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PhD Humanities - Just Don't Do It!

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I think everyone else should heed his advice, while I continue on with my Ph.D. ambitions. :wink:

In all seriousness though, while I'm not the biggest fan of my current job, it does involve having one of those professional degrees mentioned in the Boston Globe article, so I feel better knowing I can fall back on that in the worst-case scenario. And hopefully it will make me more competitive on the academic job market as well.

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In my opinion if you retitle it to

PhD Humanities - Just Don't Do It Unless You Can Get Into A Great School

and it is more accurate but unfortunately less sensationalist.

If you go to a top 30 school and you are a good scholar, I think you should still be able to get a job. Obviously this varies by specialty and exactly WHICH school you go to, and as times get worse it may get harder and harder, but Berkeley, Harvard, Yale PhDs typically don't lack for jobs.

Just my two cents.

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I actually want to go a bit more in-depth about what I meant

Meanwhile, more and more students are flattered to find themselves admitted to graduate programs; many are taking on considerable debt to do so. According to the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, about 23 percent of humanities students end up owing more than $30,000, and more than 14 percent owe more than $50,000.

As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:

* You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living for yourself or provide for anyone else.

* You come from that small class of well-connected people in academe who will be able to find a place for you somewhere.

* You can rely on a partner to provide all of the income and benefits needed by your household.

* You are earning a credential for a position that you already hold

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The problem isn't if you should goto harvard and yale (I wish ppl. would stop saying this b/c it makes little sense plenty of tolks who went to harvard and yale lack jobs...)...the problem is if you aren't at the head of your field...

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The problem isn't if you should goto harvard and yale (I wish ppl. would stop saying this b/c it makes little sense plenty of tolks who went to harvard and yale lack jobs...)...the problem is if you aren't at the head of your field...

If you're responding to me, that's totally exaggerating my argument.

I have a tough time believing that people at the most well-renowned schools don't have an easier time getting jobs, especially when I peruse the faculty lists of major departments.

Whether it is because they are incredible in their own right (since such schools usually attract the top candidates) or because they sleaze their way into the networking system these schools tend to have access to, I think that saying they lack jobs neglects the fact that they lack these jobs to a lesser extent than most other programs.

Finally, it's much harder to be at the head of your field at a subpar school.

You're forcing me to come off as more elitist than really I am, but honestly, my point is that the articles in the OP shouldn't make applicants give up their dreams, it should make them more selective about the schools that they apply to. Getting a job now means you gotta be good. You can be good at any school, it's just easier to be good at the ones which lead your field and have peers who will push you.

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if your PhD program provides you with full funding, that is your job. grad school isn't school, it's work. you work very hard for relatively little pay, but the trade off is that you're spending your day doing something you love, in theory.

the implicit argument in these articles is that grad school requires you to put yourself in debt (it doesn't) and that you're not earning an income or working for 5-7 years (you are). being a PhD student in a humanities program will be my job for at least the next 5 years, maybe longer. after that, if i get a job in academia, great, and if i don't, that's okay too.

now that i have an offer that i've accepted, i'm going to be relatively secure for the next 5 years. not rich, but not worried about losing my job either. can't say the same for professional journalists.

edit:

but beyond that, i agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of both of the chronicle pieces. the "i just love it so much" argument for pursuing grad school is a bit silly and speaks to someone that hasn't thoroughly considered what they're doing with their futures or why. really and truly, my goal isn't to be a professor. it's to inform people about issues (relating to latin america) that i think are critical and that not enough people are paying attention to. a PhD will hopefully give me some measure of expertise in that area. if i can spread knowledge in a classroom, good. if i can spread knowledge in a policy advising capacity, good. if i can be in the field, getting my hands dirty, good. if i can report to newspapers, good. talking about poverty and sustainable development and race relations and migration, all of that matters to me. what form that takes matters far less.

i hope that this is a good reason to still do a PhD. but again, if i leave after 5 years and need to start over in another career, that's not a big deal. people change careers 3 or 4 times in their lifetime, people start over at much later ages than 30.

he's right, though, that entering grad school expecting to end up somewhere, anywhere in academia is the wrong way to go about it. have other plans that will hopefully still make use of the knowledge and skills you gain with a humanities PhD. i appreciate that he's not trying to sugarcoat it.

