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Should you go at all?


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The most important question, I think, you should be asking yourself in this season of acceptances is if you should go to grad school at all.  If you are in the humanities or certain fields of the social sciences, the job market is very bleak.  It may well be better when you graduate, but it may well not be.  There are troubling trends like MOOCs that, many people think, will  restructure much of education in a way that will reduce the number of tenure track hires.

 

How bad is the job market currently?  According to Harvard, as of the fall of 2012, only 52% of those who got a Harvard PhD in the humanities from 2006-2011 had an academic job.  (And it looks like, based on some other data they report elsewhere, that about 1/3 of those are in non-tenure-track positions.)  23% were "unemployed and searching."  And due to self selection bias in reporting, this data probably underestimates the number of unployed.  http://history.fas.harvard.edu/programs/graduate/program/documents/five-year-cumulative-all-fields-2006-2011.pdf

 

Because the job market, many people in the humanities, for instance, spend several years after graduating twisting in the wind with low-paid, time-consuming, and short-term lectureships and visiting assistant professorsips before either get a tt job or quitting academia.  If you are really committed to an academic career, you may well be signing up for a PhD + several years of uncertainty and scrapping by after that.

 

Of course not all fields and subfields are made the same.  Some of your fields will have excellent job prospects; others, terrible.  It behooves you to research the matter and think about the kind of bet your are making.  You are giving up 5-8 years of pay, and more importantly, 5-8 years in which you could be launching a different career.  When you graduate at age 30 with a PhD, you will have opened a few doors (for instance, you are an attractive hire for a private high school), but shut many more.

 

I am not saying you should not go.  That is a decision to make yourself.  Personally, I have found getting a PhD immensley rewarding.  But it has also come at a great cost. 

Edited by graduatingPhD
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For my brothers and sisters in the arts and humanities:

 

 

salmon not in the well where the   
      hazelnut falls
but at the falls battling, inarticulate,   
      blindly making it.
- Robert Duncan
 

Just remember that in every city there are thousands of people huddled in cubicles, trapped in towering glass buildings wishing they were you.

 

Science and art/humanities was never mutually exclusive. Now, more than ever, we need a citizenry that has a strong understanding in the humanities, because that understanding is what needs to drive our science. Not greed. 

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stop the BS. "Science is greed" Don't make me laugh. What hypocrites you people are saying humanities = science & engineering when you can't survive without your iPhone and other technologies. I can survive without knowing about some useless passages from Hamlet and what techniques Matisse used for his paintings. You can downvote all you want but deep down inside you know you are not good at anything else so you have to justify for your useless job/career.

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stop the BS. "Science is greed" Don't make me laugh. What hypocrites you people are saying humanities = science & engineering when you can't survive without your iPhone and other technologies. I can survive without knowing about some useless passages from Hamlet and what techniques Matisse used for his paintings. You can downvote all you want but deep down inside you know you are not good at anything else so you have to justify for your useless job/career.

 

Shhh, don't tell them Leonardo da Vinci was a scientist who made innumerable discoveries. They might explode from learning things like this or this

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Humanities people are useless. You don't contribute anything to the world except your stupid opinions. LMAO art history? what is that useful for? exactly

 

Scientists wouldn't be able to do this if it wasn't for people studying art history. They wouldn't even know these paintings existed. And apparently, you're just adding formula after formula in your thesis. Because humanities are useless and you don't need to be able to communicate clearly or see the bigger picture of your research. Have fun being stuck in a lab.

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Goddamit, why am I always late to the flame party?

 

 

Either way, these things have resulted in the self-preservation of western societies and is why we live in a westernized world.

 

I love that you can speak with confidence on issues which you consider beneath your intellect. Actually, a couple other things, namely culture and society, are responsible for the self-preservation of western societies. The west's dominion actually began with trade (I recommend you read Thomas Mun if you are interested in the mechanism of that - Mun was a merchant, not an academic, so I think you'll like him). The ability of the west to trade successfully is rooted in the Enlightenment, in which humanitarian academics produced a set of values that allowed for capitalism and scientific method, among other things. Absolutely, we owe much to shipbuilders and navigators and other such tradesmen, as we owe much to scientists of the age, but do we owe them 100%? The Khalifat, which was dominant in the 6 centuries prior to the rise of Europe, was very advanced in the sciences and mathematics. They invented your favorite middle school subject, algebra. But why did they not conquer the world? Because they didn't fund their engineers enough? No, because a number of cultural and social factors did not come together for them, so that they may conquer.

 

give more funding to studies that translate into jobs that offer society a better return on its investment?

 

Once again, I am astounded at your ability to use jargon the meaning of which you do not know, such as "society" and "return on investment", in a way that makes sense in a sentence. What do they teach you engineers these days?

 

Does producing a bunch of mediocre engineers give society a better return on its investment, though? This question has inspired a bunch of economic literature. I am reading Edward Glaeser (Harvard) at the moment, and I like his perspective: the United States' greatest export (non-basic industry, for y'all educated folks) right now is innovation. Indeed, this innovation is led by scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and anybody else who can work a computer. These people are paid a ridiculous amount of money, and they are paid it because they are so few. However, once they are paid their $3 million bonuses, they go out and spend it on restaurant cooking, fashionable clothes, yoga instructors, modern art, private schools for their children, dog grooming, newspapers, concerts, and other things created by detestable humanities majors. It is the latter part of the economy, not the former, that generates most of the USA's GDP. You are correct that innovation is the reason that that latter economy exists - and that is why promising STEM students have so many opportunities compared to promising humanities students. But you are incorrect in saying that if we give yet more opportunities for STEM, we will create more STEM students, and therefore more innovation. Here's why.

 

The economy doesn't need engineers. It needs ideas. The reason companies like Google have extreme hiring practices and extreme salaries is because that salary is an advance (such as one paid to a writer) payable to a person who can maybe, hopefully generate a profitable idea. There has been research done regarding whether throwing money at people magically makes them more able to generate profitable ideas, and that hypothesis has not held. Only the talented STEM students matter for social efficiency; average STEM students have no marginal benefit relative to average anybody else. The reason for that is the reason so many Chinese and Indian students study computer science and engineering - middle-level science and engineering jobs have been outsourced to BRIC countries. The developed economy labor market is hollowing out, meaning that there are a lot of opportunities for highly qualified people, engineering students at top-10 programs such as yourself, and a lot of opportunities for low-skilled people, such as waiters and babysitters. If you are semi-skilled, a programmer or a shitty civil engineer, for example, you have a better chance finding a job in Bangalore than you do in the United States. 

