Are you thinking about applying to a PhD program? Are you already a doctoral student? PhD is a huge investment of time and money. So make sure you spend 15 minutes of your time reading this blog devoted to PhD program success and survival tips. I'm confident that these tips can save up to 10 years of your life, up to $1,000,000 of your money, and, most importantly, your physical and emotional health.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Academic Hypcrisy

This article from the Chronicle of higher education is a good example of academic stupidity and/or hypocrisy.

The article starts out by making a case that many PhD students, despite spending years in grad school, have very bleak employment prospects:

It is the best of times and worst of times to start a science career in the United States.

Researchers today have access to powerful new tools and techniques — such as rapid gene sequencers and giant telescopes — that have accelerated the pace of discovery beyond the imagination of previous generations.

But for many of today's graduate students, the future could not look much bleaker.

They see long periods of training, a shortage of academic jobs, and intense competition for research grants looming ahead of them. "They get a sense that this is a really frustrating career path," says Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

And then they propose some "solutions" to the problem:

Mr. Walker says that American graduate programs train students to be superb researchers. But they need to do more, he argues. Departments and students must recognize that the majority of science doctorate recipients no longer become professors, and that realization should cause a shift in the culture and practice of graduate education. "There's a mismatch between the opportunities available to students as they complete their work and their expectations and the nature of their training along the way."

Graduate programs, he says, need to help students learn how to be nimble — to work at the junctions of disciplines, to collaborate as part of a team, and to be able to move from one topic to another. All of these skills, he says, are becoming increasingly important as careers evolve, both within and outside academe

I have a much simpler solution:

  • Do not recruit so many doctoral students
  • Do not lie to prospective doctoral students about their employment prospects

If there are no jobs for PhD holders, then stop recruiting so many PhD students!!! This sounds like the most logical solution. But they won't stop. They need cheap labor to churn out research papers. And to get an educated and smart person working for them for minimum wage, they need to lie about employment prospects.

How many people would agree to join a PhD program if they are told openly: "Look, you gonna spend 6 years forking 50-70 hours a week for less then minimum wage and then you are likely to have very bleak employment prospects". You have to be insane to agree to that kind of a deal. So schools will continue lying (or simply avoiding this subject).


  1. Alexander, I agree with your post wholeheartedly. Academia is a very dishonest business, and PhD recipients typically have fewer job prospects than BSc recipients.

    The way to solve this is to NOT pursue a PhD in the first place, and to educate people on the dishonesty in academia as you've been doing. Good job.

    I wish I had read this before enrolling in my PhD program:

  2. Oh! very true.
    Academia wants you to become dishonest. When a group of students are cheating every exam and homework, you will be forced to cheat.
    Profs cheat too. They give the same questions in homeworks and exams from previous years exams.

    Have you seen any grad student with low GPA? No.
    But ask about his/her research; someone with straight A's in all courses cannot even do a simple experiment. Why is this so?

    The whole business if phd is a scam.

    Thanks for starting this blog.

    We should create more awareness about the bottomless pit(PhD) to prospective phd students.

  3. we should not look at things pessimistically.

    1. yes we should. at the very least w/ a healthy amount of skepticism.