Monday, April 18, 2011

55. There are too many PhDs.

The reason that there are so few jobs to be found in academe (see Reason 8) is not because there are too few colleges, universities, departments, or programs. If anything, there are too many. The problem is that the number of available jobs is vastly outnumbered by the number of people applying for them. There are simply too many PhDs produced every year for the higher education establishment to absorb them all, despite the absurd degree to which it has absorbed them into jobs that have nothing to do with traditional research and teaching. Today, universities hire doctors of philosophy to be in charge of their dormitories, alumni associations, and police departments.

Colleges benefit from this situation, because there are so many well-credentialed people desperate for teaching positions that they will work for very little money. This would not be such a problem if the world outside of academe had more use for people with PhDs (see Reason 29). The fact that it does not is why there are so many people with doctorates who now find themselves working in part-time temporary teaching positions with no benefits (see Reason 14).

A new report from the American Association of University Professors describes the situation:

In all, graduate student employees and faculty members serving in contingent appointments now make up more than 75 percent of the total instructional staff. The most rapid growth has been among part-time faculty members, whose numbers swelled by more than 280 percent between 1975 and 2009. Between 2007 and 2009, the numbers of full-time non-tenure-track faculty members and part-time faculty members each grew at least 6 percent. During the same period, tenured positions grew by only 2.4 percent and tenure-track appointments increased by a minuscule 0.3 percent. These increases in the number of faculty appointments have taken place against the background of an overall 12 percent increase in higher education enrollment in just those two years.

Meanwhile, the number of people clambering to fill these jobs continues to increase. In November 2010, the National Science Foundation reported that 49,562 people earned doctorates in the United States in 2009. This was the highest number ever recorded. Most of the increase over the previous decade occurred in the sciences and engineering, but the NSF’s report noted a particularly grim statistic for those who completed a PhD in the humanities: only 62.6 percent had a “definite commitment” for any kind of employment whatsoever. Remember that this is what faces those who have already survived programs with very high attrition rates; more than half of those who start PhD programs in the humanities do not complete them (see Reason 46).

The PhD has been cheapened by its ubiquity. While students in traditional PhD programs at research universities now take upwards of a decade to complete their programs—as they struggle to fulfill the labor requirements of their teaching appointments—others are swiftly completing accredited PhDs online. These degrees do no carry much weight in the academic hierarchy (see Reason 3), but they do increase the number of people calling themselves “doctor.” One might not think that illegitimate colleges or “diploma mills” pose much of a threat to the integrity of degrees, but consider the fact that hundreds of federal government employees purchased fake degrees and successfully parlayed them into promotions and higher salaries.

Perhaps most scandalous is what legitimate research universities have done to devalue the PhD, which is now awarded in fields ranging from hotel management to recreation and (most ironic of all) higher education administration. In the meantime, universities continue to lower standards for graduate degrees. The traditional American master’s degree—which once required a minimum of two years of study, the passing of written and oral comprehensive exams, as well as the writing and defense of a thesis more substantial than many of today’s doctoral dissertations—has been dramatically watered down. Will it be long before the PhD suffers the same fate?

For graduate students, it takes longer and longer to earn degrees that are worth less and less. And after the years of investment required to obtain those degrees, they are met with a job market with little to offer them, even as the popular culture is increasingly inclined to mock them (see Reason 43).



103 comments:

  1. Hate to tell you this, but the current technical PhD degree has been seriously watered down.

    Few programs have a Foreign Language requirement.

    Many programs are simply tweaks to the Major Professors' PhD thesis with nothing of substance being added to the general body of knowledge.

    We are getting to the point where people know more and more about less and less and are rapidly approaching the limit where everyone will know everything about absolutely nothing.

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    1. :D
      To know everything about one thing is to understand nothing about anything.

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  2. Excellent post. I agree with pretty much everything. Since a university education is becoming more and more academic, and less and less generalized, it can be frustratingly more difficult to find employment as one completes higher and higher levels of education. The link to a PhD in hotel management basically captures this point pretty well.

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  3. It's frustrating because now a PhD is seen as a reasonable requirement for positions that absolutely don't need one. So, if I'm toying with the notion of quitting grad school to pursue positions in admin or something, NOT finishing could in fact be a liability... even though my PhD would likely have no logical connection to that work.

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  4. I am glad I am not in that race any more. Four hours away from ABD. It was just more and more nonsense. I don't need it, I'm retired.

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  5. Years ago, I met someone who told me he was getting a PhD. Cool, I said. In what? "Recreational Planning". The wife had to kick me to keep me from laughing.

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  6. Social Sciences? There is no such thing. Now, Social Studies, I might buy. If there isn't Math involved it ain't science.

    - No PhD. here!

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    1. I felt your comment specifically deserved a reply. I think I understand the intent of your statement, but I think you should familiarize yourself with, say, an actual definition of science. Like, from the OED: "A particular branch of knowledge or study; a recognized department of learning." or "In a more restricted sense: A branch of study which is concerned either with a connected body of demonstrated truths or with observed facts systematically classified and more or less colligated by being brought under general laws, and which includes trustworthy methods for the discovery of new truth within its own domain."

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    2. Nowadays, math is involved in everything. Take economics for instance. Heck, there's even a Nobel for it. But does a single economist know jack-shit about how to solve the economic problems of the world. Nope. A 100 economists would give a 100 different answers and they'd all fail.

      If Physics were as much of a science as Economics 'is' then we'd still be rolling balls on an inclined plane.

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    3. yeah there r social sciences... thats my major... economics s one of those social sciences .. there s math n economics....

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    4. Social sciences do involve maths e.g psychology involves the use of statstics get your facts straight

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    5. Neither does most branches of Biology, yet we call it a science.