 

Finally, the United States is unprecedently efficient at attracting top talent. I will reiterate: top talent means the very, very, most talented labor, not a dude with a random CS degree who can fix bugs in css. The programs that the US uses to dredge the globe for talented people have been in place since the 80s. Within this framework, I will discuss your statement:

 

We give money to public universities for a reason - its an investment we make on ourselves (mostly an economic benefit)

 

You are again right both in your use of technical vocabulary ("money", "economic benefit", "investment"), and in your general conclusion. But there is a lot of logic in between the statements "we give money to public universities for a reason" and "it is an investment we make on (sic) ourselves". 

 

Have you ever wondered why some students are able to attend the world's best universities for free (need-blindness in the Ivy League), or why some students, regardless of their economic background, are given hefty "merit scholarships", when other students, with very acceptable or even excellent credentials, are given smaller stipends or forced to take out loans? Because the public's interest, in regards to university, is to: 1) identify the students most likely to generate profitable ideas, and 2) to nurture those students in every way possible. As such the student population is divided into two classes: the people who are getting paid to go to school, and the people who go to school in order to pay for the first group. I myself go to a very good school on a very good scholarship (though not as good as I could've gotten if I had been in STEM), and I understand very well that my friend, who goes to the same school I do and who is, by the way, a physics major, is paying the college 60 grand a year so that the college can basically give that money to me. Do you think that my friend, because she is in STEM, should be given a small remittance on her tuition, which should be taken out of my scholarship, because I am a non-STEM major? From society's perspective, that would be inefficient, because she is stupid and I am smart, so the marginal benefit of any money society spends on her is always going to be less than the marginal benefit of any money that society spends on me. 

 

In my professional opinion, the United States won out against the USSR for one reason: Americans understand that, to make a successful product, you not only need a product, but the context that surrounds it - packaging, marketing, market strategy, financial forecast, company culture, PR, human relations. The USSR built rockets and reactors, but her people were bogged down by starvation, deficit, and censorship, and eventually they were like, fuck this, and called the whole thing off. Engineers and scientists make the product, sure, and without the product, the whole choochoo train is unnecessary, but you are ignorant in assuming that the product is the only thing that makes an economy go round. Necessary, but not sufficient, bro.

 

Thanks for reading, everybody, and I hope y'all gonna be truly talented engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and literary scholars, and not fucking R monkeys. #partyhard

 

lil-jon-shots-o.gif

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Goddamit, why am I always late to the flame party?

 

 

 

 

 

I love that you can speak with confidence on issues which you consider beneath your intellect. Actually, a couple other things, namely culture and society, are responsible for the self-preservation of western societies. The west's dominion actually began with trade (I recommend you read Thomas Mun if you are interested in the mechanism of that - Mun was a merchant, not an academic, so I think you'll like him). The ability of the west to trade successfully is rooted in the Enlightenment, in which humanitarian academics produced a set of values that allowed for capitalism and scientific method, among other things. Absolutely, we owe much to shipbuilders and navigators and other such tradesmen, as we owe much to scientists of the age, but do we owe them 100%? The Khalifat, which was dominant in the 6 centuries prior to the rise of Europe, was very advanced in the sciences and mathematics. They invented your favorite middle school subject, algebra. But why did they not conquer the world? Because they didn't fund their engineers enough? No, because a number of cultural and social factors did not come together for them, so that they may conquer.

 

 

 

 

Once again, I am astounded at your ability to use jargon the meaning of which you do not know, such as "society" and "return on investment", in a way that makes sense in a sentence. What do they teach you engineers these days?

 

Does producing a bunch of mediocre engineers give society a better return on its investment, though? This question has inspired a bunch of economic literature. I am reading Edward Glaeser (Harvard) at the moment, and I like his perspective: the United States' greatest export (non-basic industry, for y'all educated folks) right now is innovation. Indeed, this innovation is led by scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and anybody else who can work a computer. These people are paid a ridiculous amount of money, and they are paid it because they are so few. However, once they are paid their $3 million bonuses, they go out and spend it on restaurant cooking, fashionable clothes, yoga instructors, modern art, private schools for their children, dog grooming, newspapers, concerts, and other things created by detestable humanities majors. It is the latter part of the economy, not the former, that generates most of the USA's GDP. You are correct that innovation is the reason that that latter economy exists - and that is why promising STEM students have so many opportunities compared to promising humanities students. But you are incorrect in saying that if we give yet more opportunities for STEM, we will create more STEM students, and therefore more innovation. Here's why.

 

The economy doesn't need engineers. It needs ideas. The reason companies like Google have extreme hiring practices and extreme salaries is because that salary is an advance (such as one paid to a writer) payable to a person who can maybe, hopefully generate a profitable idea. There has been research done regarding whether throwing money at people magically makes them more able to generate profitable ideas, and that hypothesis has not held. Only the talented STEM students matter for social efficiency; average STEM students have no marginal benefit relative to average anybody else. The reason for that is the reason so many Chinese and Indian students study computer science and engineering - middle-level science and engineering jobs have been outsourced to BRIC countries. The developed economy labor market is hollowing out, meaning that there are a lot of opportunities for highly qualified people, engineering students at top-10 programs such as yourself, and a lot of opportunities for low-skilled people, such as waiters and babysitters. If you are semi-skilled, a programmer or a shitty civil engineer, for example, you have a better chance finding a job in Bangalore than you do in the United States. 

