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By Lynn O'Shaughnessy / MoneyWatch/ July 10, 2012, 9:26 AM
12 reasons not to get a PhD
(CBS Moneywatch) COMMENTARY Earning a doctorate is widely considered to be an excellent way to boost a person's lifetime earnings potential. But even if you can hack the academic rigor required to get a PhD, there may be good reason not to pursue such a degree: 1. A PhD takes twice as long as a bachelor's degree to complete. The average student takes 8.2 years to slog through a PhD program and is 33 years old before earning that top diploma. By that age, most Americans with mere bachelor's degree are well into establishing themselves professionally. 2. Professors will exploit you. It takes forever to earn a doctorate degree because graduate students are routinely treated like slaves. Grad students perform the grunt work that professors find distasteful, such as teaching undergraduates, grading papers, holding office hours, and playing mother hen to undergrads. And it's hard to say no to a professors' unreasonable demands because grad students needs faculty members on their side. 3. You could drop out. Only about 57 percent of doctoral students will get their PhD within 10 years of starting graduate school. 4. You might end up on food stamps. In the three years since the 2008-09 recession, the number of PhD's who filed for food stamps tripled to more than 33,655 in 2010, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education's Urban Institute. In part that's because part-time professors, who are paid by the class, can earn less than university secretaries. 5. Academic jobs are tough to find. According to the authors of the book "Higher Education?," America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. During that period, however, only 16,000 new professorships were created. Here's another grim stat from the National Science Foundation: Only 14 percent of Americans with a doctorate in biology and the life sciences are landing an academic position within five years of graduating. 6. It could cost you. About 40 percent of PhD candidates borrow money to obtain their degrees, with the average debt nearly $37,000, according to FinAid.org. This debt would be on top of any loans a student assumed as an undergraduate. 7. You probably won't get tenure. The old model of academics paying their dues and ultimately securing tenure for life at a tree-lined campus is archaic. Non-tenure-track jobs now account for 68 percent of all faculty appointments in the U.S., according to the American Association of University Professors. 8. College presidents would eliminate tenure if they could. In a Pew Research Center survey, less than a quarter of college presidents said they favor having most of their faculty as full-time tenured professors. 9. More than 50 percent of faculty are part-timers. Part-time faculty usually don't have access to health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits. 10. Jobs can also be scarce outside academia. PhD holders in the humanities have long struggled to find jobs related to their expertise, but it's also become challenging in the sciences. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry was once a job haven for PhD grads in chemistry and biology, but that pipeline has largely dried up as the industry has consolidated and moved jobs outside the U.S. 11. Graduate schools play with the numbers. It's hard to find graduate schools that provide meaningful job placement information about their alums. If schools don't track where their PhD's end up, they won't have to share their dreadful track records. 12. Unfortunately, you can't eat prestige. But you can write obscure papers that only a handful of people will read. The bottom line: If you are smart enough to earn a PhD, you are smart enough not to pursue one. Image courtesy of Flickr user Ed Brambley
Lynn O'Shaughnessy On Twitter » View all articles by Lynn O'Shaughnessy on CBS MoneyWatch » Lynn O'Shaughnessy is a best-selling author, consultant and speaker on issues that parents with college-bound teenagers face. She explains how families can make college more affordable through her website TheCollegeSolution.com, her financial workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College and the new second edition of her Amazon best-selling book, The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.
