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I HATE grad school already


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And it has only been 7 weeks in. I'm struggling with course work right now because I really don't see the point of all this BS. Course work is such a stupid formality, I just hate how I can't get to work in the lab right away because we all know that's what I'm there for anyway. Just learn the science you need as you go along with research, why all the useless coursework that you'll probably never or hardly use again?

Also, sometimes I bother wondering why I went to grad school anyway. The economy sucks, and it will for a LONG time. We're training way too many PhDs for number of positions available in academia (which I plan on staying far away from). All manufacturing jobs and R and D are being shipped over seas. I'll be educated all right when I leave, but I'll still be poor. I don't see the point of blasting my brains out when it is increasingly likely that none of this BS will pay off. The whole system is f$@%ed beyond belief.

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You don't mention what your program is, but it seems really odd that you're not already working in the lab 7 weeks into a PhD program.

Most schools either do formal or informal rotations starting at the beginning of your first semester so you can get started in the lab, learning techniques.

That said, most classes aren't worthless, and you need to be able to competently master both the theory (coursework) and practice (labwork) of your discipline. You take a spectrum of coursework to become a well rounded scientist- hence why you take graduate level classes in things you will not directly use. That's what makes you a physicist or a chemist- a broad understanding of what that field encompasses. If all you learn is that which is directly applied to your research, that's a much narrower focus.You should come out of a PhD program roughly able to teach any undergraduate course in your field.

Once you get through your first two(ish) years, finish your courses and pass quals, then you'll be able to focus purely on research and your specific subfield, after you've first shown that you can "do it all" so to speak.

In most STEM fields, employment is pretty good (biology probably less so than the others). Most of the jobs that are being shipped overseas are not the jobs you'd do with a PhD, they're lower level R&D work primarily. None of the graduates of my program (or any friends of mine that have graduated recently) have had any problem finding decent jobs. And you're more than likely getting paid for going to school right now, so it's not like you're having to go into debt for it.

I understand your frustration, but I think it may be slightly misplaced.

Edited by Eigen
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You really think all that coursework is a stupid formality? You think you're better than everyone else who've done things before you and helped revolutionize your discipline? Even if a seminal paper has little to do with your precise research interest doesn't mean it doesn't hold monumental value over the way you go about conducting research. There's a REASON why these papers become benchmarks in fields and why people today still read and cite them heavily. Having such a narrow view is what causes gaps between related disciplines, and that segmentation only weakens a science.

And I know this is a forum that's supposed to be, more or less, encouraging and all, but why are you even in the program then? If you're going to be this negative and cynical of academia, then get out. No one's forcing you to stay in. If you have to think twice about whether or not this path leads you to what'll make you happiest in the long run, then get out. There are easier ways to make a lot more money than getting a Ph.D.; if you're unhappy with what research leads you to, then there's no point in staying in a doctorate.

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In life, one is given much work to do and sometimes (if not most times) it is work that may seem pointless at the time. Even if you don't find it relevant to what you think you need, coursework develops concentration, theoretical thinking, writing skills, and reading skills. There are so many people on this forum bemoaning their lot as grad students. First, it is your fault that you did not research your program before making a commitment. Secondly, just DO IT. Every day I do things I don't want to do- it's part of being a mature, responsible adult. You sound like an overconfident spoiled brat who never learned to work hard and stick to your commitments. I'm not saying that you match the description above, but that is what it sounds like after a cursory reading of your post.

P.S.- You think you've got bad career prospects? I'm getting my PhD in the humanities, and I still find graduate school meaningful and ultimately worth it. Count your blessings.

Edited by Red Bull
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One of my criteria for the ideal graduate program was that it have low coursework requirements. depending on your area of research, there might be programs that don't require much coursework- though it might be too late to change programs now. And Eigen- there are some graduate programs that don't do rotations- most ecology programs, for example. I'm not doing any lab work yet, several weeks into the quarter, and probably won't be doing lab/field work until I develop a detailed research plan, which could take months.