 

Finally, the United States is unprecedently efficient at attracting top talent. I will reiterate: top talent means the very, very, most talented labor, not a dude with a random CS degree who can fix bugs in css. The programs that the US uses to dredge the globe for talented people have been in place since the 80s. Within this framework, I will discuss your statement:

 

 

 

We give money to public universities for a reason - its an investment we make on ourselves (mostly an economic benefit)

 

You are again right both in your use of technical vocabulary ("money", "economic benefit", "investment"), and in your general conclusion. But there is a lot of logic in between the statements "we give money to public universities for a reason" and "it is an investment we make on (sic) ourselves". 

 

Have you ever wondered why some students are able to attend the world's best universities for free (need-blindness in the Ivy League), or why some students, regardless of their economic background, are given hefty "merit scholarships", when other students, with very acceptable or even excellent credentials, are given smaller stipends or forced to take out loans? Because the public's interest, in regards to university, is to: 1) identify the students most likely to generate profitable ideas, and 2) to nurture those students in every way possible. As such the student population is divided into two classes: the people who are getting paid to go to school, and the people who go to school in order to pay for the first group. I myself go to a very good school on a very good scholarship (though not as good as I could've gotten if I had been in STEM), and I understand very well that my friend, who goes to the same school I do and who is, by the way, a physics major, is paying the college 60 grand a year so that the college can basically give that money to me. Do you think that my friend, because she is in STEM, should be given a small remittance on her tuition, which should be taken out of my scholarship, because I am a non-STEM major? From society's perspective, that would be inefficient, because she is stupid and I am smart, so the marginal benefit of any money society spends on her is always going to be less than the marginal benefit of any money that society spends on me. 

 

In my professional opinion, the United States won out against the USSR for one reason: Americans understand that, to make a successful product, you not only need a product, but the context that surrounds it - packaging, marketing, market strategy, financial forecast, company culture, PR, human relations. The USSR built rockets and reactors, but her people were bogged down by starvation, deficit, and censorship, and eventually they were like, fuck this, and called the whole thing off. Engineers and scientists make the product, sure, and without the product, the whole choochoo train is unnecessary, but you are ignorant in assuming that the product is the only thing that makes an economy go round. Necessary, but not sufficient, bro.

 

Thanks for reading, everybody, and I hope y'all gonna be truly talented engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and literary scholars, and not fucking R monkeys. #partyhard

 

lil-jon-shots-o.gif

 

Four for you, Glenn Coco.

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stop the BS. "Science is greed" Don't make me laugh. What hypocrites you people are saying humanities = science & engineering when you can't survive without your iPhone and other technologies. I can survive without knowing about some useless passages from Hamlet and what techniques Matisse used for his paintings. You can downvote all you want but deep down inside you know you are not good at anything else so you have to justify for your useless job/career.

 

Seriously?? Following this logic we should all be farmers, seamstresses and carpenters. I can survive without my iPhone, but sure as hell can't without food...

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Let me say this, first: the humanities, broadly, are incredibly valuble. There are questions that science can't answer, there are values that aren't material. The distinction between the sciences and the humanities is an artificial one (there's no scientific method without epistomology, for example). I recently came across this article, which I thought spoke to some of these issues nicely: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/04/playing-with-plato/358633/ Understanding and producing culture is an important undertaking, and requires lots of gifted minds puzzling at problems. Advances in the humanties aren't opposed to advances in science, and often, the two support each other (would the iPhone be as valuble an innovation if there wasn't music and literature and video art to load onto it?). I can totally understand why the humanists in this thread react defensively to a suggestion that the economic costs of attending grad school in the humanities might not be worth it, since they've probably heard a loud and ignorant chorus of "what's that good for?" everytime they describe their studies. I totally support a full-throated defense of the value of studying the humanities.

 

Still, I'm disturbed by the posters here who assume that anyone who tells the truth about the downsides of pursuing a PhD in the humanites must have ulterior motives, or must believe that the advanced study in the humanities is worthless. The job market in many humanities fields is brutal, to the point that professors in the humanities (who probably don't think advanced study of history, english or philosophy is valueless) debate about whether it's even ethical to take students. For many folks, the PhD is a ten-year apprenticeship for a job that is disappearing. Academia is not a meritocracy, where everyone is devoted monasitcally to producing knowledge and living the life of the mind, but a weird political buracracy with lots of perverse incentives, so plenty of folks who end up scratching their way into a tenure-track job end up unhappy with the way things actually are.

 

Maybe most folks already know this stuff, and it's unbearably condescending to have people point it out to you (if so, I'm sorry). But there are at least some folks who don't already know it, who are getting bad advising from professors that were on the job market 40 years ago, or no advising at all, who have an innacurate picture of what the academic job market is like, and what an academic job entails. Those folks need to hear these things: about half the people who start an advanced degree don't finish it; that obtaining an advanced degree in the humanities is not a guarantee of a middle class life; that you won't get to necessarily work on the questions that are most interesting and valuble (to you and/or to the culture) in grad school; that you won't necessiarly get to work on research questions at all once you're done, even if you get a job in academia, because more and more jobs have higher and higher teaching loads; that there are infuriating and frustrating downsides to being a professor that you may not be aware of. Getting any kind of PhD is a gamble, it's just a gamble with worse terms for (many) humanists because the degree often takes longer to complete in the humanities, and you have way fewer options outside of academia to use your degree than science folks do.

 

Maybe the gamble is worth it. It probably is for some folks. I'm hoping it is for me (in a non-humanities field). But everyone should make that decision for themselves, with a good sense of what the actual stakes are. There's no one answer to the opening question in this thread, but you're a fool if you don't take the question itself seriously.

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For many folks, the PhD is a ten-year apprenticeship for a job that is disappearing.

 

Moreover, a job that has been disappearing since its inception, and still refuses to die.

 

Perhaps people in the States have been blinded by the post-war economic boom, but academia has never been a good deal for the average academic. The difference between STEM and humanities PhDs is that STEM PhDs can find relevant employment outside of academia (this is inversely related, btw, to the mathematical rigor of the PhD, with physicists and economists having the most options and botanists the least, etc), whereas humanities PhDs typically cannot. If you take that out of the equation, you find that the proportion of scientists who are tenured at R1 institutions is negligibly different from the proportion of humanitarians or social scientists or whatever have you. Most people with PhDs will not be superstars, and will rot away on small salaries in temp jobs. It has always been this way. I am frankly not buying your notion that the average graduate student is unaware of this. The media sensationalizes stupidity, but most people are not, in fact, stupid. We know our options. We're taking calculated risks.

