PhD: A Tale of Immigration, Slave Labor and Joblessness

Did the title of this post catch your eye? Well it should. If you are a graduate student in the sciences (or any other discipline for that matter), you should be asking yourself whether it is all worthwhile.

According to an article written in The Economist earlier this month, while pursuing a PhD may be a noble pursuit, it is fraught with tales of dropout students, slave labor and poor job prospects upon completion. Furthermore, statistics show that in several disciplines, earning a Master’s degree may actually net you a higher salary in the job market than a PhD! And if you are a postdoc, don’t think that you are immune. According to The Economist, the average postdoc earns a similar wage to a construction worker. Remember, this is after 4 to 7 years of post-graduate training!!!

The article also presents the side of the pro-PhD crowd relating that:

Academics tend to regard asking whether a PhD is worthwhile as analogous to wondering whether there is too much art or culture in the world. They believe that knowledge spills from universities into society, making it more productive and healthier.

Not everyone pursues a PhD with the hope of a better job and higher pay. But what happened to sacrificing today for a better tomorrow? Shouldn’t our hard working students at least expect an academic position upon completing their hard-earned degrees?

What are your thoughts?

For further reading see The disposable academic:Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time

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2 Responses to “PhD: A Tale of Immigration, Slave Labor and Joblessness”

  1. a bird told me says:

    This is very true. In my department many smart people have left after realizing what a scam the PhD is: you work hard for peanuts, you are used by your supervisors so they can get publications for free, you miss on an enjoyable life, turning instead into a lab roach always worried about experiments that are irrelevant to the real world and mean nothing for career development, you alienate friends and end a hermit, you get older and poorer while peers in industry have a real job and a real salary in their twenties, etc.
    The only people for whom the PhD works is people who are officials or academics from some developing countries who have a position waiting for them back home.
    I’m talking from experience, and trying to get out of this hell myself (looking for job..). I would like to encourage hopeful nerdy kids to stay away! unless they can’t imagine doing anything else and are willing to risk underemployment for the rest of their lives for the tiny chance of becoming professors (keep dreaming…), or are refugees from the third world:
    DON’T. PLEASE. DON’T!!

    • avi_wener says:

      Wow! that is a pretty strong response! IMHO, there is a lot to be gained by doing a PhD and taking on the responsibility of managing your own project. However, the system needs to be overhauled to recognize the pain and suffering put in by graduate students everywhere and to give academic scientists their dues.

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