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Should you get a humanities PhD 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.h...s-2006-2011.pdf

 

Because of the job market, many people from elite programs 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.  Personally, I have found getting a PhD immensley rewarding.  But it has also come at a great cost.

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p.s. if you want to get a sense of what the job market is today, here is where most US jobs get posted:

 

http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/English_Literature_2013-14

 

Keep in mind that some subfields will have much bigger applicant pools than others.

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So just to be clear: you came to a message board full of people applying to English/Rhetoric/Comparative Literature PhD programs and decided that, now, in March, 5 months after applying, you will remind us of the news no one doesn't know and repeat to us the websites and stats our loved ones, family members, and friends harp to us constantly?

 

Do you have a Kickstarter page so I can fund you to push kids off swings while telling them Santa doesn't exist?

Edited by TDazzle

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Boy...

I won't say you're wrong. I can't speak for everyone - but me... I'm not blind to the bleakness of it.

I do, however, find "business speak/ industrialization" fascinating.

"launching a different career"  as if a career is some sort of vehical and not a journey - it's not far off from the etymology... Just an interesting metaphor.

And cost - well gee... I think there is this unstated assumption that all things must lead to some sort of end product.

I know someone getting an UG degree in the Arts. Will she ever get a job with it? Dunno. But ask her "is there anything you'd rather be doing right now?" and she'll give you a big ol' "Nope!"

So is it really time wasted? Can we chuck it up as a cost?

More to say - but I've got to get back to work.

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Sure, the job market is terrible ... but so is every other job market. When I was looking for my first job, I sent out about 100 applications. I didn't get a job.

 

When someone says something like, "grad school came at a great cost," I always wonder what "cost" they're talking about. Were you going to do something else? Were you going to be a stockbroker or a lawyer? Because you can still do those things. Getting a PhD doesn't turn you into a ruined woman. So yeah, have a backup plan.

 

I often think that certain academics are naive for harping constantly about the job market. As if other career options are raining down jobs?

 

Honestly, not getting a tenure-track job doesn't really upset me. I didn't go into academia for tenure--I went into academia because I genuinely like academic work. If I have to take a non-TT job or a lectureship, then I guess that will make me like almost every other working person on the face of the planet--one with little job security.

 

The job market is really terrible ... but to offer a slightly different perspective, I do have to say that everyone I've know from my program (not Harvard by any means) who wanted a job has gotten a job.

 

And I wouldn't direct people to the wiki. Actually, HigherEdJobs will give you a better perspective on the kinds of jobs that are out there right now.

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I think everyone can agree on one important thing: everybody entering this process, or considering entering it, should be rigorous and ruthless in researching the job market before they apply anywhere. Lots of people have complained, in recent years, that they were not made aware of just how bad it was before they started. Don't be one of them. Do the research, especially on trends since the 2008 collapse, and then make an informed choice based on that research.

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Not making money or paying into social security for 5-10+ years while your debt either increases or simply sits and gains interest is not something to turn your nose at and is the most immediate consideration to make when we go into the process that is graduate education. 

 

For me, I had a few first demands knowing the financial non-wisdom of the mere undertaking of the PhD:

-Must be funded with all tuition and major fees waived along with a stipend that provides a livable wage in the school's home market without making unreasonable work demands (20 hour TAships can explode into larger commitments). 

-On that note, no new debt. 

-School has to be very well-esteemed within its field. Placement rates have to be very good and given to me in non-anecdotal terms. It is not a time to adjust my standards, knowing the job market that awaits me. With that said, the following also matters (but cannot overrule this rule)

-Grad school has to be a positive experience. Knowing the bleakness and uncertainty of the future and the potential colossal waste of time (in financial terms) that grad school is, I have to be getting all kinds of intellectual and other kinds of gratification from the experience. There is no use trudging my way through grad school to get to an end where employment is uncertain. 

-No big commitments unless someone else (spouse) is paying for it: house purchase, baby, new car, things like that.

-Grad school can't take forever. If it is looking like an 8 year commitment, I'm getting the hell out. It isn't worth waiting that long unless there is a specific reason that involves me earning enough money to live on before and after defending the dissertation.