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I make no claim about the average graduate student, or about anyone's stupidity. There are certainly applicants to graduate school (some of them who post on these boards) who don't know these things. How much those applicants resemble the norm, I can't say, and won't speculate, but they do exist. And I wouldn't say it's because they're stupid.

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Let me say this, first: the humanities, broadly, are incredibly valuble. There are questions that science can't answer, there are values that aren't material. The distinction between the sciences and the humanities is an artificial one (there's no scientific method without epistomology, for example). I recently came across this article, which I thought spoke to some of these issues nicely: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/04/playing-with-plato/358633/ Understanding and producing culture is an important undertaking, and requires lots of gifted minds puzzling at problems. Advances in the humanties aren't opposed to advances in science, and often, the two support each other (would the iPhone be as valuble an innovation if there wasn't music and literature and video art to load onto it?). I can totally understand why the humanists in this thread react defensively to a suggestion that the economic costs of attending grad school in the humanities might not be worth it, since they've probably heard a loud and ignorant chorus of "what's that good for?" everytime they describe their studies. I totally support a full-throated defense of the value of studying the humanities.

 

Still, I'm disturbed by the posters here who assume that anyone who tells the truth about the downsides of pursuing a PhD in the humanites must have ulterior motives, or must believe that the advanced study in the humanities is worthless. The job market in many humanities fields is brutal, to the point that professors in the humanities (who probably don't think advanced study of history, english or philosophy is valueless) debate about whether it's even ethical to take students. For many folks, the PhD is a ten-year apprenticeship for a job that is disappearing. Academia is not a meritocracy, where everyone is devoted monasitcally to producing knowledge and living the life of the mind, but a weird political buracracy with lots of perverse incentives, so plenty of folks who end up scratching their way into a tenure-track job end up unhappy with the way things actually are.

 

Maybe most folks already know this stuff, and it's unbearably condescending to have people point it out to you (if so, I'm sorry). But there are at least some folks who don't already know it, who are getting bad advising from professors that were on the job market 40 years ago, or no advising at all, who have an innacurate picture of what the academic job market is like, and what an academic job entails. Those folks need to hear these things: about half the people who start an advanced degree don't finish it; that obtaining an advanced degree in the humanities is not a guarantee of a middle class life; that you won't get to necessarily work on the questions that are most interesting and valuble (to you and/or to the culture) in grad school; that you won't necessiarly get to work on research questions at all once you're done, even if you get a job in academia, because more and more jobs have higher and higher teaching loads; that there are infuriating and frustrating downsides to being a professor that you may not be aware of. Getting any kind of PhD is a gamble, it's just a gamble with worse terms for (many) humanists because the degree often takes longer to complete in the humanities, and you have way fewer options outside of academia to use your degree than science folks do.

 

Maybe the gamble is worth it. It probably is for some folks. I'm hoping it is for me (in a non-humanities field). But everyone should make that decision for themselves, with a good sense of what the actual stakes are. There's no one answer to the opening question in this thread, but you're a fool if you don't take the question itself seriously.

 

It's not the questioning of whether or not humanities has a downside that bothers us, it's the idea that when "Does a PhD have a downside?" comes up, STEM specialists LEAP to say: "Yes, if you're in the humanities, they're useless." C'mon. It's throwing one group under the bus rather forcefully and that is what is so annoying. 

 

I think you'll find the majority of us understand the stakes, and people being surprised is an outlier. Not only that but let's be fair -- there are plenty of things you can do outside of academia with a humanities PhD -- they're just not always structured options like STEM has. (I have no intentions to be a professor, and am fine with that). But honestly, looking at my own options, it's fairly easy to say: Wow, five years of funded education! No debt, and training for a job I want! If that doesn't work out, guess I'll have to do something else. Five years of funding means I'm going to be paying off quite a bit of my loans while they're still in deferral. 

 

So it's a gamble, but the risks I take are "I don't get hired in my field" which would be tripled if I didn't have a PhD to begin with. 

 

What's frustrating is not discussing the risks, but discussing them as if we're the only ones experiencing or suffering a problem, or taking risks. The thread is about PhDs in general not "Take a shot at every humanities degree you can, everyone else is doing great." 

 

What's frustrating is things like the President singling out my degree, and people on this thread telling me my degree is useless and I'm somehow jealous of other people because I do something "meaningless" and not valuable when these are true:

 

In 2010, 6.9% of Art History majors and 10.6% of manufacturing workers were unemployed. Median earnings were about the same. [x]

 

The average salary of an art history major is $50,000 yr

http://

bit.ly/kwueXS

 

Just based on that, a median BA salary for an Art Historian is higher than those in English, Anthropology, Theology, Philosophy, and Linguistics and 91% of us in the workforce are employed. For contrast: the lowest tier of engineers are the Biological engineers who have a median of $55,000. Our median is equal to advertising and PR, communications, Communication Technologies. It's also higher than molecular biology, and physiology, botany, ecology, general agriculture and animal sciences,  equal to zoology and biology. 

 

The humanities offer some surprises — and from my point of view, pleasant ones. US History majors do quite well: $57,000. General history, art history and criticism majors do almost as well at $50,000. Majors in “intercultural and international studies” do worse at $44,000; even Latin majors do better than that.

 

There is no reason I can think of where, when a discussion about the value of a PhD begins, only the humanities are criticized and my major gets called out as useless or unemployable. Are there fundamental problems with the academia pipeline and the PhD process? Yes. Are they limited only to humanities? No. 

Edited by m-ttl
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But I think anyone contemplating a PhD should be faced with the ugly truth and then make a well-informed decision about whether they want to continue.  Personally, I read all the articles and decided to go anyway, partially because my field is one of the less-impacted ones and partially because I am totally and 100% okay with getting a non-academic job or, indeed, a job that never required a PhD in any case.  Sometimes in moments of frustration I wonder why the eff I did this, but if I think about this more generally (and with the rosiness of being nearly finished), I'm really glad I did the PhD.  I learned a tremendous amount and picked up a large amount of both hard and soft skills that I will take into whatever job I do end up doing.

