Monday, September 6, 2010

1. The smart people are somewhere else.

If you think that going to graduate school will allow you to spend your days in a community of the enlightened, consider the axiom that it is unwise to borrow money that is difficult to repay. To go into debt for a graduate degree in the humanities is to go into debt for a credential that, at best, will qualify you for a job with a relatively low starting salary in an extremely competitive job market. Meanwhile, you will have removed yourself from the job market to pursue this degree, so don’t forget to add up the years that you will have incurred debt when you could have been earning money. But surely people in graduate school would be too smart to finance their educations with debt…

According to FinAid.org: “The median additional debt [the debt that graduate students pile onto the debt that they acquired as undergraduates] is $25,000 for a Master's degree, $52,000 for a doctoral degree and $79,836 for a professional degree. A quarter of graduate and professional students borrow more than $42,898 for a Master's degree, more than $75,712 for a doctoral degree and more than $118,500 for a professional degree.” This is not intelligent behavior. The smart people are somewhere else.



145 comments:

  1. You make a very good point. Many people in graduate school probably do not think of the money they are "losing" by not being in the job market for a number of years. Even those who are paid as TAs and have tuition waivers typically only make enough (if they are lucky) to get by.
    Medical and law students pay an arm and a leg for their education, but they are gaining practical experience and know that they will most likely earn salaries that will allow them to pay off debt in a reasonable amount of time. Those in the humanities do not have any sort of guarantee of landing a job that will allow them to pay back debt.

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    1. Personally, I would say if you have a good goal in mind, graduate is alright. Of course, I agree with "100 Reasons" that going to graduate school that will pile up your debt is a big NONO. Those thinking of grad school might want to check out a short article myself on the 8 factors to consider before going to grad school.

      http://controlgradstudy.blogspot.ca/2013/04/factors-to-consider-before-coming-to.html

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    2. @yao hong kok:

      < http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/10/22/why_one_malaysian_university_gave_kim_jong_un_a_doctorate >.

      You do NOT say.

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    3. Saw this on Twitter... kind of says it all:

      so many dumb people have credentials now that the act of acquiring credentials signals dumb

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    4. This is where our culture is headed:

      https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/dont-hire-people-who-went-to-grad-school/

      http://qz.com/180247/why-google-doesnt-care-about-hiring-top-college-graduates/

      http://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-startups-shouldnt-hire-people-with-graduate-degrees/

      This devaluation has been underway for some time. I guess what really bothers me are the blanket assertions about college and graduate degree holders being unfit for employment. It's called prejudice.

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    5. Sept. 14 2010's comments about law students is not accurate and hasn't really been accurate for some time. It's gotten so bad that some low-ranking programs are "hiring" their own students to boost job placement.

      Delete
  2. Maybe it's not all about the money? I'd rather spend the rest of my life as a computer programmer than a telephone operator, even if I'd make more money working instead of studying for 5 years.
    And when comparing income you'd of course have to look at one's entire career and calculate the sum. Just looking at the first few years + starting salary doesn't seem very intelligent to me ;)

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    1. You don't need a PhD to become a computer programmer.

      Delete
    2. Your writing is so condescending but illustrates such a lack of understanding of the world around you or even the original website's point.

      It didn't say you should never ever go to graduate school, the point is basically "here's 100 reasons why it isn't what it's cracked up to be."

      Also, people who tend to shrug off money to follow their "dream job" usually don't have much experience working for a living or being underpaid for it. Not having healthcare not only sucks, but it's a huge risk if you get really sick or injured and can't complete your degree.

      And like the anonymous person said, you don't need a PhD to be a computer programmer. In fact, it's typically frowned upon.

      Delete
  3. If you're going to grad school to be a computer programmer, you're going to get out and get a job as a computer programmer. If you're going to grad school in the humanities, you're more likely going to end up as "a telephone operator" or an adjunct (which pays less), or maybe you'll just be unemployed. It may not seem like it's about the money when you start out, because you're passionate about your subject and delusional about your future prospects, but it damn sure is about the money when you get to the end and can't find work after all those years you slaved away pursuing the "life of the mind."

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    1. "69.7% of recent computer science graduates are now in employment, although not necessarily in jobs related to their studies, and 12.9% are unemployed..."
      Flinders, Karl "Computer Science Graduates Struggle to Find Work Despite IT Skills Shortage," Computerweekly .com Oct. 17, 2013

      "The unemployment rate for recent grads with a degree in information systems is more than double that of drama and theater majors, at 14.7%... Even for computer science majors the jobless rate for recent grads nears 9%."
      Kirkwood, Lauren "Arts Majors Jump Ahead of Tech Grads in Landing Jobs" USA Today 07/30/13.

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    2. Doesn't surprise me. Entry-level jobs in STEM are basically nonexistent. Unless you have a cousin or someone similar to give you that first break, you've got a rough road to hoe.

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    3. I don't think this is a debate that has anything to do with what you choose to study. I know plenty of smart people who went to grad school. I also know plenty of smart people who didn't go to grad school. The ones that were "smart" were the ones that had a plan. I think what we have to recognize is that people are just doing what they have to do to make their lives work. It's tough out there. The economy still sucks. If education helps solve someone's problem that's totally okay.

      Delete
  4. Bad Blog. In this economy, if you are hard working, I mean seriously hard working not cheating your way through a BA or Engineering degree, than you can find fellowships that pay almost as much as entry level positions to continue graduate school.

    If by your assumption, the smart ones are not at the graduate schools then they must be working, homeless, supported by the generation before them, or doing nothing, or getting by on a mate's contribution.

    1. Workers are cogs and the ones that are still employed are the "cogiest". As by the satisfaction statistics in today's WSJ, "cogism" does not lead to satisfaction.

    2. I've been homeless, the only smart thing about being homeless is knowing how to graph your days toward survival when others around you are playing with there Iphones. It builds self determination.

    3. I live in Detroit. If my parents had money, they would've moved to Oakland county.

    4. I have no choice but to do something, since I already know what the answer is to doing nothing.

    5. Generally, I'm good looking but am of shorter stature so there is no female taking care of me like they way they do with taller men which are lighter in ambition and talent but "look good" based on some archetype that went out of existence when aerial weaponry became of use.

    Some of us need graduate school as a means to survive right now. It is a lifeline for me, an opportunity to innovate, less stress than working for people with lower ambition than I have, provides enough to bear in the mind the positives of having a roof over my head, etc.

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    1. but keep in mind then that your situation is a special case and by the looks of it, if you could have it different, you would probably be happy to have it, right?

      Delete
  5. Generally, I'm good looking but am of shorter stature so there is no female taking care of me like they way they do with taller men which are lighter in ambition and talent but "look good" based on some archetype that went out of existence when aerial weaponry became of use.

    This is easily the funniest thing I've read today.

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    Replies
    1. I grew 3 inches taller in grad school.

      Delete
  6. "'Generally, I'm good looking but am of shorter stature so there is no female taking care of me like they way they do with taller men which are lighter in ambition and talent but "look good" based on some archetype that went out of existence when aerial weaponry became of use.'


    This is easily the funniest thing I've read today."


    Ditto.

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  7. Putting aside issues of debt and lost income, this reason strikes a chord with me in a more general sense. There was a time when I thought that I was lucky to get into a grad school where I would meet seriously smart people who would force me to rise above my mediocrity. After a while, I realized that we were all pretty mediocre intellects. (I guess that test scores aren't everything.) Grad school has done more to drag me down than lift me up intellectually.

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  8. @anonymous #4- not all jobs require you to be a mindless, miserable cog. It's easier for a smart, hardworking person to find a non-office drone job than for a smart, hardworking PhD to find a non-adjunct job. And if hard work and intelligence aren't enough, the office drone job will offer better pay, benefits, job security, and flexibility than working as an adjunct.

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  9. This blog has a serious case of the grass is greener. Ever tried looking for a non-profit job? They are:

    a) super competitive
    b) nepotistic
    c) pay shit, if they pay at all
    d) extremely demanding

    AND... really to have a chance at any of these cool "real world" jobs that aren't solely oriented towards making rich people richer, you need a masters or phd.

    a phd is hard work, not particularly fun, but... in theory, you do get to study what you are passionate about. would you rather know more than you ever wanted to know about sales force efficiency? people who have all the trappings - good salary and all the material items that goes along with it - often don't feel fulfilled or that their lives are particularly meaningful. there's always a trade-off.

