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hi there, i’m a long-time lurker and I’m trying to figure out which schools are on my list. Rutgers is one of my top choices but I recently got an ‘aim higher’ lecture from a current prof and I’m feeling a bit confused. I know it’s well regarded, so why in the world do I need to aim higher? I’m probably not getting into an Ivy League (like most people) so I don’t want to chance a shutout by not applying to other good schools. 

So, does anyone know whether Rutgers’ reputation has changed recently (I.e. gotten better or worse)? Just trying to figure out why this prof would feel this way. And congrats to all of the Rutgers admits out there— it’s my dream school and for what it’s worth I’d be ecstatic to go there! 

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What's your future goal with a PhD? Look at Rutgers' placement rates, they're pretty damn solid and I think they are very well regarded. But is it either/or? Apply to Rutgers as well as a couple of top-10's and some lower ranking programs that are strong in your AOIs. There are no guarantees in this game anyway.

17 minutes ago, Downtoncrabby said:

I’m probably not getting into an Ivy League (like most people) so I don’t want to chance a shutout by not applying to other good schools. 

You should definitely be aware of yourself, your academic record, and your strengths (and weaknesses), but don't unnecessarily discount your ability to get into a top school. You should definitely not apply to ivies/to-10 schools alone, since even if you're a perfect candidate you could easily not get admitted. This is a little bit of a numbers game, and luck factors in big-time imo. Also, it's unlikely that all ivies/top-10 schools would be a good fit for you. But some probably would be, so why not take a chance? If your professors think you have the potential to get accepted to a top-ranking school, I'm sure they know what they're talking about.

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Just now, beardedlady said:

What's your future goal with a PhD? Look at Rutgers' placement rates, they're pretty damn solid and I think they are very well regarded. But is it either/or? Apply to Rutgers as well as a couple of top-10's and some lower ranking programs that are strong in your AOIs. There are no guarantees in this game anyway.

You should definitely be aware of yourself, your academic record, and your strengths (and weaknesses), but don't unnecessarily discount your ability to get into a top school. You should definitely not apply to ivies/to-10 schools alone, since even if you're a perfect candidate you could easily not get admitted. This is a little bit of a numbers game, and luck factors in big-time imo. Also, it's unlikely that all ivies/top-10 schools would be a good fit for you. But some probably would be, so why not take a chance? If your professors think you have the potential to get accepted to a top-ranking school, I'm sure they know what they're talking about.

Thanks for your response! Yeah, I’m really worried about getting in anywhere. I’m an okay student at a tough liberal arts school, but I also know my prof mentioned above is older and got their PhD right out of undergrad at an Ivy League, then got a tenure track job pretty much while they were writing their dissertation. I want to be in academia, and of course get a tenure track job, but for now I’m also thinking about where the research that excites me most is going on, and that’s Rutgers. 

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I think @beardedlady makes some fantastic points. While I can't speak for all of Rutgers' placement rates, I do know that they have a great early modern department and consistently get their early modern graduates t-t jobs at highly ranked schools. If I were you, I would take a look at their record and see where students in your field have been placed recently. Rutgers is not a top 10 institution, but it is a top 20, and from what I understand carries with its name quite a bit of prestige.  

That said, if I were to do this process again, I would apply to a number of schools, both top-10 and otherwise. As an international applicant, I decided (erroneously!) to apply only to ivies/pseudo-ivies this cycle out of the belief that these sorts of schools would justify my choice to pursue secondary education abroad. I was really lucky to be admitted to one program and made first on the waitlist at another, but wished, in retrospect, that I had applied more broadly, because it would have been nice to have more choices right now. The admissions process is so capricious and so hard to predict and there are so many factors outside of your control, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try! And I agree with what's been said above: if your profs say you can get accepted to a top-10, then why not shoot?

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Rutgers is most famously known for its Victorian Literature. It's probably one of the best 5 programs to go for it.
Notre Dame is most famously known for its Early Modern. It's probably one of the top 3 programs for EM.

More importantly, location is important as it could have a major impact on your day-to-day life and depression. I've seen way too many people drop out because (despite being in a top program), they were unhappy with the location, didn't feel properly supported and relied too heavily on the name of the degree and were just doing the bare minimum to get by. As a result, their scholarship suffered and it showed.