 

It deeply saddens me that you, among others would say something like this. Having a positive attitude is always important, and I commend you for remaining hopeful. However, I rail against societal views like this as well. Think of it this way, did anything ever get accomplished by bowing down to the system? The answer is clearly no. Our fore fathers came to this country to embrace the lifestyles they wanted to lead. Yet we live in a society that tells 18 year olds that they can expect a job waitinf for them by getting a degree in just about anything, charge them life altering and astronomical amounts of money to get an education, and then tell them it's their fault they couldn't find a way to pay off the debt. We DON'T hold educators accountable for successfully preparing students entering a competitive job market. We DON'T have any type of standard that educators have to adhere to in order to ensure this, and we DON'T make any effort to place the millenial generation, the best suited to enter the work force, into employment.

 

I have a Master of Arts in Applied Sociology, and while I don't take offense to your opinion as you are entitled it, I do think it's incorrect. I worked as a research assistant in graduate school, and landed a temporary and part time job as a market research assistant. I was never given any kind of financial aid during previous undergraduate work, nor did I ever qualify for or receive any scholarships. I would be able to forget about ALL that if I knew that my education prepared me to compete in the job market. It didn't. What we're seeing here is a pattern of unemployment repeating itself via the life experiences of young recent graduates who were told to get degrees. The only people well off were people in the hard sciences like engineering, physics and health care. Everyone else is just settling for whatever they can find, out of complete desperation. So while I agree with your opinion that people who received degrees in the humanities tend to have picked up some analytical and writing skills, which can be marketable, their biggest enemy, the only thing stopping them from decent paying jobs, is lack of experience, like in my case. Furthermore, I don't think educators take the success of their students very seriously because it's not directly their job to do that. If you go to a restaurant and the food is bad, you complain and they give you your money back. I would like to see this "Customer Service" mentality brought into the world of higher academia. If educators were held accountable for their student's future success, we would see more people getting jobs, and positions like "Guidance Counselor" almost completely terminated. 

Education used to be a door opener, now it's becoming a door closer. 

 

Sad sad world...

 

 

 

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 I would like to see this "Customer Service" mentality brought into the world of higher academia. If educators were held accountable for their student's future success, we would see more people getting jobs, and positions like "Guidance Counselor" almost completely terminated.

 

Are you fucking kidding me? 

 

No, no, I'm sorry. Are you seriously trying to assert that making higher education MORE like a private business, we're going to ensure that the positive externality that education provides to society is made better? Hey, why doesn't everybody just take out a $200,000 loan, go to University of Phoenix, get a BA in Business, and ask their professors for their valuable contacts in Wal-Mart and the highway McD's? 

 

In what way, precisely, do you see "educators" (you don't even have the courtesy to afford them their professional titles, professor, or teacher, or captain my captain) being held accountable for students' success? In the same way that they are accountable for Jimmy getting an A even though he hasn't come to a single class and didn't turn in a single paper? In the same way that now every hiring decision in every university department hinges significantly on (SUBJECTIVE) student evaluations of that researcher's teaching? Should I be able to sue my liberal arts college if I am unable to find a job after graduation? Should I sue my mother for not birthing me with the looks of Angelina Jolie and the mind of Stephen Hawking?

 

I am by no means denying that there are institutions out there who misrepresent what they are able to give their students; I am equally sure that there are departments and individual professors out there who are toxic and need to be kept in a terrarium tank. However, the answer to protecting yourself against them is not to create a legislation that would a) make college into a business, which would result in GROSS inefficiencies and a loss of not only academic capital, but future research capacities, and b )create nothing but a lot of legal costs and wasted paper. The answer to protecting yourself against such contingencies of life is to 1) open your eyes to your reality, and 2) do the best you can do with what you have been given. It's sad that we are no longer living in the fifties, and we are not experiencing that unprecedented post-war economic boom, where anybody with a college degree (or without a college degree) could expect to be twice as rich as their parents over the course of 20 years. Creating nonsense regulation isn't going to help us regenerate an economy blighted by structural issues in its distribution of both labor and capital.

 

I'm sorry, but if you're spewing this nonsense after having had 6 years in tertiary education, I can totally see why the establishment is reluctant to give you any more chances.

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Haha. I've always wondered how U of Phoenix fares in graduate income wise. I've long suspected the MBA I know who graduated from there making six figures is likely an outlier. 

 

I also think that 

 

Are you fucking kidding me? 

 

No, no, I'm sorry. Are you seriously trying to assert that making higher education MORE like a private business, we're going to ensure that the positive externality that education provides to society is made better? Hey, why doesn't everybody just take out a $200,000 loan, go to University of Phoenix, get a BA in Business, and ask their professors for their valuable contacts in Wal-Mart and the highway McD's? 

 

In what way, precisely, do you see "educators" (you don't even have the courtesy to afford them their professional titles, professor, or teacher, or captain my captain) being held accountable for students' success? In the same way that they are accountable for Jimmy getting an A even though he hasn't come to a single class and didn't turn in a single paper? In the same way that now every hiring decision in every university department hinges significantly on (SUBJECTIVE) student evaluations of that researcher's teaching? Should I be able to sue my liberal arts college if I am unable to find a job after graduation? Should I sue my mother for not birthing me with the looks of Angelina Jolie and the mind of Stephen Hawking?

 

I am by no means denying that there are institutions out there who misrepresent what they are able to give their students; I am equally sure that there are departments and individual professors out there who are toxic and need to be kept in a terrarium tank. However, the answer to protecting yourself against them is not to create a legislation that would a) make college into a business, which would result in GROSS inefficiencies and a loss of not only academic capital, but future research capacities, and b )create nothing but a lot of legal costs and wasted paper. The answer to protecting yourself against such contingencies of life is to 1) open your eyes to your reality, and 2) do the best you can do with what you have been given. It's sad that we are no longer living in the fifties, and we are not experiencing that unprecedented post-war economic boom, where anybody with a college degree (or without a college degree) could expect to be twice as rich as their parents over the course of 20 years. Creating nonsense regulation isn't going to help us regenerate an economy blighted by structural issues in its distribution of both labor and capital.