 

Assuming all of that goes well, I could still see a totally bleak job market. In that case, I will briefly consider non-ideal contingent positions. However, there seems to be a prevailing thought that non-TT jobs are great with the exception of the job security. That is not usually the case. Usually pay is very low, class loads are very high, and the adjunct is a clear second-class citizen within the department. I will not spend a whole lot of time under those conditions before I seek new kinds of work that will be more gratifying in all ways.

 

Also - I think the biggest issue is the sunk cost fallacy. Entering grad school or entering the job market are not so bad in and of themselves, it is the sticking with it despite clearly awful life/work conditions that is the problem. I'm happy to go to grad school, but I refuse to hate doing it. I will also refuse to spend my time working in academia (if that happens) hating my job. There is an extent to which you take some adversity for the long term good, but there are limits, especially when the long term good outcome often doesn't exist.

Edited by JLRC

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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.h...s-2006-2011.pdf

 

Because of the job market, many people from elite programs 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.  Personally, I have found getting a PhD immensley rewarding.  But it has also come at a great cost.

 

Without condescension, I’m curious about what prompted you to create an account today and post this? I would understand a bit more if you were a GradCafe regular who had developed relationships with members on this site, but creating an account simply to post this is interesting. 

 

I understand that many individuals who are in the market or are getting ready to enter it are currently feeling the stress of competition and poor job prospects. It may be that your intentions are holistic and you sincerely feel inclined to steer others away from making the same choices you did. If that is indeed the case, why speak up in March after people have already invested their time and energy into applying? And if you just suddenly felt the urge to speak up today, what special thing happened to make it imperative do so? What I find particularly interesting about the timing of your post is that you seem to be speaking to those who are already accepted. You say, “...you should be asking yourself in this season of acceptances if you should be going to graduate school at all.” Why not warn individuals before they apply rather than wait until they are accepted? Rather than letting them enjoy success, it’s almost as if you are attempting to tear it away from them by telling them that an acceptance really means nothing in the grand scheme of things. You may think that true (and maybe you don’t...I’m just telling you what I see in the post), it is a bit cruel of you to do so. 

 

The job market is absolutely bleak. I think most (if not all) of us who haunt GradCafe are aware of that. We know that most PhDs must search for 6-10 years before landing a tenure-track line (if they ever do). We’ve seen the statistics, been warned by faculty members, and have been cautioned by other GradCafe members. We are, arguably, the most aware of job prospects because it is pointed out to us daily in all contexts. I’m not meaning this is a flame at all, but I really would like to know the thought process of individuals such as yourself who feel as though it is their moral obligation to speak to those of us who are applying and caution us against doing so. Why is that your place? Again, I understand that the intention may be holistic in nature, but it still feels as though it borders on condescension. 

 

Again, this isn’t meant as a flame. I’m just genuinely curious about the mindset and the motivation behind this post. If you want to PM a response rather than post it on the feed, that would work, too. 

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Kamisha - I'm close with several students choosing between PhD programs at this very moment and in talking with them have gotten the sense that applicants do not have a fully realistic picture of what the job market is like--nor do many admitting programs provide that data for them.  I'm also an interested observer of the job market as I prepare to go on it in the fall.  Also, I have a lot of friends who have gone through the job market--some of whom have been spectacularly successful, some who are fighting to get by.  Many of them felt that they had little knowledge about the job market when they started (though it was certainly better than) and many of them feel they would have made different decisions had they known.

 

In his fit of immaturity, TDazzle suggested that these statistics are known to all.  In actually, getting numbers on the situation is rather hard.  There are aggregate level numbers like those reported by the MLA, etc, but those don't really tell us what it looks like on the ground.  Few schools actually report reliable numbers too.  The Harvard numbers I posted are the best quality and timespan I've see for what it looks like to get a PhD from a top department.

 

No, as I said at the end of my post, I am not at all inclined to steer people away from choosing a PhD program.  In fact, all things considered, I would very likely choose to do it again.

 

My point is not to dictate peoples' choices--each of us have to decide for ourselves, obviously, and what you value may not be what I value--but since a tt job is the endgoal of many pursuing PhD programs, data that helps people on the verge of committing to a career figure out how likely that is may be very useful to some.  Unfortunately, as TDazzle's snark makes clear, such information is, for many, also anxiety provoking. 