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    6. ^ Name one branch of biology that doesn't use math in research.

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    7. @Anonymous Dec. 5, 2012 4:11 PM:

      Psychology uses math, but the idiots which populate the discipline don't know how to use it. When I did my capstone research project in undergrad, went to my faculty mentor to have him show me how to use SPSS.

      I had two conditions, A and B. To differentiate between the two conditions, I assigned a variable, cond, which was 0 for participants in A and 1 for participants in B.

      The variable was a dummy. It didn't represent any change; it was a descriptive term. When I went to format our data into tables, my mentor created a variable "other_measurement x cond".

      Now what would a smart person do in this situation? Well, first of all, there can be no "other_measurement x cond". There are two conditions, A and B. You need two variables, "other_measurement x A" and "other_measurement x B". Those variables were defined as the average of other_measurement for a given condition.

      What did my mentor do in this situation? He created one variable, "other_measurement x cond" and defined it as the average of all other_measurements multiplied by their condition variable.

      So, "other_measurement x cond" really meant:

      ((other_measurement1 x 0)+...+(other_measurementj x 0)+(other_measurementj+1 x 1)+...+(other_measurementn x 1)) / (number of participants)

      By the simple observation that all the other_measurements multiplied by zero will equal zero, we have:

      ((other_measurementj+1 x 1)+...+(other_measurementn x 1)) / (number of participants)

      In non-math terms, what this means is that my mentor set all the other_measurements for people in condition A to be zero, instead of the value we observed them at in our experiment. He essentially changed half my data and gave me the green light to publish it (which I didn't, because I really didn't find anything and it would have been unethical).

      This wasn't malice or fraud on his part; when asked for the reason he manipulated the data that way, he said it was explained to him as convention.

      I can't count the number of times I've heard grad students complain that they need to run every test in the book to get significant results. I know that at least one full professor at my university conflates significance with strongly correlated results (p < .05 does not mean that r is strong enough to say that there is an effect, yet authors still act as though the fact that their results were significant means that they are documenting a meaningful interaction). Psychology uses statistics in the same way that toddlers use paint; neither of them are very good at it.

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  7. I've always wondered why you would need a PhD in Elementary Education Administration.

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    1. So that you can become an Elementary School principal

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    2. ... and get paid more.

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    3. I believe this person was stating that there is not a need for an elementary school principal to have a Ph.D. I agree with this, what the heck are you going to learn with a doctorate in this area that you could not learn with a bachelors and a masters?

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  8. The last paragraph of this post sums up quite a lot. Good job!

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  9. Google "PhD in recreation" to see that there are many well-known schools who offer such programs. Egad. Last week I heard a women mention her daughter was getting a PhD in wedding planning.

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  10. I have an idea for another reason not to go to grad school, you could title it 'What if you are successful? Now your life really starts to suck.' Let's say you are successful and you get a job (in the sciences for this example). You will be required to teach entry level science classes. After the first couple of tests you will be inundated by crying and desperate undergrads claiming you ruined their chances of getting into medical school. Then you may get a call from the parents! This actually happened to my colleague every semester.

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  11. My favorite, and the one I wish more people would come out and say.

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  12. In my experience, most students go to grad school because their employer requires an MA or MS for a raise or promotion. If teachers were awarded pay raises on merit instead, the bottom would fall out of higher ed.

    About 15% of our grad students write a thesis as an exit option, and this is standard in the US. IMHO that degree is nothing more than an advanced BA.

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  13. "In my experience, most students go to grad school because their employer requires an MA or MS for a raise or promotion."

    These employer-encouraged programs are usually "professional school," not "grad school" per se. A distinction that neither undergrads nor some on this list make. There is a world of difference between a terminal masters in social work or engineering, where you (attempt to) master a well-defined skill set which applies to a trade, versus stumbling around for a decade attempting to embrace "the life of the mind" and say something new about obscure, in applicable topic X. No employer that I've ever heard of required or even encouraged their employee to go get a doctorate in cultural studies. It's preparation for a whole new career in academia. Training for jobs that don't exist, granted...

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    1. I know a couple of people who got a masters in social work (not sociology i guess, but are they different? And even if I get railed on this, know now that I don't really care.). These people got masters of social work as counselors (something like that). Anyways...they have good jobs as counselors and make good money. Just saying.

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  14. arg. obviously i meant "obscure, INAPPLICABLE topic X." nothing like railing against higher ed and then proving that you could use more of it!

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  15. There is no glut of PhDs. You have it backward: universities, like other American employers, decided that they did not want to pay employees decently, so they converted good, full-time positions into many more crappy, part-time ones. It is not the number of PhDs that led to the creation of these positions. If universities stopped using grad students and adjuncts, poof!... no glut of PhDs. They NEED these people to teach, so stop with the market-driven BS. The truth is much worse and should make us angry.

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  16. I should clarify my previous comment. What I mean is that there is less and less opportunity for employment in general as one moves along from Bachelor's to Master's to a PhD. Of course, many PhDs are supposed to be professional training in an academic field, so it might make sense that career prospects outside of these fields is reduced. However, it's worse than that: having a PhD (or even an Master's) can actually be the one thing that prevents employment in many other fields. Even if you have experience, are motivated and willing to "start at the bottom" or take a pay cut, having that advanced degree might put you out right at the beginning. This is highly detrimental if you decided to make a career change away from academia, or you cannot find employment within academia.

    The PhD in Hotel Management is really a striking example. Suppose you complete this program. You find that there aren't many Hotel Management programs in colleges wiling to hire you, but you also aren't hired to actually work in a hotel or other establishment because you're simultaneously overqualified and underqualified at the same time.