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Avoiding coursework is missing the point, though. I also complained about my coursework when I was in it, especially since I had to take about twice as much as the average doctoral student at my university (20 3-credit classes or the equivalent, which evened out to 4 graduate classes a semester for 2.5 years. Yes, it was hell.)

Now that I have finished one set of comprehensive exams and am about to take my oral exams - not to mention have joined the conversation of my field being regarded more of a junior scholar - I see the point. When you enter the field of your choice as an academic, you are expected to have breadth. You are expected to KNOW things. And when you do research, you are expected to build upon the theoretical framework of your researchers before you - even in the lab sciences. Science is a cumulative work; it's scholars improving upon the work of past scholars, who were simply improving upon the work of past scholars. Even "new" discoveries are based heavily on the work past scientists have done. Much of the experimental lab sciences you will be doing will be based on techniques and knowledge that other scientists did before you.

How do you know what they are? You read. And you discuss it with your classmates, and you write about it. That's all coursework is. It's not like undergrad with endless assignments. It's reading, it's having intellectual discussions with likeminded people, it's learning to quickly digest a shit-ton of information in a particular field in a very short amount of time. It's learning to process and synthesize that information like a scientist. It is an essential part of your education as a scientist. Value it. If you think you will never use the coursework again, you aren't paying attention in class. You can't just "learn it as you go along." You have to learn some things before you can even start.

As for the second part - well. You have two choices. You can leave and try to make your fortune with the degree(s) you already have, or you can stay and hold out hope for a job in the field you want. Clearly if you spent the time and expense applying to doctoral programs, interviewed, and selected one you have to see the utility of the degree in some way. Nobody's going to make you stay if you don't want to, so - and I mean this with no sarcasm or snark - decide whether you're willing to sacrifice 5-7 years (or more in some fields) of earned income, more or less stable working hours, decent mental health, financial security and peace of mind to be criticized and evaluated by a bunch of eggheads (I say this affectionately) for the prospect of potentially getting a research job. If that doesn't appeal to you, get out now!

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One of my criteria for the ideal graduate program was that it have low coursework requirements. depending on your area of research, there might be programs that don't require much coursework- though it might be too late to change programs now. And Eigen- there are some graduate programs that don't do rotations- most ecology programs, for example. I'm not doing any lab work yet, several weeks into the quarter, and probably won't be doing lab/field work until I develop a detailed research plan, which could take months.

My department doesn't do rotations either, hence why I said formal or informal rotations. Even our Ecology program will allow students to spend some time in a lab they're interested- it's rare that a prof will ever turn down no-strings attached work.

That said, research isn't all about the time in the lab. Doing the background reading and work to develop a research plan is a huge part of it, and shouldn't be rushed. If you can couple it with doing basic lab-tech like things in a lab you're interested in, it works out great- you get to learn new techniques and keep your skills up, but you're primarily working on developing your own ideas for a research project.

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I won't sugar coat this, and I won't sell grad school to you. It's not for everyone, and about half the students that leave develop the distaste for it in the first year. Coursework is one of the hoops, no way around it. The job market isn't promising or guaranteed, you will have to fight for a job when you're done. You pursue this regardless, because you have at least some interest in your field. If you hate it, really hate it, you're heading in the wrong direction. Take a moment to determine what you want out of your career. If grad school won't take you there, figure out what will. Once the final outcome's clear in your head, the path will come to you. All the best to you. Good luck.

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Nothing about the system should have been a mystery to you when you signed up for this. You should have known exactly what you were getting into and I'm always surprised by these posts complaining about some major structural component of the program like how many credits of this they have to take or the fact that they have to take these classes in order to move on to others, etc. as if this information was purposely withheld during the application process or they have been deceived in some way. Did you not look at the school's website at all ever and just glance at the curriculum to find out what would actually be required of you? How do you even compose an SOP that demonstrates you're a good fit if you don't even know what you'd be fitting in to? You're only 7 weeks in and if the market sucks that bad for your field than it's not like you'll get a job anyway, might as well go with the flow for a while.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dear sir or madam, your noobness is showing. The point of the coursework is to lay a basic foundation of knowledge, you just don't go into the lab and do science with a specious level of understanding of fundamental concepts. As someone who has wrapped up classwork and is post-candidacy, I can tell you need those courses. My belief is without those courses you would probably only have an in depth working knowledge in only your own subfield. I'm not saying saying you have to be an expert in everything but with the transition to interdisciplinary science you have to know a little about a lot.