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  10. in theory, you do get to study what you are passionate about.

    This perhaps is only in theory. It all depends on your departmental policies and such.

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    1. In addition to that, I found that the deadlines do not allow students to thoroughly read, research, or analyze what they are studying. I felt smarter when I dropped out because I could actually read an entire book rather than speed read a few chapters and b.s. a paper that I rushed to complete on time.

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    2. YES! Many times I would read a book for a class that I would have to hurry through and never got to "enjoy studying what I am passionate about".

      Delete
  11. Hey 100 Reasons, you don't have an About page so I'll say hello here. I think this is a good idea, warning people off of graduate school. As you yourself note, it may not work, but it's still worth a try...

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  12. I agree in part. There are students who go to school for fear of the "real world," and take on hideous amounts of debt that will make the real world even scarier once they get there. Those people really should just hurry up and get a job that they will enjoy, and not waste their time.

    But there are people who go to graduate school because their dream vocation requires a master's degree or higher. Insinuating that all grad students are stupid for trying is idiotic.

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    1. Higher Academia isn't there to ensure anyone's dream vocation.

      Working and being mentored in a chosen field is, why should a person in their twenties be forced to take on debt to work in a certain field?

      It seems pretty obvious that if skilled workers in one field are lacking, then the employers/industry should be training them at the employers cost.

      But the truth is we know in the back of our minds what this is about: debt slavery, a college educated surf with tens of thousands of dollars in debt is more likely to eat crap to not buck an over bearing employer. And if they do, what would the employer care? There is always another sucker fresh out of school who might work harder than the current dissatisfied employee.

      Delete
    2. "It seems pretty obvious that if skilled workers in one field are lacking, then the employers/industry should be training them at the employers cost." I think you've been out of the so-called private sector a bit too long. Employers long ago stopped any on-the-job training. No, they just gripe about our education system being poor and how they can't find qualified people while they post jobs for PRECISELY the skill set they think they need which doesn't actually turn out to be the skill set that they need (since the job description is written by someone who doesn't actually know the job and besides technology is moving so quickly that particular skills are obsolete between the time the job opened up and the time it's filled) and all of this so they can bribe Congress into allowing more low-wage schlebs from overseas to take our jobs.

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    3. As an online ad says, "Why be dumb and unemployed when you can be dumb, unemployed, and deeply in debt?"

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    4. *As an online ad says, "Why be dumb and unemployed when you can be dumb, unemployed, and deeply in debt?"*

      best damn quote I've heard summarizing the American problem in ages.

      Delete
  13. So far you have given a very good reason not to incur debt by going to graduate school. But that's not a reason not to go to graduate school on fellowship. If you can get into a highly ranked program that gives secure funding and has a good job placement record, then go if you want to. In that case, you'd be making a mistake to let thoughts about the money you might earn doing something else for a few years deter you from what you want to do. For that matter, even if you're not sure whether you want to do it, I don't think it's crazy to go if you get into such a program. Students in top PhD programs in the humanities live quite well on the funding they get these days. I knew some who saved money, and many others (including myself) who had plenty left over after rent and food to waste on a lot of drinking. Those who aren't committed after a couple years usually drop out and get on just fine with their lives.

    But I agree: don't go into debt to earn a PhD in the humanities - at least not unless the debt is very small, and you can't imagine doing anything else.

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    1. Very much agreed! Plus, even if you get a masters and realize that you don't want to go on to a PhD, you can always get jobs in arts administration, high/grammar school education, etc.

      Delete
    2. I have an M.S., and despite math and accounting courses, a minor in art history, several languages, knowledge of American music history and a few years' work experience in music and audio engineering for a filmmaker, I can't get work in arts administration.

      I can't get jobs teaching high or grammar school, partly because I am unwilling to shell out additional money for an education credential.

      Delete
  14. There are a number of topics in American society that make we want to pile my life into boxes and move to Europe. Education and healthcare are two of them. As an electrical engineer with graduate school experience, I can say one thing with certainty: no one wants to live in a society filled with people who earned graduate degrees only in programs of study that are perceived to lead to monetary wealth.

    "Don't go into debt to earn a PhD in the humanities." Yes, instead go into debt to earn a PhD in electrical engineering, even if you have no real interest in electrical engineering, just because that means someone will always be willing to pay you $200k as a Chief Technical Officer. By all means, spend years in a program of study on a topic about which you aren't passionate just because it means you'll be paid well in your career.

    I chose engineering because I enjoyed the material and continue to be curious about it. Please, please, please - follow your passion in education, go as far as it can take you. Money is always a real consideration with respect to the cost of your education. But don't let it drive the decision.

    We have enough unhappy highly educated people in American society. Don't be afraid to follow your passion, regardless of the field of study. Being happy and enjoying what you do is usually the best path to achieving the financial income you need.

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    1. Thank you. I am only a few posts into this blog and I will not be recommending it to anyone. The negative and dangerously generalizing attitude here is astounding. Is graduate school a difficult choice? Of course. Do many students, particularly at the Masters level do it not understanding their choice or options? Yes. But is also a highly personal one which varies a TREMENDOUS amount from field to field. In the end, the only real advice to give someone considering graduate school is to take a deep look at themselves and what they want in life on many different levels, take some time off to gain experience and reflect and then do what they think is right for them.

      Delete
  15. I'm an American getting my PhD in Germany (in the sciences). Do not come to Europe if you want a good academic experience. Most professors see the number of students they "advise" as a badge of honor and so lab groups here are often 20-40 students. There is also a strong culture of mediocrity to overcome. The most ambitious and hard-working Europeans generally go to grad school in the US, so what you're left with are really the dregs of grad student society. There is not a day that I don't regret having come here (I left a top-ranked program in the US to move with my German boyfriend when he got a professorship here; we are looking to move back to the US, but good luck finding academic jobs for both of us).

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    1. I had a similar experience in the Netherlands.. Couldn't agree more with the mediocrity comment, not to mention, regionalism

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    2. I just want to throw a few anecdotes out there...

      Case 1: A PhD Graduate from Univ of Leiden joined a lab here in an US university. The lab prof loved him, but could not give him a post, due to his European PhD, not an American one. The man was forced to re-take his PhD here in the US, which ate up 5 years.

      Case 2: A PhD graduate from France was denied a job because the degree was from France.

      Case 3: In my many years in the university, I've seen Europeans with US PhDs working at academic posts. I've seen Americans with US PhDs working at academic posts. I've seen the Japanese working at academic posts with Japanese PhDs (but only in hardcore STEM). I have yet to see a European or an American with an EU PhD working at an academic post.

      PhDs seem to have... tiers. The US PhD seems to be the top tier, and you can't move to a top tier with a non-top-tier ticket. So when choosing grad school locations, choose wisely.

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    3. There's also the "lost in translation" problem... "A DPhil is not a PhD." This from a secretary with a high school education, in charge of winnowing resumes for a department at a major university.

      In actuality (i.e. from a "global" perspective, in international rankings) top UK and Australian institutions outrank most US universities and colleges.

      Delete
  16. It's not intelligent behavior to finance your education with debt, when there is no other way to get said education? You claim that no smart person would go into debt in order to go to school. By this logic, 80% of the student bodies of MIT and Harvard are idiots. The smart people are the ones who care so much about their chosen field that they will incur any expense to get the chance to practice it. Money isn't everything, and it's not a mark of intelligence to pursue it above all else.

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    1. I want to say that just as I was falling into a dark pit of despair and doubt at my decision to pursue graduate school, I came upon your post. Thank you for this reminder that not many people, including myself, realize.

      Delete
    2. I'd counter that it's also not a mark of intelligence to willingly enter a work environment that (a) resembles a lottery and (b) makes you almost wholly unfit to pursue other kinds of work and mocks you should that desire for other work strike.

      Delete
  17. I stumbled upon your blog, and while you do make some good points, I'm still not convinced. I was recently accepted into an MA program which gives me a full tuition waiver as well as a sizeable stipend- certainly enough to offset the cost of living until I graduate.