If you're happy with Rutgers, go there. It's a great program for many things. I think a lot of the professors who have graduated a long time ago aren't aware of how much applying to graduate schools have changed and might also be unaware of the great work that other schools are producing. Most job openings are not at heavy-research schools. Most job openings are at teaching-focused schools which often prefer candidates to have a record of great teaching.

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On 3/6/2019 at 3:29 PM, Regimentations said:

Rutgers is most famously known for its Victorian Literature. It's probably one of the best 5 programs to go for it.
Notre Dame is most famously known for its Early Modern. It's probably one of the top 3 programs for EM.

Out of curiosity, any suggestions as to how to get this type of information? Or is this something you get a sense of from how many prestigious faculty work in a certain area at the program?

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Posted (edited)
On 3/8/2019 at 7:52 PM, signandsignifiers said:

Out of curiosity, any suggestions as to how to get this type of information? Or is this something you get a sense of from how many prestigious faculty work in a certain area at the program? 

I think it has a lot to do with current students and resources. Each school devotes different resources to different areas. A lot of it can be quickly gleamed from its information page.

On their graduate studies page, Notre Dame mentions their leading scholarly journals are Religion and Literature, Early American Literature,  Shakespeare Survey and Nineteenth-Century Contexts. They also mention that they're a member of the Folger Institute & the Folger Shakespeare Library. The Folger Institute describes itself as the following " The Folger Institute is a center for research in early modern humanities at the Folger Shakespeare Library." There are other things that ND could have mentioned earlier but it chose to empathize that instead and made it so people would stumble upon their page if either of the two terms were searched.

On the Graduate Programs page: Notre Dame states the following:
Ph.D. students are trained to combine scholarly expertise in a research area with the literary range necessary to be effective professionals, teachers, and colleagues. The English Department has close ties with Notre Dame’s other leading humanities departments such as Theology, History, and Philosophy as well as deep bonds with strong record of collaboration with world-class programs such as the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the renowned ND Medieval Institute. Key alliances and opportunities include the following:

On the about page, Notre Dame also lists Related Programs and Institutes. Gender Studies gets a mention early on, but doesn't do anything to grab attention elsewise. Second on the list is the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies; interesting because it's name which usually means the school is heavily invested in it. They also have a Medieval Institute (this is also the second mention for both the Medieval Institute and the Keough-Naughton Institute; they want you to pay attention to these) and have a John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values page. They also make mention of a Screen Cultures Graduate Minor and make mention that it is research in the study of film, television and other screen-based media. ND could have highlighted anything they wanted to, but this is what they chose. On the English landing page, ND also highlights some new faculty being hired. These faculty have expertise in global and multicultural literature and also mentions that they have close ties to Notre Dame's Latino Institute. To me, this showcases that this is an area that Notre Dame might be looking to expand in the future. Recent hirings are useful because it helps showcase where a program is considering going. It might also showcase where the university might believe that there are more job openings to be had in the future.

Looking at another school ranked nearby, Washington University in St. Louis paints a different picture.

WashU's second paragraph states the following:
" While our program is rooted in the materials of literary history, medieval to post-postmodern, interdisciplinarity is more than an aspirational slogan here. It is no accident that English faculty members founded both the university’s American Culture Studies major and its Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities, or that our professors have headed the campus-wide Center for the Humanities and the Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry postdoctoral program endowed by the Mellon Foundation. Many of our classes are designed to promote movement across humanities units and disciplines, from History to Comparative Literature, African American Studies to the recently established Center on Religion and Politics. As a complement to their grounding in Anglophone literature, our PhD students may earn certificates in American Culture Studies, Film and Media Studies, Translation Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Early Modern Studies, and Data Science in the Humanities. The Humanities Digital Workshop, co-directed by an English professor, offers summer fellowships during which graduate students design and build digital humanities projects alongside Washington University faculty."

