I finished my PhD comps. I was 100% okay with my decision, and I was prepared to feel a little out of sorts for a while after I left because I'd been a student for so long.

    After I finished, I was completely fucked up for over 6 months. The 'state of being' aspect of grad school bore a giant hole into my head that left me depressed, then in despair, then quite sick for half a year. And I was married with a whole new career already started and lots of non-academic friends, it's not as if I was set adrift with nowhere to go.

    To make matters worse, whenever I told "friends" from my old department (students or professors) what I was going through, they all told me that it was a sign I should come back. That's when you realize "Holy shit, this is a cult".

    When you dedicate your very being to grad school, be aware that the fallout when you leave can be quite painful. You're expected to dedicate your life to your studies when you're a grad student, and no one prepares you for what can happen when you leave. I'm totally fine now and very happy, but it was a rough road there for a while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for this post. I just left and I think I'm going through something similar, except I'm not married and I'm unemployed. Everyday feels like a new session of deprogramming from this life and world in which I had invested so much (and I left after only a year). The silver lining is that the distance and release of pressure have given me a better perspective on my subject area. I can pursue it now at my own pace since I am no longer anxious about making it my career. Anyway, glad to hear you're happy now. Let's hope I can follow your example!

      Delete
  7. "On the other hand, if you get all warm and and tingly when somebody brings up the nuances of form and content on a blog ... well, you probably belong in graduate school and deserve the myriad of punishments that come your way."

    As an undergrad I used to despair over how hard a time I had figuring out how the "form" enhanced the content of some poem, composition, whatever, or how an author illustrated a certain theme. In short, I worshipped literature analysis and by extension, was on my way to becoming consumed by graduate study before even beginning grad school.

    I still appreciate literature, but I also have to give a rousing cheer to this blogger for so eloquently stating the truth about grad school and for saving me from its tentacles.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I honestly don't feel like it is re-hashing content. The multitude of references to other blog entries is a way to direct readers to topics of focus and interest (also, it's good for SEO). Besides, I don't think any of the other reasons focused on graduate school as an all-encompassing state of being--like a racial or religious identity (which helps explain the fervency of some of this blog's criticism, I might add).

    So yeah. Lame criticism.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Referencing is not the same as re-hashing. Rather, it shows how the points the author makes are inter-related.

    This post, and Russkiy Aspirant's comment, point to another dilemma of graduate school: You work long hours and receive little, if any, pay. You are often sleep-deprived; as a result, your physical health and emotional well-being suffer. Yet family members and other people think that you're not really working.

    What's even worse is that you can't simply fulfill the requirements of your contract and courses. There's an unwritten expectation that you'll do all sorts of other jobs, attend meetings and such. As Russkiy points out, "strongly recommended" really means "mandatory."

    You're always "on the clock." Most people who are not in graduate school don't understand this, and think that grad students are just overly-sensitive hypochondriacs with an over-developed sense of entitlement.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This pretty much sums it up: #1 Grad school takes over your life, #2 nobody outside of your suffocating bubble appreciates that, and #3 it's all a gargantuan waste if you don't finish OR get an academic post in the end.

    #3 is the worst, because you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want it all to mean something if things (job-wise) don't work out for you. You have to do some seriously agonizing mental gymnastics to justify all that time and hard work that means nothing to anybody else and got you nowhere.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes, graduate school is a state of being, and it is all-consuming. Whenever you are not teaching, preparing for classes, grading assignments, reading for exams, writing your dissertation, attending departmental events, working on conference papers, you are feeling guilty because you are not spending enough time doing one of these things. It is your whole life, and yet those outside of academe do not understand how hard you work. And once you graduate and get a faculty position (if you are fortunate to be offered a job), the burden becomes even greater. Now you are expected to teach a full load (as opposed to the 50% of most TA positions) of new courses, that you must often create from scratch, plus perform a myriad of duties that you are ill-prepared to do: advise students, serve on committees, attend mind-numbing faculty meetings, conduct research, write articles, lead student organizations, coordinate events, market your courses to to keep up enrollment, supervise graduate students or student workers, and battle conflicts within your academic institution.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This reason is overwhelmingly true for everyone I know in grad school.

    A suggestion perhaps for another related entry is that you lose all perception of normal socializing. Almost all of the non-academic friends that I (at least try) to make have very different expectations for what a "good friend" constitutes, be it response time to texts/emails, how often we see each other, availability for favors, and emotional involvement.

    It goes without saying that this is exacerbated if you want to date non-academics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What you said about non-academic friends having very different expectations for what constitutes a good friend rings very true, and as the non-academic I've ended up losing all my grad school friends for that reason. I got tired of doing all the work to maintain the friendship. I still say "hi" when I see them around but I know that their "I'll call so we can meet up" comments won't come to anything because they will just forget. It's sad, because none of us started out grad school that way. Some of them come back to life when they graduate or leave academia.

      Dating a non-academic and seeing how much clearer the work vs. life distinction could be was the nail in the coffin of my academic career.

      Delete
    2. Dating a non-academic is about the only thing that kept me sane during graduate school. It was nice being around a normal person. The danger of graduate school is that the awkward 'state of being' might stick with you for decades afterwards if you let it. My non-academic significant-other helped to prevent my being drawn too far into the academic bubble.

      Delete
    3. Original anon of 12:08 here.

      It's true, one does forget. If it doesn't go on my schedule it often doesn't get done. But even more than that, my sense of time is just totally skewed differently than the "normal" folk.

      Delete
  13. Amusingly enough, my university just recently hosted a speed-dating event exclusively for grad students. That's a fundamentally flawed concept, because really, who the hell would want to date a grad student? On a more serious note, haven't they heard of the "two-body problem?" Maybe it's not as much of a problem if you're dating a future academic outside of your field, but you still have to try to find a university that has an opening for both of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmm...

      no income
      no house
      no job prospects
      unhealthy lifestyle
      distorted sense of reality
      mental health issues
      easily bruised ego
      inflated sense of self-importance

      ... who wouldn't want to date a grad student?

      Delete
  14. I remember how I'd feel guilty grocery shopping as though I was stealing time from somebody. I remember how stupid I thought it was that ppl asked all the time about "your research." Why does it have to be so intense - I mean I could still love or contribute this thing even without the 24-7 commitment, forsaking all others.
    I'll chalk it up to culture. Usain Bolt can't just be talented, train a bit, smash the records, then go fishing and stamp collecting and run for office - no - he has to keep running. It's efficient until it isn't. It's also very boring.
    I quit grad school 6 years ago after 5 years in. One reason to go to grad school is that you may never feel stressed again after that kind of hellish experience. I wanted badly to go to grad school to learn more stuff and I did. I would like to do it again - to hang out on a wealthy campus with some of the finest minds from around the world.
    I am pleased with my decision to leave. At the time I was 'choking', feeling unsuccessful, sick-and-tired, and eager to do something else. Now my colleagues are settling in to faculty jobs, while I have been teaching (low rank, not a professor) for three years, in addition to doing hobbies almost all I want. I truly feel fulfilled because I'm doing what I want. I also feel very accomplished. I don't think dropping out scars you for life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Usain Bolt makes millions of dollars for his efforts. Meanwhile, the best humanities academics have to be lucky to earn as much as merely competent tradesmen.

      Delete
    2. Usain Bolt is a smaller example. In terms of sports, try Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and David Beckham.

      Or the Jewish bankers on Wall street.

      Delete
    3. I was with you until you made the remark about a certain group on Wall Street. No need to start trashing specific groups of people on this blog.

      Delete
  15. >>When you dedicate your very being to grad school, be aware that the fallout when you leave can be quite painful. You're expected to dedicate your life to your studies when you're a grad student, and no one prepares you for what can happen when you leave. I'm totally fine now and very happy, but it was a rough road there for a while.<<

    Thank you for this comment. It's an accurate description of how I'm feeling right now. I don't think that academia is a cult, but breaking away from it certainly feels like apostasy, and the well-meaning people whom you leave behind won't necessarily be sensitive to this. I'm almost resolved to avoid the company of academics; it isn't worth wasting days afterward feeling like a worthless wretch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I don't think that academia is a cult, but breaking away from it certainly feels like apostasy, and the well-meaning people whom you leave behind won't necessarily be sensitive to this."

      I'm Anon 2:22 from above who posted the comment you found helpful.

      I think it might be more accurate to say that academia is a very religious state of being, so that when you decide to leave people don't see it as making an informed personal decision, they see it as straying, wandering, or otherwise being lost. Their job is to guide you back to the light. That might fit with your apostasy comment, which I think is quite accurate.

      I've come to feel bad for my friends who got sucked into the academic machine. They used to be quite versatile and sociable and interesting. Now they really can't talk about anything other than their subject area.

      Delete
    2. Yup, well put.

      So, 87. Leaving will mess you up.

      - Anon 11:32

      Delete
    3. I would LOVE to see an entry on leaving messing you up. People underestimate how much it hurts and confuses you when you leave behind something that was a singular passion for so long. It's such a lie to tell yourself "If I don't like this, I'll just leave."

      Delete
    4. Check out reason #11.