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The letter to the Patent Office you have to read 22 Comments Add a Comment linkicon reporticon emailicon mattieberry1 says: I totally disagree with this article. Yes, a doctorate (rather PhD, EdD, PsyD, DPt, etc) is not for everyone nor is it really needed or will provide any significant benefit for many careers BUT to say that one shouldn't complete it or what have you is absurd. 1.) Obviously a doctorate takes longer to complete. It involves intensive education and research in a specific field. 2.) Unless you obtain a TA, RA, GA position, you will not be doing anything outside of what is required for the courses and program. But, everything you mentioned is involved because you are a TA or GA- that is what you are PAID to do and of course it will all be with undergraduate- because often times, they are not allowed to teach graduate students (per accreditation policies). 3.) Yes, a person can drop out of a doctoral program. But, they could also drop out of a bachelor or master program as well. It is obvious that by the time you get to a doctoral program, you know basically what you want to study and it is because you either have to or want to complete the program-so unless you fail out or quit because of life events, you will probably stick with it. 4.) Yes, some may go on food stamps, but so may people who are in a bachelor or masters program. And you will most likely be on food stamps if you are one of the millions of people who has no education. 5.) Academic jobs may be difficult- but not everyone wants to go into academia. I never did, still don't. 6.) It may cost someone, but it will cost you if you have no education as well. A bachelors and masters will cost as well. In fact, many doctoral programs provide full funding for nearly all of their students. Of all the people that I know with a doctorate, only one actually paid a dime- and that was because he was non-traditional with a family and was working and didn't want to quit to take funding. 7.) Please refer to number 5. 8.) Please refer to number 7 9.) Please refer to number 8 10.) Job market is hard to get into, at any level. But, with jobs requiring more and more education, we need to complete more education to get the edge. MANY careers/licensing/certifications require a doctorate and many more are transitioning into requiring one. Psychology and Physical Therapy are two fairly common careers that require a doctorate. Occupational Therapy I think either currently requires one or is in the process of requiring a doctorate. All new APRN's- Advanced Placed RN's, will have to have a DNP after 2015. Research positions often times will require a doctorate. 11.)Who cares. 12.) If you are doing a doctorate for prestige or an ego stroke, you shouldn't be doing it. Upon a quick search of Lynn, I learned that she only has a bachelors. Perhaps she is just upset that she isn't smart enough to complete a doctorate or too many schools turned her down. But, I highly suggest she check some facts before she write an article. Knowledge is great. reply linkicon reporticon emailicon chennad says: I wish the article was stupid and not based on any fact. Truth is a Phd will cost a year's salary given you are making 6 figures. As you close in towards 40 or higher, can you do without a year's salary for the chance to further yourself and play in the Academic circles? If you take time off to go to school, we are talking a 2X or 3X multiple of a year's salary. The writer's point of view is based on economics - not ideals. It looks uphill all the way with a large chance of not seeing the summit. With that said, I would start tomorrow if I could figure out how to pay for it. Can anyone tell me the best way to pay for it (code - have someone like an employer or the government pay when you are > 40?). Got my master's on my employer's dime - should have kept going when I was younger. Sometimes I wish that I could let the idea go - but teaching at the University Level with a master's degree basically road blocks the road to tenure. (my School does not have advanced degrees so attending there is not an option). I still beleive that there is a way and if God wants to allow it to happen for His glory, I'm all in. Having trouble seeing it in this economy. I guess I need to look a little higher. Having 3 college age kind of makes me feel selfish for considering it. reply
chupo50 replies: linkicon reporticon emailicon Don't know if this is in time. I spent 7 years to get my Ph.D. in social psychology WITHOUT paying a dime. Ok, I did have to pay some fees, about $250-300 a semester. That's it. The trick? Teaching assistantship. If you get it, you don't pay tuition, and you get paid! Because the budget cut everywhere right now, you might find it harder to receive teaching assistantship. But it's worth a shot. If you don't get it, you still can try research assistantship, which might pay a bit more than teaching assistantship, but you have to pay in-state tuition. Plus it's much easier to find. Still worth it. mattieberry1 replies: linkicon reporticon emailicon CHUP050... TA, you mean like the faculty taking advantage of you? Like, making you deal with those undergrads, and grading the papers, and all that!? :) lol linkicon reporticon emailicon SmartKid900 says: Whoever wrote this I think you are completely wrong! With an education you can get paid more and/or find a job a million times easier! If you drop out of school and you are competing with someone who has a PhD it's not even hard for the employer to go straight to the person with PhD! So to summarize you are completely W-R-O-N-G wrong!!! reply SmartKid900 replies: linkicon reporticon emailicon Yes SmartKid is right I want to get a PhD when I'm older and there's nothing wrong with getting a PhD, because what this article tells us is we should drop out of school and be stupid! They just say it like its cute and not a big deal. WHAT HAS THIS WORLD COME TO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????!!!!!!!!!!!??????????? mattieberry1 replies: linkicon reporticon emailicon SmartKid, i love how you replied to yourself. linkicon reporticon emailicon SmartKid900 says: Whoever wrote this I think you are completely wrong! With an education you can get paid more and/or find a job a million times easier! If you drop out of school and you are competing with someone who has a PhD it's not even hard for the employer to go straight to the person with PhD! So to summarize you are completely W-R-O-N-G wrong!!! reply linkicon reporticon emailicon r2romix says: What a utterly horrible sequences of words (can't really call it an article!) I honestly have never seen such a