As far as jumping into grad school because the economy was shit or doing it just to get a job, those are the wrong reasons. Training in a scientific discipline, learning critical thinking, and advanced analytical skill are good reasons.

Sounds like you may be in for all the wrong reasons. And if you don't want to go to class. Maybe its time to get out, before you waste your time and the resources of others.

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if we are talking about the economy, I think if anything, this is as good time as ever to be in a fully funded, graduate program that your secure for the next 4-5 years. the economy is projected to pick up and job markets are getting better, so by the 2015 2016, hopefully this cohort will be in much better shape than the cohort that are looking for jobs atm.

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I have an interesting observation related to your post.

Some students in my program seem to know it all and find many courses a waste of time. These students have gained knowledge through other degree or work experience or self study and for them sitting through courses i a frustration and they tell me the reason is to get the degree and continue with life. I'm, on the other hand, learning a lot of things and I find the courses very useful. But a point to be noted is am in a computer science program and so we do not have the labs that you are talking about.

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  • 1 month later...

I fully support you if you want to quit. I'm in a grad program right now for job training, and I hate how much work there is and that I don't have enough time to do all the things I want to do. And what's worse is that I can't talk to anyone about - everyone tells you to jsut stick with it.

Here's the thing - grad school's not as bad for me, but college was. I loved high school because it was fun, but I hated college so much, yet everyone you talked to said to suck it up or stick it out. Well, that's what I did, and I still regret it to this day. I am different person because of my college experience, I still have horrible flashbacks to my miserable time, and I will never have the life I used to have before college. I would give anything in the world to go back and drop out,

All I want to do in my life now is be a quitting validator, to help other people quit when they don't like something. So if you aren't enjoying your experience and don't think it will lead you where you want to be, I encourage you to quit. I would have given anything in the world for someone to accept when I said I wanted to quit college, because I meant it. I hope you take this as validation and at least leave quitting on the table as an option.

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I hated my program, too. So, I left. It seems like a lot of people on this forum are ready to jump down your throat about classwork being irrelevant - but I'm sure quite a few of us have felt that way at some time or another. My program in particular didn't allow us to tailor our classes to represent what we'd be studying. We were all lumped into a group - so if you wanted to study cancer, you took cancer courses. Neuro, you took neuro courses. It makes it a bit frustrating when your focus is a little more interdiscplinary than that, and your stuck having to fight to get into classes that are "reserved" for people of a specific training group.

While I don't think that every class is worthless, I can fully empathize with you about wanting to just get into the lab and learn what you need to learn for your work. There are more ways to gain foundational knowledge than being stuck in a classroom and taking tests to determine how well you memorize information. Being able to ace coursework is only half the battle and a lot of classrooms these days don't necessarily allow students to engage in meaningful critical thinking - which is central to any discipline. Some people learn better in a classroom, others learn better as they actually practice the work. I'm a member of the latter group and found attendance in class to be frustrating. I don't know what your circumstances are. I don't know if your teachers are only teaching to fulfill a university requirement and therefore have no dedication to it (I've experienced this more times than I can count), I don't know if you're in a situation where you're better off just teaching yourself the material at home and reaching out to a prof when you have questions (also experienced this.). But, hopefully things will get better.

Everyone told me to stick with my program becuase "that's just how it [was] supposed to be during the first year." If you plan to stick it out, try to temper your unhappiness in the classroom with supplementary articles you find on your own. Talk to professors/PIs on a one on one basis about what you want to study and how you can make the classwork more relevant for yourself. At the very least, find a mentor.