      Delete
  16. Why does it feel like a cult? Because so many academics buy into the idea that their strange ideas are going to "change the world." They fail to see that they are not going to do that. No one cares about their ideas.

    Grad school would be great if you could study great ideas and thinkers. Instead you have to wade through the fads and the proselytising of the cult leaders. It is very much like an abusive relationship. Very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true. While you are in the cult you are clueless. Those cult leaders are Uber liberal folks, they stand for equality, reason, progress and all that good stuff. It takes time to figure it out.

      Delete
  17. It is a cult. I look back on my grad school days and it all seems like a crazy dream. I could never go back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny you should say that because I recently came to a similar conclusion. I've always been able to look back and recall the fun moments, but more and more I just recall the crazy, sleep deprived, panic attack moments.

      Delete
  18. So far I've classified the 86 reasons under 4 categories: 1) cost and money (in the sense of both monetary cost for the program and opportunity costs of such a long program)

    2) jobs, or lack thereof

    3) the annoying people

    and 4) the stress/pressure

    The majority circle back to money in one way or another. However, I think I'm going to invent a new category: self-consciousness, insecurity, & paranoia, or more accurately, "worrying what other people think."

    This reason, along with the ones that concern career paths and families, is populated with phrases like "your status renders you" thusly, or "others will regard you" this way. In other words, you're a failure because certain people say it's so.

    The blogger here seems to be *extremely* concerned about not filling in the appropriate boxes of what a middle class American is "supposed" to accomplish. Go to college, get good grades, get a good job, get married, buy a decent sized house in the suburbs, populate it with some kids, progress through your career so that in the end you're making at least low 6 figures, preferably more and can consume all the crap associated with that income level.

    If only all our lives were that perfect. This reminds me of my annoying relatives who are always judging people according to that kind of idealistic standard.

    The blogger must be a very sad person indeed if he/she continually self-flagellates this way.

    In the end, this keeping up with the Joneses mentality is about money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be great not to worry about what other people think of you. I've never met anyone who didn't, though.

      By the way, they don't have to *think* anything, they just have to *be*.

      If you're 40, commuting three hours between adjunct gigs, trying to nail down a permanent job while your Ph.D. goes stale and you keep putting off having kids cuz you can't afford them, then your friends' houses, cars, and families remind you how crappy your life is.

      Delete
    2. If house, car, & family is what makes you happy, sure. And if you judge yourself by what other people have. You can have a family at any income, poor people have kids too. So, that leaves us at house and car. My living arrangement and car don't define me and I would say they are very poor measurements of happiness.

      We all know people that have all those things and are still *very* unhappy. If they weren't there would never be divorces.

      Although I would never recommend anyone adjunct for more than 5 years. When you hit the 6th year you've got to give up the dream and move on.

      Delete
    3. This is a bizarre criticism. Regardless of the merit of such criteria (which is subjective, in any case), for many people the type of job they will be able to get, the family life they will be able to provide and the type of car they will drive is very much a consideration which drives academic/career decisions. Are you claiming that most people don't care about status because, after all, status doesn't lead to happiness? I'm not sure that's true -- it would be impossible for societies to exist if no one cared what anyone else thought. And if you don't care about status why would you further your education anyways -- love of the subject matter or life of the mind? Isn't boosting one's income potential a very common reason to attend grad school in the first place (and take on the additional costs this path requires)?

      Delete
    4. "Are you claiming that most people don't care about status because, after all, status doesn't lead to happiness?"

      No, I'm claiming that IF status is a high priority for you, there are better ways to accomplish that and no one should be deluded into thinking grad school in the humanities is the best way to do it.

      I went to grad school because I wanted to teach my subject beyond the K-12 level, and now I do (full time at that). I couldn't even compete for those jobs without at least an MA and a PhD for many of them, although I was very lucky in finding a job with just an MA, so I quit my PhD program. I'm somewhat sad about that, and they did consider it kind of an apostasy that I looked for jobs while in their program (I was continually searching for more than a year even before I started). So there is some merit to the "cult" comparison I suppose. But whatever.

      I don't know what advice a lot of you got, but my advice was very clear: "there are no jobs, you do this at your own risk." Those were the literal words of one of my undergrad professors when I talked to her about grad school. A big-10 PhD program that accepted me without funding put in the acceptance letter a paragraph that essentially said the job market was poor and taking out loans to attend their program was not advised. Furthermore, I never had the delusion that the education field would net me a lot of money. Anyone can look up the salary schedules of any university or school district and compare it to salaries in other fields. I'm well aware of what I could have done to make quite a bit more money. But I didn't choose that path, so why beat myself up over it?

      So yes, some people further their education for reasons other than money. If your priorities are money, status, and providing all kinds of nice things for your family, I would suggest something other than the humanities and social sciences. American society doesn't value those things highly, never has, and probably never will. What it does value financially are sports, building things, medicine, using money to make more money, and technological innovation; there are undergrad and grad options for all those paths, and in some cases grad or even finishing undergrad may not be necessary.

      Only an idiot would think "Hey, a PhD in English Literature will boost my income potential by 30K!" But too many people think degrees are some kind of golden tickets.

      Delete
    5. 'Only an idiot would think "Hey, a PhD in English Literature will boost my income potential by 30K!" But too many people think degrees are some kind of golden tickets.'

      That would be naive yes, and I'm not sure that many people would think that out explicitly. I think what's more likely though, is people's priorities change throughout the loooong process of getting a degree. Watching your friends start to get married, have kids and have other fulfilling life experiences can really make you re-evaluate your current priorities. I don't want to "compete" with my friends by popping out 2.5 kids faster than they can - but I do want the chance to be happy and fulfilled, and now having a family seems like an important part of that fulfillment. And grad school is the main thing standing in the way. (Of course, back when I embarked on my degree I wasn't in a position to be thinking about starting a family. And if even if I had been, I wouldn't have had as clear an understanding of the roadblocks an academic career throws up in the way of such non-academic ambitions.)

      Also - I think that craving status is one thing, but wanting to be recognized as contributing something, even if it's a teeny-tiny little contribution to society, is a near-universal human need. I noticed my self-esteem got a little boost when I started TAing because I felt like I was making a small but real contribution with concrete goalposts I could measure by (please just let me go on believing that!) - in contrast to research, which generally feels like an exercise in various flavors of failure that no one is likely to recognize as valuable. Seems like that's more what the blogger is getting at, to me anyway: "Your work and your worries are every bit as real as those of anyone else, but somehow your “in-between” status renders you a non-entity."

      Delete
    6. Nobody gets a PhD thinking that it will make them rich, but either way, many people mistakenly believe that their PhD will help them land a stable, middle-class job even if they can't get an academic TT job. They believe this because this is what people tell them. Even professors who warn about the dismal academic market will, in the next sentence, assure students that their PhD will nevertheless give them an edge if they look elsewhere for a job. I was one of those poor, misguided fools until I learned about the real difficulties of finding a job outside of academia.

      I think there are a lot of hopeful young people who hear "You probably won't get a tenure-track job" and push onward anyway because they refuse to believe it out of delusion and a fear that they're ill-equipped to go anywhere -but- grad school. Again, this was me in my last year of college and first year of grad school. I always knew I was fooling myself, but it took articles and blogs like this one to help me accept it.

      Delete
    7. I don't have the time to go through all of the previous posts and classify them (real life calls) but it seems to me that there is at least another major category: academic work is insular/has no impact on the real world

      Delete
  19. I can't agree entirely, Aaron. There is not making a six-figure income and making a four-figure income (after student loans and such). This blog is more about exposing the scam of grad school.

    I'd be happy to make 40 grand a year and I'd be happy to teach ten courses a year to earn it. But that's not allowed anymore. I see the president of Yale makes 1.5 million a year. There is a serious disconnect in American values.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, that would be the cost category.

      There's no doubt there are problems; I was just watching college football today and thinking about all the money it generates yet doesn't get used appropriately.

      At my school enrollment has grown significantly, but full time faculty have grown about 10%. Administration has grown at least 100%. We have a Vice President for Administration now. Just read that title slowly. He has NO experience in education. None. He was a lawyer, than a business guy. A quick google search showed that hundreds of colleges have this position

      Delete
  20. "Only an idiot would think 'Hey, a PhD in English Literature will boost my income potential by 30K!'"

    Either you think grad students are idiots or you haven't met any.

    Folks are banging down the doors to get those degrees that'll magically improve their lot in life. It ain't just the MBAs and JDs. English/ PoliSci/ Soc / Art History/ Pure Math/ Bio / "International Studies"/ Arabic Lit folks ALL have romantic ideas about nicer salaries, nicer schedules, nicer lives. The whole 'go to college and get a job' thing was below them.

    Yup, they think they're gonna get a premium when they're done. They think that for a long time. Just long enough to make it impossible to quit without looking like a fool. Oops.

    ReplyDelete
  21. The direct consequence of grad school as a state of being that hasn't been address is that you have to give up all your other interests in this world. There are so many things that I want to learn, get involved in, people I want to see more of, concepts that have nothing to do with my field that I want to understand better, etc.

    More often than non I'm just re-watching the same mindless movies over and over again on my "off time" to give my brain a break, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It ruins everything, doesn't it?