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  17. @anon 8:54 Your argument would be more effective if there weren't so many adjuncts WITH PhDs. Yes, if all of the part-time positions were combined and divided into full-time positions, working conditions would be better for more people...but I'd guess there'd still be PhDs without academic jobs.

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  18. @Anonymous 8:54

    Do you not understand how the market works? If there are too many Ph.D's competing for limited positions, there will be more people who can negotiate lower standards of living and will accept lower wages, which is beneficial to the universities. If there were way less Ph.D's, their skills will be more rare and marketable so they'd have the upper hand in negotiations. Unless the demand for Ph.D grads dramatically increases it's not a surprise that wages and positions remain stagnant.

    This is reality in ALL jobs. Why would you think people with Ph.D's have special priveleges?

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    1. You don't need a PhD in Econ to understand basic supply and demand. There are more PhDs wanting jobs than there are jobs. So some people won't get one. This log is not about how grad school or the job market Should be according to some ideal that. What undergrads need to know is what thie situaion is. And it's this: too few jobs.

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  19. @JMG 9:07

    Well said, JMG! I think this is something that many prospective (and failed) academics never fully grasp: more education isn't always better. Being overqualified can make you unhireable.

    I think this is where the status thing kicks people in the ass. Grad students hang in despite the many drawbacks (such as being overqualified for employment in a market in which they are unlikely to get the job for which they trained) because they think someone will eventually call them "Doctor" and that the alleged status of the doctorate will offset the unemployability, reduction in lifetime earnings, adjunct exploitation and other deficits associated with pursuing this path. You can see it in grad students who blindly plug along, obediently fulfilling the requirements of their program, but without taking any significant steps towards professionalization (like academic publishing in quality journals). Attainment of the degree/letters becomes the goal itself.

    If one's goal is simply learning, the public library awaits. Admittedly, I live in a big city, but my public library is better stocked, better staffed, and quieter than my university library--by far. I've learned more by myself in the quiet hours there than dodging the slings and arrows of those psychos in my program's hostile, pointless seminars. If the goal is publication, journalists are far more prolific, and often achieve more in terms of real world impact than academics do.

    But instead, I fear that for many grad students and prospective grad students, the goal is some lofty, prestigious position--half extinct, half mythical. Try getting the manager of the local porn shop to call you "doctor" when you're reduced to stocking his shelves to pay rent.

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  20. Anonymous 8:54 here

    @Eileen: Get rid of TA positions and combine adjunct positions (many of whom are cobbling together more-than-full-time positions at multiple universities) and you will come up with a shortage of Phds.

    @Anonymous 10:30AM: You're playing the wrong game. Cut the number of PhDs willing to work for crappy wages and the bosses will either import perfectly qualified doctors on H1B visas the way Bill Gates imports computer programmers or they will outsource the courses via online frameworks. In fact, both of these options are already in effect. What you fail to realize is that it is a global "market" now, in which capitalist bosses call all the shots as a result of a 40-year class war.

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  21. Anon @8:54 here... I'm not sure why my previous post disappeared.

    @Eileen: Convert most TAships and adjunct positions into full-time positions and there will be a shortage of American PhDs. Think about how many adjuncts pull more than a full-time teaching load at the moment.

    @anon 10:30: The market will operate any way we want it to. Right now, governments suppress the rights of workers in favor of corporate elites. The truth is that American PhDs are now competing with PhDs internationally because we allowed the CEOs to get far too much power. You stopper the flow of American PhDs and there would still be more than enough smart Indians and Chinese willing to work for peanuts on H1B visas or via online offshoring to replace all native PhDs. In fact, the head honchos are already well on their way to making this the new reality. The market is a social, not a natural, environment. We need to decide to force the CEOs to come to heel.

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  22. What upsets me about this situation is that there is so much dishonesty involved. Maybe it should be characterized as "passive" dishonesty, but departments never go out of their to explain to grad students the ugly realities of the job market.

    Instead, they advertise their "high placement rates" (which don't have to be very high to compare favorably) and often emphasize how many different types of jobs their PhD graduates get after graduation. What they don't tell you is how long those people were unemployed before they found jobs that they never anticipated having, and didn't need a PhD to get.

    There are usually individual profs who will be honest with you about reality. On the other hand, there are too many who have their whole self-worth wrapped up in their career and "noble" profession and can't bring themselves to be honest about it with themselves, let alone anyone else. Besides, they want grad students to grade all the work that they assign.

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  23. Anonymous 10:30 here

    It is not "evil" that CEO's look for Ph.D graduates internationally. After all, Ph.D graduates, whether domestic or abroad, are people too and it's not wrong that they try their best to land a decently job. CEO's will always look for producers (whether intellectual or manual) who have the most skill at the most efficient price. If someone from China gets a job offer over somebody equally competent from the US that is not morally wrong.

    Rather, it is more wrong that universities and some professors outright cater to the ego of uncertain undergraduate students (who more than often have no idea what they want to do with their lives) and tell them to pursue that Ph.D despite the fact that it is not financially sound. Just because you are more schooled does not mean you have the "right" or entitlement to a secure job.

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  24. Anon @ 11:59 Great comment and I agree that departments need to inform their students of these realities rather than being dishonest or "passive dishonest", as you put it, about the bleak job prospects upon graduation. Perhaps there is *some* responsibility on behalf of the student to learn about these realities themselves, but I honestly can't completely step away from the feeling that I have been tricked into this system only to be spit out again

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  25. @anon 5:45: You might as well just stop arguing. You won't convince me that being greedy leads to virtue or good. Capitalism, particularly the kind practiced by international corporations is morally repugnant, vastly inefficient and horrifically damaging. There's no reason why we should tolerate the parasitic sucking away of the lifeblood of smart, altruistic and/or doggedly persistent people. The solution is to elevate the conditions of the less fortunate, not to allow some people with money to feed off those with less.

