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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Prestige of Academic Profession

I think many potential PhD students have a misconception regarding the prestige of academic profession. They think that being a professor is a prestigious and rewarding career because professors have a chance to impact individual lives and society as a whole in a positive way.

Several things should be said regarding this belief.

First, if you become a professor, your chances of changing the world are no greater than chances of people in other fields. Just think about some of the most famous and influential people in your country. How many of those are professors?

Second, I just don't see why being a good professor presents more opportunities for impacting others' lives. For example, if you are a chef - you have just as many opportunities to helps others. Feeding people with good food can be just as important (if not more important) than feeding people with often useless knowledge.

In fact, I think the nerdy types who apply to PhD programs are the only ones who admire professors (this usually changes towards the end of their PhD studies). Most normal, mentally healthy people have a certain level of disgust towards the academic types. So while there is nothing more important than being a professor and doing research in the minds of professors themselves, I doubt this view is widely shared by the population as a whole.

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