Edited by graduatingPhD

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Macchiato - I'm close with several students choosing between PhD programs at this very moment and in talking with them have gotten the sense that applicants do not have a fully realistic picture of what the job market is like--nor do many admitting programs provide that data for them.  I'm also an interested observer of the job market as I prepare to go on it in the fall.  Also, I have a lot of friends who have gone through the job market--some of whom have been spectacularly successful, some who are fighting to get by.  Many of them felt that they had little knowledge about the job market when they started (though it was certainly better than) and many of them feel they would have made different decisions had they known.

 

In his fit of immaturity, TDazzle suggested that these statistics are known to all.  In actually, getting numbers on the situation is rather hard.  There are aggregate level numbers like those reported by the MLA, etc, but those don't really tell us what it looks like on the ground.  Few schools actually report reliable numbers too.  The Harvard numbers I posted are the best quality and timespan I've see for what it looks like to get a PhD from a top department.

 

No, as I said at the end of my post, I am not at all inclined to steer people away from choosing a PhD program.  In fact, all things considered, I would very likely choose to do it again.

 

My point is not to dictate peoples' choices--each of us have to decide for ourselves, obviously, and what you value may not be what I value--but since a tt job is the endgoal of many pursuing PhD programs, data that helps people on the verge of committing to a career figure out how likely that is may be very useful to some.  Unfortunately, as TDazzle's snark makes clear, such information is, for many, also anxiety provoking. 

 

Thanks for responding. I think I somewhat understand your mindset, though I’m still not entirely sure that post was appropriate in terms of audience and timing. That being said, I can appreciate your intentions even if I disagree with them. 

 

You’ve touched upon a topic that is frustrating for all of us, especially because most of us (as you have indicated, some individuals seem to remain somewhat oblivious to the market) hear the points you bring up every day. Moreover, everyone on this board has already applied and already, for the most part, already made the decision to go for the PhD. Our futures (like yours) are uncertain. As such, it’s understandable that posts like your initial one feel like another unnecessary knife to the stomach. Again, I understand the holistic intention, I just don’t know that the post was appropriate for this audience and this time of application season. 

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Applying to a PhD program is not making a decision to go.  I know several people who have gotten into programs and have decided not to go into them. 

 

The suggestion that I should have either warned people in Novemember or not at all is, I think, a bizarre one.  Yes, it would be excellent to warn people then rather than now.  But that doesn't mean it is wrong to warn people now--which is when, after all, the idea occurred to me.  Furthermore, some people are going to be better informed than others -- someone who has 459 posts on here, for instance, hopefully already knows what they are getting into.  More casual readers, or those brought here just for acceptance season may not.  (Look at how few people comment vs those who click on a post.)

 

I certainly don't intend to give anyone a knife in the stomach.  I can't account for whether some people's co-workers and family are hounding him about his choice. When I was applying, I got none of that from my coworkers or my friends.

 

I do intend to give them helpful information--and protecting those who might feel anxious and angry doesn't outweigh the benefit to those for whom actual data about the job market might be helpful.  The notion that it isn't my "place" to spread useful info in a public forum doesn't resonate with me.

Edited by graduatingPhD

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The suggestion that I should have either warned people in Novemember or not at all is, I think, a bizarre one.  Yes, it would be excellent to warn people then rather than now.  But that doesn't mean it is wrong to warn people now--which is when, after all, the idea occurred to me.  

 

 

An idea to sell Christmas cards on Easter occurred to me once, but I didn't make much money. That's why I'm applying to grad school.

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I had a gif up that accurately conveyed my thoughts about this. But instead I'll just say: no one should enter this process unless four or five actual human beings have actually said to that person, "oh a literature phd, how will that give you food."

 

I don't retract my initial "snark," but will say this is not anxiety producing – I just think the initial post was utterly facile. 

Edited by TDazzle

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Not making money or paying into social security for 5-10+ years while your debt either increases or simply sits and gains interest is not something to turn your nose at and is the most immediate consideration to make when we go into the process that is graduate education. 

