The Boston Globe reports that about 35% of American college students continue on to receive degrees beyond a B.A. This percentage is up from 32.7% in 1999. While an increased interest in higher education is admirable, one must ask: Is this upswing towards higher education positive? Are these M.A. and Ph.D. graduates obtaining jobs (and raises) that they otherwise wouldn’t receive? Are these higher degrees necessary? Is the additional degree worth the time and money that goes into obtaining it?
A recent recession-related job survey shows that less that 4.5% of workers in America hold Ph.D.s, and that this number is dropping. If more people are getting Ph.D., but studies show that there are fewer Ph.D.s in the workforce…well…you do the math.
Another staggering figure that may make you reconsider pursuing that Ph.D.: Employees with Ph.D.’s earn 10% less than those same Ph.D. holders would have made a decade ago.
This chart explains it all:
In a Chronicle article written one year ago Thomas H. Benton restated a position he’d held for many years, a “message many prospective graduate students were not getting from their professors, who were generally too eager to clone themselves”: that prospective Ph.D.s should scratch their Ph.D. dreams and run the other way, towards a job.
Prospects are bleak for Ph.D. holders in the humanities, Benton explains:
Most undergraduates don’t realize that there is a shrinking percentage of positions in the humanities that offer job security, benefits, and a livable salary….They don’t know that you probably will have to accept living almost anywhere, and that you must also go through a six-year probationary period at the end of which you may be fired for any number of reasons and find yourself exiled from the profession.
Becoming a humanities professor is not a reliable prospect, though, Benton admits, it may be a more responsible choice than freelance writing, acting, or becoming a professional athlete.
Ph.D.s used to be reserved for the few elite students in a particular field. Today, a doctorate program has become a hiding shelter from searching for a job.
A warning from Benton: The recession won’t go away simply because you’ve locked yourself in the library.
A Ph.D. is for some people, relents Benton, for individually wealthy people who have the time and money to devote themselves to academe, you are an extremely well-connected person who has a reliable job guarantee, or if you have a current job and your current employer offers to pay your way towards Ph.D.-hood.
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