    All in all, I've gotten a very good deal, plus a TA position to further pad out my resume and give me teaching experience. Take all this into consideration and add the fact that I have absolutely no student loans...I think I'd be stupid NOT to take it!

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  18. The "opportunity cost" of attending grad school cannot be discounted. After 10 years of grad school, once you try and fail multiple times to get a job in your field, you will likely be going for the kind of entry-level position in the "real world" workforce that all your peers did when you all graduated from college. So, for example, if you "give up" your search and decide to teach high school, you're taking a job your friends in college got right away with their bachelor's degrees. The difference is, they've been amassing real pay for 10 years, and had the opportunity to do things like... buy a house! Build equity! Save for retirement! Go on vacations! Whereas you/me/all of us have spent 10 years making very little or going into debt. Why, why, why would we waste 10 years of our lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars for a degree that will probably not get us a position ANY BETTER than one we could have gotten with a BA or MA? It's SIMPLY ABSURD. And we will be paying for it for the rest of our lives. It might not seem like such a big deal when you're 23 or 25, but when you hit your 30s and have (or want to have) a family, it's a bitter pill. I wish I'd had access to a site like this and wish people had tried harder to dissuade me from pursuing grad studies.

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  19. I could not have gotten a decent job without an MA in economics. A BA just wasn't good enough. Grad school was simply a necessity.

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  20. The unwise people use their extra student loans proceed to blow it on bars, clubs etc.

    The wise people use their extra student loan money to invest in the stock market.

    In the second case, there is no "opportunity cost" of going to grad school, since you will have as much assets as the one who work straight out of undergrad.

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  21. I second the claim that it's foolish to go into debt to get a graduate degree. As one who holds a PhD in mathematics, I am also stuck with nearly $100,000 of debt and no passion to teach as a professor.

    A commenter above spoke about passion for the subject. I have passion for mathematics! But I currently work as a software engineer, barely making enough money to pay the bills, with no time to work on my passion, and with my graduate loans growing in the background at about $1200 per year.

    Am I glad I learned so much mathematics? You betcha! But I probably should have stopped at a Master's and pursued something else...it was around then that I discovered that I didn't like teaching.

    For all those who say you shouldn't take debt into consideration, and just pursue education full speed ahead: you are a bunch of idiots and fools! Debt is very despiriting, and so is working just enough to pay the bills. If furthering your education means going into massive debt, followed by a very uncertain job market, you are stupid if you don't take that into MAJOR consideration when deciding whether or not to go into grad school.

    Oh, and if you ever find yourself not liking grad school--or even before you start--you should ask yourself "What will I do if I don't like it, or if things don't work out as planned?" When I decided I didn't want to be a professor, I still pursued my degree without giving this question much thought: I was too busy to think about it! It's been a rocky three and a half years since graduation, precisely because I didn't have a good answer to this question.

    And I still don't have a good answer. Which is why I despise that debt even more!

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  22. First off..As a graduate student in a top 15 nationally ranked program, this point or entire blog really doesn't hold up in my opinion. First off most GOOD or Top 50 graduate programs allow field practicum to interact and work among some of the most distinguished instructors/researchers in ones intended field of practice (So you will have job experience). Now who you think is going to get the job first, Joe Blow whos slaves 9 to 5 at a shitty job where his starting salary depends on no experience at all besides one senior year internship or The so called fool who took the easy way out as you may suggest and is offer a stipend to work over seas in Germany (I will be taking SW771 International studies on the practicum of improving international societies abroad in May!) I am attending a graduate program only trumped by USC, Columbia and UNC, and for each semester I am giving the opportunity to work among some of the most highly regarded people in my field. Not to mention the fact that my department offers a wide range of scholarships for my intended practice. Please, I'm from the quote on quote hood, the first in my family to graduate with honors and graduate PERIOD so I am DAMN proud to be in grad school! I have not met someone with a masters degree to tell me otherwise. As a former college football player, if you want to further your education, I say do it! I respect your opinion to as well, for we live in a country where freedom is always taking for granted, you should always speak your mind and allow freedom of speech .Your institution/grades/scholarships/ and department all play a part to deciding if grad school is for you. AND IF YOUR GOING TO DELAY YOUR ADULTHOOD, THEN YEAH GRAD SCHOOL IS NOT FOR YOU! BUT IF YOUR GOING to BETTER YOURSELF AND YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR PROFESSION THEN GO TO GRAD SCHOOL!

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    1. This is me speaking my mind.

      You can't even write a coherent paragraph with proper spelling and grammar, and you're not only a university graduate but are going to grad school?

      In the words of the Cisco Kid, "Are we black?"

      Delete
    2. how's life treating you 2 1/2 years later mate?

      Delete
  23. LOL at the last Anonymous comment. I understand your pride as you are the one with the weight of your family history on your shoulders.
    Best wishes and happy reading!

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  24. @6:23
    I don't think you've understood the blogger's point or the point of this blog at all, and your attack makes no sense since you state, "you should always speak your mind and allow freedom of speech."

    Be sure to visit your prestigious university's writing center before you graduate--your writing is atrocious for someone so proud of his education...

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    1. I suspect this was a drunk post.

      Having read it just now deeply under the influence, every skip and glitch made perfect sense.

      Haven't we all taken to the internet in our cups?
      :)

      I also recognize I am replying several years late. I hope one person has a good laugh seeing this someday.

      And by someone, I mean my very drunk self a few months from now who won't remember making this comment.

      Delete
  25. Apparently, you went to the grad school Bumbfucknowhere, Indiana so yeah not a lot of intelligence in Indiana.

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  26. "But I agree: don't go into debt to earn a PhD in the humanities - at least not unless the debt is very small, and you can't imagine doing anything else."

    This easily summarizes my attitude towards grad school. :)

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  27. My point of view on this is that the cost of going to graduate school will depend on the personal preferance of the person. Only the individual in question knows the cost of the forgone alternative for the item in question. Is getting a chance to study your subject matter worth the cost of whatever your next highest alternative is? Is the money invested in this venture worth the cost of forgoing your next best alternative?

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  28. If you don't go to grad school, you'll have so much more time to write moronic blogs like this one. -A Grad School Educated Idiot

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    1. I bet this blog has had a lot more impact on the world than your dissertation had.

      Delete
    2. Oh that was good retort! Cheers Anon 5:46!

      Delete
  29. If you don't go to grad school, you'll have so much more time to write moronic blogs like this one. -A Grad School Educated Idiot

    YESSSS!!!!!!!!

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  30. Particularly in the Humanities, if it's interest in or passion for a given subject area drawing you to a masters or phd, why not simply study it on your own? Why pay a university and take years out of your life for a piece of paper? I've had four articles published from my own freelance research, purely out of my own interest. I work half the year and spend the rest writing and travelling. Don't get sucked into a system of debt and ruthless competition with colleagues over something so meaningless.

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like a fascinating solution. Would you mind posting a link to your work?

      -DK

      Delete
  31. " I've had four articles published from my own freelance research, purely out of my own interest."

    Did you publish in academic, literary, or popular markets? Easier for humanities folks--STEM and social science folks would have a much harder time "flying solo."

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  32. "Did you publish in academic, literary, or popular markets? Easier for humanities folks--STEM and social science folks would have a much harder time "flying solo."

    Yes if you register a LLC or a non-profit org and publish under that name.

    Heck, there are engineering conferences that publish any paper, including machine-generated ones. Just group up with some of your drinking buddies and publish your "findings" there, and there you go the extra fat for your CV.

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  33. Try telling that to everyone in graduate school or law school. They are too busy stroking their own egos. In my law school class the other day, for instance, one student said, regarding the normal population: "They don't think like us law students." Even the professor laughed at that. But the students, they believed it. They think they are the cream of the intellectual crop. I blushed when that kid said that, for all of us.

