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'The Great Shame of Our Profession' How the humanities survive on exploitation

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Replies to: 'The Great Shame of Our Profession' How the humanities survive on exploitation

  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 12,285 Senior Member
    "Tenured -- or tenure-track -- computer science professors are so cutting-edge their work is DECADES ahead of not just the classroom, but also the industry."

    Lol. It depends.

    Indeed. And this certainly doesn't apply to all STEM fields...even ones related somewhat to CS like EE.

    An older cousin who spent a decade as tenure-track/tenured faculty as an EE Prof left academia to co-found an engineering tech startup a decade ago partially because he found the level of research in his area of academia was 5-7 years or more behind that of private industry.

    And incidentally, this was long after he dropped Harvard from consideration for PhD because back when he applied, they were even more behind and lacking in resources compared to the Top 8 department where he earned his PhD.
  • katliamomkatliamom Registered User Posts: 11,253 Senior Member
    Interesting. My statement was based on the experience of three different computer science professors (all tenured, all grads from top 10 computer schools worldwide) - two are tenured professors in the Boston area (but not Harvard) the other is a professor at a top school on the West Coast.

    All three do very theoretical stuff, but you're right, all three also have a lot of industry contacts - one has done quite a bit of consulting with a major SVcomputer company, and the other two regularly work with INRIA
  • dfbdfbdfbdfb Registered User Posts: 3,219 Senior Member
    Can we all agree that there's not just one strand of research in any given discipline? It's entirely possible for it to be simultaneously true for academic research and industry research (and government research, for that matter) to be decades ahead of each other in the same field.

    Also, @Mastadon's point a few posts ago is important: Comp sci isn't really a useful field for this thread, because the supply of potential faculty members is so tight. Rather, the link that started this thread applied to other fields (the vast majority of them), where there's an oversupply of potential faculty, given current market conditions.
  • belmombelmom Registered User Posts: 65 Junior Member
    I don't know a large number of graduate students, so my info is anecdotal, but all of the young people I know that are pursuing PhD's in humanities or arts majors are doing so because they couldn't get decent paid work out of college. So after sitting around and volunteering for a year or so, they started on their next degree - MFA, PhD, or Masters. Some with the Masters found that didn't really help with employment, so they went back to the familiar environment of the university. I'm not sure if each of these long-term students would have chosen to earn PhD's or other grad degrees if the job market had been more welcoming.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 8,136 Senior Member
    The job market is plenty welcoming but likely not in Seattle or SF or NY or Austin.

    This excuse "I had to get a PhD because I was tired of sitting around" is both irritating and self-serving.

    New grads who are prepared to start at the bottom (it is called a ladder for a reason) and don't have a medical need to live near their childhood home need to understand how to launch. It's called entry level and it goes up from there.

    I also know kids who couldn't quite deign to take the jobs for which they were qualified so they kick the can down the road by going to grad school.

    Bad, bad, bad idea. Bite the bullet kid. Move to Tampa or St. Louis or Springfield MA and get launched.
  • dfbdfbdfbdfb Registered User Posts: 3,219 Senior Member
    @blossom, i'll agree and disagree with different parts of your post.

    First, agreed that the "sitting around" thing is simply dumb. Seriously, anyone who knows what's involved in a PhD program knows that the best thing that can happen to the rare person who actually means that is that they wash out—and the rest are merely doing the humblebrag bit in a really, really obnoxious way.

    As for the location part, though, you'd've been right a decade or two (depending on the field), but things have gotten worse since then. Even community colleges in less-in-demand locations are finding the ability to pick and choose between applicants for tenure-stream jobs in a lot of fields (and not just fields like modern American literature or modern history, where the job market's been horrible since sometime in the 1970s)—and the idea, which was probably still valid even in the late 1990s/beginning of this millennium, that one can get an adjunct job and parlay that into a tenure-stream job somewhere in a couple years, is no longer the case, either.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 8,136 Senior Member
    dfb- sorry my post was not clear. I'm not talking about the academic job market- which I agree is objectively terrible by ANY measure. I'm talking about kids with a BA who claim they have to go to grad school because otherwise they'd be unemployed forever.

    The job market was objectively terrible for kids graduating in 2009 and 2010. It has gotten progressively better since then, and there are signs that we are moving back to a "War for Talent" situation this hiring year. A new grad with a Bachelor's degree, fluent in English, who can write a coherent sentence, and has either a Green card or an American passport is only unemployed right now if they are absolutely unwilling to launch.

    Agree with you about PhDs. But I think the point that Belmom is making is that kids "end up" with a Master's or PhD because they couldn't stand to "sit around" so grad school seemed like the better option. Yes if someone wants an MSW, CPA, PT, Speech, or one of the vocational master's degrees which are required for certification. An emphatic NO for a Masters in an academic subject.... which most of the time is just going to add debt and prolong the agony.

  • dfbdfbdfbdfb Registered User Posts: 3,219 Senior Member
    Ah, got it! Given that, quite agreed. (I guess the one exception I'd make for a master's in a non-professional subject is if someone was aiming for a job in a truly interdisciplinary field, like computational linguistics, where a bachelors in the one field and a masters in the other could be useful—but even then, only maybe.)
  • alcibiadealcibiade Registered User Posts: 586 Member
    Yes, this is disturbing. However, for anyone who reads a minimum about academia in the media, there is absolutely nothing that we shouldn't know already. Sure, it is very bad, it isn't fair, the system is rigged and exploitive, etc.

