I'm pretty busy, actually, but what the hell, I've always got time to kill when the words/phrases "disposable" and "waste of time" are uttered in the same breath as "PhD." If someone is going to sum up my worst fears so aptly, why not indulge?
|The PhD: another disposable item polluting the planet.|
"In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia," says the Economist. "It is an introduction to the world of independent research--a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects."
*Editor's Note: You've heard it before and now you're hearing it again. The PhD is just a basic requirement. It's nothing special. You may have spent 6-9+ agonizing years trying to finish the damn thing, you may have put yourself into debt and gained a ton of weight, but the doctoral degree is nothing to write home about.
"[But] one thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. . . . Some describe their work as “slave labour”. . . . Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. . . . The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes."
"But universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. . . . Indeed, the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships."
"Proponents of the PhD argue that it is worthwhile even if it does not lead to permanent academic employment. Not every student embarks on a PhD wanting a university career and many move successfully into private-sector jobs in, for instance, industrial research. That is true; but drop-out rates suggest that many students become dispirited. In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years after their first date of enrolment."
"In the humanities, where most students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49%. Worse still, whereas in other subject areas students tend to jump ship in the early years, in the humanities they cling like limpets before eventually falling off. And these students started out as the academic cream of the nation. Research at one American university found that those who finish are no cleverer than those who do not. Poor supervision, bad job prospects or lack of money cause them to run out of steam. Even graduates who find work outside universities may not fare all that well. PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to have little interest in students who are leaving academia."
*Editor's Note: What about pay, you ask? Surely a Ph.D. should increase one's earning potential over time? Well, not by much.
"Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3% premium over a master’s degree. . . . The skills learned in the course of a PhD can be readily acquired through much shorter courses."
*Editor's Note: OK, so the salary still sucks. But what about the love? What about the dream? Isn't it worth it to live the life of the mind 24-7? Hmm, maybe in movies? Maybe??
"Academics tend to regard asking whether a PhD is worthwhile as analogous to wondering whether there is too much art or culture in the world. They believe that knowledge spills from universities into society, making it more productive and healthier. That may well be true; but doing a PhD may still be a bad choice for an individual. The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned."
"Many of those who embark on a PhD are the smartest in their class and will have been the best at everything they have done. They will have amassed awards and prizes. As this year’s new crop of graduate students bounce into their research, few will be willing to accept that the system they are entering could be designed for the benefit of others, that even hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed, and that they would be better off doing something else. They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that."
*Editor's Note: Someone should. But if they did, they'd be even more unemployable than the rest of us.
Irrespective, happy holidays from On the Fence!!