Frogs and Ravens writes about an article published in the Chronicle on alternative careers for Ph.D. holders. She cites the following passages from the article:
Is there a chance that the alternative-careers movement (which in many ways I laud and admire) has unwittingly sold humanities Ph.D.’s yet another professional pipe dream? Could it be that all of us — both those still “in” academe (that is, in the professoriate) and those in the nonacademic realm — still share a misguided optimism about the marketability of a humanities Ph.D.?
I’m not sure yet about the answers to those questions. But what I am seeing is that for people like me who finished a traditionally configured graduate program, the cold truth is that translating a humanities Ph.D. into well-paying and personally satisfying employment beyond the faculty ranks is a difficult slog with an unpredictable outcome.
That’s a very insightful statement which I think can be extended to all Ph.D.s not just humanities.
The cold hard truth is that, at least in Canada, there is very little room for Ph.D. holders. There is little room in industry as well as in universities. Little room compared to what? Compared to the number of Ph.D.s produced. For example, in 2002, UQÀM had almost a hundred students in some Ph.D. programs. If everything goes well, this means a single school in Canada can produce 10 Ph.D.s a year in a given field: I doubt many fields have much more than 10 openings a year in all of Canada.
There appears to be more jobs, maybe, in government, but that’s cyclic. One day the government will be looking for 5 researchers on aluminium technology, the other day they will be looking for 5 researchers on artic climate… If you are looking for a job, I suggest looking for openings in your government. But it won’t solve all your problems: there might not be any job for you and there might be stiff competition for these jobs. Or you might not like a government job.
Now, some people have been saying that Ph.D.s should look for alternative jobs (outside universities). I’ve complained before in this pages that I failed at getting an industry job when I graduated with my Ph.D. (Nothing like using a blog to talk about one’s failures.) I think I’m a reasonably bright guy, so, no, companies are not starving for fresh Ph.D.s That’s a myth.
In fact, I was having lunch with a colleague the other day who spent many year in industry and he admitted to hiding away his Ph.D. in order to get a job. I got this advice several times.
Is this sane?
How do we fix this? Information! We have to get the word around to potential Ph.D. students about how the job market is. If you are a professor, like myself, tell your student about it. I know I did by posting on my blog and Steven (a M.Sc. student I supervise) definitively read some of my posts about jobs being hard to come by with a CS degree. Before you accept a Ph.D. student, have good talk with him. If you know people considering a Ph.D. path, tell them about what you know.
I’m not saying we should close down Ph.D. programs! But we should be honest and forthcoming about the job prospects. A university is not a Walmart. We don’t have to sell education at all cost.