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    1. Capitalism is not the problem.

      Communism, particularly the kind practiced by people's republics is morally repugnant, vastly inefficient, and horrifically damaging.

      Socialism, particularly the kind practiced by single-party dictatorships is morally repugnant, vastly inefficient, and horrifically damaging.

      See what I mean?

      People with money feeding off of those with less inevitably occurs under states that consider themselves communist, and states that consider themselves socialist.

      Capitalism, however, has by far contributed the greatest good to the greatest number, and has yielded the lion's share of technological advances that you enjoy today.

      The issue is one of the maintenance of the ETHICS and MORALS of the actors in question.

      Delete
  26. Anonymous 10:30/5:43 here

    @Anonymous 8:23

    You know you could have debated with me calmly and relatively professionally if you had wanted, but I'm not going to waste my time if you reduce yourself to name-calling me and my beliefs while generally avoiding the content of the statements that I and this blog have made.

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  27. April 20, 2011 5:45 PM
    Anonymous 10:30 here

    

"It is not 'evil' that CEO's look for Ph.D graduates internationally. After all, Ph.D graduates, whether domestic or abroad, are people too and it's not wrong that they try their best to land a decently job. CEO's will always look for producers (whether intellectual or manual) who have the most skill at the most efficient price. If someone from China gets a job offer over somebody equally competent from the US that is not morally wrong."

    [NS: You're talking about American CEOs looking for foreign Ph.D.s at the cheapest price, I gather. Even your language is deceptive.

    Of course, it's morally wrong. It's illegal, as well. A Ph.D. in Red (or even Free) China has no right to that job. Federal law says that employers are obliged to offer jobs domestically first, and may not offer them to foreigners, if qualified Americans are available. But morally vicious, criminal employers simply ignore the law, because that's what crooks do.

    And libertarians lie about every aspect of the business, and revel in the Rule of Crime.]

    

"Rather, it is more wrong that universities and some professors outright cater to the ego of uncertain undergraduate students (who more than often have no idea what they want to do with their lives) and tell them to pursue that Ph.D despite the fact that it is not financially sound. Just because you are more schooled does not mean you have the 'right' or entitlement to a secure job."

    NS: Do you not see the contradiction between your first and second paragraphs? You had already stipulated that the American candidate was as competent as the Chinese.

    What is it with you glibertarians? I hear this routine all the time. You've rationalized cheating and waging war on qualified American workers into a moral crusade, and then further refined your rationalization into a furious hatred of American non-plutocrats, at least the white ones. I'm sure you would never talk in such a calloused manner, even anonymously, about uneducated blacks.

    I seem to recall brilliant, patriotic libertarians like the late Milton Friedman, may he rest in peace, but see only lying, morally vicious, America-hating glibertarians today. Is my memory playing tricks on me?

    Nicholas Stix
    http://nicholasstixuncensored.blogspot.com

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  28. Anonymous 10:30 here

    "What is it with you glibertarians?"

    I'd really appreciate it if you kept the ad hominem attacks to a minimum. If you're getting a Ph.D I especially hope this is not how you counteract your fellow colleagues in your field every time you disagree with them. I do not appreciate that you insinuate that I am some morally incompetent being when you can't be respectful yourself. And are you seriously playing the race card with me? You don't even know what ethnicity I am or where I come from.

    That being said...

    I never assumed right away that an applicant from China was already better than someone from the US. I was only explaining under the assumption that both were equally competent but that the one from China was willing to work for lower wages. It is not just CEO's who hire foreign Ph.D students. It is also the universities and research labs (a.k.a. the people who give out the degrees in the first place) who also hire/accept these students/graduates. Have you been to a large research university recently? How many foreign post-docs are there? How many of your TA's were foreign students during your undergrad years? Are these students "taking er jobs" from potential American students? Yes. But is that an immoral thing? I don't think so, so long as the students have the appropriate visas. Many of these students are amongst the most hardworking (if not extremely jaded) people I have ever met and I have had a great pleasure working with many of them. If I am to understand your reasoning, you'd rather deport all of these students back to their countries since they are taking our jobs, is that correct?

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  29. wheee! this debate is great! at least we're not talking about how fantastic it is to have sex with undergrads any more.

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  30. Having sex with undergrads is fantastic... I'm doing it right now!

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  31. Anon 9:31,

    We are now, thanks to you...

    As for this post, it's pretty much the most difficult thing to accept for me about the reality of getting a PhD. This one and the post about Universities being an economic engine really get to me.

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  32. "As for this post, it's pretty much the most difficult thing to accept for me about the REALITY (emphasis mine) of getting a PhD."

    I think that's the most important function of this blog (at least ostensibly designed for prospective grad students): injecting a little reality and thereby diffusing the dopey idealism that draws many of us to commit to an utterly impractical path. I certainly don't think that nobody should be applying for doctorates; I simply think such a path should be undertaken in the same way one might follow one's passion to a potential career in acting, music, writing, or any other creative field where you go in knowing that chances are you aren't going to make it and you will need a backup plan to get by. If you know at the onset that after 6-10 years of academic training you may end up "retraining" as a massage therapist, yoga instructor, or exotic dancer (all jobs graduates from my program have assumed) and still want to go for the doctorate, so be it.