From the way they stress things, Interdisciplinary seems to be a big thing there.  I'm led to believe that they encourage their students to pursue a graduate certificate in any of the fields they've listed. Looking through the Faculty Listing by Field, I see a description of what each subfield is focused on. I also see that the faculty list is smaller because the department is smaller. I see lots of names for the following fields though: Modernism (8), Theory and Criticism (8),  Poetry and Poetics (6),  Literature and Religion (9), Literature and Politics (7) Gender and Sexuality (7), Drama (4),  Book History (6), African-American Literature (4) 20th/21st Century/20th Century and Later American Literature (9), 19th Century American Literature (6), Early Modern Literature (5). There are other things listed but with the exception of Book History and Early Modern Literature, the focus here seems to focus on the 19th, 20th, and 21st Century. This is the second time they've made mention of Gender and Sexuality so they might want people to take notice of that. It's also their second mention of African-American Literature. They also seem to have more people employed within American Literature (at least during the later half) and they have a considerable amount of people mentioned in Modernisms. Theory and Criticism could expand to just about anything.  Drama usually is a blanketed term for Shakespeare but they've expanded it to include contemporary drama, which a lot of programs won't go as far. The biggest takeaways here are interdisciplinary, modernisms, gender and sexuality and American Literature post 18th Century. African-American Literature and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies also seem to be encouraged as do other interdisciplinary fields. This sounds like a place where dual appointments might be possible.

Edited by Regimentations

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Oh lord. More inaccuracy about placement at Rutgers. I'm intimately familiar with the Rutgers program, and the 87% placement statistic is a bald-faced lie. It's inexcusable that the program still has this blatant falsehood on their website. it's tantamount to fraud. Go through the recent PhDs conferred by the program and see who does or does not have a job--and what that job might be. You'll quickly find that numerous placements are counted multiple times for the same person. I'd estimate the program's placement is now somewhere around 10% since hardly anybody is getting tenure-track employment. They're placing about one person a year in actual "domestic" tenure-track positions: i.e. not Turkey or elsewhere. They've tried to find contingent positions at Rutgers for recent grads such as teaching postdocs and admin positions, but there's only so much of that to go around, and those aren't permanent employment for the most part. However, we can't totally blame Rutgers since this is now true of virtually all the elite programs. Don't believe me? Go take a look at the academic jobs wiki. The profession has collapsed. Here is the stark reality of the profession you want to enter: https://www.mla.org/Resources/Career/Job-Information-List/Reports-on-the-MLA-Job-Information-List.

You might also read:

https://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Moral-Stain-on-the/246197?cid=wcontentgrid_hp_2

https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Great-Shame-of-Our/239148

Among many others-- 

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On 5/4/2019 at 8:37 PM, wordstew said:

Oh lord. More inaccuracy about placement at Rutgers. I'm intimately familiar with the Rutgers program, and the 87% placement statistic is a bald-faced lie. It's inexcusable that the program still has this blatant falsehood on their website. it's tantamount to fraud. Go through the recent PhDs conferred by the program and see who does or does not have a job--and what that job might be. You'll quickly find that numerous placements are counted multiple times for the same person. I'd estimate the program's placement is now somewhere around 10% since hardly anybody is getting tenure-track employment. They're placing about one person a year in actual "domestic" tenure-track positions: i.e. not Turkey or elsewhere. They've tried to find contingent positions at Rutgers for recent grads such as teaching postdocs and admin positions, but there's only so much of that to go around, and those aren't permanent employment for the most part. However, we can't totally blame Rutgers since this is now true of virtually all the elite programs. Don't believe me? Go take a look at the academic jobs wiki. The profession has collapsed. Here is the stark reality of the profession you want to enter: https://www.mla.org/Resources/Career/Job-Information-List/Reports-on-the-MLA-Job-Information-List.

You might also read:

https://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Moral-Stain-on-the/246197?cid=wcontentgrid_hp_2

https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Great-Shame-of-Our/239148

Among many others-- 

If I may.

I say what I'm about to say while still recognizing that there is truth in your comments. The discipline is not what it once was. There is a vast disparity between how many people get PhDs and how many academic jobs are available for those PhDs. Tenure is being gutted at universities across the country. It is, indeed, not the best time historically to get an English PhD (not to mention other types of PhDs). It is also good to point out when departments exaggerate placement statistics, as it well seems Rutgers may have done here. It is concerning that Rutgers' placement page just lists "jobs gotten", without specifying who got those jobs and when they received their PhDs. (And, even if there is some truth to the 87 percent figure, it's worth noting that Rutgers qualifies that by saying, "In assessing our success, we exclude data from the most recent three years, since the job search has evolved nationally into a two- or three-year process, often requiring jobseekers to hold temporary positions before moving into tenure-track jobs (during this transitional period, Rutgers continues to offer support to our students, financial and otherwise)." That is to say: it takes awhile to get to that 87 percent, if it truly happens.)

