Not just a river in Egypt

This past week I received a link to an article in The Economist, entitled: “The disposable academic: Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time.” Maybe it was because I still felt indestructibly jolly, full of rum and eggnog and baked goods, but I ignored the foreboding feeling I had to stay away, and decided to read this article. In the spirit of sharing, here are a just a few of the fun facts I came across:

  • “A study in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management by Bernard Casey shows that British 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. PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees.”

Does it make a difference if I personally feel that anthropology is closer to the humanities than the social sciences?

  • “Workers with “surplus schooling”—more education than a job requires—are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs.”

Hmm… causation, or correlation?

  • “In Canada, where the output of PhD graduates has grown relatively modestly, universities conferred 4,800 doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time professors.”

Only 54%?! Hey, that was four years ago. I’m sure there will be a boom in job openings soon, right?

My dad has a copy of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching in his bathroom, and on one visit I stumbled upon the following lines: “The wise are not academic. / The academic are not wise.” Reading this Economist article brought those lines back to mind, and made me wonder if, in my determination to not be deterred by (read: live in denial of) the fun facts of doing a PhD, I am proving Lao Tzu true. Crap.

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