Two articles against going to grad school (as a career choice): should I be worried?

<p>Women</a> in Science
Should</a> I Go to Grad School?
Found these two random articles in a google search and am wondering what people thought of them. Sample:</p>

<p>"The average trajectory for a successful scientist is the following:</p>

<ol>
<li>age 18-22: paying high tuition fees at an undergraduate college</li>
<li>age 22-30: graduate school, possibly with a bit of work, living on a stipend of $1800 per month</li>
<li>age 30-35: working as a post-doc for $30,000 to $35,000 per year</li>
<li>age 36-43: professor at a good, but not great, university for $65,000 per year</li>
<li>age 44: with (if lucky) young children at home, fired by the university ("denied tenure" is the more polite term for the folks that universities discard), begins searching for a job in a market where employers primarily wish to hire folks in their early 30s </li>
</ol>

<p>This is how things are likely to go for the smartest kid you sat next to in college. He got into Stanford for graduate school. He got a postdoc at MIT. His experiment worked out and he was therefore fortunate to land a job at University of California, Irvine. But at the end of the day, his research wasn't quite interesting or topical enough that the university wanted to commit to paying him a salary for the rest of his life. He is now 44 years old, with a family to feed, and looking for job with a "second rate has-been" label on his forehead."</p>

<p>I got half way through the first article and I found it to be all over the map. For one thing it seems to use the phrase "career in science" interchangeably with "career in academics". When I got to the paragraph that started with "IQ in midevil times" I quit reading.</p>

<p>I've heard of the above scenario but I would dispute the notion that the person is a "second rate has-been". Maybe that is how other academics see him but academics is full of big egos.</p>

<p>What is you goal here? Is it to be in academics? Then that is a tough road, but that is nothing new. Is your goal to get an advanced degree in some scientific field? Then that leaves you with a lot of post-graduate choices outside of academics.</p>

<p>I'm of the opinion that the journey is more important than the destination and an education is never wasted. There are worse things you can do with your time than spend it in graduate school. I'd go for it.</p>

<p>I forgot this: Just</a> Don't Go, Part 2 - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education</p>

<p>The article you just linked to talks about graduate degrees in humanities. I don't like the way you are lumping "career in science", "career in academics", "graduate degree in humanities" like they are all the same thing.</p>

<p>Well.....some people think that the only career path in graduate school is to go teach at some prestigious school on a tenure track. Wrong. There are plenty of second and third tier schools that are "teaching colleges" not research colleges, and they will gladly take a Stanford, Harvard, Yale or MIT post doc or doctoral student on a tenure track. No, the salary wont be huge but the job security can be just fine if you are personable, kind and compassionate to the kids who study there (cf. arrogant, rude, cold, bureaucratic, by the book, sink or swim). Everyone knows the best professors in undergrad were the ones who inspired you with their lectures and seminars etc but also the ones who could lift you up when you were overwhelmed or down, or needed direction, or just a friend to listen.....the world is full of aholes as my daddy used to say, the real gems are the compassionate caring and sharing types. </p>

<p>And of course some people get a terminal M.A. instead, and teach in a private secondary school and have just as much fun working with kids. </p>

<p>It is very true that universities pick and choose doctoral applications from what subject matter interests them or is the current pc issue of the day, rather than how smart the applicant is or where they went to school. Its a trap for the unwary. My D1 is going through this now and is looking for fully funded programs and will make applications in the fall.....but also has a plan B working: terminal M.A. or M.Ed programs as either a stepping stone or even a career path. Doctoral programs are political and some of the people can be downright nasty and catty and wicked. There are plenty of stories of very smart PhD candidates who got up to the dissertation point and walked away....couldnt stand the aholes. Or got "defunded" because the winds of change had blown through. </p>

<p>This is for English/Humanities PhDs as well as science PhD's. And as the economy gets worse, a lot of old faculty who are tenured are less likely to step down and retire...hanging on as it were for another ten years. So that means fewer job openings in professorships than people planned for.</p>

<p>
[quote]
I got half way through the first article and I found it to be all over the map. For one thing it seems to use the phrase "career in science" interchangeably with "career in academics". When I got to the paragraph that started with "IQ in midevil times" I quit reading.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>I've read quite a bit of Phil Greenspun's stuff in the past and I think he's a pretty insightful guy. He's lived both sides of the fence and built a successful business as well as worked part time at MIT.</p>

<p>Make of those articles however you want.</p>

<p>Just know that by going to graduate school for PhD, you're gambling the next 15-20 years of your life. Sure, it's possible to raise a family and have a little fun on the side. But what worries many people is the money. If you're looking to retire as a millionaire, then, no, graduate school isn't a good idea. If you're one of those people who get super stressed and has no stress management skills, then, no, graduate school isn't for you (at least until you get it under control).</p>

<p>Graduate school requires serious dedication of time and commitment to the subject matter that YOU love... and you to be willing to gamble on academic/department politics and attitude towards your work.</p>

<p>Sorry - I don't mean to lump humanities/socialsci and the sciences together - the main reason I thought the other article was interesting as it attempts to discredit people who say, "But I LOVE my subject!" as a reason why grad school is a good choice. And the analogy of a neurosurgeon who can't find work vs. a PhD who can't find work in the subject they spent countless hours/money/effort on.... Mostly I am worried about the career path of a science PhD... and there appears to be some alarming concerns.</p>

<p>Professorships have always been hard to come by regardless of economic recession or boom.
But it always remains a question of what do you want to do with your life. Say, if you want money, status, power, girls, then academia will offer your none of the above.
I'm applying for PH.D programs next year, and I'm very comfortable with 40000 a year.</p>

<p>I'm having trouble here because there are other career paths with a PhD in a science besides academics. One of my best friends works at MicroSoft and he told me there are scads of employees there with PhDs. I suspect they didn't get their PhDs planning to go to work at MicroSoft, but for whatever reason they opted out of academics and there was a place for them.</p>

<p>While you are in the academic system, you buy into its ethos - at least partially. Consequently, if you don't finish your Ph.D., or don't finish your post-doc, or don't find a faculty/chief investigator position, there is a tremendous emotional cost. You do feel as though you ARE a "second rate has-been". If you had just found the one thing that could have made it work, you too could be holding that brass ring.</p>

<p>However, if you give yourself the time and space to work through the grief stages associated with having your heart broken, there is indeed life on the other side. Happydad makes almost 3x his former academic salary now that he is in industry, and he works M-F 8-5.</p>

<p>You could try going into a professional field to get a PhD. Instead of Physics try Electrical or Mechanical Engineering. Instead of Chemistry try chemical engineering. Instead of Anthropology try Social Work. With these advanced degrees, you'll get relevant jobs assuming an Ok economy. You can go in(and out) of academy as you please. You can do the following: Undergrad ---> Industry--->Phd----> Industry/National Lab/etc--->Professor.</p>

<p>You'll make more money, be less stressed out in some ways, and preform better. The Engineering Profs with some real world experience always tend to do a bit better and get tenure a little more often from my observations.</p>

<p>If I might be a lone dissenter on the topic of money and academia- grad students in the sciences don't get paid much, but either do entry level jobs in the sciences. I worked in industry for a couple of years as well as in academia for a couple of years between undergrad and grad school. My take home pay (grad students don't pay payroll taxes) is less than 200 bucks a month different. Admittedly, 2 grand a month is not a lot in Boston or San Francisco, but in other places, it's enough that a large portion of graduate students own homes, drive cars on par with those of postdocs and go on vacations each year. In North Carolina, stipends (particularly those who have received fellowships) are within ten grand a year of the median income. Postdocs paid on the NIH scale are above the median income for the state.</p>