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    1. I think that dopey idealism is what has brought forward ideas like the lightbulb, democracy, and communism. I'm currently working on my Ph.D. Don't worry I have no intention of trying to invade the marketplace. I simply just wanted to learn something, explore, reflect, think, collaborate, and share new ideas with a community of practice. I don't regret my decision for 30 seconds to pursue another degree, and plan to continue taking classes towards other degrees and certifications in the future. The more you know the cooler life becomes, not because your bank account fills up, but because you realize how fragile yet durable, mysterious yet logical, tragic yet heroic the world actually is.

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  33. Reality check about too many PhDs = good.

    Comparison of pursuit of academic career to career in the arts = inaccurate.

    I've written about why this comparison is inaccurate here:

    http://afteracademe.blogspot.com/2011/02/stop-comparing-careers-in-academe-to.html

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  34. I've read the arguments posted on your (4/25, 6:01 a.m.) blog and don't agree that the comparison between academics and artists is problematic. To begin with, there is a lot of overlap between the arts and the academy, so these are not "separate spheres." I'm not going to go point by point, because flame wars are tedious and annoying (the reason I introduced a little distracting levity at 9:31), but also because I don't intend to attack you, especially given that I've agreed with many of your posts throughout the previous 50-something reasons.

    That said, I particularly disagree with the premise that academics' investment somehow trumps artists'. I just attended a group show in a major city's star museum and noted that many if not most of these "major artists" earned BAs AND MFAs from pricey private schools--the kind without TAships and full rides. We're talking upwards of 6 figures for the BA alone. Few had doctorates, but the majority had MFAs, which are also becoming increasingly important for writers (at least those who wish to be taken seriously and develop the connections required to make a serious go of it). Virtually everyone I know outside academia is associated with the arts in some way, and they make many of the same sacrifices that aspiring academics do. They also usually have dedicated over a decade to honing their craft BEFORE getting to the BA/arts school stage.

    I do agree with your assertion that "It is a myth that there is a clear and well-defined line of merit – in both academe and the arts – between those who 'make it' and those who do not." This is the big news for many prospective academics--it's not a meritocracy. And it's a truth that tenured profs actively conceal from the prospectives, so it's worth repeating. But as you (sort of) concede, this is in fact a reason why the comparison is valid. Regardless of talent and perseverance, the odds are against us, so you/anyone should pursue an academic path only if your heart is in it and you can't imagine doing anything else with your life. Then you should work on imagining doing something else.

    To make this comparison is NOT to say that the structural fuckery of academia shouldn't be addressed/remediated/dismantled.

    What I do resent, and I am absolutely NOT saying that YOU in particular have made this argument, is an attitude I've observed amongst some in the humanities that suggests that their work (critiquing and analyzing literature, art, film, etc. in academic journals that are read by few and inaccessible to most) is more important and superior to the work of those artists, writers, filmmakers, and others who actually produce creative work that broadly impacts our culture. "Ew, they let production people in my film studies class." "Well, that poem certainly couldn't have taken you long to write."

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  35. @Nicholas Stix, April 20, 2011 11:02 PM

    Let's be clear on one thing: this glut of PhDs is NOT the result of international students coming to America. It is a result of our student loan system.

    First, we make student loan money easy to get--thus, if you want to pursue that PhD in English, it's easy to say "I'll just get a loan, and have a go at it!"

    Second, loan providers have no incentive to ask "Hey, won't this person declare bankruptcy after five years of flipping burgers with his PhD?" because student loans aren't bankruptable.

    Thus, it becomes easy to get a PhD, and not think about the consequences afterwards! At least, not until you're flipping burgers, or adjuncting at three different classes, or taking that entry-level position you should have taken ten years ago--because at some point, you're going to run head-on into the Law of Supply and Demand.

    And this "wonderful" student loan system was set up by our Federal Government!

    Oh, and I would add: at least, on some level, comparing the glut of PhDs to those of the arts is appropriate, because both have the same problem: a lot of people wanting to make use of their talent and/or training, but not enough people needing that talent. The result: a handful of "superstars" who got lucky breaks, with a lot of suffering underneath!

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  36. I left my doctoral program in the sciences to attend law school. I left with a masters. I don't regret it although my job prospects would probably be much better if I had stayed in the Ph.D. program. If you think that law school is the ticket, you are seriously misinformed. There are no jobs in law presently. In contrast with the Ph.D. degree (at least in the sciences), a law degree will set you back probably about $200,000 (not including undergrad). It is a major crapshoot and your employability will depend, to a large degree, on where you went to law school as well as your grades. Bottom line, the grass isn't always greener. The main issue I see today is that people don't think enough about the area that they are studying with respect to marketability. I was studying for another bar exam this summer and I was studying at an area private college. I kept on running into doctoral students studying all sorts of ridiculous topics. Labor relations, ministry, English, etc. Invariably, I would walk away from the conversation scratching my head, thinking this guy/gal is never going to get a job. There may not be any jobs in law right now, but at least I can go off on my own. As a Ph.D., generally you will always be beholden to some other jackass. I bought the graduate school Kool-Aid. No more.

    ReplyDelete
  37. @Anon 10:15AM

    LOVE your post :)
    As a prospective MFA and a current creative writing major, I can't tell you how nice it feels to get a little respect from an "academic".
    Following your passion is "following your passion," no matter what that passion is or however risky.

    ReplyDelete
  38. The glut of PhDs isn't limited to the humanities; it's commonplace in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, too.

    A friend of mine is a tenured professor at an not-so-prestigious college here in California. Their math department had an opening for ONE tenure-track professor--PhD in math required--and they received over one thousand applications! Oh, and the job paid about $40K/year in a high cost-of-living area.

    Another friend is at a small, liberal arts school in the Midwest. He teaches physics. Their department also recently had a job opening: over 400 physics PhDs applied, many of them having earned their degrees from Ivy League or other top institutions.