      You don't commit to fun things because you don't have time, but you then you end up wasting time when your brain is fried (or when you're overwhelmed and frozen by fear).

      I asked myself recently if I knew I was going to die tomorrow, how would I feel about the way I spent the last few years of my life (all in grad school). What a depressing thought.

      Delete
    2. My academic friends love to talk about all the things they WOULD do if they had free time: take a cooking class, do yoga, do crafts, etc. But even though some of these things would only take an hour out of their week, they just can't do it. Their brain is too overloaded and melted to take on anything else. I remember that feeling very well, and it makes me so glad I got out of academia when I did.

      Delete
  22. Outsider here:

    Yes, people are STILL lining up for the J.D. I cannot fathom why. Law school applications have fallen off a cliff but there are still tens of thousands of shiny new victims ready to ruin their financial futures in pursuit of a will-o'-the-wisp.

    They each seem so certain that they will be the lucky ones who land high-paying jobs. Some will; most won't.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Funny article:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/paying-college-fertility-clinics-sugar-091100651.html

    If you read the comments, paying for a PhD via prostitution is a common way to avoid debt.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'd like to counter the criticisms of this very helpful blog by suggesting that the critiques seem to mostly fall within these main categories:

    1. You Dumb Grad Students. Dumb, dumb dummies. What did you expect besides a kick in the good old 'nads? A job? HA! You enrolled but didn't know EVERYTHING about how the education system works? Or have a magic crystal ball to predict how the economy would tank in the middle of your program, changing everything? Or understand that over the course of one's grad school career one might mature and refine one's goals and preferences? You sad simps deserve whatever you get.

    2. Your Bourgeois Mentality Makes Me Sick. (Snort!) Jesus, you want to have CHILDREN?!? A CAR?!?! If you're lured by material goods and mainstream markers of success, you're a cultural dupe. Me? I'm living the life of the mind. I sustain myself on lofty thoughts.

    3. Well, I Think This Blog Gets Some Things Right, But Yes, There is Redundancy, and Well, I Think If I Write My Very Own Tangled, Redundant Critique I Can Get To The Heart of the Matter, Perhaps in Under 1,000 Words, But First I'd Like to Mention That There Appears To Be Some Redundancy Here; It's Almost As Though The Blogger Is Repeating Him/Herself Over and Over Again By Saying the Same Thing.

    Vipers: get a clue. This blogger is a fucking hero.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I approve of this message.

      Delete
    2. Haha. That does sum it up fairly well.

      Why can't people just make up a pseudonym? Aaron is not my real name, just one I picked for this blog. Hard to respond to a vague collection of anonymous's. Are the grad school deans going to deduce who you are and unleash the hounds on all of you?

      "Vipers: get a clue. This blogger is a fucking hero."

      Maybe. He's also bitter, regretful, and envious.

      Delete
    3. "Maybe. He's also bitter, regretful, and envious."

      I don't see any evidence of that. I think this blog provides people unacquainted with the nuances of graduate life with a cornucopia of information that's not readily available to folks who aren't current or former academics. WHICH IS WHAT THE BLOG PURPORTS TO DO.

      Add to Anon 9/20 9:31's typology:

      4. Anyone With a Critique of Academia Must Be a Washed Up Loser, Motivated By Bitterness, Regret, and Envy.

      Delete
    4. Don't get me wrong, I like the blog. It has a useful perspective. Grad school isn't for everyone, but that doesn't mean it's for no one.

      But he is regretful and envious - a lot of the reasons compare grad school life to some better life that might have been.

      Delete
    5. That doesn't speak to his personal motivations, nor the tone of the blog. That's your reading, and I think it's a bad one.

      Delete
  25. Let me refine that. His *posts* come off as bitter, regretful, and envious. He's probably not like that in real life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that explains why you take the time out of your busy schedule to piss all over them, Aaron.

      Wow! I wouldn't have been able to respond to you like that without your handy pseudonym, Aaron. Aaron, without your pseudonym, I'd just be wringing my hands in the corner, unable to figure out how to respond to your ridiculous comments. Aaron.

      Delete
    2. I'm so hurt... you've wounded me so deeply, anonymous snide person.

      Delete
  26. If grad school paid a 50K salary, grad students would STILL complain about it. Because it's HORRIBLE!!

    (Just think if your funding got cut in that situation. It might actually make grad school seem more unfair. As it is, grad students are expected to live on 15k per year and they get their funding cut all the time. Nobody seems to think there's anything wrong with this.)

    Seriously, grad school involves so much pointless work and stress that if it were a regular job, it would be a LOUSY job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hehe... In Sweden, at most universities nowadays, they will actually pay you ca 26K SEK per month, which is roughly 47K USD annual salary (pre-tax). Yes, even if you do a humanities PhD...

      Delete
  27. Why don't you guys who think this blog is redundant make some suggestions for new topics then? This blog is fascinating and doesn't need redundant posts about redundancy.

    ReplyDelete
  28. This topic really hits home. My friends, family, and coworkers don't understand when I say "I can't come, I have to finish my paper." They instead think my homework isn't that serious and I'm just blowing them off. You get used to getting off work Friday night, only to go home and work on a paper in a dimly-lit room.

    Graduate school has taught me great time management but has given me a dull life. A "fun" activity is now finishing an essay early.

    It's the final year of my Master's program and I've been overjoyed thinking of how much happier I will be when I'm done. Not the joy of receiving the degree but actually having free time to enjoy life. I can actually go out on my days off. I can take those martial arts classes I've always wanted. I can volunteer or do charity work to focus on others instead of only myself and my little grades.

    Even though college has made me miserable and put me in extreme debt, why do I still mow over the idea of starting a PhD program? Is the academic race not won until we have a PhD? I'm trying to get rid of the graduate mentality, but for some reason, I'm holding on...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let me save you a decade of your life. A PhD is NOT worth the effort. The odds are very, very slim that you will be able to use the degree to land a job - university or otherwise - and you will never get back those prime years in life. And being a "doctor" will tire quickly. I can't stand it when people call me that nowadays. My degree is still in the envelope it came in.

      Cut your losses after your MA and get on with your life!

      Delete
    2. Getting a PhD is a life choice you can only make yourself. Some of the people here are bitter and unhappy about their life choices. Just think about it.

      I will say, if you're not happy with your MA program you're probably not going to be happy in a PhD program, since it's more of the same but with greater intensity.

      Delete
    3. Anon 7:01, if you're in graduate school and surrounded by grad students and professors, there are TONS of reasons to see a PhD as a good idea, with good rewards.

      For me, I loved my subject, I was highly regarded in the department and had won awards, and I had the grad student thing down. I knew how to do it, and I knew how to succeed at it. If anyone had a good chance at a job afterwards, it was me.

      It's only when you get some breathing space away from academia that you realize 99% of your reasons for doing a PhD are really bad ones.

      Delete
  29. Anon 7:01 here,

    Aaron, that's the point. I think I'm actually content with being unhappy! I'm dedicated enough to know I can complete the PhD program but my mind has actually adjusted to monotony. If I stop after the Master's I will never come back, and if I start the PhD I won't stop until I finish.

    AWOL, I keep hoping what PhD holders like you are saying isn't true. There's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and the leprechauns don't want anyone to know about it. ...at least that's what I tell myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't take it from me - get to know all of the adjuncts in your dept, especially the ones who have been at it for several years. Talk to them, in confidentiality of course, and ask them what it's like. Some won't ever admit how miserable it is to be in that situation, but others will.

      As well, go to the Chronicle and read through the posts and comments sections on a regular basis. You'll soon see that the commentors on this blog are far from alone in their views.

      And never, ever go to professors or other grad students for career advice.

      Delete
    2. "And never, ever go to professors or other grad students for career advice."

      Or Aaron. If I'm not mistaken, he has an MA and didn't pursue the doctorate. I haven't seen much evidence that he has an idea what the rest of us are talking about.

      Delete
    3. I have 9 hours toward a PhD. But I quit voluntarily. Now my bridges are burned at that school. According to the people on here that is a good thing.

      Delete
    4. 9 hours in a program? And you are lecturing people here about whether to do a PhD?

      Maybe you do belong in grad school after all!

      Delete
    5. Lecturing? If lecturing = saying "think about it," sure. I was sorry to leave the program.

      Delete
    6. Why did you leave, Aaron?

      Delete
    7. International StudentSeptember 26, 2012 at 9:49 AM

      "I keep hoping what PhD holders like you are saying isn't true. There's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and the leprechauns don't want anyone to know about it. ...at least that's what I tell myself."

      Anon 7:01, this is a very normal thing for prospective PhD students to think. For all that training and hard work, there must be rewards at the end. All of our own professors have been successful, after all! So why not us?

      I suggest to watch your cohort closely. Watch where the best and brightest of the newly graduated PhDs are going. If they are getting jobs, maybe you can! But if they can't, then what does that say about your chances? I didn't come all the way to America to graduate without a job, so I have been watching, but the news is not good from my cohort.

      Delete
    8. "Why did you leave, Aaron?"