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  34. Er... unless you get funding! Then you're being paid to get training, a degree and to do something you genuinely love and are passionate about. I wonder how many office block ninetilfivers can say that? My partner is currently on funding that would equate to around £26,000 as a real-world gross salary; realistically he could only ever match that in his first few years out of university... so I guess the stupid are elsewhere

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  35. soo... according to the premise of this blog (basically "don't go to grad school because you will leave in debt and you could start working years earlier"), why get an undergrad degree? Or go to high-school for that matter? There are plenty of positions for teenagers. Let's just all start working at 16, gain loads more time to make money and forget about higher education, intellectual development and all that nonsense! O.o

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    1. why get an undergrad degree? Or go to high-school for that matter? Precisely!

      We have forgot that going to school was not always mandatory for children. You don't need to go to a formal school to gain intellectual development and that is true for anyone from children to adults in post secondary education. Books are always available at the Free Library. Education has become institutionalized and it leads people to think that just because someone has spent years and thousands of dollars on a school they are so intelligent but it's not true.

      Delete
    2. I went to the library the other day.

      I couldn't find any Aristotle, but there were multiple copies of "How Opal Mehta Got Wild, Got Kissed and Got a Life."

      There wasn't any Washington Irving, but plenty of Stephen King.

      I couldn't find any up-to-date organic chemistry textbooks, but I did see "Chemistry for Dummies."

      There weren't any differential calculus textbooks, but there was a book of Sudoku grids.

      I couldn't find a decent microbiology textbook, but I did find two copies of "The Republican War on Science."

      This was at a major metro library, central facility.

      Delete
    3. Sure, and that's the only library in existence. Not to mention there's no such thing as the internet too.

      Delete
    4. Last I checked, unless I want my access to be tied to business hours and dependent on availability, I had to pay for the computer and internet access.
      Not free.

      Delete
    5. "Sure, and that's the only library in existence."

      That's SO true! I can go to an even smaller branch library that has more or less the same books as the ones I don't need at the central library. "We serve the public." This is why I can't even find Henry James but I can find a gazillion beat-up copies of "Carrie."

      I would go to the university library, but even as an alum I have to shell out $100s just to get limited 'community borrower' privileges.

      "Not to mention there's no such thing as the internet too." That's right, I forgot that the Internet is the Fountain Of All Knowledge and I can get everything I need - up-to-date textbooks - even the most obscure of obscure journal articles - for ... oh, THAT'S RIGHT, THE PUBLISHERS WANT $100s FOR THOSE TOO. Face it, the Internet is mostly about commercials and people posting ill-advised pictures.

      Our society is so f*cking dumbed down one has a snowball's chance in hell of actually rising above it, even with the institutions that are charged with safeguarding our cultural heritage.

      Delete
  36. Anonymous said...

    " I'm an American getting my PhD in Germany (in the sciences). Do not come to Europe if you want a good academic experience. Most professors see the number of students they "advise" as a badge of honor and so lab groups here are often 20-40 students."

    -it is the same in America, the tenure system here rewards quantity not quality in papers, classes, and graduated students
    http://ohiouniversityplagiarism.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  37. I don't know how common my situation is, but the FinAid numbers could be misleading because of people like me. I'm a Ph.D. student, have a tuition waiver and a stipend I can live off of, and had the same as an M.A. student. But I got out government loans both as an M.A. student and a Ph.D. student, not because I needed them to pay the bills, but to invest. If I'm going to be in school for 8 years or so, and can get loans that will not accrue interest and don't require repayment while I'm in school, I might as well make some money with those loans.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I just found this blog. I wish it was around 10 years ago when I started my postgraduate career. I wish someone with experience would start a blog about HOW to make a switch to something else - I have a PhD from an R1 British university - we don't use the same terminology but it equates. I have a crappy job in a city I don't like, miles away from anything, miles away from my family, I keep putting off children because I am not settled here so my clock ticks away and I have no idea how to leave a crappy salary that at least provides us (my husband also has a Phd in the same discipline from the same university) with food and health care.
    If I could afford it I would do a MA in something useful and get a job somewhere I want to live.
    There are a lot of blogs out there these days giving great advice. I urge you to listen to these pages.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Heres a good reason to add to the blog: It can make you hate something you otherwise loved.
    Say for instance you get a ba in art history, you graduate top of your program, your professors love you, you get to travel abroad, you write a senior thesis, etc. Obviously you should go to graduate school right? You are good at this shit, you enjoy it, people like your work. You are bound to succeed right? Wrong, for various reasons from departmental politics to financial problems to simply not being cut out for the competitive and often rather soul-crushing experience of having been told for years you are brilliant and then having people rip your every written word to shreds, you may fail at graduate school no matter how amazing you were at the same subject in undergrad. Graduate school is an entirely different thing. Sometimes if you really love something, and you want to continue to love it, you have to be realistic about it. Realize that, though you may never get to make a career out of your love for art, maybe the day after graduation is the day to walk away. To be happy that you had the chance to essentially "waste" (in monetary/career/etc terms, not in life experience) 4 years already on something you love. Look back with fondness and go out and get a tech degree in dental hygiene or something that will actually make you some money, not make you hate something you once loved, save you lots of time and heart ache and maybe even make you enough money that someday you can revisit those things you love, retire and be a docent at a museum, travel, collect, etc....
    Theres my very personal two cents

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, I completely agree. I think there's a lot to be said for going where you're needed rather than where you think you should be. If you're brilliant and destined for great things, I think you'll find ways to blossom where you're planted. Of course my theorizing may only apply to those who think they need to keep going to school in order to fully realize their potential.

      Delete
  40. the blog probably gives good advice, but for another perspective, im a grad student (in science), i make close to $40,000 per year with a fellowship, i don't work too much, i have tons of time for friends, i meet lots of people, i travel for ~2 months each year, and i love what i do. when i graduate i can get a job doing tons of different things. my point is, grad school is not always bad. for some people it can be really good. in the humanities, i think its probably much worse, but in science its really cool. the biggest problems i see around me are: people work too much, people date other grad students (2 body problem), and some social things. but in general, these are things you can directly control

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is an exceptional case. I am a grad student in the humanities, and no one in our department, even those on fellowship, make half that much. Basically, I'm learning that this is not the era to go for a PhD in the humanities unless you are a prodigious scholar who goes to a prestigious university AND willing to take a huge risk.

      Delete
  41. So by your estimation buying a house is stupid. Because you have to go into debt to buy a house. I think most people who go into debt for college/grad school see it like buying a house, its an investment that usually pays off. Now just like buying a house everybody is not guaranteed to make a profit.

    ReplyDelete
  42. A house is much better than a degree. For one, you can live in a house. For another, you can always rent the house or take in boarders. At the worst you can walk away and let the lender take the house, and wipe out your debt through bankruptcy. Can't do that with student loans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Essentially this is right - however, there are additional considerations.

      A degree does not continue to take tuition after it's earned.
      A degree is not taxed.
      A degree does not require upkeep and maintenance.
      A degree does not require utilities expense.
      A degree generally will not be retroactively revoked.
      The value of a degree is not dependent on what your next-door neighbors do.
      The value of a degree is not dependent on what government does (or doesn't do) local to the holder.
      Degrees are not subject to eminent domain seizure.
      A catastrophic weather event will not wipe out the value of a degree.

      Investors in either a house or a degree have time horizons to work with, neither of which is dictated by/responsive to the investor.
      Time horizons for property are variable and can be long-term, with multiple windows of opportunity possible.
      Time horizons to realize value for degrees are largely invariant and comparatively short-term, and generally only have a single window of opportunity lasting over a year.

      Delete
    2. Great post, but simplistic.

      A degree does continue to take tuition after it is earned if it is debt financed. Worse, it cannot be collateralized, which is why is is a practical impossibility to discharge educational debt in bankruptcy court.

      A degree is not taxed, but there are grand possibilities in our "tax everything that moves" age.

      A degree does require upkeep and maintenance, but it is indirect. You don't join IEEE or ACM for laughs.

      Same point with utilities.

      The degree will not be revoked, but again, in our batshit insane world, I can see the creation of "callable" degrees if Sallie Mae doesn't continue to get the gosh.

      The value of the degree is DIRECTLY dependent on what the next-door neighbors do. It is a social instrument, and the value you can extract depends on it's social perception. much more so than a house.

      Fascinating post, however. I hope to hell none of the credit risk folks at Sallie Mae read it, it will give them all sorts of novel ideas.

