A Ph.D. ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…

So, you want to get a Ph.D. in the humanities…

Watch the video — go do it… it’s funny.  It’s about English, but it applies to Philosophy too.

To do my job, I don’t need a Ph.D.  I didn’t need it to get tenure and I didn’t even get a raise when I did it.  That doesn’t mean I’m not proud of it or glad that I finished it, but finishing it was more about completing a goal than a smart professional of financial move.

The thing is, I’m one of the lucky ones.  I have tenure, a reasonable salary and some control over my work and working conditions.  I also don’t have to get published to keep my job.

The not so lucky ones are doing “adjunct” work, which is pretty much like being a poorly paid temp.  In many states adjuncts make about $2,000 per class, per semester.  They get no benefits and are often limited in the number of sections they can teach at any particular college.  My last adjunct gig in Nebraska was a 3/3 load (3 classes per semester), which would net me a total of $18,000/per year.  With a Ph.D I’d have made a whopping $21,000 per year.  The tenured faculty in the next office taught exactly the same number of classes (and fewer students) for about $65,000, plus benefits, sabbatical and a research budget. 

The catch is getting a tenured job — which is rough.  I’ve been on several search committees and the number of applications for one job is astounding.  Just making it to the “we may interview this person” takes a lot of luck.

The other side of the quandary is that putting a Ph.D. on a “normal” job application is a quick way to land in the “they’re over qualified” pile.  If you don’t put it on your application, you have a huge gap in employment that employers read as “went to prison for smuggling infants for cannibals’ dinner” — or, something even worse.

So, if you’re thinking about getting a Ph.D. — think about it some more and do something practical like join the circus.

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One Response

  1. This is spot-on, and but for the fact that I made the decision to quit the Ph.D. program, I could have written it myself. Well said! And the video? Hilarious!!! 🙂

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