Thursday, January 14, 2010


Over the past few weeks, many friends and colleagues have sent me a link to this article by Thomas H. Benton who makes a good case about why most students planning to do so should in reality not go to grad school. If you're an undergraduate or returning student thinking about going for a PhD, especially in an overcrowded field like anthropology, you should definitely read it, as well as its companion piece on the need for current PhD students to think about unconventional ways of succeeding with a doctorate.

If you need additional information on why getting a PhD might not be such a great idea unless you're willing to sacrifice a good chunk of time for little reward, consider this figure published last week in a piece by Mike Mandel:

Out of all people with post-secondary degrees, the mean earnings of those holding a doctorate have fallen the most dramatically (ca. 10%) from 1999 to 2008! Now, maybe those with a PhD make more money to than a BA-educated worker to begin with (although whether that's the case in academia could certainly be debated), so that they still make a more comfortable living. Nonetheless, that's a pretty significant drop in the standard of living of PhD-holders, one that certainly should make one wonder about whether or not the return on your time and money investment in going for that PhD will be worth it in the end.

On an aside, I wonder whether or not this includes adjuncts or lecturers that are not the tenure-track but nonetheless qualify as full time workers based on the number of courses they teach. If so, this could certainly help explain part of the trend. Nonetheless, that this trend in post-PhD employment is having such an impact on the figures as a whole should serve as an additional bucket of ice water to be doused on students eager to pursue a PhD!

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