Should you go to graduate school? Good recent article and discussion

Via The Invisible Adjunct comes this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education,“Ignoring Good Advice.” The article is part of a very good resource for information on the academic job market, CHE’s Chronicle Careers pages.

In the nutshell, the article is a humorous and fictionalized account of the advice a student received from her professors about getting a PhD in literature. The article is funny largely because it’s true, of course: getting a PhD in anything, to borrow a phrase from our current administration, is a long, hard slog, and the odds against those studying literature are extremely high. I’ll give my take on all this in the near future with the third installment of my series of “Happy Academic” postings regarding PhD studies.

There is an interesting discussion of this article on the IA blog– here is a link to it. First off, despite the fact that the advice our would-be PhD seeker receives is “don’t do it,” the author indicates that she is “undeterred” and is planning on entering into a PhD studies. Second, a lot of the commentary on the IA blog linked here suggests that the participants claim they didn’t know how hard grad school would be or how bad the job market in various fields are and so forth, and they now regret having gone to grad school in the first place.

In a way, I think that the “undeterred” writer of this CHE article who is planning on going into a PhD program in literature despite the warnings and the folks on IA who are either ABD or with a PhD and unemployed are essentially the same person. That is, like the writer who is going to get a PhD despite the advice against it, the people on IA who said they were never warned really were warned and they are either forgetting that they were warned or they are repressing it. When I was thinking about PhD studies in the early 1990s, I received many warnings against pursuing work in literature. Sure, there weren’t blogs back then, but the difficulties of the job market then were not a secret to anyone who was willing to do an iota of research, just as it isn’t a secret now that the academic jobs in literature are few and far between.

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