Thinking about doing a PhD? You think you are really smart? Think that getting a PhD will help your career? Think again. Getting a job is much better than 6+ years PhD

Reader story: Ten Reasons NOT to Do a PhD

Here are ten reasons why your dreams of a glittering research career will sooner or later turn to shit.

1. The world doesn’t care about PhDs

You’re probably thinking that a doctorate – the jewel in the crown of academic qualifications – will open the door to fantastic career opportunities. Wrong, I’m afraid. Unless you’ve done ground-breaking research in an area of science or technology directly related to an employer’s business, they’ll be uninterested. The fact is, a PhD is near-worthless in the commercial job market, and – because of massive oversupply – is rapidly dwindling in value in the academic job market also.

2. For most researchers, there’s no such thing as a ‘research career’

The best most can hope for is five or ten years in junior post-doc roles, followed by an abrupt switch of occupation when it becomes clear that the academic research path is leading nowhere. For the majority of PhDs, the ‘research career’ remains always a phantasm.

3. As a researcher, you’ll be working for someone else’s glory

Though your ‘research career’ will eventually hit the skids, you’ll be able to experience the warm glow of satisfaction from seeing your supervisor/ professor (having taken credit for much of your work) soaring to ever greater professional heights. Oh, for the professorial life, leading battalions of researchers as they turn out papers that you can tag your name to!

4. Most PhDs end up in non-research jobs

Long-term destination stats for PhDs show the majority settling for non-research jobs. That’s the stark reality.

5. Research skills aren’t transferable

One of the things they tell you is that the research skills you acquire will be transferable to high-level non-research jobs. This is a lie.

6. You’ll be starting again from square one

Because most employers will (i) not give a damn about your PhD, or (ii) see it as a negative (because you’re “over-qualified”, see?), you’ll probably have to start at the bottom and try to work your way up. Which is where you would have been before embarking on PhD study. Except you’ll be years older, dummy!

7. Your non-PhD peers will be way ahead of you

While you’ve been messing about in academia for five, ten, fifteen years, your peers will have been out in the real world, forging real careers. So, when you’re stuck in some poorly-paid, graduate-entry-level role, struggling to pay the rent on your crummy room, many of them will be enjoying seniority, reaping high salaries and buying their own homes.

8. Most research admin jobs are dogshit

One thing (UK) universities do to try to conceal the dearth of real research jobs is to create administrative roles with the word ‘research’ in the title, e.g Research Development Manager, Research Policy Consultant, Senior Research Coordinator. Despite the often grand-sounding titles, most are glorified clerical roles with little or no research content.

9. Your new boss might be an arsehole

In your low-grade, post-research job, you’ll very likely be taking orders from someone less qualified, less intelligent and possibly younger than you. And you can be sure that this individual will derive pleasure from your obvious humiliation as his/her underling.

10. You may never fulfil your potential

This is serious. Time is the most precious thing you have. To fritter away many of the best years of your life on endeavours that lead nowhere might be regarded as foolhardy. Think carefully where it is you want to be in life and the best path there. In most cases a PhD is unlikely to be a crucial stepping-stone on that path.

James T.


Academia, the brotherhood in fraud!

Once at a conference I was going back to the hotel in the conference bus after the end of the afternoon session, and was talking to a professor sitting besides me. I was still a PhD student, and can feel how condescending his tone was. After few exchanges and his clear lack of interest in my small talk, he switched over and started talking to another professor (sitting across the aisle) who happens to be from a big and famous university. I immediately felt how the less-known professor talks less confidently now than when he was talking to me. His tone and face expression show up his uneasiness and lack of confidence against this big shot university prof. I found that somewhat amusing. This is an anecdote story but the clear lesson is how professors view and judge each other. The  importance of affiliation is a clear sign of success in academia, lacking that often leaves some feel like a fraud when they are in some 3rd tier university/lab and mainly limping and keeping face.

I bet everyone who has ever gone through academia felt like a fraud at some point in this journey. It is a bizarre feeling that intensifies with the more you know. Considering the fact that almost all PhD students are actually the most academically gifted people, why is the lack of confidence obvious among most academics? I am no psychologist, but having passed through the system (and thankfully left), I would offer few explanations here that may or may not satisfy all people.