On another note - we've all heard the reports and seen the statistics by now. The system may be "f*cked" as you say, and the market may be flooded with PhDs, etc. The only person you can worry about is yourself. What are you going to do to separate yourself from the masses? Sure, there are always plenty of people that apply for the same job, but someone has to get the position. Why couldn't or wouldn't it be you? As my boyfriend's father once said, "shovel enough sh*t and something is bound to stick."

I hope things get better for ya!

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  • 1 month later...
  • 9 months later...

I was one class past the half-way point when I realized I don't like my field or grad school (MS in CS). Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have stuck it out and am about to graduate. Honestly, I feel like it has been a complete waste of time....esp. in the comp sci field.

There are some jobs out there where you do need a masters in CS, but very VERY few of them. In comp sci, you're only as good as your last job. Businesses typically want you to hit the ground running. So compared to a person with a masters, and a person who has spent the last X years doing the job, you can guess who is going to get picked. If both of you have the same OJT, then it comes down to either personality or finances. If personality, then you masters hasn't done anything. If finances, then you come in behind a BS candidate, b/c they can be hired cheaper.

From what I have seen, unless you are looking to pursue your PhD, a masters is useless. Social work, and perhaps engineering, has a niche for people with masters, but from what I have seen in computer science...there isn't one. The master's is just something you have to do to get a PhD. After working in the industry while going to school, MS in Computer Science is a waste of time. You would be better spent working on certifications such as Microsoft or Cisco. Then you would have additional education past a BS with real stuff being used in business.

Only if teaching or research is your end goal....skip the headache and disappointment.

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I went in with the though that I wanted to be a synthetic organic chemist. I had the epiphany while I was taking my second Org. Synthesis test that I didn't want to become a synthetic organic chemist, but that I wanted to do Organometallic/Inorganic chemistry. I just fell that I have wasted time in a class that I don't care for, that is frankly so hard it is beyond comprehension. I rather enjoy my inorganic lecture, and am doing very well. I had to hurt some feelings because I had to completely rework my adviser selection, but the dept. head said it was no problem. I just have to put my head down, and trudge through these last few weeks to get out of this organic course.

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I'm going to take the "glass half-full" perspective and say that you can learn from any experience. My advisor is making me do reliability coder work. He hires undergrads (who are supervised by one of the post-docs) to do the main coding work, but I code about 10% of the responses and do a reliability check. It's very low-level work. But, it helps me understand the process, and it allows me an insider view on methodology and how to get things done.

My introductory coursework has been a little frustrating in that there is so much reading and some of it is convoluted. But, I see the utility of learning how to write academic papers, structure arguments, and think critically about theory and issues in my field (which for me means seeing things from multiple perspectives and understanding how different factors complicate the issue). I'm loving grad school--I'm just exhausted because there doesn't seem to be enough time to do everything.

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And it has only been 7 weeks in. I'm struggling with course work right now because I really don't see the point of all this BS. Course work is such a stupid formality, I just hate how I can't get to work in the lab right away because we all know that's what I'm there for anyway. Just learn the science you need as you go along with research, why all the useless coursework that you'll probably never or hardly use again?

Also, sometimes I bother wondering why I went to grad school anyway. The economy sucks, and it will for a LONG time. We're training way too many PhDs for number of positions available in academia (which I plan on staying far away from). All manufacturing jobs and R and D are being shipped over seas. I'll be educated all right when I leave, but I'll still be poor. I don't see the point of blasting my brains out when it is increasingly likely that none of this BS will pay off. The whole system is f$@%ed beyond belief.

Jesus and antidepressants are the only true friends in graduate school. :rolleyes:

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I was similar to process chemist.

I went in thinking I was gonna be a condensed matter physicist. I realized that physics might be too much for me when in QM we had a test with inhumanely hard questions like deriving a 3-D potential from a mixed state wavefunction. Yeah, you know how in undergrad you were always given the potential and then you just had to find the eigenvalues and eigenstates? Professor really wanted to drill into our heads that "the wavefunction contains ALL the information about a quantum state."

Now I think materials science might be better. That's because the emphasis is on learning the chemistry and physics of materials, not on playing mathematical acrobatics.

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