 

For me, I had a few first demands knowing the financial non-wisdom of the mere undertaking of the PhD:

-Must be funded with all tuition and major fees waived along with a stipend that provides a livable wage in the school's home market without making unreasonable work demands (20 hour TAships can explode into larger commitments). 

-On that note, no new debt. 

-School has to be very well-esteemed within its field. Placement rates have to be very good and given to me in non-anecdotal terms. It is not a time to adjust my standards, knowing the job market that awaits me. With that said, the following also matters (but cannot overrule this rule)

-Grad school has to be a positive experience. Knowing the bleakness and uncertainty of the future and the potential colossal waste of time (in financial terms) that grad school is, I have to be getting all kinds of intellectual and other kinds of gratification from the experience. There is no use trudging my way through grad school to get to an end where employment is uncertain. 

-No big commitments unless someone else (spouse) is paying for it: house purchase, baby, new car, things like that.

-Grad school can't take forever. If it is looking like an 8 year commitment, I'm getting the hell out. It isn't worth waiting that long unless there is a specific reason that involves me earning enough money to live on before and after defending the dissertation.

 

Assuming all of that goes well, I could still see a totally bleak job market. In that case, I will briefly consider non-ideal contingent positions. However, there seems to be a prevailing thought that non-TT jobs are great with the exception of the job security. That is not usually the case. Usually pay is very low, class loads are very high, and the adjunct is a clear second-class citizen within the department. I will not spend a whole lot of time under those conditions before I seek new kinds of work that will be more gratifying in all ways.

 

Also - I think the biggest issue is the sunk cost fallacy. Entering grad school or entering the job market are not so bad in and of themselves, it is the sticking with it despite clearly awful life/work conditions that is the problem. I'm happy to go to grad school, but I refuse to hate doing it. I will also refuse to spend my time working in academia (if that happens) hating my job. There is an extent to which you take some adversity for the long term good, but there are limits, especially when the long term good outcome often doesn't exist.

 

I certainly understand the reasoning behind a lot of information in this post, but I find myself thinking that a lot of this is really idealistic--or maybe, what I mean is that all of these standards are not going to be easily met. With how competitive PhD programs are to say that you're not going to attend one unless you're sure you can be happy there seems a little silly to me. Or, maybe I've just become really cynical.

 

For me, a PhD is a personal goal that I would feel incomplete without. Would I love to go to a place that is highly ranked, with great resources, a lot of support, and good placement rates? Of course. But, it doesn't look like that is going to be a reality for me considering the rejections I've received so far. So, does that mean that I should just never get a PhD? That doesn't seem like the right answer either. I've been teaching at the college level for the past 4 years and I absolutely love it, and I couldn't give it up. I also don't want to be stuck in adjunct hell, but as others have said the job market sucks for a lot of people in every field. 

 

BTW, I should add that I don't find your post bad timing--I think it's always important to have a discussion about whether we're doing things for the right reasons. I guess I just can't get on board with this "all or nothing" thought process--that things either have to be the best possible opportunities (best ranked programs, knowing that you're fully happy in all aspects at the institution, etc) or that it's not worth it at all. I know that one of the options I have isn't particularly exciting. But, I also know that I'll be able to study literature and teach at the same time, which is all I've ever wanted. 

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I would also add that some mid level programs have better placement rates than top tier programs. I was told by a hiring department at a liberal arts school that they pass over candidates coming out of top programs because they assume the candidates' goal is to end up at an R1 institution, and that they're just using small liberal arts schools as a way to get experience in the mean time. (Which in fact does happen pretty frequently)

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Apologies for my snark and immaturity. I want to dispel the thought that this was anxiety provoking and respond a bit more maturely and clearly.

 

Anyone who thought this was new information: 1r7uivjpgo.gif

 

I have met many people in academia or applying to get in who have been profoundly ignorant about the status of the job market. There's also dozens of essays out there by people who say that they didn't know, which you can easily find. And many of the people who claim to know reflect a pre-2008 understanding. Before the financial crisis, it was really, really bad. People wrote pieces declaring the death of the humanities, etc etc. Then, afterwards, the numbers were cut in half. A lot of people seem to understand the old "this is bad" numbers but not the new "this is so much worse" numbers. And this is to say nothing of the potential for people to say they know but assume that they will be the exception rather than part of the rule.

