Getting a literature Ph.D. will turn you into an emotional trainwreck, not a prof...

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by BlueMason, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. BlueMason

    BlueMason Audaces fortuna juvat

  2. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Or it could turn you into a writer, a museum manager, a consultant, a salesperson, or who knows what.

    More Ph.D.'s practice outside of academia than in. And these aren't just consolation prizes; there's often more money and career growth and development opportunities outside of academia.
  3. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    But you don't need a PhD to turn into any of those things. You can be a writer, a museum manager, a consultant, a salesperson, or practically anything else (besides a tenured prof) without a PhD. So do the costs for the PhD still make sense?

    There is no universal answer, but the "no" votes are significant, and growing.

    But will those employers pay a significant premium for a PhD over a master's? In some cases (e.g. biomedical) the answer is yes. In many other cases (e.g. engineering and physical sciences) the answer is no.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2013
  4. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Go get a Ph.D. and then pontificate on the value of it--or lack thereof.
  5. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    I got my PhD and my salary increased quite a bit....well tthen it dropped when I changed jobs...
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2013
  6. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    My point about other occupations/professions is that the scene is much more complicated than the quid pro quo aspect of getting the Ph.D. and then going into academia. This is even more so regarding the degrees that are the subject of this board. Our board participants are almost exclusively people pursuing degrees during their careers, not as forerunners to those careers.

    Just because those other jobs can be had without a Ph.D.--duh--doesn't mean the experiences gathered are irrelevant. I have a colleague whose entire education through the Ph.D. is in Economics. She didn't enter academia after the doctorate--she was a working economist. But about 10 years ago she left that behind when she got involved in executive coaching and leadership development. But she still draws upon what she learned from her education: the analytical skills, her ability to form a thesis and write about it, her understanding of social science, etc. And being a Ph.D.--even with a seemingly non-relevant major--boosts her career and practice at every turn. Almost no one asks her what her Ph.D. is in, but it really helps being "Dr. __________."

    People in fields like entertainment or sports are very seldom overpaid. They're too exposed--their stars fall rapidly if they're not earning their way. (In some sports, some athletes can nail down guaranteed contracts and then not live up to them, certainly.) Even movie stars who make a lot of hits followed by some flops eventually lose their ability to continue to draw the big paychecks. (I'm looking at you, Adam Sandler!) No, where I think we see people getting overpaid is in our lives. That guy in your office that has hung on too long. That whiz kid someone likes and keeps promoting. You know them. You've probably worked with or for them. The Peter Principle is in full force there. But the people who make the really big bucks? Not so much. (Although I am beginning to resent the closed network that is the corporate boardroom. Huge salaries paid to losers by losing companies and their inside-trading boards of directors. Again, unrestrained capitalism at work.)
  7. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    That's only a necessary step for those who are incapable of learning from the experiences of others.
  8. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Not in this case. There is much to be gained from gathering a perspective from the inside.

    Even a casual reading of threads like this reveals that there are two distinct populations with two distinct takes: those that have done it and those that have not. The kind of stuff we're reading here comes exclusively from the latter. (Not that all hold that perspective of course, but of those who do, none have actually done a doctorate.)
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I suppose that if the only conceivable motivation for earning a PhD is to qualify for a cushy academic career, and if tenure-track academic positions are increasingly hard to find, then somebody might reasonably come to the conclusion that earning a PhD is a bad idea.

    But perhaps there's a problem with the first premise: the idea that the only conceivable motivation for earning a PhD is to qualify for a cushy academic career.

    In subjects like literature, earning a PhD seems to oftentimes be a labor of love. People pursue subjects like that because they love them, because they are fascinated with them, and because they want to pursue them deeply as possible.

    The whole vocational thing that Degreeinfo obsesses about only arises when the intellectual subsequently starts to worry about 'How can I make a living with this?'

    That's obviously important, but much of the time it isn't really the primary motivation. People rarely become philosophers, theologians, historians or scientists just in order to make more money. They do it because they live and breathe philosophy, theology, history or science. There's still a hint of the medieval cloister to it, in which becoming a scholar isn't a job choice, it's a calling. I'd even question whether somebody can ever truly be good at subjects like these without a passionate interest in them.

    That's what originally drew me to distance learning in the first place. It's why I retain whatever interest I still have in it today. I perceived DL as a way for people like myself, people with little interest in supporting themselves in an academic career, to still pursue subjects of deep interest part-time, while continuing to hold down a day-job.

    Unfortunately things didn't really work out that way. Distance learning, and Degreeinfo along with it, evolved in a radically different direction. The message often seems to be that if a student isn't studying in order to get a better job or to make more money, then he or she shouldn't be studying at all.

    This can be a militantly anti-intellectual place sometimes. Or at least it seems that way to me.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2013
  10. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Me, too. There's so much "transaction" thinking. If I do (a) then I will get (b). This is especially true with discussions about getting a doctorate. But the real world is much messier and complicated. That's why you seldom hear people who have done it engage in it--we know it's a lot weirder (and more wonderful) than all that.

    The "Can I get a Ph.D. online and become a professor" line is really old. I've written an awful lot lately about the complications around graduate school, distance learning, using degrees in the workplace, research methods, politics in higher education, and so much more. I wonder if it even matters? It's like Whack-a-Mole. Just as soon as you address one, another pops up with "Can I....?" Or worse, people who haven't experienced something and don't have available to them the necessary perspective still insist on telling us like it is. Well, it ain't.