      Very simple. I got offered a job that pays a middle class wage + health insurance, pretty close to what I wanted to do. While I wanted a PhD, there was not really a debate over which was the better option.

      Delete
  30. "...and if I start the PhD I won't stop until I finish." Famous last words.

    Getting a Master's and getting a Ph.D. are two COMPLETELY different animals. It doesn't seem like that right now, I know. (Believe me, I know.) Thinking like you're thinking right now can bite you in the butt, because you can wind up hanging on to the end as life passes you by OR you can hang on way too long before dropping out.

    NEVER, NEVER, NEVER start a Ph.D. program without giving yourself permission to QUIT. The most miserable grad students are the ones trying to finish for the sake of finishing.

    By the way, the gung-go, intense, devoted, die-hard Ph.D.s are just as screwed as the worn-out, disillusioned Ph.D.s at the end of the day. We're fighting over the same crap jobs in the same crap places.

    At least you're thinking this over. That's more than I did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seemed like the most well-adjusted and balanced people in my PhD program all quit after a year or two.

      Delete
  31. I saw in the news that the biology professor at the Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville who shot her colleagues at a faculty meeting in 2010 (killing three of them) was sentenced to life in prison yesterday.

    She had just been denied tenure. (It appears now that she may have killed her brother years earlier, which goes to show that screwed up people can get surprisingly far in academia.)

    I can remember a few cases in the news of grad students killing their advisors, and then, of course, there was the recent grad student mass killer in Colorado. This got me googling, and I found some old news stories about grad students who murdered their professors and others.

    "When Student-Adviser Tensions Erupt, the Results Can Be Fatal"
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/27/science/27murd.html

    "Iowa Gunman Was Torn by Academic Challenge"
    http://www.nytimes.com/1991/11/04/us/iowa-gunman-was-torn-by-academic-challenge.html?src=pm

    "Graduate Student Held in San Diego Slayings"
    http://tinyurl.com/bv6sg9w

    It's a big enough problem to warrant an academic paper on the subject.

    "The Elephant in the Ivory Tower: Rampages in Higher Education and the Case for Institutional Liability"
    http://tinyurl.com/8qhwvtm

    By the way, this is yesterday's Boston Herald story (about the professor who killed her colleagues) that got me thinking about all of this:
    http://tinyurl.com/9vavs4k

    Sorry for the morbid comment, but I think it's easy to dismiss the "pressure cooker" complaints that you hear about grad school and academia if you haven't been through it. It drives a few people into terrible darkness, and some of them do unspeakable things like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This also is a thing that exists:

      http://www.gradresources.org/menus/crisis.shtml

      Because nothing says "Shit is fucked up" quite like meriting your own emergency hotline.

      Delete
    2. This stuff is actually closely related to the subject of the post. Academic life swallows you whole. A failure at work feels like a failure at life. Your identity gets all wrapped up in your career and the stupid academic pecking orders that nobody outside your field understands. You take everything way too seriously. There's no safety net if you screw up or if things just don't go your way, but who cares if you "fail" at academia? You do! It's like the most important thing in the world! How stupid when you stop to think about it. Stupid, yet reality.

      Delete
    3. Another prof who cracked in the news. At least this guy didn't hurt anybody.

      [The rigors of teaching apparently got to Michigan State University professor John McCarthy Monday.

      According to multiple sources, the math teacher stripped naked in the middle of his Calculus 1 class and started shouting obscenities.

      ..."He started talking about his colleagues and how they're all actors," Hillman told MLive.com. "He said, 'It's all an act and none of it's real.' Then he ran out of the classroom."]

      Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2012/10/02/michigan-professor-strips-naked-class-shouts-there-no-f-king-god#ixzz28BJ8IsIP

      Delete
    4. "It's all an act and none of it's real!"

      I think that too sometimes, but I don't think I'm crazy (yet)!

      Delete
  32. Wow. What a thread killer that last comment was.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Here's a new post thread idea.

    87. You become what you hate.

    You slog through undergrad work. You suffer through grad school. You finally get tenure. What happens? You become a professor who does to others all that was done to you.

    Comments?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I look at it more like a ponzi scheme or mafia organization. When you become a professor, you basically wear a patch and embrace a career based on the exploitation of others, whether undergrads, grad students, or other profs.

      Maybe it is more like 'you become a hypocrite.'

      Delete
    2. Good point. The more I think about it, the more I think this blogger is a professor and not a grad student or PhD dropout. Someone like Benton.

      Delete
  34. Soc, I doubt your 87 works. Most of the people (professors & promising wannabe professors) I know believe in the system. Those people who doubt or slog/suffer through undergrad/grad programs are weeded out during their grad school/academic job application or tenure review process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Geez... people don't really get "weeded out" when they're up for tenure review, do they?? They survive getting their bachelor degree, master degree, doctor degree, get a TT job and survive five years of that only to get "weeded out"? Tell me you're kidding.

      Delete
    2. If you do't know that not every hire gets tenure, I hope you're a prospective and not current grad student...

      Delete
  35. No, I am not kidding. Typically in my discipline an R1 university hires three assistant professors and only one gets tenure. Tenure review is a very subjective process. That`s why there are so many cases of tenure denial litigation. One even ended up killing her tenure review committee members at U. of Alabama-Birmingham.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At the CC where I work, tenure rarely gets denied. It's like a 1 out of 10 situation. The major hurdle is getting hired full time TT in the first place, not full time temp or adjunct. Of course things are quite different at this level where research and publishing do not factor in. In the end getting tenure has a lot to do with whether the powers that be like you.

      Although at the CC level I expect tenure to become more and more rare, replaced by multi-year contracts. A sad trend but probably unavoidable.

      That UAB prof shot and killed her brother in the 1980s and somehow got away with that, so she had serious problems already. UAB should be on the hook, though, since the whole thing could probably have been avoided.

      Delete
    2. The thing to also keep in mind is that faculty nowadays are very mindful of the fact that they may lose funding for a position if they deny tenure. It's no longer a given than a newly-created vacancy from a tenure review casualty will be filled with another candidate. You can get 2-3 disposable adjuncts for the price of one TT prof and admin know it.

      Delete
    3. True.

      Although admin also knows that you can't go too far toward adjuncts or accreditation becomes an issue.

      Adjuncts are also not quite that replaceable, again due to accreditation and state laws. Ie: Texas says that to teach a subject at college level you have to have a master's in the subject or a masters in anything +18 hours in the subject. 18 hours is basically another MA/MS.

      So there may be unemployed PhDs or MAs in various subjects floating around but do they have the hours to teach sociology when you lose 2 adjuncts teaching 6 sections 2 weeks before classes start? Will they have availability? Even in a metro of more than 1 million people, the college that had this happen couldn't find anyone with those qualifications on short notice and had to cancel the sections. If you use too many adjuncts, that might happen on a larger scale, causing the loss of 10s or maybe even 100s of thousands in revenue.

      I think most colleges have already maxed out their adjunct:full time ratios. Any more than 65% adjunct and that puts institutional viability at risk. Unless you're an online for-profit.

      Delete
    4. Do they? I recall hearing faculty say that there never would come a day when depts would be staffed by more than 50% contracted staff. We're well into the 2/3 zone now, and I see no signs of it letting up.

      Delete
    5. The recession has done wonders for maximizing "efficiency" (read: getting more out of workers and compensating them less) in every sector and colleges are no different.

      But from a managerial standpoint - if you're a community college dept chair trying to staff 80% of your sections with adjuncts that would be an administrative cluster. You'll be pulling your hair out trying to get everything staffed at the last minute. Adjuncts come and go at will because obviously they don't have loyalty and why should they? They're treated like crap.

      Students can perceive when a college is run poorly and will go to competitor colleges as a result. That's why I would say you put institutional viability at risk by going too far to the adjunct side.

      Delete
  36. "In the end getting tenure has a lot to do with whether the powers that be like you."

    Every time I hear something like this, it makes me furious. Academia is no popularity contest. Promotion is based on peer reviewed research and effective teaching. Excellence is encouraged at every level. The best rise to the top. The rest sink to the bottom. It's a beautiful system that makes US universities the best in the world. You cut it or you don't. Deal with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh please. Social intelligence matters for any job in any sector, tenure in academia is no different. If the bosses like you, you get a good eval; even if your performance was just above average, you get rated excellent.

      Doing your job well is part of the battle, and an important part for sure. However, we all know people who did perform well yet did not get granted tenure due to "fit." We all know what "fit" means.

      Delete
    2. Yep, academe is about as far from meritocratic as you can get. It's something you don't get to really see until you become a victim - most likely post-PhD whether applying for jobs or applying for tenure.

      In fact, corporate environments are far more meritocratic, as at least they are guided by a common vision and mindset, albeit profit.

      In academe, any lofty ideas about education, cultivating minds, etc. - things that might give a reason for it to be meritocratic - always fall secondary to the petty squabbles that pervade all university departments. Tenure review is no different.

      Delete
  37. The "state of being" problem also applies to faculty. Depression, disappointment, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, toxic personal relationships, alcoholism, emotional and physical exhaustion are common. When a disappointing job bleeds into other parts of your life the way that a faculty job does, it brings everything else down with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is what I was referring to in my post up above, "Reason #87." You go from being a victim of the system to being both predator and prey.