With that said.

I've been in graduate school for four years now, and *never once* have I met a graduate student in my department or elsewhere who is either deluded or ignorant about the job market. The "holy shit what is happening to the profession" panel has been a staple of just about every significant conference I've ever been to, and they're quite well attended by current graduate students. Professionalization courses, including ones which tailor to non-tenure track jobs, are starting to crop up in grad programs across the country. All this to say: I think it's safe to assume that most people applying for PhDs in 2019 know that things are not great, academic job-wise. I do not know a single person who has ever thought that a published article(s), good letters, and a smile will get them a TT job the minute they turn their dissertation in.

Why do I say this?

During my application season on Grad Cafe and, it seems, somewhat persistently since, there are a certain crop of "grad school nihilists" who come on here and insert themselves in conversations being had by people who, in the face of crappy odds, are working hard to chase a grad school dream. Many if not most of them are already struggIing with the high difficulty of just getting into a funded PhD program at all, with all the resultant anxieties that come with that. I don't want to suppose right off the bat that you're necessarily one of these people, but your post does remind me of that kind of unqualified negativity I've seen on these forums.

To be fair, some of these more nihilistic posts come from people who, not unreasonably, have had their hopes charred after a successful time in grad school, only to find slim to no pickings job-wise. I'd be bitter in that situation too, and it's a reality for which I'm going to have to prepare -- and, in fact, something for which essentially all of my colleagues have prepared. But the brutal reality of the job market is known by people who are signing up for PhDs, so coming onto Grad Cafe to tell people that they're foolish for chasing a "dying profession" doesn't really help things, and at worst it can needlessly stoke the anxieties of prospective applicants who, again, already know how bad things are getting, and continue to get.

Because the other thing is -- and in the face of job market nihilism I always find myself asking this: what's the alternative? Precarity and oversaturation are hitting all different markets right now in the US. Sure, your odds of making a living wage are better if you'd started off being a computer programmer, but even now those programs at universities are getting overcrowded. It's not like the dichotomy is, "Either you risk everything on the chance of a tenure-track job, or you go for something more stable in a non-academic environment." Plenty of people with seemingly "stable" jobs get downsized, and whole industries right now are facing similar circumstances to the academy. The other career I was interested in prior to committing to grad school -- web publishing -- suffers an "independent contractor" disease even worse than the adjuncting crisis in the academy; I tried working there to see if I prefer it, and I made the calculated choice -- factoring the very risks you talk about -- to go to graduate school. 

So, taking your comments charitably, I would suggest that in a forum like this one -- whose directive is connecting people who have already made the decision to apply to grad school -- defeatist comments are at best pointless and at worst needlessly destructive. We know what we're getting ourselves into.

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Posted (edited)

So, taking your comments charitably, I would suggest that in a forum like this one -- whose directive is connecting people who have already made the decision to apply to grad school -- defeatist comments are at best pointless and at worst needlessly destructive. We know what we're getting ourselves into.

 No, you most certainly do not know what you’re getting yourself into because by your own admission you have only been in graduate school for four years. You have not, for example, completed your PhD, published, taught adjunct, etc. I have. 

 And let me tell you that the “profession” is a disaster. The fact that it’s threatening for you or people on this forum to be confronted with that reality is alarming. It’s a denial of reality, and it’s a denial of the experience of people who know better than you about it. It’s called putting your head in the sand. 

