Economist magazine: The disposable academic Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Spinner, Dec 31, 2010.

  1. Spinner

    Spinner New Member

    The Economist magazine has an interesting article about traditional doctorate programs, which has generated a lot of controversy in the article's comments section.

    Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic | The Economist

    Perhaps the lesson is to go into any program knowing the facts and make your own decision.
  2. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks for sharing. That article supports what we have been discussing for quite some time, and adds further nails to the coffin on the idea of a good return on your investment in a doctorate degree for many individuals. It further supports the idea that continuing your education to the master's level provides the best ROI. Interestingly, from the statistics below, the net ROI on the average doctor's degree is only 3% better than that earned with a master's degree.

    "Men with a bachelor’s degree earn 14% more than those who could have gone to university but chose not to. The earnings premium for a PhD is 26%. But the premium for a master’s degree, which can be accomplished in as little as one year, is almost as high, at 23%. In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely."
  3. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    The following was a good close:

  4. okydd

    okydd New Member

    By assisting students finding lower cost high quality options, that are increasingly available, we can boost those numbers for anyone who visited degreeinfo before enrolling. You can earn your doctorate without going broke. The trick is to minimized your capital outlay so you don’t need to depend on substantially increase in income to boost ROI.
  5. Many things people do don't make sense from a purely economic standpoint. If your passion is to teach college and/or do academic research then a PhD would be a very good investment. If your plan is to get rich with your PhD's ROI, that's probably a bad idea. I have a cousin that collects everything and anything associated with cute-looking pigs. They can't be worth any money, they're all knick-knacky. BUT they are her odd little passion. In that sense they're a great quality-of-life investment with a poor monetary ROI.
  6. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    On the bright side the article does say this:
    The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it high enough to be worthwhile.
    Which I have said multiple occasions here regarding science doctorates.
    I disagree with the comment on engineering doctorates - at least in the aerospace and defense business sector - I work with organizations that are crying out for such people. Of course in engineering it is often ones abilities that drives ones pay - I certainly earn more than a lot of my associates including some with doctorates.
  7. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    This is a very good point, many individuals, including myself, are pursuing a doctorate for reasons other than ROI. Of course, I might jump ship again and switch to collecting cute looking pigs, you never know.
  8. obecve

    obecve New Member

    To each their own, mine has been worth about $300,000 to date for less than $20,000 investment. Oh... and mine is an Ed.D.
  9. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    You do have the option to call off the dogs after the EdS.
  10. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    The low cost argument is debatable. Some have argued that a South African degree offers the lowest cost but also some may argue that has almost no use in a North American competitive environment where even people with doctorates from traditional schools have a hard time.

    However, some have argued that a SA degree stands a better chance than one from an online for profit school that cost a small fortune with almost little chance of being use for positions that require a PhD.

    The market of PhDs is limited and very competitive, if one is not willing or does not have the resources to invest in a good doctorate, one must be willing to have an excellent research publication record that in my opinion is almost non feasible for the busy professional.

    In summary, if you are in a position where the doctorate can be used (e.g. academic administration positions, teaching positions, etc) and you feel that any accredited doctorate can help for a promotion or better salary, the SA or even a for profit doctorate is a good option provided that you know you can get back your investment. Otherwise, as the article says, it is a real waste of time.
  11. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    YouTube - baby pig ...OINK! OINK! ...OUK! OUK!
  12. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Indeed, and the expected ROI of a PhD is very iffy if you consider that most of the highly-profitable "doctoral programs" only graduate about 10% of eager students who are admitted to the "doctoral program."
  13. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Really? You resurrected a thread that had been done for six weeks just to reiterate your unsubstantiated ten percent baloney? It's tiresome enough in active threads.

  14. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    Do you mind if I ask how you measured the $300K return?
  15. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I see the PhD a bit like the MBA. A PhD is worth it only if it is granted by a reputable institution. There is an oversupply of PhDs from low tier institutions but reputable PhDs are still worth it. If you don't believe check the open salary database from Vancouver in Canada:

    Public Sector Salaries - Vancouver Sun

    It is not uncommon to see PhDs working at the University of BC for 300K a year. I checked few PhDs in accounting making close to 400K.

    A PhD in business from AACSB accredited school is worth at least a starting salary of 100K but it is not uncommon to see people making 200K plus.

    I think that if someone is going to invest in a PhD, it better be from a reputable institution. Reputable institutions only accept very few candidates a year in order to make sure that those graduates will actually worth something. Prospect PhD students should avoid degree factories that grant degrees in the hundreds level as these degrees won't be worth much in the market.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2011
  16. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    I agree, most PhD degrees from lower tier schools will not be a good investment. However, let me add one more point. There is nothing wrong with getting a doctorate from a lower tier school as long as you are not expecting a high ROI from it, or even any ROI at all. Making money is not the only motivation for continuing your education and becoming an academic is not the only reason to get a terminal degree. That is how it used to be, but things are changing. It appears that PhD degrees will become more and more stratified and, in my opinion, that's OK.
  17. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    Some lower-tier degrees can also be beneficial outside of higher ed. For example, an EdD can be quite helpful in obtaining positions in K-12 administration.
  18. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    My plan exactly.
  19. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Really? Once again: Which programs and where did you get your data?
  20. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I agree, however, I believe that if one is going to make the effort and investment, it is really worth looking at AACSB accredited programs. It is better to invest 100K for a good PhD that can lead to a 100K+ plus than 60K for a PhD that can only lead to poorly paid online gigs.
    I can see that the PhD is heading in the same direction as the MBA. MBAs are still worth it but only if they are granted by top schools and the same can be said about PhDs.

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