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Thread: Opinions Needed - Grad School Article

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by John the Theologian View Post
    This was many years ago, but from what I've heard the situation today is no different.
    Actually, it's considerably worse because of the increase in graduate departments that recruit -- and then award degrees to -- people who can't get those jobs. Still, there are professional associations (the American Philosophical Association is one) who have for almost 50 years been sending letters warning their graduate school applicants of the truly REMOTE chance of getting the sort of job they want. And yet they still apply, still attend, still (many of them) get their degrees, and then end up in situations they never intended. I personally know someone who (over 25 years ago) graduated with a Ph.D. from Brown University under the direction of one of the top people in the world, couldn't find a tenure track job for several years, and went back to school to become a (depressed and disgruntled) software engineer. I also know someone who graduated within the past 10 years with a degree in Philosophy and Linguistics from MIT and is teaching at what is essentially a private middle school. These are only a couple of examples. Imagine how the graduates of the less than tier 1 schools are doing. Makes you wonder where all the money is coming from for this expensive education -- and why. Someone has to be benefiting from all that money, and it surely isn't the people who are getting those degrees.

    It must also be pointed out that certain "affirmative action" issues play a role in academic hiring to a much larger measure than in some other fields.
    I'm not sure about this. On the basis of my experience in both academia and industry, I'd say that it plays a somewhat heightened role in academia (particularly in some disciplines), but not a "much" greater role.

    finding a fulltime academic position in the humanities especially is in no way guaranteed.
    Not just the humanities or the arts either. In fact, if you picked an arbitrary student receiving a Ph.D. today (and especially in the arts and humanities), you would be a fool to bet that they'd have a full-time job in the field five years later. In fact, it would be foolish to bet that they'd have a full-time job in the field at any time in their lives.

    If you really want to go to graduate school for the purpose of having a financially comfortable life and a job commensurate with your education and educational effort, I'd recommend either statistics or some area of financial modelling.
    Gary Merrill
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  2. #12
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    Agree with Gary on all points!

    Said Gary: "If you really want to go to graduate school for the purpose of having a financially comfortable life and a job commensurate with your education and educational effort, I'd recommend either statistics or some area of financial modelling."

    YES!! Got my job in '83, got tenure, and occupied an endowed chair without a completed doctorate because that's the path I followed--a total 180 from my undergrad degree. So just as true now as it was then.
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  3. #13
    I was fortunate to get both my BA and my MA while I was actually working in the degree field, and partially paid for by my employer.
    David Bjornstad

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  4. Quote Originally Posted by massmanute View Post

    One final note: in the sciences if one's career goal is to obtain a PhD then it is basically a waste of time and money in most cases to get a masters degree. Just go straight for the PhD.

    One more final note: In some subject areas, such as most of the hard sciences, you can go through graduate school without accumulating much if any debt. Basically, you will get paid to be a teaching assistant and/or researcher on the research topic you are pursuing in your graduate work.
    My hubby did both of those things. He went from undergrad to PhD in engineering without getting a master's degree, and he got paid a lot of money along the way to do it. He has never for a minute wished he had a master's, and the lasting benefits of entering marriage and building a life free of debt are immeasurable.
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  5. #15
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    In a lot of cases you'll get a Master's on your way to the Ph.D. anyway -- you just don't want to view it as an "intermediate step" or "pre-requisite" for getting the Ph.D. since that separate step will really slow you down and cost you money. The reason you'll get a Master's in this way is that it's beneficial to the university to give you one. First, it inflates the number of graduate degrees that they award (and at no risk to their reputation since at the point they do this they already know and can demonstrate that you satisifed -- or exceeded -- all the Master's requirements via your Ph.D. courses), and second, they often actually get paid for it (somehow).

    As an example, when I was getting my PH.D. in the early 70s, I was award an M.A. immediately upon passing the Ph.D. qualifying exam. Why? Because at that point in time NY State paid universities some amount (I seem to recall it was $500) for each Master's degree awarded. I'm guessing that there are similar "incentives" floating around in the "government/university complex" now.

    In full disclosure, all my degrees are in Philosophy. It's what I wanted to do with my life. It was the "dream". I got the dream. Faculty position in a good private university, publications, grants, tenure, the whole deal. I loved the teaching. But after ten years got bored with the academic life and environment. So I quit and for fifteen years became a software engineer doing mostly compiler writing (I had all the theory and technical tools for that since my philosophy specialization was logic and philosophy of science). Then I took all that philosophy and computer science and software engineering and moved into AI and data analysis.

    I continued to miss the teaching, but replaced it with "mentoring" young people who worked with me, and THOSE people are doing some amazing things in the areas of bio-pharma and economics and modeling. So it worked out okay for me. The moral I'm getting to with this story is that if you get worthwhile training in SOME useful discipline, then it gives you the freedom and ability to move into other areas and "transfer" those skills. And things change over time. In high school I never imagined getting a Ph.D. in philosophy. As a graduate student and young professor I didn't imagine moving into industry the way I did. And at nowhere along that path did I imagine (nor COULD I have imagined) doing the work I ended up doing in science and AI -- because during most of my adult and academic life that stuff didn't even exist.

    In contrast, I know a young person (early 20s) who recently graduated with a degree in International Relations (for some reason, that's really popular now) from a prestigious and very expensive private university. He's working as a shipping clerk.

    So part of the point here is that in terms of graduate school and what you want out of life (or what you want at a given time, or what you think you want), do what you want to do and follow the dream. But do your best -- and this particularly applies to your education and training -- not to go down a blind alley that will leave you with few or no alternatives. And definitely don't go down that alley if it's going to cost you a lot of money.
    Gary Merrill
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