 The reaction to Rutgers’s total obfuscation and falsification of the reality of its jobseekers is a case in point. You seem to acknowledge the problem and then try to excuse it.  It does not take “awhile to get to that 87%.” It’s never going to happen; it’s a thing of the past when the program did place that many people. But it’s that very optimism—cruel optimism—that aids and abets in the deception. I’m well aware of the conference rhetoric about contingency, alt-act,etc. It doesn’t come close to dealing with the nature of the problem. There is no objective reason why anyone should think that there will be any significant improvement in the lack of tenure-tack jobs in English for the foreseeable future. And let’s remember what has happened: an already depressed job market before 2008 literally had the number of available jobs cut in half with numbers that continue to decline every year (the number of jobseekers, however, does not decrease).  

 I totally disagree that forcing this confrontation is unproductive. We need a lot more of these confrontations. The tenured ranks have colluded in this disaster, and they continue to aid in the cover up. A program lying about its placement statistics is one such example. There are many more. The tenured faculty who recruit capable young people and persuade them to staff their graduate seminars and their writing programs know damn well that most of them will not find gainful academic employment after they graduate (let’s also acknowledge that over 50% will not even finish the program). I thought I was prepared for this reality too until I found myself in a nightmare situation where my PhD actively worked against my ability to find other employment, but again, these are the stories programs do not want you to hear.

 You can call me bitter, nihilistic, whatever. The facts are indisputable. Maybe some intrepid prospective students will start demanding more accountability from these programs. Maybe they’ll take a look behind the curtain and walk away. Maybe they’ll think twice or three times about the other opportunities around them and what might be sacrificed by participating in what has become a rancidly unfair and exploitative profession. I am not commenting on the quality of your scholarship or your teaching or somebody’s application; the problem has nothing to do with that, and I obviously have no idea. The problem is that young scholars in this profession now exist in a world almost totally stripped of opportunities, which means we cannot make a living doing our work. That is a total disaster for us. The illusion that many prospective students see is that their privileged mentors are making a living doing the same work; it’s disorienting, confusing, and misleading because they do not see the vast majority of people whose backs are under the feet of the people they admire. The fact that you cannot even bear to be confronted with the experience of someone who has gone through it all, suggests to me this kind of information is crucially important on a forum such as this one. 

 

 

Edited by wordstew

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Posted (edited)

Rutgers is a fantastic institution. Its English program is especially good. That said, one of the advantages of attending a private school with deep pockets (like Harvard, Notre Dame, Princeton, WashU, Emory, etc), is that there is a lot more funding available for summer and research opportunities. If you do not care about the job market but want to be well-funded for your time in grad school, I'd recommend inquiring to several programs (after acceptance, of course) about their resources. Some English programs have special endowments that make a lot of money for their programs -- which they spend on faculty and grad students. It is not as important if it is an Ivy League school or not -- what you should focus on is how much money the program has.

Edited by frenchphd

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I wouldn't consider this trolling. I think it is extremely important for us to continuously confront and recognize the state of the job market and demand that institutions are honest, upfront, detailed, and transparent about their TT placement rates.

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1 hour ago, punctilious said:

I wouldn't consider this trolling. I think it is extremely important for us to continuously confront and recognize the state of the job market and demand that institutions are honest, upfront, detailed, and transparent about their TT placement rates.

I would agree with this, if the purpose of wordstew's comments was simply to point out the inaccuracy of Rutgers' placement rate. As I said, that information is important, and we should be holding departments accountable for placement stats. The main thing with which I was taking issue is the second half of wordstew's post, the "this is the profession you want to enter" part, which to me smacks of the nihilism to which I refer.

Moving away from the troll-y stuff and toward Rutgers' actual placement rate: looking at their website, I would say that 10 percent is certainly too low in describing their placement, but I also think wordstew is right to say that 87 percent is a gross exaggeration. Unless Rutgers provides *detailed* job placement -- that is, name of PhD recipient, what year they earned their PhD, and then all subsequent placement(s) -- it is indeed irresponsible to make it seem as if getting a PhD at Rutgers will just shy of almost certainly land you a prof job. 

I'm going to be entering the job market phase of my PhD here in the next few years, and as I've been thinking about things I've looked at placement pages of numerous PhD programs. Generally speaking, I'd say that most programs are actually not great about accurately advertising placement rates. Typically, you see one of the following things:

"Our graduates have gotten jobs at": This is one of the worst, if not the worst way to list placement. This will simply be a list of universities where PhDs at that uni will "have gotten jobs," typically with no delineation of what type (e.g. TT, VAP, lecturership, etc).