      Delete
  43. I wonder what I should've done: I am in a accelerated 1-year MA program at one of the nation's top institutions. I very smart, a decent performer, but I have and continue to be chronically indecisive. I will have a total of about $80k at the end of this joke of a program, though I will have a well-recognized MA in the Social Sciences. Almost every career I have ever considered has at the end of the day appeared to me exceedingly dreary (and before you cry "trust fund" kid, let me add that I come from welfare, and am the only one of four children to graduate high school, let alone college). Obviously, I think I have attitude/emotional issues preventing me from ever believing anything will bring me a measure of satisfaction or long-term enjoyment. But, it was go into this program, or "waste" another year doing dead-end work. What should I have done, my fellow grad students?

    ReplyDelete
  44. Pardon the numerous typos, I just got back from a run, and clearly my mind is a bit off-kilter.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Honestly the decision to go to graduate school really depends on the goals of the student. Some fields like Law, Medicine, and even social work, counseling, and teaching require a graduate degree for entry. If your passion is located in one of these disciplines (but you have to be passionate!), then by all means go to graduate school! In the harder sciences, the barrier for entry for a lot of jobs in industry (and of course academia) is a PhD, but then the job market really opens up and most PhD programs in the sciences are fully funded(however just having your masters is generally useless). Now I understand this blog is targeted towards the humanities. In that case, unless you REALLY want to be a professor, and have an incredible amount of luck to nab a tenure track spot, then all you're really getting out of grad school is a healthy dose of ego boost and quite a bit of debt. The bottom line is that grad school isn't always a bad idea...but sometimes it really is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why don't people here understand the difference between professional school and graduate school?? "Fields like Law, Medicine, and even social work, counseling, and teaching" are professions. You train for them in professional school, not grad school. All these folks who keep talking about how they went to grad school for two years, or their employers paid for grad school are idiots.

      Delete
    2. Idiots because they got their employers to pay for graduate school? So let's review their stupidity: 1) they have jobs. 2) they have no student debt.

      Just out of curiosity, do you treat everyone so poorly? Calling them idiots and so forth?

      How's that diss on meaningless obfuscation of critical wankery going? Here's a tip: if you haven't mentioned Foucalt at least 37 times in the first paragraph, you're going to have rough time of it when defense time rolls around in about 15 years. You idiot.

      Delete
    3. I think "idiots" was in reference to people making comments saying that their employers sent them to "grad school," when they actually mean "professional school," which is not the subject of this blog, and because they are basing their arguments on that mistake.

      Delete
    4. Honestly the decision to go to graduate school really depends on the goals of the student.

      ^ nailed it.

      Delete
  46. Never go to college. It's better to get a job. If you get a minimum wage job you can make $15,000 a year. Assuming constant dollars after four or five years you would have $60,000 in earnings as opposed to 60K in debt...and a worthless BA degree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing is people don't want to be stuck in those crappy jobs.

      I used to work at Sonic Drive-In when I was 19-20. My manager was only 27, he made decent money (I think in the 40K range) and got some profit share. Just through sheer attrition, you'd have to be a really sucky worker not to be managing a store after 6-8 years.

      I could have been a manager at Wal-Mart, worked there almost 4 years, they were talking about moving me up. I quit instead. Pretty good career progression - cashier 3 yrs, supervisor 1 year - they were going to move me up to spend 5-7 years as an asst. manager, move up to assoc. or co-manager after that. Work the politics and after 20 years with the company you should expect to manage a store, make $150K+ plus profit share (store managers at Walmart get HUGE profit share, an extra $100K in their pockets easy).

      But not all of us want to work at a shitty job our whole lives.

      Delete
    2. Hypothetically, a HS grad can be better off at retirement than a college grad.

      - HS grad earns lower average lifetime wages. But he can start investing earlier, and has no student loans to pay off. Let's assume a lifetime average wage of $30k, investing 10% of it each year (at an average of 10% annual growth) until retirement. That's about $2.3 million (18-62 years old).

      - College grad earns higher average lifetime wages. But he has loans and can't start investing until he's 30. Let's assume $50,000 average annual salary. 10% of which is invested from 30-62. That's only about $1.5 million.

      Delete
    3. Yes, but how many high school grads do you know are that savvy? I taught high school for years, maybe .05% of them were even capable of that kind of forward thinking at age 17.

      Also, if we could all earn 10% annual growth on our investments, we'd be enjoying our millions now. 10% per year is quite a pipe dream.

      Delete
    4. >I taught high school for years, maybe .05% of them were even capable of that kind of forward thinking at age 17

      Fair point. But isn't one of the responsibilities of teachers pointing students in the right direction?

      >10% per year is quite a pipe dream.

      It's only a "dream" to people like you who don't know the first thing about investing yet feel qualified to expound on the subject. From 1980-2010, the S&P 500 has grown by an average of a shade under 10% per year. Some years its up 40%, other years it's down 20% ... but an _average_ of 10% annual growth is very realistic over the long-term. Here are a few other funds with 10% or better average growth over a long period:

      http://www.thestreet.com/story/10385337/1/best-performing-funds-over-the-past-20-years.html

      Delete
    5. > "If you get a minimum wage job you can make $15,000 a year. Assuming constant dollars after four or five years you would have $60,000 in earnings as opposed to 60K in debt..."

      $15,000/year? But after expenses how much of this is left over? It ain't $15,000 unless someone else is footing the bill for your housing, utilities, food and transport. Let's also not forget insurance or the Obamacare uninsured fine, plus whatever miscellaneous medical expenses you may have that insurance doesn't cover. Also, don't forget that deadbeat Uncle Sam has his hand out for 20% mandatory withholding, and that state and local taxes take a chunk as well, most of which is NOT refunded.

      That $60K you allude to ain't money in the bank, it's gone and didn't buy anything other than time and that's assuming the person in question was employed constantly over that period...

      ***

      >>10% per year is quite a pipe dream.

      >It's only a "dream" to people like you who don't know the first thing about investing yet feel qualified to expound on the subject.

      Anon 8/18 is right - 10% average annual growth over US economic history is highly unrealistic. 6-7% is nearer the mark. Plus, the "Matthew effect" comes into play for investing: the richer investors tend to receive better investment advice and opportunities and may have less exacting opportunity costs. In fact, many funds have minimum investment levels that preclude participation by the masses (although there are investment vehicles that do not require minimum investments - I seem to remember Ben Stein advocating one called SPDRs for the modest investor - that track market performance).

      But frankly all of this misses one critical point. That H.S. graduate is NOT ASSURED ongoing employment, just as the college graduate isn't. Hence any projections about lifetime earnings based on some expected annual income - minimum wage or not - are worse than useless.

      Delete
  47. Hey there, You have done a fantastic job. I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am confident they'll be benefited from this website.
    Regards,
    J.H

    ReplyDelete
  48. While I can understand wanting to call attention to non-employable graduate degrees (humanities is the example), you forget to think of those programs which are employable. I am about to enter a PhD program for geology. Not only do I have a full tuition wavier, I have a stipend, and geologists have a near 0% unemployment rate. In geology hose who earn a MS or PhD have get paid more, have more employment options, and are more likely to move up. The problem isn't the debt students are taking out for graduate school, it's their poor major choices in their undergraduate careers which sets the stage. If you earn a BS in German or Russian studies, what kind of job do you expect to get anyway?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1) College professor (language, literature, linguistics)
      2) High-school teacher (language)
      3) Translator (business/government/literary)
      4) Social worker (for minority populations)
      5) Teacher of English as second language (in USA or abroad)
      6) Museum employee
      7) International policy advisor (business/government)

      To name a few. Many of these you can do right out of school with a BA, some require or would be benefitted by an MA (not necessarily in the same field), and some (professor) would require a PhD, which I do not recommend AT ALL. But the others are sound career prospects that are growing at a great pace due to international commerce and the changing face of global politics.