    In short, your chance at a tenure-track job is practically nil, even if you're not going into the humanities. Unless you're graduating from Harvard, Stanford, Caltech, MIT, etc., you stand no shot at a tenure-track professorship.

    ReplyDelete
  39. @ Anon 1:49AM

    I'm sure you would agree that there is a crucial difference, still, between the STEM graduates and the humanities graduates. I would think that most STEM graduates can translate their technical training into something in the private or public sector -- into something outside of academia.

    A possible drawback, perhaps, is that I wonder if businesses would be intimidated by a PhD in accounting versus a MS and just opt for the MS. I would think this is a possibility, but it doesn't entirely preclude an accounting graduate from getting a real job.

    ReplyDelete
  40. "Another friend is at a small, liberal arts school in the Midwest. He teaches physics. Their department also recently had a job opening: over 400 physics PhDs applied"

    Amazing. You would think physics would have real world applications.

    At the history dept where I got my MA, they had a tenure track opening and got about 200 applicants, although only 100 of them had a background that was germane. Still, 100:1 odds are not good.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I think you may have missed the mark.

    Just penning some thoughts:

    1) Capitalism: Higher Education as a business

    2) Composition & quality of students pursuing graduate studies.

    It seems as if people are socially engineered into pursuing graduate studies if they don't get the job they're looking for, or the job market isn't doing well. The option of higher education comes off as an escape route, or perhaps an enabler for them to attain distinction / achieve their life goals. These sort of people may inherently lack the substance to contribute meaningfully to a PhD-level job. (2)

    This forwards the point that a significant proportion of doctrate candidates may be the leftover after the pickings from the commercial world, who've swipped the cream of the crop long before they even finished their undergraduate studies. Perhaps as a result of (1), higher education institutions are more willing to accept "lower quality" students for (a) monetary benefit, (b) gov't endowment, (c) to fulfill much needed roles in the functioning of a university, etc.

    In this case, their paper qualification, though rigorous, insufficiently compares in the market, resulting in a glut, or them netting jobs wherein they're simultaneously over and underqualified. (Or wrongly qualified)**

    **Note, lets call them wrongly-qualified instead of over&under qualified. Worst of all are bad quantum superposition jokes.

    When equipped with a PhD, it doesn't reduce your job opportunities. At this point, s/he should be sufficiently qualified to create her/his own opportunities. Many doctrate theses I know of could be, and was, turned into a commercial product. I'm in the science & engineering field though; may not be able to say the same about some courses mentioned here.

    Nay! Rather I'd say the problem lies with the person.

    There's always a need for one with a PhD, and a good head on top of one's shoulders.
    But the head perhaps more important.

    ReplyDelete
  42. and (most ironic of all) higher education administration.

    Served on a search committee lately?

    ReplyDelete
  43. "If there isn't Math involved it ain't science."

    As a scientist, I would have to disagree with you 100%. It all depends on what TYPE of science you are doing. Microbiology and other types of "laboratory" style sciences, yes. There are many other forms of science you are not taking into account.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If math and chemistry are involved, then it's a science.

      If they aren't, it isn't.

      Delete
  44. There apparently are not enough PhDs in Accounting. Is this true? Or is it propaganda?

    http://www.accountingweb.com/topic/education-careers/help-wanted-accounting-phds

    If a Business school doesn't have enough PhD's on faculty, they will lose their AACSB accreditation, so they have an incentive to hire PhD's, even though they could hire MBA + CPA to take their place.

    This guy apparently did research on this, and confirms the shortage.
    http://www.jrhasselback.com/AtgDoctInfo.html

    So, is there an accounting professor (with PhD) shortage or is it propaganda?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the AACSB accrediation issue is no longer true. Because the organization have loosen up the requirment. There is no longer a Ph.D requirement.

      Instead, schools can hire MBA+CPA that can preform lectures and research.

      Delete
    2. Yes, a university can hire a MBA+CPA as Professionally Qualified (PQ) faculty, but they must have more than 50% Academically Qualified (AQ) (PhD) faculty to retain AACSB accreditation.

      http://www.aacsb.edu/accreditation/business/standards/participants/standard10.asp

      "At least 50-percent of faculty resources are academically qualified."

      "At least 90-percent of faculty resources are either academically or professionally qualified. "

      Delete
    3. Accounting shouldn't even be considered a University field, there is nothing academic about it. If schools can hire a MBA+CPA to teach, then the study for the accounting field should be on the job.

      "The specific effect of the MBA has been an explosion of enrollments in economics, the prebusiness major. … The prebusiness economics major … is not motivated by love of the science of economics but by love of what it is concerned with. … There is nothing else quite like this perfect coincidence between science and cupidity elsewhere in the university."
      -Allan Bloom "The Closing of the American Mind"

      This is all the more ironic since the explosion of the business major has lead to a society that seems to bogged down in the economic realm. Perhaps it has to do with the Cartesian philosophy permeating modern American thought, that the whole is just the sum of the parts with nothing on the outside.

      Delete
    4. It is true. I work at a business school, and we are always looking for Accounting professors with a PhD. There is also a high demand for Finance professors and to some extent Management and Marketing as well.

      LG

      Delete
  45. With regard to the comment in the post stating:

    "The PhD has been cheapened by its ubiquity. While students in traditional PhD programs at research universities now take upwards of a decade to complete their programs—as they struggle to fulfill the labor requirements of their teaching appointments—others are swiftly completing accredited PhDs online. These degrees do no carry much weight in the academic hierarchy (see Reason 3), but they do increase the number of people calling themselves “doctor.” One might not think that illegitimate colleges or “diploma mills” pose much of a threat to the integrity of degrees..."