Hierarchy. There is a clear and sacred hierarchy in academia. The older professors are often treated with high respect. The older generation uses every opportunity to establish their academic superiority over the younger students or researchers. Example: A young student may gloat about having just picked up a new algorithm. The supervisor’s  response is not “hurray!!”, but likely that the student has forgotten to read this old paper that sets limits on what new algorithms must accomplish! The student’s enthusiasm is often crashed immediately; feeling sometimes ashamed. The prof./supervisor may have acted in good or bad faith. But nevertheless his/her likely message was to maintain academic superiority not pass that his/her student(s). This is different in industry and real world where people come and go and everybody treats work as a day job; even though hierarchy still exists too, but it is more fluid. In industry, new technology and ideas are very much appreciated because it often equates new products and more revenues.

Solitary. A PhD or young researcher is often alone and the lack of a social life and positive interaction with other people lead to isolation and bitterness. A PhD is a crash course in survival-ship, it maybe easy to do the exams than going through the whole process alone.

Circle. A young researcher is mostly surrounded by older people. There are only few students around and mostly profs and researchers with decades of more experience. No matter what one knows, they know better. Not because they are smarter but because they have been around the block longer and seen and remember much more. Wrestling a supervisor, no matter how bright one is, often leads to a crashed soul. One may know better but they know always more. It is very irritating, but that is the reality of academia. The academic knowledge horizon moves at a slow speed, and accumulates with age. This is true about almost anything, but what makes it worst in academia is the static hierarchy.

Anxiety. Often PhD and postdocs have no clue about what to do with their lives. Sometimes the main reason why they are doing it, is because they don’t know what else to do?! This anxiety and stress may be felt or  not felt; but deep down it is there. Any negative feeling has great ramification about all other sorts of emotions including feeling like a fraud. Anxiety and stress does not leave room for self-worth and you keep wallowing about the failures of your life! No better recipe for feeling like a fraud! This is the beginning and eventually depression takes over, especially due to a the lack of social life and positive interactions.

Competitiveness. There is always someone better than you! All PhD students are academically gifted who have been always at the top of their class; in middle school, high school, college/university, often in their region/state/country. But when they reach the top, and being among other top students, they are not anymore the best but competing with the best of the world (if one is at a good enough university)! Even among the best, academia still like to stifle and rank them from worst to best with more graded classes and exams. The top students throughout their school are suddenly not the best anymore, and just mediocre students who are barely limping! Academia rather than nurturing talent likes to crash it. That leads to a feeling of fraud, that you have actually been lucky (fraud) to make it through all the previous schools/exams and finally you have been figured/found out! A toxic feeling that is not only false but self-feeding! A stressed/anxious person will never flourish in such a toxic environment. Academia crashes talent rather than helping it grow, because there is enough demand and very little positions, so it filters infinitesimally.

Vastness. Academic output is large, vastly large! One can never master one topic unless it is relatively new. Hence, why most academians are humble, not because they want to, but because they have to! An academic has to know his topic to stand any chance of defending his ideas, as the job of most academians is wrestling each other’s ideas almost daily. A young researcher has to know just enough to not get consumed into passive learning without actively publishing as fast as possible. The end goal is to publish yet one has to read what has been done. Only few can master the skill of knowing just the necessary, but often the vastness of academic output is a graveyard that wears most young researchers, and leaving them often feeling like a fraud because they don’t know enough. Outside academia, you are tasked with specific measurable goals to do. No need to print new articles to take home to read (aka. guilt of not doing enough), all the time!

Stardom. No matter what your affiliation, there is often a better place unless you are at top schools in the world. If you are in “the 2nd best Uni.” in your country, good; but you are not in the best one! You are good in some state university; sure but you are not good enough to make it into an Ivy league famous university. No matter where you are, you are often reminded that there is a better institution that is harder to get into; where the brightest of the bright actually work! This is often witnessed at conferences/meetings, and you see how Ivy league profs treat the low class college/state uni. immortal profs! This is not the case in industry where prestige of the company is less obvious than the salary and role the person.

Academia is a brotherhood of fraud, where almost everyone has felt it and/or feeling it. A toxic environment that crashes young souls for years, and leaving them limping for decades to survive if they don’t leave the brotherhood soon enough. Go for academia and you will be guaranteed to feel some of the above. As often said, misery loves company.



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!

Reader story: Why We Must Tear Down the Academic Research Edifice

Like most writers on this blog, I entered academic research believing it would give me a career. Instead, it left me broke, redundant, frustrated, roped to the lowest rungs of the employment ladder.

My superiors in academia, far from warning of limited opportunities and likely disappointments, spoke glowingly of a future “research career” and – seeing that my work was of high quality – hinted at promotions. Maybe they meant it, I don’t know.

Anyway, neither the promotions nor the research career materialised (unless decades of dead-end jobs interspersed with stretches of employment can be counted as a ‘career’).