poor argument against getting a PhD. I'm considering that choice currently and out of all the sites I've visited, I can honestly say that this was the most irrelevant and disappointing. Please never write such an article again. reply SmartKid900 replies: linkicon reporticon emailicon You are right. Why waste your time telling people to not go to school. I agree. mattieberry1 replies: linkicon reporticon emailicon I totally agree. I would argue that she would never write AN article again. linkicon reporticon emailicon Disclaimer2013 says: Education like politics, pension plans, has become a big farce. Many online doctoral programs are taking advantage of students but the latter doesn't realize it until too much time, money and sweat has entered the process. This is from my own personal experience. Education is great but it has become too damned expensive and the investment is quite long, hard, and sometimes is not worth it. I can think of a couple, including one in Arizona (NCU). reply linkicon reporticon emailicon TBOU2 says: Apparently written by someone with very limited exposure to higher ed. While there are problems with getting a PhD, this author mainly brought out stereotypes. I would recommend this author and anyone interested in a PhD read "A PhD Is Not Enough!: A Guide to Survival in Science," it offers a much more realistic view... Item by item: 1. True, but there is a big difference in PHDs in STEM and DBAs in business who are at a disadvantage to their peers with a BS in earnings and PHDs in humanities/social sciences/etc whose peers with a BA are probably barely employable 2. Yes this is true, particularly true for international students. But, enterprising grad students can network and separate the wheat from the
chaff when it comes to bad professors. Being in both the academic and industrial world, I've seen people exploited by their boss on both sides...the difference the grad student is more mobile while the guy in industry can't rock the boat since he has a mortgage to pay... 3. And that's a bad thing? you think a BA/BS is guaranteed? There is risk in everything, this society needs to celebrate risk or we'll be completely overwhelmed by grad inflation. The 43% might not have been ready for a PhD, it's better to fail people than blindly graduate them for just showing up. 4. That's meaningless without context. How many people have PHDs, what is their foodstamp rate vs the rest of the population..
5. True, but there's more to a PhD than just academia. 6. Valuable students get paid by stipends. I would imagine a large degree of overlap between the 40% that pay their way and the 43% that fail. 7. again, not all PhDs go into academia 8. again, not all PhDs go into academia 9. not all PhDs go into academia 10.yes the employability of someone with a PhD in the humanities is low, you don't need a PHD to figure that out. In STEM it is higher, especially if you are a US citizen and can go for jobs that can only be filled by US citizens. 11. True also for undergrad schools that tell someone your BA in philosophy/sociology is the key to a job. 12.while academia is a numbers game, the computer you typed this on would not have been created without the research in those obscure papers... reply linkicon reporticon emailicon ajenkins11 says: Yes, it's true... if you don't have sufficient intellectual curiosity, drive, or PASSION for a subject, much like the writer of this article, then you shouldn't pursue a Ph.D. The article starts with a false assumption, that the people pursuing Ph.Ds are doing so only because of money and job security. I take issue especially with the last point. "Unfortunately, you can't eat prestige. But you can write obscure papers that only a handful of people will read." Yes, sure, fantastic. If everyone in the world thought like this, only of the base needs being fulfilled, and not of fulfillment also, then the greatest writers and thinkers of our time would never have put pen to paper for fear. Creativity and passion is always a risk. You must be willing to take that risk for your ideas. reply linkicon reporticon emailicon gregorysotzing says: In my line of research, graduate students are paid, not exploited. They can always pay for their own education - but seldom opt to. Further, they are given the supplies and instrumentation to carry out and complete their research, as well as all other forms of infrastructure to support their cause. In addition to this, the person teaching them, their advisor, is given the extra responsibility to raise the money for their tuition. The real deal ... if graduate students paid their own tuition, covered their own cost of living and supported their own research costs, then I could spend less time raising money for all of this (approximately 200k/4 years for 1 student) and more time doing what I enjoy teaching/advising and research. If someone is pursuing a PhD to earn more money, then they are doing it for the wrong reason and they will be sadly disappointed and unmotivated. A PhD should have some foresight into how they believe they can make society better through their profession whether it be academic, industry, defense or charity driven, It is many years of hard work to become a university professor, but it is certainly worth it - all things considered. We advise (young) adults through some of the largest transitions in life, and many of these students appreciate it while others will not appreciate our advice until many years later. One of my philosophies: If you don't love what you are doing, then you should be doing something else (even if you are making an incredible amount of money). reply linkicon reporticon emailicon logicmine says: Spending money on education and the interest accruing loans you must pay back is a burden most idealists cannot afford. You don't need a PhD to be educated but you do need a job in your field making enough money to support yourself, pay off your loans and possibly support a
family during or after your degree. If you cannot find a job in your field, the value of your degree declines rapidly while your debt rises. I believe that universities should be required to place their graduates in related work with a future, or not be allowed to offer candidates the opportunity complete a PhD without proving the candidate can afford it. Unpaid and defaulted loans also keep other students from attending college due to limited loan resources. reply See all 22 Comments Add a Comment Submit Comment The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. By using this Web site you agree to accept our Terms of Service. Click here to read the Rules of Engagement.
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