    It is debatable as to whether my hybrid PhD will fall into this category based on individual opinion. As far as time of completion, I am now in year nine of my program so my tenure as a doctoral student is equivalent to that of a traditional PhD student. I would also hope that any "regionally accredited" online college or university that awards PhDs is not automatically categorized as a diploma mill. Such schools have been identified by the FBI and have been or are in the process of being shut down. So in sum, due to the fact that I'm pursuing a hybrid doctorate at a university that does not boast a stellar reputation in academia, I still personally feel that the element of rigor that I have endured in my dissertation process, and the publishing record of my committee legitimizes my degree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it interesting. After reading many of the replies the theme that intertwines among each is fear. Fear that someone, or some group, or some institution will relegate one's degree as watered down, unacceptable, or that industry won't accept the degree.

      How shallow can so many people be that that they are something other than a grounded human being when they have a doctoral degree. When I started the doctoral program I had one or two motivations - become better qualified for promotions, make it easier for my manager's to justify raises, etc. Now as I approach the end - two courses remaining then ABD - the journey has been primarily one of discovery. Now my motivation has changed to one of intellectual fulfillment. Really. Shouldn't that be enough for everyone.

      Is the forever searching human so low in self-esteem that one needs an employer or a college tenure track to prop them up. When you've earned your doctorate, regardless how many there are in the US, it is no longer about you - it's about everyone else.

      For all of you out there that haven't realized it yet in your doctoral journey or for those that have your doctorate and still not realized the truth you will be forever seeking that which will never be found - yourself.

      Delete
    2. Well, pardon us for wanting to eat and have a roof over our heads.

      Delete
    3. There is another word for what he's talking about...with "Now as I approach the end the journey has been primarily one of discovery."

      In non-academic talk we call it:

      Jaded.

      Delete
  46. Do they have Graduate Diploma's in USA? Maybe they call them something different, anywho... If you can get over yourselves and get over the (non-existent) stigma of leaving academia ("such a shame!") by entering the (not that awesome, I guess) "real world"....well a one year course in something practical and well paid and well respected and in demand, will see your happiness quotient shoot through the f'ing roof!

    "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich???????" - probably is a snooty thing people say to academic types, but there's a fair bit of truth in it. You can get yourself quite rich in a 10 year in-demand career...then you can wank-about as a bookish expert in your chosen speciality. You might not even have to comply comply comply with the fad's & fashions of the field, as an older/paying customer. I might do that when I'm 50....a pretty good hobby for a rich 50yo imo, phd'ing. Not a good career move but.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I have a PhD in EE (thank god I got scholarship and no loan) and now I work selling burgers, writing music sheets and selling electronics components online... I find that business even small scale gives more satisfaction, personally and financially.

    If I have a kid, the first thing I teach him/her is how to do a business.

    Education is overrated, and yes its only a business...

    ReplyDelete
  48. Man, it must suck to major in unemployment instead of the hard sciences...PhD's make a lot of sense for a talented researcher. I'm getting paid for my degree and I'm pretty well set for decent-paying jobs as a molecular biologist. Gov't, academia, industry, pharmaceuticals, the list goes on...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I majored in a social science, but I am on the tenure track at a great university, making excellent money with excellent benefits and I enjoy my life. Hard sciences don't corner the market on occupational success after the degree.

      Delete
    2. I am in engineering. But I still have to say you are being a total a**. (talking to anonymous February 24, 2012 4:40 PM). Our world needs technical people and scientists. But all industry also needs good communicators (English, history, communication studies...), public relations (advertising, poly sci., English, etc), human resource people (English, psychology, sociology, ).

      Society needs people to help the underprivileged (social workers, counselors, teachers) and people to help us with our criminal elements (criminal justice, sociology, etc)

      We don't need all these people to be PhD's, but I don't want to imagine a world where everybody is like me (engineering minded).

      Delete
    3. Anybody who buys "there is a need for _____ " has already been played for a sucker.

      There objectively may be a need for ______. That doesn't mean that people who meet that need are going to have a living wage, or even get paid at all. Any trumpeted shortages in ________ may even merely be a function of media and market manipulation.

      Delete
  49. Regarding the original post - yes there are diploma mills but diploma mills and online degrees are not one in the same. I am amazed by the snobbery and lack of knowledge of so many in the academic world regarding how one learns or earns a degree. I have taught and have learned in brick and mortar and have worked with people from both venues. Face to face is not the holy grail of education. I would argue that online is actually harder. Before those who have never taken an online course critize and demean it I suggest they put their research abilities to work and actually learn about what they speak of before rendering a decision based on their prejudices. It is the 21st century.

    As far as too many PhDs you might be right. I would rather hire someone with a masters and experience then a PhD who has never held a job. Nothing personal but
    they can speak to the issues and answer questions.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Online works well for the students who were always going to do well in the first place. It doesn't work well for the ones who aren't disciplined to begin with.

      So for those students who *might* have turned around, say, after the 2nd exam in a brick and mortar class - if the class was online they likely would have dropped.

      There's still something to be said for the acts of going to class, actively listening and participating, and focusing for 1-1.5 hours. Some people need the structure. Some don't - and online would work great for them.

      Delete
    2. Because every kid that goes to a brick and mortar actually sits there the whole time and pays attention? I know far too many students that are on Facebook and the like

      Delete
  50. Believe me, not all Master's degree programs are watered down. I have an MBA, it was two years full time, I had written and oral exams, and made enough high pressure graded presentations to send most people to the psychiatrist for anti anxiety meds. I have to agree with you, I don't understand one year master programs. Can you master a subject in one year?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's good enough for the tech firm that wants to promote 'Barbie' to CIO.

      Delete
    2. I also don't believe that all grad programs have been watered down. The workload for mine has been very rigorous.