Only good placements: It's also quite common to see graduate schools only list people who have gotten jobs of some type. While if specific enough this can tell you some things, it also masks the problem of ratios, for this doesn't give you the full picture of all PhD recipients. I saw this on Emory's page recently; I could see several excellent placements, but I have no sense of how many PhDs they're turning out vs. how many jobs are acquired.

Listing placements solely by year: This is where I give Rutgers some credence in how they present their 87 percent statistic. That number, it seems, is based on a "three year job market" period, meaning that it's not "87 percent get jobs right away," but rather that "87 percent within the now-standard 3 year job search will get jobs." It's better to be honest about that up front, as Rutgers is, because too often I see programs simply list job placements earned within a given academic year. But that doesn't tell us if those placements come from people who were on the market for years or only one year, which is a relevant factor in figuring out a uni's placement rate.

And these are not even to mention the surprising amount of schools I saw which made no effort to present even just their best-case placement rates!

I'd love to hear what y'all think, but to me a complete placement picture should look something like this: have placements broken down by academic year, but then in each year list name, year of PhD earned, and, if relevant, jobs earned prior to listed placement. I also think area of specialty should be listed, so that it's clear where a department is most successful at turning out scholars.

 

 

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17 hours ago, wordstew said:

No, you most certainly do not know what you’re getting yourself into because by your own admission you have only been in graduate school for four years. You have not, for example, completed your PhD, published, taught adjunct, etc. I have. 

 And let me tell you that the “profession” is a disaster. The fact that it’s threatening for you or people on this forum to be confronted with that reality is alarming. It’s a denial of reality, and it’s a denial of the experience of people who know better than you about it. It’s called putting your head in the sand. 

So yes, I don't know the full lived and affective experience of what it's like to be an adjunct, or to complete a PhD. (Though I have published and done lots of other things that come with the PhD experience.) But I do know that the odds of getting tenure-track or even just solidly permanent employment in my field are not great, and I have no rosy vision about that. Nor, and I'm going to keep stressing this, does anyone else I know who is currently getting an English PhD. Your picture of the post-PhD life doesn't "threaten" me or anyone on this forum; we know that those possibilities are quite likely. I have never once read your comments (or the comments of others who have expressed similar things to you) and thought, "Damn, I didn't think that could be a possibility for me."

My point is: this forum is designed for people to come and talk about their experiences applying to graduate school, getting into grad school, etc. I am willing to wager that most people already know the grimness of the job market. The fact that they've then chosen to apply to PhD programs doesn't mean they've stuck their head in the sand about the picture you describe; it just means that they've chosen to take the calculated risk and pursue something that's important to them. 

The logic of what you're saying in your post seems to be, "If you're applying to English PhDs, you're necessarily ignorant of how bad things are." That's not true in the slightest. As I said, it's not like the choice is between total uncertainty and doom on the PhD track and job security anywhere else we go. If the profession truly slides into the ocean by the time I complete my PhD and I'm forced to get work elsewhere, it will suck but I will live with that. And, crucially, I won't regret having earned a degree that's really important to me, nor will I regret getting to do work that's important to me.

I stand with you in calling out departments who present graduates with an overly rosy picture of what getting a job will be like. It's important that we as grad students, and those like you who have earned a PhD, to hold departments accountable to an accurate representation of placement. But I also think that even in the face of a contracting discipline that getting a PhD is still worth it for many people, including myself, and I don't have to put my head in the sand to feel that way.

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19 hours ago, wordstew said:

thought I was prepared for this reality too until I found myself in a nightmare situation where my PhD actively worked against my ability to find other employment

@wordstew Would you be willing to elaborate on this?  In which industry/ies did you feel that your PhD held you back?  Did you receive feedback that you were overqualified?  Or would require too high a salary?  I'd appreciate any insight on this point that you'd be willing to share.

 

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"I would say that 10 percent is certainly too low in describing their placement, but I also think wordstew is right to say that 87 percent is a gross exaggeration."

On the basis of what knowledge do you think 10% is too low? Notice that last year's "placements" are missing altogether. We agree that the only fair and accurate way to do this is for a program to list every conferred doctorate and then indicate the placement (academic or otherwise for that person). But if that were to be done, it would be very grim. I can tell you with 100% certainty that not even 50% of graduates get tenure-track jobs three years out. 