    The question is, what can the aspiring PhD do about it? Changing the system isn't really a viable option when you are looking for work. The answer is to have a backup plan, another potential career track in case the likely happens, i.e. that you don't get your dream job. In other words, there are many jobs that prefer people with PhDs, be they in administration, NGOs, government, consulting, etc. A student needs to know about them and plan for them as well, however fun it is to pursue pure research with passion.

    Don't get me wrong, I am all for young people pursuing their dreams. I think an education isn't just about getting jobs, that it can be enriching on its own, the spark for a lifetime of learning. But we need to be practical. "Follow you bliss" can turn out to be very bad advice.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,661 Super Moderator
    I don't know a large number of graduate students, so my info is anecdotal, but all of the young people I know that are pursuing PhD's in humanities or arts majors are doing so because they couldn't get decent paid work out of college.

    Hmm, I'm sure this is simply the circles we hang in, but this has not been my experience. Most of the PhD students I know (particularly in the humanities) are students who LOVE literature or history or art history or what have you. The idea of spending 6-8 years thinking and learning about it sounds awesome to them. Most of them also want to be professors and have idyllic dreams of a sun-drenched office on some great LAC campus somewhere, chatting with their students about Proust or Shakespeare or who have you. The level of denial they are in about how unlikely they are to ever have that job varies.
    The job market is plenty welcoming but likely not in Seattle or SF or NY or Austin...Bad, bad, bad idea. Bite the bullet kid. Move to Tampa or St. Louis or Springfield MA and get launched.

    I'm not sure if this is true. Common job analysis shows that openings and the market are most robust in these cities (especially since you just named four tech hubs. I live in Seattle and it feels like everybody is hiring here!). Forbes has a list from 2016 and the top cities included are places like Arlington, VA (suburb of DC); Madison, WI; DC itself; Boston; Minneapolis; Seattle; Pittsburgh; Austin; Atlanta; and San Francisco. Business Insider names Atlanta, Boston, DC, New York, SF, Seattle and Minneapolis in their list too and adds LA, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Baltimore, St. Louis and Miami. Even places that weight cost of living more heavily still have big cities show up very often, like this Trulia list that looked at housing affordability vs. job listings.

    But let's face it, work isn't the only part of life. I wouldn't have moved to Tampa or Springfield, MA when I was 22 either, and I wouldn't even move there at 30. Honestly, it seems at this point that the best mix of a good market + affordability are mid-sized Midwestern, Southern, and Southwestern cities - like Minneapolis, Madison, Phoenix, Cleveland, Columbus, St. Louis, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, Orlando, and Nashville. And Fargo and Tampa, although even the lists that include them admit that the lifestyle isn't great in those places depending on what young college grads are looking for.

  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 Registered User Posts: 3,013 Senior Member
    "The question is, what can the aspiring PhD do about it?"

    Don't get a PHD and get a job instead. Study on your own for the love of the subject.
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 12,285 Senior Member
    edited March 20
    Study on your own for the love of the subject.

    IME, the folks who say this don't really understand what drives folks to pursue PhDs in the humanities/social sciences...or any subject or the stark differences in the level of study one is able to pursue on one's own vs as a grad student.

    Studying on your own is not the same thing, especially considering you won't have access to the primary/secondary sources and other research resources you'd have as a graduate student.

    And no, access to the public library...even ones as great as ones in NYC aren't the same thing.

    Already, I've had to ask grad student/faculty friends to borrow several books from their respective universities which were intro-intermediate undergrad level monographs because the NYC public libraries don't have them or have lost the only copy in their system for various reasons including withdrawal by the library system due to lack of patron interest*. Forget about the advanced-level undergrad or grad-level stuff. :(

    * According to librarian friends, most of the reading public aren't as enamored of academic related texts which aren't non-peer reviewed trade books, pop lit, or a minute few 101-level undergrad survey texts which have gained widespread popularity.

    And even the last isn't guaranteed as I've found when a younger friend in the NYC area and an uncle who lives in an upper-middle class LA area suburb asked to borrow my survey text on Modern Chinese history by Jonathan Spence because it wasn't available in their respective local library systems. Surprised considering it was very popular with the reading public for a university textbook.
  • dfbdfbdfbdfb Registered User Posts: 3,219 Senior Member
    Getting a PhD is a job, and a full-time one at that. Not a well-paying job, mind, but still a job.
  • FairilinaFairilina Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    edited July 20
    That's astonishing. I know that humanities jobs specified tenured are hard to find but I didn't know it was for this reason. I ended up leaving my social science major for that reason. Choosing instead to buckle down on my biology major.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,474 Senior Member
    edited July 20
    Fairilina wrote:
    That's astonishing. I know that humanities jobs specified tenured are hard to find but I didn't know it was for this reason. I ended up leaving my social science major for that reason. Choosing instead to buckle down on my biology major.

    Biology also produces an oversupply of graduates relative to biology-specific jobs available to them.

    http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-Degrees_that_Pay_you_Back-sort.html

    It is not good at the PhD level either.

    https://www.nature.com/news/2011/110420/full/472276a.html
    In 1973, 55% of US doctorates in the biological sciences secured tenure-track positions within six years of completing their PhDs, and only 2% were in a postdoc or other untenured academic position. By 2006, only 15% were in tenured positions six years after graduating, with 18% untenured (see 'What shall we do about all the PhDs?').
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