my future job

My father sent me this article recently about the psychology of failure within graduate school. As a child of academics heading pretty much full-speed ahead into the world of academia, it was a good read. I tend to be my harshest critic, as those who know me do know. It’s frustrating to read things like:

Unfortunately, the hard facts show again and again that only a small percentage of doctoral students can achieve the success of becoming a tenure-track professor at a research institution.

I mean, we all know it’s true, but it’s one of those unpleasant things that if you let it get you down will no doubt scuttle your chances of making it.

The most important point that the article makes, albeit more tangentially than I would have hoped, is that there is a culture of desperation surrounding many graduate programs. In particular, students become more and more desperate for some sort of handle on “the job market,” as they progress through their program, and it causes all sorts of stress. People always ask me how long it’s going to take to me to graduate and what my plans are afterwards. My answer is always “I’ll see what things are like when I get there.” It’s a nice lie to myself and makes me look well-centered, but of course I’m just as scared shitless as everyone else that there will be no jobs for me when I get out.

I’m not planning on taking that barista course yet, but who knows? Maybe it will come to that. That or sit on the corner with a sign that says “will pontificate for money.”

0 thoughts on “my future job

  1. Unfortunately, the hard facts show again and again that only a small percentage of doctoral students can achieve the success of becoming a tenure-track professor at a research institution.

    This is definitely true, but it’s softened a little when you remember that a lot of people, by the time they’ve slogged through their PhD, have decided that they *don’t* want to be a professor at a research institution. Out of Robbie’s class graduating now at Duke in math, there are several people who have decided they just want to teach, screw the research.

    At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. :^D

  2. You’re not going to have to work in a coffee shop. I said this when you first sent me the article, but its worth saying again, in case you really are worrying about it.

    You’re getting a PhD in EE with a focus on communications. This is actually a field of research that is useful to society as a whole. (I don’t mean to demean any current or future PhDs in other fields, but let’s be honest – the average person will benefit more from a faster internet connection than a fascinating dissertation on the history of science. HiAmrysIloveyou.) And as a result, there are research companies that would hire you if, god forbid, you don’t wind up with a tenure track position. They might even pay better.

    So you’ll be fine. Now, buck up and finish your PhD. 🙂

  3. What – we have to pay you?
    You usually just pontificate for free. 😉

    I have to agree with Erin. I do think a large part of those people indeed do come from fields with less non-academic marketability than EE/Comm. Hence a larger number of the Ph.D.’s in the social sciences and humanities come out hoping for academic jobs – since there are fewer other options that reward them well financially or intellectually. EECS people have more choices. Hence the struggle for academic positions is less fraught with desperation.

    Plus, coming from a top five program certainly skews the percentages, as opposed to the large number of Ph.D.’s awarded at many institutions, whose students no matter how qualified, have a much harder time of it in the job market.


  4. My father is always pushing me to get my phd. I’d consider it in something *not* engineering. Hes a professor for counseling and at a crappy college like the one he teaches at that means he has to teach class a few times a week and spends the rest of the time going to mammoth to ski or camping or doing volunteerish counseling work for immigrants. pretty sweet. I was thinking it would be soo cool to be an art/math teacher and use that as a way to help students visualize what they are learning.

    also, its wierd but i was working with almost all phds doing research projects till a few weeks ago. B/c i ditched that to do acousticy signal processing pattern classfication stuff and its mostly just masters students and they seem to have so much more random cool ideas.

    What was my point? not sure.. maybe that it would be awesome to be a prof at a crappy school and try to find fullfilling things in all aspects of life. Plus teaching a student at a crappy school is still teaching people about something you are interested in. Their education is only crappy if you let it be. and if you dont care about teaching then you can do research at almost every company.

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