      Delete
  38. "Although admin also knows that you can't go too far toward adjuncts or accreditation becomes an issue."

    Aaron I wanted to respond to this post. In my experience CC admins don't give a toss. Most of them are short-timers watching the calendar for the day they retire. They do not care if the place collapses the day after they leave. So they don't rock the boat and patch the cracks and hope they get out before the end comes. They will ignor accreditation problems for as long as possible and then do as little as possible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Especially now that some college presidents call themselves "CEOs" and Vice Presidents the "Executive Team."

      Delete
  39. Even if administrators did care, there is not much they could do. Salaries are by far the greatest expense in college and unversity budgets - and budgets are so constrained right now, hiring cheap contract staff is the only option available. We all know that tenured faculty aren't about to take a pay cut to ensure the sustainability of the system.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand, but that's not an excuse. They could do something if they wanted to, but they put their own self-interest ahead of that of everyone else. it isn't faculty salary that's the problem; it's the administrators' salary that's the problem. They consume and consume, but they produce nothing. Another problem is the vanity projects of which college sports is the most noticeable.

      The people who need to do something are the masters of this system: the governors, state legislatures, the voters. This wouldn't go on if they put a stop to it. But they don't because they don't care and don't understand the nature of the problem.

      Delete
    2. Faculty salaries haven't even kept pace with inflation. They're not the problem and odds are 1 or 2 of the classes they teach in a year cover their salary though tuition.

      It's not even administrator salaries alone, although I agree they're overpaid to some extent. It's the gross increase in admin positions both high and low. Look at any college and you'll see that admin positions in general have exploded by 100% minimum, often much more.

      Then there are the pensions and health insurance - but every business in America struggles with that, or stops offering them.

      Delete
  40. Since there are so many educated graduate students and PhD holders here, I want to ask a question!

    What is a PhD that will pay off outside of academia?

    Is there any PhD that is worthwhile. With the recession, I hear so many people saying degrees in STEM are the money-makers, so wouldn't a PhD in any of those fields have a large ROI regardless of the extra debt incurred?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Education, maybe. Every administrator I know has some kind of PhD in education administration or something. They're the only people in the business that regularly make 6 figures, and it's a less rigorous PhD.

      Delete
    2. Aaron, I thought jobs in education are hard to find. Isn't that field oversaturated, even with PhDs?

      Delete
    3. I don't think a PhD in any humanities field pays off outside academe. Not when you factor in the years of lost income while attending school, plus the debt you accrue while being a student, not to mention debt interest. Grads usually start their careers well into the red after graduation with a doctorate. See the post #85.

      Things might be different in other fields but I kind of doubt it based on what I've read over the years at the Chronicle.

      Delete
  41. Grad school is for virgin hipsters!! LOLFAGS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brilliant contribution to the discussion. Thanks for your wisdom and erudition.

      Sadly, it reminds me of Reason #43.

      Delete
    2. Wow, you're just some obese virgin nerd that lives in his mom's basement. At least I'm not life-dumb like you :p

      Delete
  42. Honestly this reason is way too similar to previous reasons and I'm very disappointed. Also it's very odd that the author has yet to discuss the rampant sexism, racism, classism and other isms in social science and humanities departments. Especially since these departments seem to pride themselves on being more enlightened and open-minded than non-academics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely true. Some of the humanities graduate programs are like a closet klavern of the Klan or a whorehouse where professors prey on graduate students.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I've sometimes thought there were comparisons to be drawn between polygamous communities and depts where male faculty have a reputation for dating vulnerable female grad students.

      Delete
    3. Hey, at least it's not engineering!

      Delete
    4. I am sure that the author of this blog is a straight male WASP.

      Delete
    5. On the other hand, I find it truly refreshing to not have to read the usual drivel about sexism, racism, classism, ableism, ageism etc.

      Delete
    6. If you think anything about sexism, racism, classism, ableism, ageism etc. is all usual drivel, you must feel about the same way about this blog, because they are all basically the same old whining drivel here.

      Delete
    7. No, since whining about academia doesn't permeate our entire culture, like whining about sexism, racism, etc does.

      Delete
  43. Academia is just a reflection of our larger culture. It sounds like all whining drivel. There's really nothing new here.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Dismissing these complaints as whining drivel sounds like a combination of defeatism and rationalization. Exploitation is exploitation. That our larger culture is explotative does not excuse exploitation of academia. We may not be able to do much about our culture at large, but we can do something about academia.

    As for racism/sexism/etceraism, I think using those labels is self-defeating. Keep reminding yourself that these are individuals exploiting other individuals, and that is always wrong. Once exploitation becomes collective it becomes possible to dismiss or trivialize it.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Dismissing all "sexism, racism, classism, ableism, ageism etc." as "usual drivel" sounds like a combination of defeatism and rationalization...

    As for "the 100 reasons NOT to go to grad school", I think using those labels is self-defeating...It becomes possible to dismiss or trivialize it.

    LOL. I can see why you dropped out of the PhD program, Soc!

    ReplyDelete
  46. I admire your irony.

    New slogan: "Grad school--worse than hemlock, better than marriage to Xantippe."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You don't need a new slogan. Just change your name to Bill O'Reilly.

      Delete
    2. Really? You don't even know what you're talking about.

      Delete
  47. So avoiding grad school because it's full of socially inept people (one of the reasons the author gives) is somehow more valid than avoiding it because of isms? Seriously?

    Socrates your comment is ridiculously dismissive of people who do experience isms in academia. Labels make it possible to dismiss or trivialize discrimination? Are you serious with this comment?

    If someone's experiencing sexism then they should CALL IT SEXISM.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you explain to me how sexist exploitation is different from non-sexist exploitation? At least can you tell me how the consequences are substantially different?

      Labels do make it easier to dismiss complaints because they cover up the thought behind the word. When Anonymous writes: "Academia is just a reflection of our larger culture. It sounds like all whining drivel. There's really nothing new here," he dismiss exploitation in academia because the rest of society is exploitative. If you say "this is sexism" it indirectly excuses exploitation that is not sexist.

      The isms are redunant. Call it exploitation, pure and simple.

      Delete
    2. The more you talk the more you sound like one of those cracker types in a humanities program in the South that's like a closet klavern of the Klan.

      Delete
  48. I should have read this before writing a similar post on my own blog!

    http://workinmotion.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/grad-school-yay-or-nay/

    Your posts definitely makes me feel better about choosing to take a break from academics

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most important reasons on this blog for a newbie to read: #1 The smart people are somewhere else, #4 It takes a long time to finish, #11 There is a psychological cost for quitting, #19 These are the best years of your life, #46 You may not finish, #83 it narrows your options.

      Definitely take a break from academia. It's funny how people who can't get a job with just their one degree think the answer is getting another college degree. What is it they say about insanity... doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

      Delete
    2. Hah! Great point. Obviously though you have to consider whatever stream of industry you're interested in getting into, right? For someone who doesn't have a clear idea of "I want to be X by Y time", and just wants to work a bit, exploring options, it would be much more beneficial to ditch grad school. But for someone who (as the blog says, wants to be a "professional student") - maybe enter research and eventually pursue a PhD...grad school is important. I'm just curious though, whatever the reason may be - isn't it always best to have 'pratical work experience'? So..an actual paid job for a company separate from your academic life?

      Gosh, this post's definitely got us talking!

      -Meg
      (Work IN progress)

      http://workinmotion.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/grad-school-yay-or-nay/

      Delete
    3. Meg, with few exceptions, a graduate degree in the humanities or social sciences fits you for exactly one type of work: university-level teaching. You can't get "practical work experience" in that field before embarking on graduate studies, because you need the degree in order to get the job in the first place. And maybe 20% of the people who complete their doctorates will end up with a full-time, halfway-decent-paying, tenure-track job. If the teaching-and-research life is what you really, really want, go for the graduate degree, but know what your chances of professional success are likely to be. If that isn't what you really, really want, don't waste your time dabbling in it--get a satisfying job in some other domain and indulge your intellectual cravings in your free time.

      Delete
    4. Meg,

      I don't think the economic reasons are all that important. The truth is that the economy SUCKS and the professorate is going through what the entire middle class is going through - worse than some fields, better than others (think about what aspiring journalists are going through right now for example). If things were good, Romney wouldn't be talking about how 50% of college graduates can't find jobs and a bunch of those aren't in jobs that utilize their educations.

      Here's my experience on the job market.

      I did this while I was in my first year of PhD studies at large mediocre state university(LMSU), so you can see I went into that without much commitment, and wasn't quite sure about it. But hell, I was awarded $17K of funding and could adjunct on the side and didn't know wtf else to do. Whatever. I already had an MA from average state university (AvSU) and had some adjunct experience, as well as military and other job experience I got in my 20s.

      I put out 112 apps over 8 months, divided more or less equally among academic, government, and private sector jobs. The academic jobs were mostly teaching positions at 2 year colleges, but some 4 year schools would accept apps from MAs (ie: Boise State was one). My overall success rate (I considered success a call-back) was just about 20%. That is the reality. I'm sorry. But I did land an *academic* job using that approach, and had a few options including non-academic jobs to choose from, with offered salaries ranging from the mid 30s to 50K, varying levels of benefits. The academic search was national, the non-academic regional.

