PhD and Post-doc system is broken! But What should be done?
The PhD and Post-doc system is broken! We have been arguing about it for 5 years now. If we have not made our case clear, then you are probably not going to change your opinion by reading this piece or our blog in general. For that reader we say, move on. For others, who are in doubt, we ask you to read us for few more moments.
But What should be done? The question one may ask, what is your solution? Easy, how about for starters you pay PhD students and post-docs market salaries. How hard is that? This is obviously not going to solve the career trap of PhD students. But at least it will create a fair place where arguably the smartest of the society get a decent living wage. This not only fair, but it will also help in re-balancing the supply/demand a bit. For example, a real wage will prevent professors from over-stuffing their teams with cheap labor (students and postdocs) to advance their career. Also, to prevent universities from hiring cheap TAs and temp. instructors instead of paying decent wages for full time permanent teachers.
One might argue, that PhD students are getting an education. Yes and No. Yes they are getting an education, but no, that is not enough they still deserve a salary to keep them alive and have a decent human life. Most research is done by these students, attracting funds and grants; yet only professors and administrators share the cake! How fair?!
I don’t even wanna make the case for post-docs, because that is clearly a scam, borders slavery! Getting a free education is argument against PhD students getting decent wages but what stops universities and institutions offering postdocs real salaries? Well, the answer is that they can get away with it! And yet many aspiring post-docs will partake! Most, think that they will make it soon enough, because they are smarter, so they slave day and night to please some old fossil or worst some young assistant prof. who has his eyes on tenure. A salary is the last thing that they think about, because just like slaves, what they worry about is whether their master is happy with their work to get a decent recommendation letter. Many have delusional thoughts that they have gone so far in academia so they might as well go all in. Worst, many post-docs don’t even see the value of money and career, maybe because they have never had either! So clearly the reason, the postdocs don’t get payed enough is because there are so many of them; happy doing it for almost free. Just a recommendation letter, maybe!
Why would the universities and profs care to raise PhD students and postdocs salaries? This touches their cushy coffins and egg nest. So like supply and demand, as far as there is enough supply of PhDs, the salaries will keep going down! It is economy 101!