‘There Are No Jobs in Academia.’

Ryan Anderson is a grad student in anthropology (not the clothing store). “I realized how bad things were when I was about half way through my PhD program—and it didn’t help that the global economy was literally crashing right when I started. You know, the whole ‘Great Recession’ thing. After one year, I nearly dropped out. Looking back, maybe that would have been the better decision. But, for some reason, I kept going…in part because of a vague hope that things would somehow ‘work out.’ I too pinned my hopes on that imagined employer.”

The bottom line, he says, is this isn’t the 1960s and there are no jobs in academia. He points to data showing about 36,000 new PhDs for every 3,000 new positions created. Is this education making 33,000 better people or just dragging them and their families down? (via Anthony Bradley)

4 thoughts on “‘There Are No Jobs in Academia.’”

  1. He totally misses a frustration I have with academia;Why does academia exist? Is it to pass on knowledge and skills, or merely to accumulate knowledge and skills?

    My denomination operates a small seminary. We have resisted the pressure to seek accreditation over the years in part because the accreditation process would require us to shift our emphasis from preparing pastors for parish ministry to preparing academics for further study. We have recently found an accrediting agency that allows us to maintain our purpose and are currently pursuing accreditation through them.

    A weakness in our approach was revealed last year when the Dean of our seminary suddenly died. Because of our emphasis on parish ministry over academic advancement, we had very few pastors who had earned advanced academic degrees making the prospect of finding a new Dean who had both advanced academic credentials and an understanding and heart for the distinctives of our denomination.

    Of course, to have a pool of a dozen or more candidates who have the academic credentials for a job that has only opened up twice in fifty years means that most of them have earned advanced degrees but are working outside of academia. That is the situation Mr. Anderson is decrying. On the other hand I think it is a positive outcome. An advanced degree should reflect an increased potential for productivity due to the attainment of knowledge and skills beyond the average. If the knowledge and skills attained are only valued within academia, then they are of limited worth. But if the vast majority of graduates find their way into industry, government, and other endeavors outside of academia, the handful who combine the skillsets valued in business and those valued in academia may be siphoned off back into academia to train the next generation of scientists and scholars.

  2. “If the knowledge and skills attained are only valued within academia, then they are of limited worth.”

    His thesis may not be that exactly, but that his training and that of most, if not all, Ph.Ds is geared toward the academy. I don’t know what kind of work will receive his anthropology knowledge, but his intention has been to teach and research within a school, not apply it to the world at large.

  3. PhD programs are designed to train academic researchers. When a program is geared towards advanced training for other professions, it counts as a Masters (whether it is a real Masters (like mine), or a doctorate that isn’t a PhD).

    The universities like producing PhDs because it lets them have a low paid “in training” work force for their research and teaching lines of business. But it is a highly competitive field to get actual tenure, so I agree that the PhD students aren’t getting a good deal in most cases.

  4. After earning my MDiv (Master of Divinity) I looked into going on to earn a DMin (Doctor of Ministry). At that point I was advised that the DMin and MDiv are considered vocational degrees. It wouldn’t have qualified me to teach at a seminary level. That would have required me to earn an academic masters followed by a PhD. Since the DMin didn’t open any doors for me that weren’t already open, I decided that it wasn’t worth the time and expense for merely personal development purposes.

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