 

I'm sorry, but if you're spewing this nonsense after having had 6 years in tertiary education, I can totally see why the establishment is reluctant to give you any more chances.

 

that the answer to the problem here is not to deplete the education or classes given to students - humanities or otherwise, but to perhaps alter the general education requirements to include any of the following:

 

  • experiential learning 
  • internships
  • fieldwork 
  • Professional Development: Career exploration, resume-building, CV writing, business writing 101 (some combination thereof)
  • Co-op terms a la Northeastern: "Students who participate in co-op alternate semesters of academic study with six-month terms of full-time employment in positions related to their academic or career interests. Students have the option of completing up to two co-ops over a four-year plan, or up to three co-ops over five years. While on co-op, students gain up to 18 months of professional or research experience related to their academic interests with any of more than 2,500 employers across the United States and in 80 countries around the world." 
  • Research/Lab initiatives 
  • Service-learning 

If you go through college believing a piece of paper is going to get you a job guaranteed, you are wrong. This is plain and simple. However, there is absolutely no need to create more corporate-like universities. This may surprise some people, but the answer to a failing non-profit is not to make it a for-profit institution, or try and make it act like one. There can be success in the model itself if you do it right. So what is the problem here? 

 

1.) Student goes to college, gets degree, has no experience. Student does not get hired. Student blames school or teachers. Professors cannot make you get experience. Universities may alter their requirements to ensure opportunities to get experience, or to teach basic professional skills, but the actual work and effort of getting experience relies on the student. 

 

Who is at fault here? Both parties have likely made errors: 

 

The school: should raise awareness of the campus career center and potentially require students to learn basic professional skills and have some sort of "practical" application aspect to their major. 

 

The student: For failing to go to the career center, for not gaining practical experience, for not asking professors how that experience is obtained or bothering to find out what can be done with their major, for not checking out a book running along the lines of: "What can you do with a major in English?" which at $.01 used on Amazon, you honestly would have no excuse ($.41 for Sociology). (Similarly: You majored in What?, Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads, I'm an English Major, Now what?, Careers in Sociology, Great Jobs in Sociology, or just about any career guide in any library or bookstore commonly found next to the business section), for not simply googling "careers in ____ major" or for going straight to the National Sources available (Their booklet is also a dollar, you could easily only spend about $5 with shipping for a booklet and a book from amazon), for simply going four years without asking a single damn soul "how do you get a job? how can I get a job? what are my options after I graduate?" 

 

2.) People believe these failings are based on the subject being studied or any one faculty member (I've sat through two different career prep presentations put on by multiple professors, been to multiple career fairs some of which were catered only to humanities students, and was required to do two internships for my not so elite public school, not to mention one of my intro courses is entirely comprised of speakers in my field discussing how to get jobs and how they got there) and not the student, or the presentation of the subject. 

 

2.) the problem with the PhD in general is that there needs to be an acceptance of non-academic uses of the degree. 

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A thought I have as to the economic value is that the US is experiencing Banana Republic levels of wealth inequality. I don't think that any sort of education reform is going to do anything more than dent it. There simply aren't enough good jobs out there. Ideas like this:

The student: For failing to go to the career center, for not gaining practical experience, for not asking professors how that experience is obtained or bothering to find out what can be done with their major, for not checking out a book running along the lines of: "What can you do with a major in English?" which at $.01 used on Amazon, you honestly would have no excuse ($.41 for Sociology). (Similarly: You majored in What?, Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads, I'm an English Major, Now what?, Careers in Sociology, Great Jobs in Sociology, or just about any career guide in any library or bookstore commonly found next to the business section), for not simply googling "careers in ____ major" or for going straight to the National Sources available (Their booklet is also a dollar, you could easily only spend about $5 with shipping for a booklet and a book from amazon), for simply going four years without asking a single damn soul "how do you get a job? how can I get a job? what are my options after I graduate?"

these ideas are only useful for giving an individual advice, but don't work very well in aggregate. At the end of the day there are only so many jobs and there are far more qualified applicants. Making everybody a little more qualified doesn't change the dynamic one bit.
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A thought I have as to the economic value is that the US is experiencing Banana Republic levels of wealth inequality. I don't think that any sort of education reform is going to do anything more than dent it. There simply aren't enough good jobs out there. Ideas like this:

these ideas are only useful for giving an individual advice, but don't work very well in aggregate. At the end of the day there are only so many jobs and there are far more qualified applicants. Making everybody a little more qualified doesn't change the dynamic one bit.

 

Then the problem is not in the education, the instruction, or the preparation, but in the jobs market and economy itself. Which, duh, we're in an economic depression. It's absolutely beneficial to teach people how to get jobs and obtain experience (and I was talking about a very specific individual, but there's no reason Career development cannot be a required course?), that doesn't fix the economy, obviously.  

 

You're talking about different problems. One is students believe they are unprepared to know how to obtain jobs and get hired post-grad. The other is the economy sucks and there aren't that many jobs available to obtain (even if you did learn how and have experience). The third is: there are more PhDs than jobs in Academia -- meaning we should fix how we approach funneling our PhDs into careers that go beyond academe. 

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Then the problem is not in the education, the instruction, or the preparation, but in the jobs market and economy itself. Which, duh, we're in an economic depression. It's absolutely beneficial to teach people how to get jobs and obtain experience (and I was talking about a very specific individual, but there's no reason Career development cannot be a required course?), that doesn't fix the economy, obviously. 

And I have a hard time understanding what good it does to get Student B a middle class job instead of Student A and how this relates to the duties of academics. The career development class won't give any long term benefit to the students because the exact same percentage of them are going to find professional work regardless. Take the time to teach them about their subject of interest or that there are things out there worth learning for reasons other than monetary gain.

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And I have a hard time understanding what good it does to get Student B a middle class job instead of Student A and how this relates to the duties of academics. The career development class won't give any long term benefit to the students because the exact same percentage of them are going to find professional work regardless. Take the time to teach them about their subject of interest or that there are things out there worth learning for reasons other than monetary gain.