      Delete
    2. Yes, being a translator is a sound career prospect - except...
      1) You will compete with many, many people online for $8-10/hr jobs, rendering your hard-won 10,000-hour language skills less valuable than working as a minimum-wage fry cook at that famous Scottish restaurant.
      2) The third sentence out of your non-translator potential employers' mouths are, "Why can't we outsource this to [name online translation services]for competitive bidding?"
      3) The second sentence out of your non-translator would-be employers' mouths: "Why don't I talk to (blank), (s)he's a high-school student and waiter at my local [fill in ethnicity] restaurant and I'm sure he'd be happy for the opportunity."
      4) The first sentence out of your would-be employers' mouths: "Let's just use that free online service instead."
      5) The fourth sentence out of your soon-to-be former employers' mouths, "Heck, we can just use what (s)he's submitted for free and stiff 'em on the bill. And doesn't my name look great up there as the credited translator!"

      English teaching? Good luck parlaying that into a next act or different career, especially if you taught abroad!

      High school or college teacher (language): Are you a native speaker? No? You're not qualified.

      Social worker (minority populations): Are you a native speaker? No? We can't use you.

      Museum employee and international policy advisor: How connected are you? If you just have language skills then you can forget about it - it's the one "optional" thing that can be done without in hiring for these positions. Not even the US State Department hires for language skills.

      Delete
  49. The author of this blog, who is not surprisingly anonymous, makes some valid points but overall exaggerates many more. The fact is that many professions in the US today are in a crisis: Law, teaching, medicine, etc. etc. Doctors are leaving the medical practice in droves, and there are far to many lawyers for the jobs available to them. A phD in the humanities is therefore hardly an exception. It is difficlt, but can also be rewarding in at least 100 ways. I would not waste my time creating a blog to explore those 100 ways however, because ultimately, this blog is the product of bitterness. The anonymous author clearly could not hack the Ph.D process or the profession thereafter, and quit/dropped-out/failed. He now has spent countless hours producing this blog - essentially a symbol of that failure. He must be depressed, haunted, embittered at his collegues who succeeded where he failed, and now this is basically a desperate attempt to "get even" by demeaning the profession with what amounts to sweeping generalizations, and innacuracies, condescendingly (and smugly) written by somewhat who just could not compete. This blog is the result of a life failure. It should be read heavily salted, if at all. To everyone else, pursue your passion, work hard, and life will be rewarding. Don't become a pathetic blog "writer." Don't let your failure become you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the laugh, David. This response serves to underscore the plethora of narrow minded people in academia. It's not surprising that an academic would not understand why someone could dedicate time to an activity other than their research, such as a blog. Readers should thank David for stepping forward as a shining example of "Dr. I Drank the Academic Kool-Aid"/ "Dr. Extremely Bitter that Anyone Would Leave the Academy...AND WRITE ABOUT IT!" Here, David proves that many academics mistake their profession for a cult. Thank you. Now please go into your office and stay there. Forever.

      By the way, I am happy Ph.D. student in a top social sciences program. I only wish there were more students and professors who were able to acknowledge the negatives as well as the positives of academic life. There are more than a few creeps like David slithering around, being miserable and trying to make everyone else miserable too. Don't let them get you down.

      Delete
    2. Thank you Alice for your retort of this vacuous post. It is funny how people throw out their critical thinking skills and instead act like bombastic elites. Thus, it is great to read someone's response in which they understand the complexities of life, and therefore know that communicating about the myths and fallacies of academia is important in making an informed decision about whether to attend grad school. I know it would have benefited me; so I am happy to see this blog exists for those unsure of what to expect.

      Cheers!

      Delete
  50. I went to grad school in Mathematics on a teaching assistanceship with a tuition waver; direct cost: nil. While there was an opportunity cost, and while I did not reach my goal of becoming a college professor, my coursework and research *DID* prepare me for my eventual career in software development *MUCH* better than my BS in Math & Physics had.

    On the whole grad school was a big win for me. But I will concede that it was a hell of a wild ride that, in the end, deposited me far away from where I thought I had wanted to be.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Scholarship, scholarship, and scholarship.

    Don't go to Graduate School unless someone pay it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Couldn't agree more - let someone else get the check, and learn yer ass off some material you love.

      Delete
  52. I can relate to this post.

    Of all of the people to come out of my doctoral program, the only two people that ended up landing tenure-track jobs were about the last two I would have ever imagined would. Each were nice enough but they were about the most anti-social, weird people in the program. Terrible at teaching and workign with students. They also happened to be the most dogmatic when it came to their scholarship. Their work was a rehashing of what had been already done in the field for he past decade - nothing really new to contribute. And one of them had writing at was completely indecipherable jargon. And I considered myself to be a theory head at the time.

    As for the rest of the people in the program - they went off to work in government, teaching in other countries, and who knows what else. The few in the group that I was sure would have moved into academic positions lasted the least time teaching as adjuncts.

    ReplyDelete
  53. In science and engineering, go to graduate school only if you get fully funded. After all, you are going to conduct research that will benefit your principal investigator and the univsersity as an institution. It also means that the university and department think that your work is of some value (at least of minimal value).
    I am not competent to judge the situation in humanities and social sciences.

    ReplyDelete
  54. It seems appropriate to post a link to a TIME Magazine article here.

    "Highly Educated Have Biggest Debt Problems"
    by Dan Kadlec

    http://business.time.com/2012/10/25/highly-educated-have-biggest-debt-problems/

    ReplyDelete
  55. I found out (the hard way) that education is an industry. It's really that simple, in most cases. The education industry thrives on the ancient notion that college and post grad study is the ticket to personal happiness and financial success.

    In some ways it's true. In most ways, it simply isn't.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Do not generalize that pursuing higher education is not worth it. Some will be successful and others will not but even they will find something to do with the education they have acquired.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Graduate school in humanities may be delusional, but I've worked in the corporate world and I honestly don't know how you can fake your way through the day pretending to be interested in selling [fill in the blank] to [who gives a shit]. I understand having to make a living to pay for home, kids, but why is it such a stretch to want off that hamster wheel promoting accounting software for a couple years, and take a chance on a life of the mind?

    ReplyDelete
  58. i think mediocrity can be found in grad school as easily as it can be found any where else. so if intellectual satisfaction is your top reason for grad school, then might as well look for the BEST school. an academic insitution where critical thinking is rewarded and recognized by peers and profs.

    and even if one borrows money for his/ her tuition fee, so what? a masters degree, no matter how you look at it, is still worthy investment. the ideal is to be employed during gradschool to be financially independent, and scout for schools that have good value for money.

    ReplyDelete
  59. apparently, some overeducated folks have forgotten about the exponential function. So, let us explain:

    1) suppose that most PhDs have been successfully indoctrinated to pursue the ALMIGHTY ACADEMIC CAREER, the ONE AND ONLY PATH TO SALVATION. That is, they will pursue, at any cost, jobs as professors, otherwise they will think of themselves as "failures"

    2) suppose, also, that a professor produces, say, 5 PhDs, and each one of them produces 5 new PhDs, and each of these produces 5 others, and so on.

    Now, what happens? Combine it with the fact "education" may very well brainwash people, and you get all this psychological disaster. Someone should explain prospective grad students about all this.

    Many of you, given your skills, are just wasting your lifetime, when at the same time you could be having a much happier, fulfilling existence on this planet.

    Now, we're sure you are all very intelligent. However, the real question is: how wise are you?

    for god's sake, take responsibility for your life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  60. I think this depends on your field. In some fields you will not get a job unless you get a masters degree, so you either have to go to graduate school or pursue a different career.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I was in grad school for 5 years in the late 90's. The second most degrading experience of my life. Got two masters degrees, no PhD.

    I wish this blog had been around then, but I wouldn't have listened to it, as I was too arrogant then. The best thing good about grad school is that it took away my arrogance.

    I learned that the worst character trait in the world is arrogance and that universities are filled with the most arrogant people in the world.

    Everything this blog says is the truth about grad school, as I saw it.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Where are the smart people, then? I've been looking for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beam Me Up Scotty - There Is No Intelligent Life Here

      Delete
  63. Free Free Free. All Free

    people . all free free on internet/web

    univ of californa/univ of texas/univ of michigan.

    Tax money on public land. public colleges.

    Post on internet. world can see for Free.

    Tax money paid for public colleges on public land. Free free free for All.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It isn't free for those who pay the taxes.
      It isn't free for those who pay for internet access.
      It isn't free for those who have to buy the technology to access the internet.
      It isn't free for those who provided the content.