    If you stand on a beach, facing a tsunami with a sponge in your hand, you will accomplish your task: you'll have a full and wet sponge. But the beach will be just as destroyed as if you didn't hold up that sponge. Despite your input, the outcome remains the same. Well, answering some of the common misconceptions we see here feels just like that. I wonder if it is even worth the effort.

    It would be nice to see the "median of knowledge" of this board to move up, where the average thread was more sophisticated than before, and we relegated most inquiries to a FAQ. Regulars could refer new posters to FAQs relevant to their queries.

    I dibs the FAQ on dissertation research. Better let someone else have the one on DETC. :evil:
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2013
  11. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    I have casually read this particular thread. I noticed the subject is a recent opinion piece called "'There are no academic jobs and getting a Ph.D. will make you into a horrible person: A jeremiad:. I also noticed that this piece was written by a recent PhD from the University of California at Irvine -- i.e. someone who falls into your "those who have done it" category.

    Not in this thread.

    True enough. And the author of the piece that is the subject of this thread is a PhD professor (albeit in a temporary position) at Ohio State. So what do we gain from her inside perspective?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2013
  12. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I read the article. The author seems, IMHO, to be dead-on....regarding becoming a Ph.D. and an academic.
  13. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    I feel for her, really. Good ol' wikipedia is still showing 2% of the USA college graduates holding graduate level degrees, so who is pushing? It's not the non-degree holders. It's an industry that drives itself, I think? Someone somewhere encourages, or tells, an undergraduate to earn a PhD. Kids, on their own, don't come up with this idea- somehow it is presented to look appealing. I think it's the snobbery of the professors, who look down on anyone not called "doctor" and so the students think it's necessary. Just a guess....
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2013
  14. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    The medieval cloister analogy is actually apt, so let’s run with it.

    Let’s suppose a young medieval lad feels a Calling. So he petitions to be admitted as a novitiate at a famous monastery. He is accepted, and then learns Latin and theology, memorizes long prayers, and does the tough, unrewarding jobs around the monastery.

    His conduct is exemplary. And after 5 or 10 years, he is fully immersed in monasticism, and is emotionally and intellectually committed to spending the rest of his life in that state.

    But then a funny thing happens. Turns out that the monastery already has all of the senior monks that it can support. In fact, so do all of the other monasteries.

    So the young would-be monk discovers that he has spent the last 5 to 10 years in vain: despite his hard work and exemplary performance, he will not be able to fulfill his Calling. Instead, he will have to break his emotional and intellectual commitments, return to the mundane world, and find some other way to spend the rest of his life -- one that will probably have no use whatsoever for his detailed knowledge of Latin and theology.

    And as he leaves the monastery, let’s suppose he sees a group of younger medieval lads applying for admission as novitiates -- because they have Callings.

    Perhaps he would be inclined to give them a word of advice. And that’s why there are opinion pieces like the one that is the subject of this thread.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2013
  15. Phdtobe

    Phdtobe Well-Known Member

    Everything remains the same - But suppose this monk did not thought his effort was in vain and because of his enlightenment he wanted others to share the joys of the experience . I hope the good monk will advise the young lads.
  16. skidadl

    skidadl Member

    You took the words right outta my mouth. Exactly my sentiments.
  17. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    One can gain insights on dentistry through the experiences of a dentist. But one cannot become a dentist that way.

    One can gain insights on major league hitting from the experiences of a major league hitter. But good luck with that 91 mph slider.

    One can gain insights on earning and being a Ph.D. But that does not make you one. Nor do you fully understand the phenomenon. That's why the people who hold doctoral degrees and post on this board speak completely differently about the phenomenon than do those who have not.

    This isn't a Levicoff special. ("I have an RA Ph.D. and you don't. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!") I'm just saying that you don't understand it if you haven't done it. And the posts on these threads reveal this in big ways.

    You can know something about it. But you cannot know it.
  18. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    I would say it is like watching the military channel on Ranger school and saying you "know what the training is like". No, you know what steps may be taken but you do not know "what it is like".
  19. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    The turn of this thread points to a concept we wrestle with in my occupation: tacit vs. explicit learning. In technical training, we almost exclusively focus on explicit learning. We analyze requirements, break down tasks, write learning objectives, develop tests, create training materials and experiences to support students to meet the objectives, and conduct the training.

    But adult learning is waaaaaaaaaaay more than that. Adult learning comes with it a whole host of tacit learning opportunities--learning that isn't obvious and documented, but nonetheless exists and happens. One cannot know it cognitively, has to be experienced. And the doctoral experience is just loaded with it.
  20. skidadl

    skidadl Member

    Of course we wouldn't know what it is like to earn a Ph.D. since we haven't done one. That is pretty indisbutable.

    Having a Ph.D. is not an occupation though, so it is not really comparable to dentistry I wouldn't think.

    Rich, you make is sound like some sort of super secret reality that nobody knows about unless they have a doctoral degree. I understand that maybe it is not easy to measure the internal benifits of earning a doctoral degree. Otherwise, it seems pretty obvious what the degree can and cannot do for you.

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