This is my last post here because I'm not going to keep going back and forth about nihilism, trolling,  etc. I understand the difficulty of applying to these programs and how competitive and stressful that work can be. I did it. I also understand the mentality--and the need--to rationalize participating in this with some modicum of hope that it will work out. I did it. I also understand the love for the work and the importance of it. I've done a lot of it. 

In my experience, most graduate students have not come to terms with what has happened to our profession, and again, it's probably because to confront the reality would make continuing this difficult work nearly impossible. I don't have to tell you about how challenging it can be. But I have more clarity now that I've seen this mess from a variety of angles. And what I have seen is that young scholars have been left out in the cold. It does not matter how good, capable, or promising we are as teachers and scholars. It simply does not matter to the tenured or the administrators that we will never have financial security, job security, or support for our work. That takes an extreme toll on a professional person who cares about their work. It has taken an extreme toll on me to be reminded again and again that my labor is nearly invisible and that it doesn't really matter to the people who financially benefit from it (students are a different story). I could give numerous personal anecdotes that would shock and appall, but it's all been documented by others in numerous monographs and Chronicle articles. Take Rutgers, for example, where the faculty make totally obscene salaries; you can look them up online. These people simply do not understand--they do not want to understand--what has happened to their profession. And many of their students do not really want to understand either because they desperately hope that they will be the exception--that they will get the job. Most of them will not, but one or two will. And what they'll discover is that they are still part of a system that grossly exploits adjunct colleagues and tries to rationalize that exploitation by 1) Denying the full extent of the devastation and 2) Assuming that they're better or more deserving in some way. To do otherwise would be to admit that your salary is made possible by an entire underclass of workers who are just as qualified but have no hope of economic or professional security. That's the reality I'm talking about, and I have a difficult time understanding why someone would choose to participate in that at this point knowing the full extent of how deeply the exploitation runs in academia and how little has been done to address it. Because of how these institutions work, there is simply nothing you will be able to do to advance your career. You will be stuck making peanuts with little to no benefits until you decide not to continue. Each year you will get older and each year your escape from being taken advantage of by your peers will become more and more insurmountable until 20 years have passed and you're left with no choice but to continue. Think I'm exaggerating? Instead of attending catered open houses and distinguished lecturer series, go find several humanities PhD adjuncts on your campus and have a frank conversation with them. 

To answer the other question about how a PhD proved to be a liability: The most important thing I've run into is the need for experience in whatever career track you want to enter. The people who did best when they graduated already had professional experience in the worlds they re-entered. I had told myself (and was told by others) that a PhD would be great for consulting, marketing, etc., but that's just nonsense talk by people who do not know. Maybe a PhD in economics is desirable for a consulting firm. I think that the doctorate does show your capacity for working hard and critical thinking, so it can be a good supplement to experience, but it does not make up for experience. And it can be awkward for bosses and supervisors who don't have a graduate degree and don't even understand what it means. This also depends a lot on the sector and the geographic market. In my experience, "versatile" is the last thing that comes to mind to describe this highly specialized credential. And the problem is that if you are really working toward a tenure-track job almost every ounce of your time and energy goes into your research and teaching. Looking back, I have no idea how someone is supposed to do a PhD and prepare for an alternate career at the same time unless they come from one that they can fall back on, which was the case for a number of my peers.

Finally, I'll say that it breaks my heart to write all this. I think that this work is incredibly important, and I want to celebrate people who continue to demonstrate their interest and enthusiasm for it. But I think that it's unconscionable that the prestige and veneer of these programs continue to seduce people into thinking that there is a profession for them to join. My basic point--and others have made it better--is that the very idea a profession has become a falsehood. What that means is that most people who give years of their life to this pursuit will be left in very challenging circumstances. Many people delay families, children, home purchases, retirement savings, and other major things so that they can commit to this work. Would they make those sacrifices if there was a complete and full disclosure in detail of their real prospects? The fact that Rutgers (among other programs) seems to go out of its way to avoid providing that disclosure speaks volumes. 

 

 

 

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