      Consider what "free for all" actually means.

      Delete
  64. I stumble on this page, it is fine article. Planning is important, first thing first; still, there is one fundamental step missing and that missing element makes the result uneasy to bring any lasting solution.
    There is one verse that I was told years before; it took me many years to take the full advantage of it. This verse has a great secret to unlock the biggest opportunity door and take maximum life’s treasures.
    I want you to get your blessings ASAP, please, meditate on this verse and try to experience the meaning personally. Here it is:
    “But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Mathew 6:33

    ReplyDelete
  65. The education blows. We get it. The problem isn't salary because salary isn't determined by your degree. Also, it's not the most important thing out there. Plenty of people give up high paying jobs for more satisfying jobs which pay less. To make money the measure of everything is sick and shallow. If you attend grad school for a higher salary, then get lost. You don't belong there. It isn't a trade school where you are rewarded for getting a degree. It's a place you go to for personal enrichment and this enrichement can, as a side effect, improve society.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it were about personal enrichment, then why pay thousands of dollars when you can go to the library for free?

      This blog is spot on. It stopped me from going into debt for grad school. I'm working at a university right now with my bachelors and they are footing the entire bill for grad school.

      Delete
  66. What can PHD buy at Walmart?

    What can PHD at Burger King??

    What can PhD buy at the Gas Station.

    What can PHD buy at KFC, Taco Bell or all the shops the local Strip Mall.

    Nothing. Nothing and still Nothing.

    All a $200,000 is a paper with pretty letters.

    The only paper Walmart wants is the US dollar.

    Job

    Job

    Job

    PhD still need jobs jobs jobs.

    5-PhD degrees will buy 5 buckets of chicken or 5 Tacos.

    ReplyDelete
  67. BS in Finance + CFA. Earn $200k a year in an exciting and dynamic field, pay $3k total for a CFA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Then watch your job go to India.

      You got played for a sucker.

      Delete
  68. Great blog...spot on

    ReplyDelete
  69. OK, borrowing $40k+ for an academic master's degree in the humanities is patently absurd. But you cannot lump in people borrowing for professional degrees from programs with good reputations, assuming the students have clear goals and realistic expectations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you can. Professional degrees are in many ways every bit as bad as an academic degree.

      Professional degrees tuition rates are frequently predicated on jobs that mostly have ceased to exist, and have been vastly inflated from there by student loans and expectations of high (or even just historically average) income, coupled with historically based expectations of continuity of income.

      Many of these loans *will never be paid off* because of their high amounts, 10 and 25 year federal loan forgiveness schemes, PAYE, uncertain ongoing employment and low wages/salaries.

      Add to this the restructuring of the American economy towards just-in-time service suppliers, part-time jobs, and wholesale relocation of industries and services, and you have a disaster on your hands.

      You wanted change, but I'm betting no-one signed on for what's coming.

      Delete
  70. two words : opportunity costs

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  71. I don't agree with number 1. I would say that number 1 would be: People aren't getting graduate degrees in humanities and sciences unless they are already working in those fields. As of right now, not a lot of people work in them.

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  72. Trying to get a job in the industry in my favorite field with a master's degree but PhDs consistently beat me to it. I keep coming to this blog to talk myself out of doing a PhD and try harder. Thanks a lot for the warning...err....blog!

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  73. While I appreciate what this blog is trying to do, it seems that its intended audience is upper middle class and higher. A lot of the statements about being able to make more money or achieve a higher social or economic status in alternative fields are simply no longer available to today's graduating student who hails from the lower middle class, working class, or underclass. Even some of the milestones, like marriage and home ownership, are no longer available to those in the lower socio-economic brackets. Yes, salaries are low in academia but consider what some of the alternatives are if you are not upper middle or upper class.

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    1. "Even some of the milestones, like marriage and home ownership, are no longer available to those in the lower socio-economic brackets."

      This is the problem with "economic redistribution/social justice" - the cost of the affected activities goes into the stratosphere, said activities then become unaffordable to many, and then inequality is in fact increased.

      Owing to contested joint property, alimony, and child custody issues in divorce, marriage is economically devastating to the majority of participating males. Marriage is one of the worst decisions a man can ever undertake, with a failure rate in excess of 50%, and impoverishing, highly punitive financial and social penalties. Reform is necessary here, but it will never happen.

      As for home ownership, the federal government's push to increase home ownership led to increases in money available for lending to increasingly marginal borrowers, and even pure speculators. The resulting game of 'hide the salami' as the affected banks tried to re-package obviously sour debt created most of the 2008 financial crisis. The end results are that rents are up, housing is beyond the reach of most first time buyers and home ownership has decreased.

      Meanwhile, the same thing has happened in higher education. A flood of loan money has entered the system, concurrent with public underwriting of millions of international students "because everyone should get the opportunity to go to college." The predictable end results have been tuition and fee increases that have outpaced inflation for decades. Now many of the best and brightest in our own country can't afford college, let alone graduate school - and even if they are lucky enough to have a job, they can't afford graduate school after years of work.

      BRING BACK MERIT-BASED SCHOLARSHIPS.
      END TAXPAYER SUPPORT OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS (at ALL levels).
      REDUCE RELIANCE ON STUDENT LOANS.
      REDUCE TUITION AND FEES.
      END "CREDENTIAL INFLATION" IN THE WORKPLACE - HIRE PEOPLE, NOT WISH-LISTS (also, END EXPERIENCE POACHING).

      These items and (many) more are absolutely vital to returning our higher education sector to sanity, and returning America to solvency.



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  74. I think before making statements about acquiring debt for graduate school, one must think about the repayment terms on those loans. In fact, for federal student loans, there are numerous programs where the amount you pay back on your loans is a function of your disposable income, not the amount of loans.

    https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans/pay-as-you-earn

    Consider that under the Pay As You Earn Plan, you only need to pay back 10% of your disposable income towards your loans. Such payments are reasonable and are not going to leave you in poverty. Also, under the Pay as You Earn Plan, you can also participate in the Public Loan Service Forgiveness Program, which will forgive your loans after 10-years of qualifying public service.

    Do smart people get in debt to go to graduate school. Yes, they do! If you have a passion for a subject and want to study it in depth, graduate school is a perfectly rational path, in light of the generous repayment terms on federal student loans. In contrast, dumb people make general statements about the horrors of acquiring debt without understanding the repayment terms that one will actually face upon graduating.

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  75. "Consider that under the Pay As You Earn Plan, you only need to pay back 10% of your disposable income towards your loans."

    10% over 30, 40, 50, 60 years = ? All while the original loan is compounding at rates as high (so far) as 6.8%...

    Let's face it, PAYE just added a giant boulder to the indebtedness of the graduates, without solving any of the underlying issues (e.g. cost of college, wage rates, unemployment levels for graduates, just to name a few). Tuition rates will continue to escalate as a consequence of this easing of payment terms. The cost to the borrowers will increase toward lifelong indebtedness. PAYE is not a solution, it's an aggravation of the underlying issue.

    While 10% of disposable income is hypothetically "reasonable," it IS nonetheless an added burden on the borrowers, who WILL forego necessary medical care, retirement investment, and first-time housing purchases as consequences.

    Truly smart people realize that the act of borrowing has consequences including as yet unforeseen future restrictions on their decisions, and that their capacity to repay their debts is dependent on a future that is entirely uncertain.

    Plenty of "smart" people borrow by making 'reasonable' assumptions about the future, and are undone by subsequent events, many of which are not particularly foreseeable. This happens all the time. Sometimes tens of millions of people are caught out by (for example) an unforeseen rise in interest rates. Many "smart" people have lost their shirts in such events.

    Slightly "smarter" people endeavor to calculate in the likelihoods of particular events occurring to their potential borrowing costs. The problem with adopting a role similar to that of a poor man's actuary is that this kind of assessment requires a certain degree of accuracy to be effective. More frequently than not one's sources of information do not justify such confidence, as they themselves are compromised by their own interests.

    As for the "Public Loan Service Forgiveness Program," not only does this endeavor to recruit human resources into a largely non-productive government sector, but also, given the likelihood that large amounts of loans of the hired will be publicly subsidized, is tantamount to rendering education of government employees an even greater public burden than it already is. Government employees should not be treated ANY differently in this regard than anyone else.

