Thursday, January 21, 2010

Job land

The only thing harder than finishing a phd is using that phd to get an actual, honest to goodness job. Getting a job in any field is hard enough, but getting a job where that phd is a wanted asset--that phd that you spent the better part of a decade acquiring--now that's really hard.

I'm somewhere in the middle of job land. It's a weird and awkward place. I know so many other grad students and recent phds who are there too. I'm competing with people I like and respect for one of only a handful of jobs. I wish the profession was different, but I don't see any change coming immediately, with the number of phds produced each year so far outstripping the number of jobs available.

Actually (and this is part of a much larger rant), I get pretty mad at what I see as irresponsible graduate education. I don't think most people, when they start grad school, have any real idea of how difficult it is to get a job in academia. It's hard, and I don't think most grad schools are very upfront about how hard it is. Then again, why would they be? Most schools rely on very cheap grad student labor to teach. Knowing that 80 or 85% (I can't remember the actual number, but it's awfully high) of people who start phd programs won't get jobs in academia, would, I think, be a big deterrent. Most won't even finish the phd. If you manage to actually finish the phd, you then pretty much have to be able to wait around for a few years before you get a real (tenure-track) job, taking one-year positions or post-docs if you can get them. And this is after the years of grad education where you're not really earning (but at least hopefully you're not being charged for--in fact, note to potential grad students: DON'T GET A PHD IF YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT!). I'm very lucky, in that I was funded for grad school, and I'm coming out the other end with no debt. If I get a job, it'll all be golden. But I can tell you, if I ever have any students thinking about academia as a career, I'll make sure they know what all is involved, and what the prospects really are. It's not that I don't think anyone should do it (I'm here, aren't I?), I just want people to know what they're signing on for.

Back to the monstrosity.

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