 

....you're completely ignoring the fact that I gave a laundry list of other potential opportunities for learning about their subject of interest and getting experience. I'm in Art History and Museum studies. My entire life right now is about working for non-profits, so I'm not unaware of doing things not simply for monetary gain. But if you're talking about the average BA student, of course a solid career development class would be beneficial. I attribute some of my own success to the fact that I was able to confer with family who are in business and had MBAs and could explain to me how to best interview, present myself, give advice on writing cover letters, resumes, CVs, etc and so on. It's no different from going to a non-professional academic and getting advice on research, graduate school, etc. Both are incredibly helpful. It's silly to say "there's no long term benefits" because there absolutely are. It's like telling me there's no long-term benefits to writing an excellent statement of purpose. Of course there is - it can make or break your graduate application in the same way a cover letter can make or break your spot in the hiring process. 

 

I have been hired for jobs because of these skills in presenting what I have learned to others. Teaching someone about their subject and teaching them about how to get a job or career are not mutually exclusive. There's no reason why this wouldn't extend to graduate school, and also no reason why it should be demanded of every teaching academic. But if your advisor has no interest in your career after you have a degree in hand, how helpful are they really?

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You're talking about different problems. One is students believe they are unprepared to know how to obtain jobs and get hired post-grad. The other is the economy sucks and there aren't that many jobs available to obtain (even if you did learn how and have experience). The third is: there are more PhDs than jobs in Academia -- meaning we should fix how we approach funneling our PhDs into careers that go beyond academe. 

 

Love! I agree that we have three broad questions: the structure of the economy, the derived structure of the labor market, and how higher education fits into all of this. And now I'll talk about my research.

 

Campus Career Centres, no-nonsense literature on post-college employment, internship schemes, and professionalization classes are only useful insofar as you have something to apply them to. As the above poster said, no matter how qualified you are for a job, you won't get it if that job doesn't exist (a topic of particular concern for humanities PhDs, I hear). All of the above professionalization schemes, whether done individually or on an institutional level, are marginal - that is to say, they are not the factor that determines your hireability. This phrasing - colleges are not training graduates for today's job market - is one I have encountered in all its variants. And it is true, but its truth is a lot subtler than people are given to understand.

 

My approach broadly is to distinguish between graduates of competitive colleges and graduates of everything else. But I will also add a paragraph on humanities PhDs, because I care.

 

What is today's job market? I will recap from my previous post. Today's job market has a lot of opportunities for highly-skilled labor - so many, in fact, that the developed countries regularly import highly skilled labor from abroad. Tangentially, developed countries are also very happy to import capital (whether investment or actual entrepreneurs) from abroad. Why? Because we don't have enough dollars in America? No; in fact, American real interest rates have hovered around 0 for 6 years. Indeed, we have so much capital we literally don't know what to do with it - see the explosion of venture capitalism. Venture capitalism was a lot less common in the post-war boom, not only because credit requirements were tighter, but because capital was more expensive. In fact, the developed economies are experiencing a shortage of new investment opportunities. Hence, the push to get everyone through college. Hence, the emphasis on STEM. America's labor market, legislative environment, and abundance of capital give it an unprecedented comparative advantage over the rest of the world in the area of research and (technology) development. As such, talented engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs really cannot get a better deal in any other country. Does that mean you must absolutely study STEM or business in college? We will see.

 

As I have outlined above, the developed economies run on innovation, because the developing economies have taken over manufacturing due to their lower production costs. These innovative firms generate a lot of capital - but they also run on capital. WhatsApp, which has been sold to Facebook for $19bn, has a staff payroll that nominates slightly more people than the amount of posters on this topic. For comparison, Sony Co. is worth $18 bn. This business model is completely different from what dominated this country in the fifties - large industrial concerns with seemingly endless demand for semi-skilled labor and modest but fair wages that, in the aggregate, were able to fuel the kind of consumer demand that founded the middle class and built the economic engine of this country. The business model of innovation, the business model that now dominates this country, relies on empowering a small number of very bright workers with costly, but labor-free tools. It is a business model built for Harvard graduates. It is not a business model that will support legions of technicians, mediocre engineers, and typesetters. These are the real useless degrees.

 

As I have shown, the quarternary sector (research and innovation) is closed to all but the brightest, the secondary sector (manufacturing) is dead, and the primary (farming and resource extraction) is mechanized and will continue on the less-labor trajectory by the quaternary sector's efforts. We are left with the tertiary sector (services), which must absorb the majority of the western labor force. And in the tertiary sector, a humanities degree may actually be more useful than any other one. Here's why. If we take out the finance portion of the service sector, we are left with stuff to do with either marketing or management. Marketing and management have little to do with numbers and much to do with cultural capital, social cues, and an awareness of what literature majors call "the canon". I cannot overestimate the importance of soft skills in advancement in non-technical careers, because, as time has shown, every occupation within the tertiary sector that is "by the books", that can be algorithmized, has been outsourced or programmed into a software. By soft skills I do not only mean smiling and maintaining eye contact. By virtue of my specialization, I am kind of on the Rubicon between the quantifiable and the ambiguous, and I have to say, humanities disciplines such as philosophy, literature, history are apt - no, specially crafted - to teach their students a methodology for the analysis of the unquantifiable. Because when we cannot predict (and in non-technical fields, and biology, we cannot predict), we must interpret. And even when we can predict, we must interpret. There is no financial model in the world that will answer the question, "will widespread microlending reduce social inequality in India", although there are plenty of financial models that can predict, to a varying degree of accuracy, the addition to capital stock as a result of Indian microlending. I'm not just bullshitting. There are faculty at the Harvard economics department that have dedicated their lives to this.

 

My point is, unless one is exceptional, precisely what one studies in college has little to no bearing on one's earning potential. People reiterate the second part but lay off the first part because it's rude. As such, perhaps more widespread professionalizing programs would be good, to make students aware of the opportunities open to them. However, it seems to me that very few people matriculating college in the past 10 years really believe/d that getting a peace of paper would get them a job. I mean, you ask a college senior anywhere this time of year, or a humanities major at any time, and they are fucking shitting themselves with fear of the future. Also, from the treatises on "the new college reality" that I have read, I could not seriously recommend any of these popular get-the-best-out-of-college, put-your-major-to-work books. They seem to be written by economically and financially illiterate yet highly arrogant people.