Right now I’m working menial jobs to make ends meet. The pay is terrible, and the work physically demanding (I’m not young), but at least my workmates are normal and fun, immune to political correctness! I’ve been doing this for nearly two years. Thank goodness for temp agencies, or I don’t know where I’d be.

Needless to say, the academics I helped all those years ago to do their first research and publish their first papers – they’re professors and department heads now. Do I hear from them? Hahahaha!

I’ve been duped. We’ve been duped.

We need to understand what PhDs and junior researchers are for: they are to generate income and reputation for universities, and to advance the careers of senior academics. That’s all. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we can devise work and life strategies in OUR best interests, rather than theirs. My advice in almost all cases would be to bail, find a career outside. Better still, don’t get hooked in the first place.

The longer you stay in academia, the more warped your thinking becomes, the more your mind tells you to keep doing it even though it’s making you angry, depressed and poor. Research lackeydom is like a drug, turning bright-eyed, clever people into angry, embittered, dependent depressives. It’s shameful.

Of course, this is not the fate of all PhDs, but a high enough proportion to convince me that the present system is rotten to the core.

Ask yourself this: If only a small proportion of trained medics got to apply their skills long-term, would there not be a national outcry, with public representatives demanding to know why resources were being wasted, medical expertise squandered? Why then, when only a small proportion of highly trained researchers are able to pursue long-term research careers, is reaction so muted?

I think you know the answer. The present system of research on both sides of the Atlantic handsomely rewards a minority of career-track academics even while it fails large numbers of working researchers. We should remind ourselves constantly that we are NOT losers, but highly intelligent people, who should be leading our respective societies and economies rather than wasting our lives and talents in low-grade menial and administrative jobs.

By the way, all that stuff about research skills being transferable – it’s horseshit.

The academic research edifice is no longer fit for purpose, and the very people who sustain it regard it with utter cynicism. The professors and senior managers may maintain an illusion of health by replacing the beams and stones that support their lofty towers just as fast as they crack and crumble, but they can no longer conceal that it’s falling apart.

We must do all we can to accelerate this process, to tear down the sprawling, wasteful edifice and replace it with a structure fit for the modern age, one that works for researchers, for our national economies, and for society at large.

James T.

Reader story: decade of depression and slavery, part-5.

part 1part 2, part 3, part 4

Moving on. Let’s do some reading now – this is what good suckers, I mean, scholars must do for their thesis, anyways. Liberal arts degrees are a good investment, Published in March, 2016

History majors, take heart. All that talk about liberal arts graduates being destined for a lifetime of reduced earnings and limited job prospects is just that – a lot of talk. New research shows that a liberal arts degree is a great economic investment. A study by the Education Policy Research Initiative (EPRI) using the tax records of University of Ottawa graduates, found that social sciences and humanities graduates enjoy steady increases in earnings, starting at an average of $40,000 right after graduation and up to $80,000 only 13 years later — similar to the average earnings of math and science grads.

So educators say that education is good? Research shows that research is Good. I would actually wonder if they ever said the opposite. They are educators and would lose their cushy jobs if they ever admitted the truth. Here is the contrary opinion. 10 Bachelor’s Degrees to Avoid in 2015

Using employment projections and wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and United States Department of Labor, we’ve compiled this list of college majors you should seriously consider avoiding in 2015:

1. Communications

According to the BLS, their median annual wages for 2013 were as follows: proofreaders and copymarkers ($33,130), reporters and correspondents ($35,600), and editors ($54,150).

2. Psychology

So, what do you do with a bachelor’s degree in psychology? The following careers and their corresponding annual median wages will give you an idea: Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor ($38,620) and psychiatric technician ($29,880).

3. Theatre Arts

The median hourly wage for actors was $22.15 in 2013, according to the BLS, and an annual median wage isn’t even available.

4. Fashion Design

Projections Central predicts that employment for fashion designers will decrease 3% in the decade leading up to 2022. Of course, pay isn’t bad for fashion designers who are lucky enough to make it: Median wages for 2013 were $63,760. But it won’t matter if you don’t land a job to begin with.

5. Sociology

Wages for sociology graduates aren’t all that exciting either. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $48,440 in 2013, while correctional officers and jailers earned just $39,550.

6. Liberal Arts

A liberal arts degree is the laughing stock of college degree programs for a reason: it’s not specialized enough to prepare you for a specific career. A 2014 BLS report even listed liberal arts majors as a group that “fared poorly” when it came to overall unemployment. What this goes to prove is that a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts might make you a well-rounded person, but it won’t necessarily help you get a decent job.