      That said, I think entrance standards have been watered down for many programs. What I think happens is that people who shouldn't be in grad school (can't do grad level work) are admitted anyway because its job security for the program administrators and professors. Then those of us that are willing and able to do grad level work end up pulling the lamestains through with all of the silly "group" work that is assigned.

      I really regret doing a program that doesn't require the GRE or some other entrance assessment. I was bamboozled by the program's accolades and reputation. I have had to do alot of fucking "group" work with people who can't read and write beyond an 8th grade level.

      Delete
    3. TEAM is an anagram of MEAT.

      Delete
  51. I agree with much of this but the exploitation of adjunct faculty is the biggest scandal. It's a serf system, a separate but unequal scheme to enrich tenured Ph.D's at the expense of the worker bees holding only a Mastsrs degree. My Masters got me adjunct poverty wages but I left that world when I finally understood that no amount of effort and excellence on my part would lead to promotion, security or better pay. Academia is not an escape from the real world, only a much more draconian version of it.

    ReplyDelete
  52. However, i believe getting a phd will help you get laid more.

    Life is not only about money

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I believe in World Communism.

      Money does not come to me.

      Delete
    2. Are you kidding???? Do teenage parents have phds? Phds will make you virign.

      Delete
    3. "However, i believe getting a phd will help you get laid more." But only if you use it to play doctor.

      Delete
  53. Phds are too mainstream #fail

    ReplyDelete
  54. As a non-Phd, my perspective may be a little off, but here goes...

    If a PhD is training new PhD's, the replacement ratio for new PhD-trainers is a about 1 over a 30 year career. In addition, if maybe 5% of bachelors go on to PhD, given student-faculty ratios, that might account for an additional 2 PhD's to train at the undergrad level. This is maybe a bit high, but would account for masters track teaching as well? In any event, it would seem that each PhD training future PhD trainers would need to train about 3 PhDs over a career to replace the pipeline.

    Everyone else gets to get on the grant treadmill, or else go into industry, i.e. anywhere but a teaching job.

    The sick thing is that, if you are in the business of training PhD's, you really need to train more than 3 in your career. (Otherwise, your department/university can't support you financially.) Disciplines that are lean on grant money (read: no obvious economic benefit) have to train more than replacement, since they can't generate revenue through grants. And, disciplines that are rich in grant money (e.g. life sciences) use grad students as slave labor to support the research efforts of the non-teaching PhD's who earn the grant money. This also results in an excess of trained PhD's, who may or may not find research opportunities post-doc.

    I understand that industry is supporting the training of some PhD's, which should promote some balance.

    One aspect of all this over-supply is that there ought to be, and probably is, a strong culling effect. We train too many, see which ones are really good, and they end up being the next generation of researchers/teachers. The rest we throw away to industry/applied work, lower level teaching, or just to fend for themselves.

    Gee, sounds kind of like how professional football and basketball players are trained!

    ReplyDelete
  55. There is a 0% unemployment rate for a PhD in Pharmacology. I'm halfway through mine and have a guaranteed job with the govt lined up already. Your education is what you make of it. I love what I do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. until they decide to import a flood of H1B visa holders, then game over.

      Delete
    2. But then, there are always drugs to turn to.

      Delete
    3. Ditto the H1B visa remark. We're selling America's future up the river for short-term profits.

      It'll happen.

      Delete
  56. The major problem is baby-boomers who refuse to retire or didn't set aside a college fund for their loser children that are still living at home! That's the main reason that there are too few positions. Moreover, tenured professors are impossible to release because of collective bargaining contracts that guarantee work until the day they die!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid that it's much worse than that. If all of the Baby Boomers retired tomorrow, and every one of their positions were filled with new people, there would still be an enormous glut of PhDs.

      Back when the Baby Boomers were hired, there were ALREADY too few jobs for the people coming out of grad school. In the years since, the number of PhDs has skyrocketed.

      You can blame the Baby Boomers for one thing. They've known about the job crisis their whole careers, but once they were a position to do something about it, they only made it worse.

      Delete
  57. STEM: scienc, tech, engineering, math, medicine.

    humanities

    social sceinces

    arts.

    FREE FREE FREE AT PUBLIC LIBRARY/PUBLIC INTERNET.

    Folks. all this material is Free free free.

    No one needs to pay a single penney for this.

    FREE FREE FREE AT PUBLIC LIBRARY/PUBLIC INTERNET.

    FREE FREE FREE FOR ALL...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would you like to trust a doctor who graduated from internet tutorials?

      Delete
    2. Know what a "free-for-all" really is?

      Delete
  58. Ah - not so. Many billions in tax dollars and donations support these edifices - however inefficiently.
    They weren't free to the donors, they weren't free to the contributors, and the upkeep and maintenance are likewise not free.
    Consider what "free-for-all" actually means.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Aside from adjuncts, the other serfdom is being a Teaching Assistant. Tenured faculty teach less and less meaning they need to recruit more PhD students to be the TAs. When the puny stipend isn't enough, they have to borrow from the government in loans which is a money making machine for them. No incentive to not do this.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Some people are trying to change the world, you know? Just because you're running a shitty blog doesn't mean you have to discourage people to get educated.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Getting a PhD (or any other degree, for that matter) != getting educated.

    People who "are trying to change the world" don't necessarily improve it. In fact, most of those who want to "change the world" do not understand what it is they are changing, how their actions affect what it is they wish to change, how their actions affect other aspects of the world, and in many cases even why they want to change it.

    ReplyDelete
  62. This is literally the stupidest post I have read in my entire life.

    ReplyDelete
  63. You are all stupid shits.

    ReplyDelete