 

What I don't understand is, if everybody knows this information, why do so many people flip out when it's brought up? If everybody is being coolly rational and informed about this, why the heat and anger when the very words "job market" appear on this board? That, I don't understand. If you're all informed, that's great. But we have every reason to believe that there are people who aren't informed, and that's who threads like this are for. If you're not one of them, just move on. Don't click the thread again. I don't understand why people can't accept the fact that some people aren't really aware and may need to hear this. It's not an insult to you if you're one of the ones who do know. When you flip out about people pointing out facts that you acknowledge are facts, it suggests that you haven't 100% come to terms with all this.

Edited by ComeBackZinc

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I have met many people in academia or applying to get in who have been profoundly ignorant about the status of the job market. There's also dozens of essays out there by people who say that they didn't know, which you can easily find. And many of the people who claim to know reflect a pre-2008 understanding. Before the financial crisis, it was really, really bad. People wrote pieces declaring the death of the humanities, etc etc. Then, afterwards, the numbers were cut in half. A lot of people seem to understand the old "this is bad" numbers but not the new "this is so much worse" numbers. And this is to say nothing of the potential for people to say they know but assume that they will be the exception rather than part of the rule.

 

I think that, in facing the daunting reality of the academic job market, some people have lost sense of the general economic reality.

 

Middle-income earnings have plateaud in the 1970s. That means that, in real terms, a middle-income person today can afford fewer things than a middle-income person in the 1970s. Thus, the time when the statistically average person could make 50 times what his parents made is gone forever. America is back to the level of existence that other countries have never left - of most people working too much for too little pay. This is true equally for engineers and lawyers and doctors. Maybe before 2008, the humanities market was in slightly better shape - but after 2008, the humanities PhD is less of a risk compared to other jobs in terms of opportunity cost! However you cut it, most of us will end up in unfulfilling, underpaid jobs - whether we do a PhD in cultural theory, join a marketing firm, or get a CS degree. Now, to make it in the corporate or the professional world, you have to work really, really hard at shit that bores you to the skin of your teeth. It strikes me that your average English major who is successful enough to get accepted to the top 5 graduate schools isn't greatly talented at enduring grunt work. 

 

You can't be risk-averse as a humanities graduate student. But if you truly have a lot of potential, you actually lose more by being risk-averse than you do by being pleasure-maximizing.

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I have met many people in academia or applying to get in who have been profoundly ignorant about the status of the job market. There's dozens of essays out there by people who say that they didn't know, which you can easily find. And many of the people who claim to know reflect a pre-2008 understanding. Before the financial crisis, it was really, really bad. People wrote pieces declaring the death of the humanities, etc etc. Then, afterwards, the numbers were cut in half. A lot of people seem to understand the old "this is bad" numbers but not the new "this is so much worse numbers." And this is to say nothing of the potential for people to say they know but assume that they will be the exception rather than part of the rule.

 

What I don't understand is, if everybody knows this information, why do so many people flip out when it's brought up? If everybody is being coolly rational and informed about this, why the heat and anger when the very words "job market" appear on this board? That, I don't understand. If you're all informed, that's great. But we have every reason to believe that there are people who aren't informed, and that's who threads like this are for. If you're not one of them, just move on. Don't click the thread again. I don't understand why people can't accept the fact that some people aren't really aware and may need to hear this. It's not an insult to you if you're one of the ones who do know.

 

But this isn't a thread about the "job market." That's the problem. This is a thread about not pursuing a humanities degree because of the job market. One started after acceptances and rejections to the grueling admissions process have started coming in. A thread on jobs, fine. A thread on even doing the thing you've been spending countless hours preparing for? It's the depths of unthinking paternalism. 

 

Of course, it doesn't have to be. There are great conversations to be had, even about whether or not to continue on to a phd. I know more than a few grad students who talk about leaving academia (without bitterness even). But I think both the subject matter and the tone of the OP ("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") are not aiding in these conversations. This gets on my nerves not because the academic market job prospects are bad – I've had every faculty member ever tell me this through undergrad and my MFA, and I would be shocked if there is a reader on the forum who doesn't know that English literature isn't the most lucrative field out there – but because the post is written from the god-perspective of almost seeking to get readers to doubt decisions they have been stressing enough this month over. It's condescension in the pose of helpful aid. 