7. Microelectronic Engineering

And while median annual wages for material engineers came in at more than $80,000 in 2013, semiconductor processors only earned a median annual wage of $33,950. Studying technology is usually a great way to go, but microelectronic engineering might just be too specialized to pay off.

8. Fine Arts

BLS numbers also show dismal wages for these workers. Photographers, for example, only earned an annual median wage of$29,280 in 2013. Fine artists, $42,610.

9. Criminal Justice

Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice might make sense in certain situations — but using it to launch your career as a police officer or detective isn’t one of them.

10. Hospitality and Tourism

Employment in these fields is expected to increase by as much as 13% from 2012 to 2022, but the median annual wage was only$20,400. Meanwhile, jobs for lodging managers are only supposed to rise 1.4% during the decade, and the median annual wage for this profession is a mere $46,830.

It seems that someone must be shamelessly lying here! Either the Bureau of Labor Statistics and United States Department of Labor are providing completely wrong numbers. Or somehow entire fucking economy in the USA is so different from Canadian that Liberal Arts majors in Canada earning 40,000 to 80,000 per annum, whereas in the USA they are living in their mom&dad’s basement’s so even the Bureau of Labor Statistics is not able to provide reliable information on their median income. Someone must be wrong, someone must be seriously wrong!

Now please consider reading a last bit of good writing by an honest gentleman who tries to defraud at least some of students. WHY LIBERAL ARTS DEGREES ARE WORTHLESS?By Steven Waechter.

Today more than ever, it is critical for a serious-minded young person to avoid the pitfalls of picking a worthless major in college. Huge numbers of college grads have discovered that their degrees were next to worthless, and went on to get the exact same low-paying service jobs that their parents threatened them with when they screwed around in high school.

I absolutely love to complain about worthless degrees. I have one. Actually, I have two. I also like to complain about things on the internet, and we’re on winter production hours at work, so I have free time…….

My worthless degrees did nothing but remove me from the world of real work; to widen the chasm between myself and the actual jobs which existed in the real economy. In short, I didn’t have the sort of skills that people were willing to pay for, and had to restart at temp jobs that I could have gotten straight out of high school.

In his book “Up From Slavery,” Booker T. Washington recounted a story of young former slave women in Washington, D.C. who were sent to upscale schools by philanthropic societies. These young women had worked alongside their mothers in things like laundry, housekeeping, and cooking, but when their education was finished they had been weaned off of their mothers’ trades and had learned no employable skills to replace them. Many came to “unfortunate ends,” which was the approved Victorian euphemism for prostitution.

That is the problem of a “liberal” education. The point of education is – or at least should be – to make the world whole and comprehensible for the learner through instruction, and to prepare the young for adulthood. Having a job is part of being an adult in the real world, and education which does nothing to provide for this is hardly education at all.

What makes a degree worthless?

Baby boomers and hippies might deny the existence of “worthless” college degrees; because their English degree paid off back in the 1970’s, or because you should “follow your heart, for you won’t be good at what you don’t love!”

In the 1960’s about 10-15 percent of the workforce had college degrees. Today, that number hovers at around 40 percent, and in the United States we have had a decade of virtually no economic growth. That entry-level job that allowed the English major to enter the white-collar workforce in 1970 doesn’t exist anymore.

A college degree is worthless if nobody is willing to pay you for the skills you acquired while earning it. STEM graduates, as well as those from Accounting programs, learned actual skills in their studies. Humanities majors learned only “soft skills” like writing, and “critical thinking.” All useless majors teach the same “soft skills.” Many of the useful majors also teach them, so why not choose a useful major?

Almost all kids who are chasing their dumb dreams in college would be better served by majoring in Accounting or IT while working part-time in whatever field they’re planning on pursuing. They’ll have both useful skills and work experience.

What does a useless major look like?

1. It is all soft skills.

If the department only discusses the great instruction in cognitive ability, critical thinking skills, writing, and analysis and is without reference to any hard skills like running a computer, keeping the books, or designing a satellite; it is probably a worthless major.

(Remember the statement from “The University Affairs”??? Canadians holding PhDs have expertise in a particular field and are skilled communicators, problem solvers, critical thinkers and lifelong learners who are highly motivated, comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity and are increasingly globally connected.)

2. It prepares you for graduate studies.

I was a Political Science major. It is a terrible major. It prepares you for law school, which is a graduate program that churns out about 3 graduates per available job in that field. That is all Poli-sci does. The ultimate soft skill is preparation for more school.