      Needless to say, I burned my bridges at the dept. at LMSU. My advisor and others treated me like Al-Qaeda after they found out I was dumping them.

      If you want to get a job with a 90% chance of landing a 50K job quickly - be a nurse. Otherwise be aware the economy is in the toilet bowl for those of us not highly specialized in certain areas.

      Then all the complaints about the academic world... ok every job has its suckiness. That's life.

      To me, the far, FAR more important reasons are personal because that's where academia is unique. 1) you can't choose where you live and 2) the two-body problem. #2 can be especially painful and is a result of #1. I have first hand experience in that. No other reasons are really unique to academia - even the delaying family stuff. That's true of anyone who puts career first. But the two-body problem? That leaves a deep scar.

      I'm also partial to "mumbo-jumbo abounds." Every job has their bs lingo, but man, academics take theirs really seriously.

      Delete
    5. Thanks for sharing your views, April & Aaron.
      Aaron- (I know this wasn't the point of your post!) did you pursue working in academics after your PhD because you wanted to conduct your own research? You mentioned that some non-academic positions you applied for just needed the Master's, but is there a specific category of 'industry' jobs that require PhD? Are they mostly consultant positions?

      -Meg

      Delete
    6. Meg, I really don't know the answer to that.

      Social sciences and humanities don't have many direct applications, although there are some that once you have a job, might help. Ie: a PhD in Education when you're already an asst. principal or something like that will help you move into higher level public school administration. At least I've known people that had such a trajectory.

      I would hazard to guess certain STEM fields, maybe chemistry. I would say you'd want to look at into the specific job field first.

      Sorry I'm not more help, but I don't know.

      Delete
  49. I left my PhD program in cognitive psychology to become a nurse practitioner. I have no regrets. None. If you're getting a PhD in a liberal art or social science, I implore you, get out while you still can. Go find another field that can fulfill you AND pay the bills.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fulfillment is definitely important. One of the agonies of academic life is the futility of your work. Can we really believe we are making any difference of any kind? Can we really believe than anyone will be reading our 'research' fifty years from now?

      Get out while you can. If you want to get he Ph.D. for personal reasons, that's different. Don't let yourself get transformed from cult follower to cult leader.

      Delete
    2. I have a history background and my first job after the doctorate was in a library. That's where I saw first hand just how little circulation academic monographs get. The majority of books - particularly those written after the 1970s are just not read. And I don't mean that figuratively - they literally sit on the shelf in brand new condition. This goes against everything we are told and want to believe in grad school about the trickle-down effect of research.

      Another eye-opener for me was how librarians talk about academics when they are out of earshot. They are nice to their face and work for them, but they don't have a lot of nice things to say about them or the value of their work.

      After that stint in the library, I also spent a short time working in a government office, in fact, an office that was directly related to my field of grad study. I was shocked to learn that none of the people in the office, whether analysts or the director, knew about or cared the slightest about scholarship in the field. It was a real shock and part of the reason why I stopped trying to publish the research I had worked so hard on in grad school.

      Delete
    3. I can add a confirmation to the library story above.

      I know people who work in a major state university library. Every so often they play a game of find the most ridiculous dissertation. Those tend to be from sociology (and related fields) and some of the art fields but there are lots of other areas that make the final round.

      Delete
  50. When people with Ph.D.'s don't know what to do with their Ph.D.'s, then you know we've got a problem.

    The question is: is the problem with the degree, or with the people getting the degree?



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a bit of both. The Ph.D. degree itself doesn't train you for anything practical, unless you (and nobody is going to help you) somehow craft a course of study/research for yourself that involves practical skill development. Off hand, I can't think of anyone I know who did this.

      Grad school doesn't exactly attract geniuses, either. Maybe way up at the top at the Ivory Tower things are different, but in the big departments at the big universities, it's just a bunch of average people working really hard. A Ph.D. is more like a union card for tenure-track teaching jobs than anything else, not that it's easy to get.

      At the end of the day, the big departments are graduating hard-working but basically average people without specialized practical skills. Where do they go if they can't find teaching jobs? It's not like Google hires 200 art historians every year. They're more or less up a creek.

      Delete
    2. Has it always been like this? Does anyone out there have a 'big picture' view of the situation over time? Are PhDs in a worse spot nowadays than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago? If so what happened?

      Delete
    3. Riehman,

      Speaking from the corporate world, PhDs are in a worse spot than ever before because of...

      1: More people went into MA and PhD programs to escape the recession. Meaning, too many degrees for too little prospects. In academia, this means not enough permanent teaching positions.

      2: The salary of a PhD graduate rarely justifies the cost. From a BA to an MA, you might have a major salary increase, but what positions justify the PhD price-tag and opportunity cost?

      Delete
    4. Riehman - from what I see with older folks, many of whom are now hitting retirement, they only got an MA/MS or a PhD when it was required for advancement. People were told "You can get this job if you get an MBA", or "We'll hire you for this position but you need a PhD first", so then they went and retrained.

      Now you've got people just assuming their grad degree will get them a better job in, well, something, and they get the degree/s before they see whether the degrees are even being required. Basically jumping ahead of themselves. 30 years ago, people had more work experience to go along with their advanced degrees, now it's all too weighted on the academic side.

      Just my 2 cents based on what I have seen.

      Delete
    5. I'm Anonymous 11:44AM above and I should clarify, what I'm talking about is people with advanced degrees who work outside of academia (though many of them are still in related fields like education or research).

      For people who work inside academia, yes the situation has gotten worse. People are expected to do a ton more work, and someone has convinced them it's worthwhile because the PhD is a more versatile degree now. It's not. It's more work for fewer career options, if anything.

      Delete
  51. Aaron, I think you're right that very few of the reasons on this site are unique to grad school, but I think what's most unique about academia is the amount of misconceptions that bright, young people have going into it. Nobody fantasizes about a corporate desk job compiling spreadsheets in the same way that starry-eyed undergrads fantasize about taking the place of their favorite professor and enlightening the minds of hundreds of young people every year and contributing to the canon of cultural scholarship, and that's what makes resources like this blog so crucial.

    If someone honestly enjoys 1) academic writing, the most torturous form of writing ever conceived and 2) reading article after article of that same style of writing and 3) just wants to be left to his or her own devices to study a specific thing, then perhaps they should go to grad school (although I would still say that they shouldn't, because the "real world" also needs bright, scholarly people who understand and have an appreciation for art, philosophy, literature, etc.). But for me, and the many people like me out there, I realized that I didn't want to spend the latter half of my 20s torturing myself with the process of academic research and writing if what awaited me at the end was more of the same along with everything else listed on this site. People need to see that there are other options outside of academia that may be more in line with what they want out of their lives.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I get what you're saying. I just don't think prospective grad students are as clueless as people here think they are. They make choices like everyone else, and I think most of them understand their choices. If not they were willfully deluding themselves.

      The reason most people who post here nod their heads approvingly at all the reasons is that many reasons have some level of truth, and few of them are secret.

      Really, anyone can see there are only so many slots for Professor of English or Astronomy or whatever in any particular metro area.

      Delete
  52. "the "real world" also needs bright, scholarly people who understand and have an appreciation for art, philosophy, literature, etc. [...] People need to see that there are other options outside of academia that may be more in line with what they want out of their lives."

    This raises a really important question: how can we better advise people who are bright, scholarly, and who have an appreciation for the arts and humanities about other career options? A lot of professors and advisors suggest these people to go to graduate school. A student recently said "Professor Z told me I would be really wasting my talents if I didn't continue my studies in Humanities Subject."

    I see so many intelligent and dynamic undergrads who would be a great addition to just about any workplace, and they are rarely encouraged to leave academia and get a feel for other fields that could nurture their talents. I would love to see this issue being addressed more on a national platform.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Russkiy, very well said. If I had known beforehand that grad school would be an endless grind of nonexistent coffee beans, I never would have gone. And you are right, Academic writing is the worst form of writing ever invented. I think the worst thing that every happened to the humanities was their cooptation by academia.

      Delete
    2. Re: the humanities

      The people who actually generate the art, theatre, literature, and film that the humanities folks write about actually either a) think humanities scholarship is a bunch of foolish rubbish, b) think it's unintelligible, and or c) don't think about it at all. There's nothing that turns my stomach quicker than a budding film scholar who gripes about having to share class space with "production people," or the rhet comp person who smirks at the insignificance of your poetry publication. Ask Werner Herzog what he thinks about contemporary film criticism.

      Fandom is cool. Attempting to parlay your fandom into a career is fine too. Just don't use it as a platform to denigrate those of us who actually create things.

      Delete
    3. The problem is that university depts have become overpopulated with people who have no experience in the real world. Depts are run by people hired in their 20s or early 30s, who have no life skills, more often than not, raised in middle to upper class families. They went from high school straight into university, got their degrees, and lucked out in the academic job market. More often than not, these people have not had to endure low paying jobs, apply for welfare, taste what it's like to fail at things, and have to get back on their feet. They have no perspective on life, no understanding of alternave views (or tolerance in many cases), and without doubt, no ability to teach others anything but what they themselves know.