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no one, or majority of people do PhD in humanities for the sake of career security. If ones want enough money, then forget about Humanities and go to Business School. The value of pursuing a humanities PhD is not that shallow as that article talked about.

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I understand and appreciate the advice given in these articles, but I would love some ideas about what all of us suckers are supposed to do with our useless undergraduate degrees in the humanities if we don't persue higher degrees. I don't doubt the sentiment of these articles, but isn't a possibility that the study of humanities will have to adapt for the 21st century, and who knows what kind of ways that could change the job market. I guess that's my blind optimism and my BA in History talking.

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no one, or majority of people do PhD in humanities for the sake of career security. If ones want enough money, then forget about Humanities and go to Business School. The value of pursuing a humanities PhD is not that shallow as that article talked about.

Or go to business school and use the absurd money you earn to fund your humanities degree.

I think more and more people are chosing this option. Though some people who get a taste for corporate success prefer to steal as much money as possible and purchase golden shower curtain rods, others choose to get a degree in English.

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Or go to business school and use the absurd money you earn to fund your humanities degree.

I think more and more people are chosing this option. Though some people who get a taste for corporate success prefer to steal as much money as possible and purchase golden shower curtain rods, others choose to get a degree in English.

strike "business" and insert "law" and that's exactly what I'm doing... i'm looking forward to being a graduate student again, but not having to be a broke one.

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I think that what it comes down to is this... if a program is not willing to fully fund you + stipend it means they don't want you. My advisor, who is a well-known historian in his field and is involved in hiring for the department, tells me that you have to go to the best school possible. He's seen dozens of candidates come in for jobs from schools he's never heard of and he told me, "I can't see these people ever getting a job teaching anywhere." And I'm not talking about a tenure-track position, even adjuncting. He also tells me, like every professor should, that under no circumstances should anyone take on debt for a graduate degree... the earning potential for the average PhD is just not enough to cover 50k+ in loans.

I also agree with the previous poster about quality of schools... I go to a public university and most of my professors got either their undergraduate or, mostly, their graduate degrees from Ivy League schools. If you are coming out of a school not in the Top 20 you are at a serious handicap unless you have a relatively stellar record of publishing and the like. To take out loans simply to pay for tuition at a a school outside even the Top 20 is financial suicide. The nature of graduate school and the profession itself has changed so radically as well that alot of professors who have been at their posts for 10-20 years simply do not know enough about how the current system works to advise their students properly. No one should go to graduate school until they understand that there is the very real and highly likely probability that they could, literally, end up as an adjunct at a community college.

In the Humanities, your employability is primarily determined by the school you attended (and, therefore, the network you have developed) and your publishing record. Not to mention that you absolutely cannot have even the possibility of a real career in academe without being absolutely open to picking up and moving anywhere at anytime. This article may be sensationalist and distort some of the issues but, in all reality, the outlook for most people pursuing a PhD in the Humanities, especially outside Top 20 schools, is horrifyingly bleak, and even worse for those who are going into massive debt because of it.

My advisor tells me, and I hope, that I have every chance of getting into a Top 10 program and I know beyond a doubt that pursuing the PhD is what I want to do... However, should I not get full funding+stipend anywhere, I, simply, will not be going. It would absolutely crush me, but, being a bit older, I realize that you MUST take the long view. I've read too many horror stories over on the Chronicle forums to just blow these kinds of warnings off. If you think I might be exaggerating, go to chronicle.com and check out the forums or even post a question and see what they tell you. Sadly, the decision to pursue a PhD nowadays is no longer a choice which can be made idealistically and naively.