3. It contains absolutely no math

Mathematics is the language of the universe. Deal with it. Any major that has no arithmetic at all is likely to be a massive waste of time. It doesn’t have to be calculus, but if you hardly ever add, subtract, divide, or multiply, your major is worthless.

4. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the field are terrible.

If there are no jobs in the field, or the starting salaries are lower than the median salaries of jobs that don’t require a college degree, your major is a waste of time.

5. The course matter are conspiracy theories.

Things like Gender Studies, Post-colonialism Studies, Sociology, and the like are dripping with post-modernist, Marxist Critical Theory nonsense… Perpetrators, Victims, Patriarchy, Oppression everywhere, taught in an “intersectional framework.”

Some colleges (Macalester, Occidental) actually have a major in Critical Theory. The big, bad Patriarchal, colonialist, imperialist, capitalist, white male power structure is oppressing Humanities students. These are the collegiate equivalent of conspiracy theorists on AM radio who’ve “seen behind the veil of society and know the truth of the all-powerful Illuminati”…. Down the rabbit hole you’ll go. Graduates of these sorts of programs will be oppressed by serious underemployment as they try to build careers as professional left-wing political agitators.

Colleges Are Humiliating Themselves

6. You’re planning to teach it to other college students.

Majoring in Anthropology, to go to grad school for Anthropology, so you can become a Teaching Assistant in the Anthropology department, teaching Anthropology to Anthropology majors… as Sterling Archer put it, “thus continuing the circle of Why Bother?!” Ignoring this could be condemning yourself to a long sentence as a transient adjunct professor, since colleges churn out too many PhD’s.

7. It’s all for helping people, but it doesn’t.

Sociology majors like to pretend that they’re going to have a career in the non-profit sector where they will help people; usually by nagging people. Somehow, that‘s helpful. They end up working as part-time HR Generalists who reject job applicants for “not being a good fit.” People with Nursing degrees help people by being nurses. Kindergarten teachers, and pharmacy techs also help people… by helping people.

Supply and demand

Courses of study that are attached to an actual career track can become worthless if the number of graduates greatly exceeds the available number of jobs. The graduate program of Law is an example. TaxProf Blog: Looking at the Law School Crisis.

Law in the United States has become something of an All-Purpose Liberal Arts graduate degree. The course material is entirely “soft skills,” being focused on things like legal reasoning, critical thinking skills, and argumentation in the framework of the Socratic Method. With the possible exception of learning how to write a court brief, a law degree doesn’t teach “hard skills.”

Those soft skills are necessary to successfully practice law. The problems happen when law schools blast out far too many graduates for the job market. Left out of the legal field, those graduates are forced to navigate a job market with what is essentially a Liberal Arts degree.

The sliding scale of worth

Electrical engineering is a good major. Mining engineering is as well. An AA in Computer Networking would also be a pretty good choice. Geology is probably a better major than Geography, which would be valuable on Jeopardy but not necessarily in the job market.

Accounting is probably a better choice than Finance, which is probably better than Economics, which is definitely better than Political Science, which is absolutely better than Gender Studies.

College is too expensive, and too time-consuming, to be entered with a whimsical disregard for the student’s future in the real world. That is the hard truth of life, and hiding away in the collegiate land of Humanities make-believe will only make the eventual crash much more devastating.

Let me say this: academia is nothing more, but a decrepit, piss-ridden cesspool, full of rotten turd, and graduate students and postdocs are simply maggots, slowly crawling in the malodorous scum at the bottom of said cesspit. BTW, it seems that I have accidentally vomited just right in the middle of that cesspit. Excuse me! Buuuurp…

End of the reader’s story.

A shallow look at deep PhD life

PhDs like to think hard obsessively. How does this work? How this solution is sufficient enough proof? Can there be an alternative explanation? These are all good questions.

Problem is how long you persue them and for what purpose. PhDs made the gigantic mistake of asking those questions about their PhD topics and not about their careers.

Career is the only thing matters. You should do something because it helps your career. If it doesn’t then why are you working on this again? Why are you here?

For career, you have to justify your decisions, to yourself. Unlike entertainment, you can just about do anything. Two things don’t mix. If it mixes then you aren’t serious.

We have many articles in this blog about why not to do PhD and how these prime times can be used for much much fruitful career routes. Assuming 100k/year salary, value of 10 years is more than one million dollars.
Even if you are slightly idiot in money management skills, you will do better with this much money.

Wasting 10 years in academia and counting coupons in grocery stores will ruin you.

PS: We encourage reader stories. Authors have day jobs and we write only part time.

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