      The disconnect that these people have from the real world shows in their scholarship and lectures. Government is bad, the state is hegemonic. The private sector, capitalism, is also bad and oppressive. Yet, ironically, these are the exact places that graduates have to turn to looking for work. It's no wonder that they are so unprepared for real world jobs coming out of university.

      Higher ed is a very sick place, and it's been that way for a long time with no signs of changing.

      Delete
    4. @Anon 10:03PM, your comment relating to academics viewing the private sector and capitalism as bad and oppressive is quite true. I went to grad school for longer than I care to admit and I thought the university was god. Who needs money when we have our knowledge and insight?

      Then I was offered a private sector job and it has been such a liberating experience. In the morning my team leader will ask "what are you going to do for me today?" and I have to think of a solution to a current problem, or pose a new problem. When my work is done, I leave for the day. I've never had to be more creative and sharp, and now that my mind is sharper again I read all the time and consume knowledge like never before.

      Sorry if this is a non sequitur but I want to demonstrate how it can be important to unschool yourself, if you will, from academia and accept things like the fact that private sector work can be a really great for minds that crave a challenge. They don't teach that at universities unless you're in the business school.

      Delete
  53. Grad school in the "sciences" is pretty bad, but, by Jove, in the humanities it must be some kind of an atrocity verging on a crime against humanity. The "sciences" have three things going for them - two are some rigor, and some perspective of snatching the diploma in 5-6 years. From what I've read, the humanities are utterly beset by fads and fashions (post-modernism...), and it takes a decade+ to grab your humanities diploma. Moreover, with a Comp-Sci/ Math/ Physics/ Eng. degree you can have a reasonable hope of landing a job in San Jose or the Downtown banks or whatever - but with a degree in English or Philosophy it's academia or nothing. Total bust.

    The two most bizarre academic disciplines IMO are English (i.e. Lit) and Education. If you like writing... Why not write? What writer went to grad school anyway? Hemingway, F. Scott, Twain, Faulkner - no way. Plath, D.F. Wallace and J.K. Toole did go - and all committed suicide (no joke). There's Updike and J.C. Oates, but I find their writing utterly repulsive. Maybe it's just me. And if you want to criticize - then start your own magazine, because, as you well know, nobody will ever read your dissertation. Including your advisor.
    And the PhD in Education is just sick, it's the longest one and the one most removed from reality. If you want to "educate" learn something worth teaching and find people who want to learn from you.

    For an analysis of the ways in which Grad School resembles a cult, try Jeff Schmidt's "Disciplined Minds." Solid book. Also worth looking at but less readable is "The PhD Trap." Those are the most informative books on the Grad School debacle that I know of.

    So much vituperation and so little space :/.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your points are harsh, but sadly true. Whether you acknowledge it or not, America prizes degrees over talent. ...It's just that after a Bachelor's, employers don't care. Academia may want a master's for its positions but the working world simply doesn't care, outside of maybe an MBA.

      I can understand that people who love their field will want to continue their education, thinking it can only help them further their careers. However, we also need to be realistic. How many jobs are available in academia? If you decide to quit academia, will your degree be worth anything in the corporate world?

      Potential PhD students should look and see how many positions that require a PhD are available.
      And if the salary makes up for years of eating ramen noodles.

      Delete
  54. The smart ones go into the job market with their BAs, get established, then enrol in an MA, often with tuition paid by the employer.

    The extra degree actually helps these people much more than those who go straight through and even get the added PhD. It gives them an edge over others who otherwise have the same skill set and experience when applying more senior jobs.

    The ironic thing is, in academic circles, these kinds of students are seen as "sojourners" and aren't taken seriosuly as scholars. Yet they are the one who get the last laugh as they have jobs to fall to after it's all said and done. The purebred academics, well, are pretty much no better than the day they entered grad school and all the much older.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's getting to the point now that if you can't fully pay for your Master's or PhD, then you shouldn't bother going. If you're lucky to have an employer who pays tuition, go for it! If not, then more debt will only cripple yourself.

      Ideally, an extra degree means more job marketability. Realistically, in this recession when an employer sees an "extra" degree, it means "I can get more for less!" They may hire you because you "stand out" with your Master's but will still pay you like a BA holder. Or they can call you "overqualified" and trash your application.

      This is why it's better to be in a position where you don't have to pay more debt for a degree that might not pay off.

      Delete
    2. A lot of the above discussion re: employers paying for your "graduate" degrees seems to be missing the distinction between graduate and professional degrees. Employers might pay for you to go get an MBA (professional degree). They won't pay for you to go get a graduate degree in American Studies or the like. Apples and bicycles.

      Delete
  55. I manage a research office and we routinely hire people for temporary work. We regularly get applicants with PhDs and MAs. What I've observed is that people with graduate degrees on their resumes have to be vetted very carefully. Those with academic degrees and no non-academic work experience are immediately excluded. Those who have degrees and some other work experience are considered for interview, but are scrutinized closely.

    Overall, I've found that there are some people who have fantastic academic CVs who cannot perform the most basic of workplace tasks, including plain writing and proper use of grammar. They also often carry around a lot of baggage that impairs their ability to perform some types of work (e.g. it offends personal principles or ideology). There also are problems working alongside others or taking instruction. Overall, I'd consider hiring someone with a BA and applied experience just as much or over a person with a PhD and little else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really interesting to hear! Mind if I ask what type of research you specialize in? I have a background in Biochemistry, and have definitely noticed the opposite of what you say (those with a MSc/PHD) are more likely to get employed than those with just a Bachelor's.
      I'm guessing the field research matters...?

      -Meg

      Delete
    2. I am not AWOL from above, but I will chime in with a response to your question Meg. I also work in a place where we recruit for temp work and get many MA/MS/PhD applicants, many in the sciences and engineering but also plenty from humanities and social sciences.

      I can confirm what AWOL has said in terms of the inability of some people with advanced degrees to do even the most basic of tasks. They are less creative, intuitive, collegial, collaborative, disciplined, assertive, and with too little initiative to succeed in this field. This is true across the board, regardless of discipline. People will show up for interviews in tattered clothes or looking deeply broody or stinking of cigarettes because that's a status symbol in their department. It absolutely does not fly on the job market.

      So, ask yourself what those people you know who got employed with an MS/PhDhave to offer. If they can appear bright and outgoing, clean and presentable, and have a solid work history to demonstrate, they probably stand a good chance of getting some good attention from employers.

      Delete
    3. I know what you mean. However, this applies to anyone seeking a job. "Dress for the job you want," etc... that's basic search advice.

      I invested in a tailored suit and while I can't be certain, I think it did help.

      Delete
    4. People with advanced degrees who dress poorly and look unpresentable etc. at interviews have a worse time than others who do this, because their resumes have already put them at a disadvantage. Add to that their poor interview skills and the package is not good overall.

      Delete
    5. It's a state legislature dept - we get a mostly social science and humanities grads across all disciplines.

      I'd consider the work to be about as close as you can get to academic research in a non-university setting.

      Delete
  56. More good news:

    http://www.kellimarshall.net/teaching-academia/phd-false-hope/

    http://chronicle.com/article/A-Dismal-Picture-of-Life-as/132421/

    http://chronicle.com/article/Adjuncts-Working-Conditions/133918/

    ReplyDelete
  57. has anyone come across any studies demonstrating how few articles published in humanities/s.s. journals ever get cited anywhere else?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I doubt academics in the humanities/s.s. care about how little they are cited anywhere else. In fact it's a badge of pride for them. I know a particularly obnoxious academic who describes his research as "obscenely niche" and he's incredibly proud of that.

      But the lack of being cited anywhere should serve as a warning to potential grad students who think their dissertation/article in Something Studies will help change the world.

      Delete
    2. 9:54, I used to think of continuing in the academic world as something noble and philosophical. Then I started looking at the salaries. Hearing these adjunct stories are very depressing. Some people can be starving artists and love it. Personally, I feel having a comfortable salary is better than doing something you love.

      Delete
    3. "Personally, I feel having a comfortable salary is better than doing something you love."

      So a high paid job you hate/are numb to is worth it? You know, that is an argument they make for law school, and I don't think it really holds water....I think that professional boredom leads to people going to grad or professional school, which leads them back into the student loan debtworld (unless they can get ConGlomCo or their government job to pay for it.) There are many ways into the limbo of grad/prof school; it's not just clueless, scared 20-somethings holding warm BA/BSs.

      Delete
    4. Who said anything about hate/numb? You sound like a typical grad student with a skewed sense of what really matters in life. Let me guess, academic freedom? Channeling the subaltern?

      And law school hardly has a monopoly on misleading grads when it comes to the value of the degree in the real world.

      Delete
    5. "with a skewed sense of what really matters in life. "

      I'd say taking pride in the knowledge that no one reads or cites your published work pretty much sums up a skewed sense of what matters. Ah yes, that's virtually the entirety of the humanities and soft social sciences disciplines.

      Ah to go back and get an applied degree with a real career trajectory.