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    1. Consider the following from an article published in the Wall Street Journal, "When School Loans Hit Home" (Sat/Sun June 21-22 2014, p. A3). The article describes the impacts that high college and graduate school tuition rates and related loans are having on the nation's youth, and the likely effects on the nation's economy. One veterinary graduate has $450,000 (yes, that's $450,000) in student loans. Under PAYE, she intends to pay 10% of income (presently $6,500) over the next 25 years. This is less than 1.5%, likely much lower than the interest accruing on the loans. After 25 years she "hopes to have the remainder forgiven."
      If she goes into public service, the "remainder" will be forgiven after 10 years.

      This is not sustainable. Not in the least.

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  76. are smart people elsewhere? quite possibly. heres something this post didnt take into account.

    people pile up debt in their undergrad years. then we add grad school debt to the process. and this is just what we would call student loans. this does not factor in maxing out credit cards as well or any other stupid debt you might occur. you could easily be somewhere between 100-200k in debt and at the end of the day find a job to make 30k a year. this is obviously a fool's bargain.

    the other thing is the magical assumption that a degree makes you smart. anyone who has any experience being in school can tell you that it is far easier to BS A's than it should be. cheating and lying can merit an A quite easily.

    consider this, who is a smarter. the self educated man or the man with a degree? society always defaults to the man with a degree but never actually inspects the degree nor the man to see the facts bear this out.

    I am quite knowledgable on the constitution and it's history and the revoutionary war. why? because i enjoyed studying it on my own, yet society says I must actually get a stupid teaching degree to teach it. and society does this with basically anything all the while never questioning just what goes on to get a degree.

    grad school is basically undergrad school on steroids. in undergrad school you get no real world experience, grad school you get even less real world experience. so tell me? what can I honestly put on my resume as a behavorial science major with an emphasis in psychology? are a lot of places hiring people to write research papers? cause I got that **** down. but beyond that I've acquired nothing I can put on a resume. my entire resume reads like a load of B.S.

    everyone says school teaches you stuff....BUT WHAT DOES IT TEACH YOU????

    I can go be an apprentice and learn how to be a carpenter, work on cars, sign up for the military. but getting a degree at school...WHAT AM I LEARNING????? what does grad school actually teach anyone??? where is any of this endless round of research papers one must shit out actually apply to anything useful in the world? if i become a psychologist at what point am I ever going to be with a patient and honestly use any of the Bullshit "taught" in school?

    the other thing is just how mind numbing it all is. as the blog notes there is a cost to your health and sanity. one just does not retain information or learn anything when one's health and sanity has fallen apart.

    heres why smarter folks are elsewhere. they know damn well what takes grad students 10 years to do to get a degree to get a job in a specific field, could be done in a year if you just cut out all of the mindless bullshit. thats the biggest lie they tell you, that all this mindless bullshit is neccessary, that it actually takes 12 years to learn to be a doctor. no it doesnt. it doesnt take 12 years to learn any damn thing on this planet. 12 years to become a master maybe, but you could easily be working the field gaining ACTUAL experience under the hands of an actual master in the field, where as with school you only read about it and write a report on it so many times you'll come to hate life, your degree, and most of all you'll hate yourself.

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  77. I saw on another site this morning a posted opinion that grad school is more like high school than undergrad. As someone who enrolled in grad school expecting an experience that transcended all previous educational echelons, I completely agree. The smart people are indeed elsewhere.

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  78. This whole list is horseshit (or the 15 or so points I have read). Now don't misunderstand me if you get a PhD in womens studies or philosophy this list is true. However there are a lot of good graduate programs out there that do pay off. Its about knowing what the job market wants. Yes you could go get a PhD in philosophy or you could take the same amount of time and get an MD, JD, Pharm.D or engineering degree. The smart people are somewhere else, mostly the things I just listed (and of course others like them). Stop putting down higher education and get a higher education that is actually worth something.

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    1. Read the description of the blog under the heading: "This blog is an attempt to offer those considering graduate school some good reasons to do something else. Its focus is on the humanities and social sciences."

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    2. Education can do a lot for you if you know how to make it work for you. The problem is that people who are too inexperienced and naive to make good judgment calls are regularly encouraged to make decisions that could ruin their lives. Most people who go and get a Ph.D in women's studies don't realize at the start that the deck is stacked heavily against them. It's easy to say they should, but that is coming from a perspective more worldly than that of the K-Ph.D student.

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    3. Let's consider this list of "practical alternatives" carefully:

      If you get an M.D., you will pay far more in tuition, after which you will balance your professional work with paper pushing so as to be in compliance with ACA and other ill-considered "reforms," and pay through the nose for insurance. Many M.D.s are quitting the profession because of these two reasons alone.

      Get a JD? You'll pay a premium in tuition and then have a shitty, underpaid work life while trying to pay off loans. There is no shortage of minted lawyers presently, and many of these are scrabbling for employment. Law students may aspire to "Boston Legal" lifestyles but for the overwhelming majority, they're looking at decades of "Better Call Saul."

      Pharm.D.? Last I heard, Big Pharma was aggressively downsizing and sending everything offshore that it could. Lots of unemployed chemistry PhDs who used to work there are now wishing they'd done something else.

      Engineering degree?
      For a while, petroleum engineers were making really good money at graduation. Unfortunately pet.eng. is a boom/bust field and now there are lots of unemployed pet.eng. grads who wish they'd done something else.

      EE? You'll have a career that lasts 20 years if you're lucky. What you do with the other 30-40 years of your life is up to you.

      IE/ME? The job market is flooded. I can attest that many grad programs in IE are filled with international students in any case.

      Civil is not so bad, provided there are lots of infrastructure projects taking place. It is questionable whether a fed gov't that owes $20 trillion can afford any, or whether underwater state and local gov'ts can afford any. My guess is, there's not going to be any major building programs anytime soon anywhere on the planet.

      Chem. eng. isn't too bad but lots of hiring for chem.eng. is petro-industry related.

      So yes, pay attention to what will pay off - just be aware that the payoff for ostensibly lucrative careers is not likely to be anywhere near what most people envision - and that includes medicine, law, and engineering.

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  79. I think "being smart" and "having good judgment" are different things. I was encouraged to borrow $150k to go to my college mentor's law school. Was I stupid? No. Was he? No. Did both of us exercise execrable judgment? Yep. The good thing is, I'm young enough that I can recover from that terrible mistake with 20/20 hindsight. He, apparently, still has his head underneath a butt-shaped item of millinery and is probably encouraging more and more young followers to emulate his illustriously poor judgment.

    I wish I'd known all this back when I was just a normal smart kid with no debt. But now I'm both smart and have good judgment. Better reward than the degree, IMO.

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  80. I was raised in an abusive environment which actively discouraged logic, examinations of cognitive bias, and simple common sense, and so when I attended two years of graduate school only to fall prey to most of the perils I've read detailed thus far on this site, that in and of itself was not enough to make me abandon ship. All my life I had been told to get as much graduate education as I possibly could, and indeed people yelled at me less when I got more good grades and talked about getting more education, so I forced myself to continue.

    The day finally came, however, when at the age of 24 I sat with a course schedule, trying to decide how I would spend my days during my first semester in a doctoral program. It made me ill. I had already been sitting at desks all day every day for 20 years, and sitting at a table for untold hours doing homework and projects as unilaterally decided by faculty, and I could see there was basically an expectation that the dishes were going to wash themselves and my friends would be happy to come to my graduation in four or five years even though they probably wouldn't recognize me anymore. Now, again, I was raised to discount my own feelings and wants as well as my own perceptions so I told myself "that's life. Quit whining."

    But if they planned to take this much control over my time, what of my finances? I ran the numbers and realized that even if I became wildly successful in my chosen profession right out of the gate, worked full-time, and spent money on nothing but the most basic of necessities, I would have to live that way until I was somewhere around 40 just to get rid of the debt. And then...what if I didn't find the success I needed right away? I was confident in myself but not in the world around me.

    And so to my abusive family's outrage, I left grad school...and I'm so glad I did.

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