 

Finally, humanities PhDs. I personally have never considered the PhD a pathway to prosperity - but that is likely because I read a lot as a child, and the scholars and students in the books I read were regularly poor, misunderstood, and likely malnourished. However, the question of exit opportunities for unsuccessful humanities PhDs is an enticing one. Firstly, I would contest the notion that a humanities PhD must think hard before attempting grad school, whereas a hard sciences PhD should not. The people who I know who have sought hard science PhDs - by virtue of my disgustingly white classist background, people with high GPAs from elite schools - had the grades and the pedigree to go into, say, quant finance, straight out of undergrad, except that, if they had done that, they would've had the inclement experience, the youth, and the hunger to raise to much higher ranks and salaries than what they got as PhDs coming out of grad school. I am biased towards math and physics, I admit, because the other shit has too many goddamn labs, and I am sure that some industry occupations, such as R&D, require a PhD for consideration - but that is very much a different story from going into any PhD with the intention of making tenure and ending up in industry. I won't expand on the notion of industry PhDs, however, because I have no basis from which to speak. My idea is, the opportunity cost of pursuing a PhD is great for all PhDs - whatever their discipline.

 

But speaking specifically about humanities PhDs, I think it is useful to consider humanities students in general. What are any of us to do? I attended a talk by a very successful economist the other day, and what struck me about him is what strikes me about all successful people: he was above all a personality, a great orator. As such, I don't think that a person without rigorous training or significant natural talent in the humanities, in the areas of rhetoric and written analysis, will be able to rise to a position of leadership. However, it seems that, except for government, in all career paths nowadays, a proficiency with mathematics is a necessary condition for entry. I mean by proficiency not a knowledge of the TI-84 inspired by one or two semesters of calculus; I mean the understanding of the treatment of numerical data sets - a basic skill, critical thinking with numbers. There is a suspicion in both the industry and graduate school admissions that humanities students don't have this skill. However, it isn't correct to say that students who are inordinately talented in the humanities (like yours truly) shouldn't be able to dedicate themselves safely to the study of the humanities for 4 years of their college life. 

 

In defining opportunities in the humanities, I must return to the notion of cultural capital. Humanities scholars interpret, and interpretations by their definition must be adapted to their context. As such, humanities students must not only know their context, but belong in their context (e.g. even if you are interpreting the art of a different culture, so not your own context, whom are you interpreting it to?) And I understand that this sounds classist at the least and like an argument against academic integrity at the extremity. However, the position of interpreter is one for which people would be willing to pay. What do we do with our humanities majors leaving undergrad? I see a lot going into government and the soft ends of private companies (including finance, bitches), and I think I have clarified why above. As for humanities PhDs, I am not sure, again, that the university system would be the most efficient agent in "funneling" them anywhere. A better port of call would be your adviser or your conference or your contacts. Humanities PhDs just aren't widely regarded as applicable to a lot of roles - cue Kant, Enlightenment, positivism - but I am not convinced that universities advertising them more would make them better regarded. I would start with noting that the thinkers and methodologies we use aren't highly regarded, and I am not sure that a university-wide pogrom would be the solution to this, I think, essential misunderstanding between humanities students and everybody else. One of my advisers would say that critical theory became the death of literary criticism, and, whereas I love to read critical theory, I see myself agreeing with him more and more as I go on. I am generally opposed to using any methodology that is so overwhelming that you must include it on your abstract.

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Humanities people are useless. You don't contribute anything to the world except your stupid opinions. LMAO art history? what is that useful for? exactly

 

I am absolutely shocked that people talk about humanies/social sciences like this.

 

I hope to get a phd in biophysics and do research related to drug delevelopment. Theres tons of important important research going on in the sciences AND humanities and also tons of seemingly worthless research in both (though as someone pointed out earlier, worthless research often stumbles upon important stuff, making it also important).

 

I get that engineering can be important. Sure, we want more technology and want to optimize traffic patterns and all the other stuff that engineers do. Is a student studying the history of our relationship with the middle east who can give advice on how to avoid confilict and prevent a war less important? Without that humanities student, your road plans would be useless. What about anthropology students who are helping us understand a culture in Africa. What if we learn new amazing ideas from that culture or learn of a plant over there that cures cancer based on that anthropologist's connection with the culture. I think that a cancer cure is just as/more important than whatever technology you are working on. People enjoy the technology you make but people equally enjoy theater, books, movies also. The TVs you design arent going to do much good without people in theater and film making the moves.

 

ALL fields are important and should be funded.

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I am absolutely shocked that people talk about humanies/social sciences like this.

 

Agreed, but SP101 is just a lowly troll. My guess is that they are't even concerned with grad school, hates what they do, or couldn't gain admission for obvious reasons (What PI in their right mind would take someone like them?). Nonetheless, we will continue to vote down everything they say because it is funny to watch them flail about like a beached whale. Although, "washed up" doesn't even begin to describe their current disposition. 

 

Personally I applied for PhD programs because, well, I could. 

I'm one of those weirdos that has a job in industry but is giving it up for more education. However, I see it as an opportunity to gain more independence in my research as well. I could continue to work my way up the corporate ladder, but at this rate, it seems the PhD may actually shorten the amount of time I spend on the fringes of publishing my own work. It also helps that I'm guaranteed funding for full tuition and a sizable living stipend no matter where I choose to go.

 

In the end though, I guess I could care less about money. I grew up reasonably poor, and to be honest, it wasn't that bad. In a lot of ways it was kind of fun. Should I end up jobless, alone, and eventually homeless, so be it. At least I tried to follow my dreams. That in itself is very satisfying. Whether you're STEM or humanities, following a dream should be reason enough to pursue a graduate degree, fiat currencies be damned. Luckily, rock bottom in the United States, for most people, is still relatively soft.

 

To quote Deltron 3030: "Worry 'bout a salary, creative casualty."  

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