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Sure, he's right in one sense. The humanities are dying - especially at places like Hope College. But they're dying because they've lost the vision informed by Christian theological tradition that grounded liberal humanistic inquiry in the first place. Check out Quality With Soul. And don't study "religion." Read theology and go to church. You'll have a much better shot at finding work in a confessionally moored institution. Though that will require you to commit yourself to having convictions. . . .and, well,nihilists do struggle with that!. . . . Even Jeff Stout, a card-carrying atheist, would agree with the approach that you have to give up being a relativist to get a job.

Small price to pay if you ask me. Or no price at all.

Edited by T Pain

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Sure, he's right in one sense. The humanities are dying - especially at places like Hope College. But they're dying because they've lost the vision informed by Christian theological tradition that grounded liberal humanistic inquiry in the first place. Check out Quality With Soul. And don't study "religion." Read theology and go to church. You'll have a much better shot at finding work in a confessionally moored institution. Though that will require you to commit yourself to having convictions. . . .and, well,nihilists do struggle with that!. . . . Even Jeff Stout, a card-carrying atheist, would agree with the approach that you have to give up being a relativist to get a job.

Small price to pay if you ask me. Or no price at all.

Oh dear. I suspect I'm swallowing bait by responding to this, but there's certainly a difference between studying Religion and studying Theology for one, let alone a difference between studying religion and attending church. You're right, I might have a great deal of success finding work in a confessional institution (though I actually wouldn't for one teensy detail mentioned below), but you might as well say that I'd have a great deal of success finding work as a marine biologist for all it has to do with what I want to do for a living.

I'm studying religion as a social force in antiquity. My job isn't to make value judgments about early Christian theology, or to figure out how early Christian theology informs today's theology, or to look into early Christian records for evidence of Jesus's divinity or lack thereof. It's to study how early Christians behaved in the context of Greco-Roman society. What they believed is only important insofar as it motivates said behaviour. I definitely don't care whether early Christian beliefs have any ground in theological truth. That's absolutely irrelevant to me, and - I think - would hinder my ability to carry out historical research in an objective way.

For what it's worth, I'm Jewish not a nihilist. And atheists get cards now?

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For what it's worth, I'm Jewish not a nihilist. And atheists get cards now?

Oh, yeah, laminated and everything. The next time you go to the DMV to get your license renewed there's a box on the form you can check to renew your atheist card too. It's so convenient these days! :)

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Oh, yeah, laminated and everything. The next time you go to the DMV to get your license renewed there's a box on the form you can check to renew your atheist card too. It's so convenient these days! :)

damn are there special ones for Jew-atheist like myself? Why haven't I received my card? Edited by PhD or Bust

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I understand and appreciate the advice given in these articles, but I would love some ideas about what all of us suckers are supposed to do with our useless undergraduate degrees in the humanities if we don't persue higher degrees. I don't doubt the sentiment of these articles, but isn't a possibility that the study of humanities will have to adapt for the 21st century, and who knows what kind of ways that could change the job market. I guess that's my blind optimism and my BA in History talking.

lol, good point.

The prospects are pretty crappy right now, no matter what degree you hold. One of the main reasons people are going back to grad school is so they can defer their undergraduate loans until the job market opens up again. Theoretically these people won't clog up the academic job market in any way... but who knows.

I have a BA in film, and I worked in the corporate world for a while, editing promos for a big broadcasting company. It sucked. A lot. I got a job at a local university (which pays about the same) and they're paying for my MA while I try to figure out if a PhD pursuit is worth it.

The real world can suck big time too.

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Just stumbled across this article yesterday. Not so much about finding a job as it is about being a good human, and it's more aimed toward people with tech jobs, or just people who think the humanities are a waste of time when it comes to employment, knowledge-seeking, or just plain living. And obviously, not all tech-oriented people think that, nor are tech and the humanities mutually exclusive. Still, I think it's relevant.

Thoughts?

http://chronicle.com...gist-to/128231/

Edited by greenlee

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