      Delete
    6. People should do the work that 1) they're good at, and 2) satisfies them. I would agree with Strelnikov that having a job you dislike is not ideal, regardless of the salary.

      Unless we're talking 6 figures - then things might be different. But odds are we're talking about the difference between 30-50K and 50-70K. Really, how big of a deal is that? At most 800K over a lifetime. Above 70k and you're in the top 15% of all earners and that's a different ballgame. I would put up with a job I didn't much like to make 6 figures, knowing I could take the money and move on after a few years of hating life. But I'm not going to hate where I spend 1/3rd to 1/2 of my time for an extra 20K per year. For 85% of us, that's the kind of difference to consider.

      It's up to each individual to decide if satisfaction with their job is worth the trade off for that money. Besides, most people will change jobs 3-6 times in their life anyway.

      Not everyone can be an engineer. Not everyone can be an aviation mechanic. Some people just are not as good at those things as others and why would we want to force people to do things they don't like??

      I am continually amazed at how some people want some kind of totalitarian education system where where we channel learners into what's considered "useful" at the moment. People, that is what the Soviet Union did.

      Having "a salary" is important, but having freedom is important too. Would you sacrifice young people's freedom of choice for economic utility?



      Delete
    7. Well said, Aaron!

      Delete
    8. Well, a prof once told a class that you need to major in something that you can do, that you want to do and that someone will pay you to do. Is it really any more complicated than that? We are expected to be responsible citizens and someone has to pay the taxes to keep the country afloat. Maybe if you want to study underwater archaeology And the study of ancient shipwrecks you might just convince yourself to be a naval architect first and pick up the archaeology after retirement from a productive career as a naval or marine architect?

      Delete
    9. I agree with 4:52. It's a bit of denial that keeps graduate students going into subjects that don't pay off. Everyone wants to be rewarded for their efforts, and everyone wants a reasonable paycheck. A PhD in humanities or obscure fishing doesn't guarantee those things anymore. The unemployed PhD graduates have a bitter pill to swallow.

      Delete
    10. Yes but the choice is not to be on welfare or making 100K. The choice is not to be employed or not. The choice for most people is will you start out in the first or second tier of the middle class and how much debt will you carry? (which also affects the tier placement)

      Does anyone seriously think a PhD holder has the same barriers to employment that a high school graduate or someone with just "some college" has? Please! If someone can complete a PhD, he/she can manage a persistent job search.

      The overwhelming majority of humanities people are not unemployed. Most of them are in the ballpark of median income and do better than their less educated competitors - on AVERAGE.

      To me the choice is an opportunity cost calculation that involves some qualitative factors that are personal. These discussions of the extremes - ie: a leading civil engineer making $150K vs. the English PhD single mom on food stamps - do nothing to advance the conversation.

      I do think people should think deeply about MAs vs. PhDs. For a lot of these people contemplating grad school, PhDs are overkill. This reflects the overall grade inflation and degree devaluation in our society.

      Delete
    11. "Does anyone seriously think a PhD holder has the same barriers to employment that a high school graduate or someone with just "some college" has?"

      Maybe not in comparison with high school graduates, but they do have barriers in comparison with BA and MA holders who worked in non-academic fields during their 20s. The point is that PhD holders have made a lot of effort, and it doesn't pay off. People who didn't go to grad school are making more money, have better working conditions and more future perspectives.

      "If someone can complete a PhD, he/she can manage a persistent job search."
      Are you sure? Probably s/he will be depressed after a few rejections and not very willing to look for jobs not according to her/his credentials.

      Delete
    12. "Does anyone seriously think a PhD holder has the same barriers to employment that a high school graduate or someone with just "some college" has?"

      YES! Wasn't there even a post on this blog about how attitudes about college are changing? There's a great deal of contempt for MA and PhD holders in the hiring process. It's much like a high school dropout hating a high school graduate. "You aren't better than me." "Who do you think you are?" "I made it through life without those fancy degrees."

      Look at the economy right now. There aren't too many "good" jobs anymore so many graduates have to look for any kind of work. If a MA or PhD grad, high school grad, or college dropout applies for McDonalds or entry-level office work, the MA or PhD grad will get the runaround.

      You are viewed as "overqualified" and they will love to hear your response to "where do you see yourself in five years?"

      Degrees do not guarantee employment or a decent salary anymore. I doubt we'd even have this blog if they did.

      Delete
    13. Did degrees ever "guarantee" employment?

      I don't think it's as much of a disadvantage that people here suggest. It's not a golden ticket by any means and like I said, people may want to stop at the MA if academia is not their singular goal.

      People lament that advanced degree holders can't get those lower-middle-class "entry-level office" type jobs. I get it, but a lot of BA holders and lower can't either. This is because that type of job is being phased out due to globalization, technology, and the overall toilet bowl of an economy we have. So for the dwindling numbers of those jobs still available, employers can pick and choose among folks that have exactly what they're looking for.

      Generally, what we see in academia is a more stressed out, extreme version of what's happening to our economy and middle class writ large. Reliance on part-time temps, benefits and pensions going the way of the dinosaur, more educated people making lower than less educated people did in the same job a generation prior, workers doing more for less. I could go on, but higher ed is not the only sector suffering from this.

      Delete
    14. "Are you sure? Probably s/he will be depressed after a few rejections and not very willing to look for jobs not according to her/his credentials. "

      What PhD student hasn't received a ton of rejections in his/her career for school admissions, paper proposals, article submissions, grant proposals, requests for funding/scholarships, etc....?

      I tell my students they should be prepared to face rejection for 9 out of 10 job apps they put out, so if they really want a particular job, they should apply for 9 more similar ones and as many more as possible to increase their chances.

      When I went on the job market with an MA my success rate (a call-back) was 1 out of 7. When I had a BA only it was worse than that, and before I graduated college it was much worse. I remember getting called by Wal-Mart after putting out 30 apps or at every retail or low level job in town. I think I got 1 other call from that round.

      It other words, it's not just the PhD effing people up. I have some students who have been laid off for a 2nd or 3rd time and are trying to figure out how to retool at age 40 or 45+. Some of them already have degrees or certifications of some sort, others don't. It's tough for everyone out there. Yet they don't have the same pathology of failure that some grad students have and people here seem to project onto grad students. Weird.

      Delete
  58. Outsider here.

    10:03's comment made me laugh out loud. Some law professor sounding off about the importance of Critical Legal Studies while collecting a large paycheck from a private law school funded by and in the service of the very "oppressor class" he's busy condemning is wildly funny to everyone but the professor himself. And oh, those Parlor Pinks DO take themselves so seriously, don't they?

    ReplyDelete
  59. I've been reading this blog since reason five first came out. Although I'm still an undergrad junior, I've realized that I'm perfect for grad school. The social ineptitude, pretentiousness, over analyzing everything to the point that life becomes grey, depression, loneliness...I've got them all. Without even having plans of entering grad school, I've been a grad student all along. Pathetic... This blogger is a hero for exposing the grad school nightmare.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Son, join the army, and they will straighten out nerd types like you.

      Gunnery Sergeant Hartman

      Delete
    2. Wrong service.

      Gunnery Sergeants are only in the Marines.

      Delete
  60. With endless respect, Gunny, the poster should join the Navy!

    former USNR

    ReplyDelete
  61. We've come a long way since the Civil War, when college professors were leading troops into battle. There's almost no overlap between the grad student population and the military population anymore. I think that I had only one prof in my whole college and grad school "career" who served in the military.

    On a related note, I've got an old friend who lives in a town that's home to both a state university and a military base. Over the years, he's told me multiple times how much more impressed he is with the local military people he encounters than he is with the college folks.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Just visited good old Wikipedia and if that thing's right, about HALF of the US presidents who attempted education past the BA withdrew. US presidents have dropped out of law school, business school, and med school.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States_by_education

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every single one of the people who really impressed me in my Ph.D. program quit and left without a degree. I was one of the fools who stayed.

      Delete
    2. Same here. What happened to So-and-So? She was really cool. Oh yeah, too cool for us idiots. She got out and got a life.

      Delete
  63. Cool grad students? What university did YOU go to?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the thing. The cool people (that is to say... the normal people) get a clue and get out quick. It's like escaping the asylum.

      Delete
  64. So has the OP given up on this website?

    He/she has 14 to go.

    ReplyDelete
  65. To the earlier commenter who said: "People lament that advanced degree holders can't get those lower-middle-class "entry-level office" type jobs. I get it, but a lot of BA holders and lower can't either."

    Um, have you thought about this at all? Have you considered that there's a difference between 25yr-olds with BA's looking for entry-level jobs and 35yr-olds with PhD's looking for entry-level jobs? Can't you see how pathetic that is?

    I worked a summer job at a chain store where one of my co-workers had a PhD from Berkeley (in the humanities, of course). Our boss was 19.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A graduate who takes an entry-level or minimum-wage job is in worse condition than a high school graduate. When you factor in monthly student-loan payments, the graduate is making far less for the same job.

      Once you take out student loans you're put in a position where you NEED a higher-paying job to make ends meet. In this bad economy, more education has become a burden, which has soured many fresh graduates.

      Delete