Thinking about doing a PhD? You think you are really smart? Think that getting a PhD will help your career? Think again.

PhD: Fossils in Grad School

After you have defended your thesis and have your thesis accepted by library and finally getting a useless paper saying that you are a “doctor”, you will be surprised to find out at one place you are ‘still a graduate student’ – the place is your group’s contact page in the university. The contact page rarely gets updated in every five years or so (who gives a damn?)  and students only get added to it, not removed even after you are about to retire. This is false advertising to begin with, however, why this lethargy? Is it accidental oversight? For five years? Unlikely. Your fossil supervisor/laboratory colleagues still want your help (all for free, no money) and want you to come slave in the lab. So, they keep your name in that crud webpage, so that internet search engines tie you to that institution.

PhD: The army of one (loser)

PhD students are on their own, do ‘research’, marking, teaching duties and collaborate with other authors of publications. Supervisor is only there to complain that you are totally incompetent and lazy.Why don’t you get fired then? Simple, you aren’t incompetent (supervisor lying), but research is hard. Although, if you WERE fired, it would have been excellent for your career, rather than being brain-damaged and be a slave for academia forever, you could actually have STARTED a career 8 years ago, and contemplate about retiring, have a home and a nice car.

Being mathematics/science smart is essential, but more important is life skill which should tell you how to have a career. This is a simple logic but a PhD wont convince herself of that, because, how can it be that simple? Well, doing a PhD is a choice (albeit a bad one), what ‘simple’ logic do you have to support that? Show some statistics if majority PhDs have succeeded to have a career that is fulfilling according to their standards.

Doing PhD means you have lost a battle, pushing for postdoc means you have decided to kill your career.

PhD: Position? What Position?

About 50% of the finishing PhDs go for postdoctoral studies (more studies and research), while getting paid almost like a graduate student salary. After one round of postdoc (3 years or more), these postdocs look for ‘positions’, usually assistant professorship or a laboratory scientist job. Both of these job types almost non-existent, even if you look into odd places in the middle of nowhere. Even in the case you find one, it will almost certainly be for ‘short term’ position, with no job security. Surprisingly after 2nd postdoc, many don’t get the message that they are dreaming of jobs in vacuum while there is none. 40+ old PhD with no job is no pretty situation to be in. Does academia care? Does your ‘mentor’ PhD supervisor care? NO, nobody gives a damn. Yet, a postdoc doesn’t get the point. Are you prepared to work in fast food restaurants? Work as a janitor? Hey, both of the jobs might pay you better than ‘adjunct’ (or junk) professorship. If you were to get an actual job leading to some career, do it now, as fast as you can before you lose your sanity entirely.

PhD: open and shut case

Former PhDs know full well, how demoralizing and  time waste the process can be. The articles in this blog will suggest that too, however, one may ask is it really that open and shut case? Before that, can anyone, aspiring to have a PhD not contemplate about a ‘meaningless’ vocation/career? It gets twisted at this point, what is ‘meaningful’? It’s easier to answer what is not meaningful.

Slaving in laboratories or dusty seminar rooms without the prospect of permanent job is ‘meaningless’ and disgraceful. It’s a recurring nightmare for those postdocs going through it. Worse than nightmare, it’s for real. You are in a trap, with almost without any hope of salvation. If you want a job outside academia, you are betraying hope of your ‘academic family’ i.e, professor doesn’t like losing a cheap slave. Once you have decided to leave this hell, you must convince your would-be-employer, what’s so great about the company that’s better than your cubicle in university. This part usually involves spin and some truth, you just can’t say, you like the idea of money and you are bankrupt for the last decade.
How many PhDs would be happy with this state of affairs?.. not many. Does anyone up in the academic food chain care about your career? Well, they don’t and nobody cares about your career, so far so good, then, why do you care about what your professor has to say about the direction of research, postdoc etc etc? You don’t? .. why are you here then and where’s your career going? Academia is hell for anyone, since govt. won’t pay any decent salary and jobs are non-existent, your complaints are like talking to your hand.
It is truly one of the most hellish place to be career wise.


Professors: the depraved supervisors

Hordes of young and some odd old naives get into PhD programs and each student gets one or more ‘supervisor’. The ‘supervisor’, who you think there is to guide you to discovery, is actually a trojan horse to destroy your career, to destroy your self-esteem. He will do all that in the name of ‘research excellence’. No real job pays that peanut money and no real job wants to enslave you for that long in the name of nothing. Unless, one believes in 1984-type double-speak (“slavery is freedom”), none in their right mind should go for PhD.

After 7 years of servitude in PhD program, professor suggests ‘wont you slave more in the name of research’?, i.e ‘go postdoc’. Professor has the chutzpah of asking you to annihilate your life, after killing your career in a prolonged PhD. You are literally bankrupt, but who gives a damn? You are a middle-aged weirdo with almost no future whatsoever.

Professor/supervisors are occasionally smart but dangerously and in a depraved way, against your well-being or career. He is not your career counsellor or lawyer – which you thought mistakenly he was. Professor is an older person with desire to abuse younger persons, one can call them ‘intellectual molesters’. You will do yourself a service if you are aware of these depraved monsters so that you don’t fall into their traps.

PhD: The useless suffering

There are two kinds of pain .. one that you learn from and gain useful insight, then there’s another kind .. useless pain where you neither learn much nor gain anything for future. PhD students and postdocs are having the second kind. To reiterate, useless pain is still useless, no matter how much one spins it, PhD is a bitter dead-end for 98%, for the rest (who get into faculty or scientist position) are bitter but make do.

You will often hear in PhD students’/postdocs’ gatherings that his/her area of research will likely to be very big and at the same time, bitterly complaining about lack of access to laboratory instruments or the supervisor is simply absent months at a time. There’s very little ‘supervision’. All this supervisor does is to complain to his colleagues about your supposed incompetency. If it were a real job, supervisor will be the first one to be fired. But PhD supervisor has tenure, he will be fossilized in his office, he won’t retire.

So, who needs this useless pain? Nobody. But if you hear from postdocs some might try telling you that ‘you have to put your advanced degree to use’ regardless of the money you are getting. This attitude isn’t helping a PhD thinking about career. Academia is the only place, which offers 25 K/year (with few exceptions) after 7 years of PhD. Academia has no money and no shame. Being poor and living a crappy life is not a glory. If you are thinking of spinning how great is PhD/postdoc route, save your energy and do something useful and be able to retire someday.


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