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Hey, you're speaking my language in terms of connecting the academic job market to the broader job market. (Here's Chomsky on that score.) However, let's be clear what we're talking about: if the idea is that the odds of getting full-time work generally are about the same as getting a TT professorship, then that's not close to true. Look, I'm an advocate of taking a holistic view of academia, I think there are perfectly compelling arguments made as to why one would go, and people should make adult choices and not look back. 100% on board there. I just want us to be clear: if your goal is to get a tenure-track job as a professor in a university, understand the odds. That doesn't mean don't try; people try to be actors in Hollywood and professional athletes, etc, even knowing the odds. Just know the odds.

 

A thread on even doing the thing you've been spending countless hours preparing for? It's the depths of unthinking paternalism. 

 

 

So let's switch it up! My stance is just this: everyone who goes into this planning on getting a TT job should be prepared for the market and aware of the odds. If people are prepared and aware, then it's like any other of life's choices: nobody else can make it for you. Just be real with yourself about whether you can live without a TT job after you collect the degree. That's all I'm ever trying to say.

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TDazzle -

 

You claim its not about your anxiety--but your carttons and words (you've spent "countless hours" preparing, your family has badgered you everyday, you've put so much time into a MFA, people have told you literature won't put food on the table--you've led a rough life!) tells us otherwise.  If this isn't useful info to you, then move on. 

 

Furthermore, rather than reducing conversation to snark and cartoons, perhaps you can actually engage in conversation.  My point is neither that you should or shouldn't get a PhD.  Nor is it that books don't put food on the table.  It is that something like only 33-40% of Harvard PhDs (which is an imperfect proxy of the market as a whole) in the humanities have gotten a tt-job.  It is not the case, as exponential decay claims, that the humanities job market was in "slightly better shape" than before 2008 -- it was in substantially better shape.  Many disciplines have reported 35-50% drops in the total number of jobs, and within that there have been shifts (which are hard to get good numbers on) towards adjunct hiring.  Those numbers may or may not matter to your decision, but they will matter to those for whom getting a tt-job is an important goal.

Edited by graduatingPhD

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I advise those who are horrified by the academic job market and academic employment conditions (exploitative! neoliberal! low-paying! no security!) to go give it a whirl in the non-academic job market and workforce for a while. Because every job I had outside of academia was basically ridiculous. But also boring. Academia is about the same in terms of its capitalistic unfairness, but it's not boring.

 

I agree that the university as a non-profit public trust has pretty much folded up and died, and that's pretty sad. It is depressing. It's depressing that administrators at my university are making half a million a year but won't fork over $50,000 for a TT line. It's depressing that college admissions and tuition is up like never before and classes are huge and staffed mostly by part-timers and TAs. We could easily give every unemployed PhD in a America a job, but we won't because that wouldn't be very capitalistic.

 

But. I've always felt that the typical academic person's outrage at these conditions is a little ... naive. I shouldn't say this, but I'm going to anyway: A lot of complaining strikes me as sour grapes--either from paternalistic already tenured people who hate the academic life or from pedigreed well-groomed ex-grad students who never faced rejection in their lives before they set foot on the job market. (There. I said it.) I really do think that people need some perspective here. Yes, any job in the world that's worth having is going to be VERY hard to get. Look at the job ads in the back of The Economist. How many people do you think apply for those jobs?

 

You really have to conceptualize the academic job market as a very high-risk venture, much like landing a job as an associate at a top law firm . You have to understand that you're going to have to apply multiple times, multiple years, and perhaps take undesirable gigs before you get something better. And, oh yeah, have something else going on in your life, or else you are going to feel really shitty. But jobs take time to get.

 

Full disclosure: I was on the academic job market this year. I lived this hell firsthand--and despite this, I think that the solution of "just don't get an education" is a horrible one and not something that I would personally say to anyone. Our society doesn't need fewer educated people.

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