Saturday, November 10, 2012

"If you’re really good, you’re still going to get a job." From the Duke Chronicle.

Post-grad job search stressful for Ph.D.s

By Jeffrey Cicurel

Ph.D. students are struggling to find employment after graduation in the economic recession.

Post doctoral students and professors are feeling increasingly stressed about their respective fields, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Oct. 24. This stress has much to do with the difficulty of securing tenure in a weak job market, exacerbated by graduate programs taking more graduate students than there are jobs. Some at Duke, however, argue that those dedicated to pursuing their interests in academia should not be deterred by such factors.

Provost Peter Lange, who has been Duke’s chief academic officer since 1999, said he has trained many doctoral students, many of whom have gone on to pursue academic careers. He did not think students should shy away from pursuing their doctorates.

“Anybody who goes into a profession through some combination of a passion for the profession and different degrees of confidence can be really successful. If you’re really good, you’re still going to get a job,” Lange said. “But if you’re feeling a little more marginal, or if you’re not sure that that’s what you want to do, then obviously the quality of the job market can be a little scary.”



  1. My Dad and I just had this conversation, because my 14 year old brilliant and accomplished daughter has made noises that she would like to study to become a History professor someday. Now, at least she has learned from her Mom and is not interested in becoming an English professor, BUT. I am dead set against it and have told her so again and again, because of how hard it is even for a shining star to get a job. I am convinced it was 90% luck and 10% greatness (haha) that landed me my job. It is especially difficult to get a job at a great place (the kind I am sure she is envisioning, if such places exist), and I just don't want my daughter caught up in the mess that is higher ed anyway.

    She is also quite good at/has an interest in math and I have convinced her that if higher ed is in her future, it has to be for math....or maybe Chemistry. I am thinking those fields are not as hard in terms of employment. Thoughts, CMers?

    1. Although there are some jobs in the physical sciences outside of academia, the job situation in academia in the physical sciences stinks, and has stunk since 1969. Show this to your daughter:

    2. Thanks, Frod, I will. I admit to not really looking into the chemistry career thing. My father is a chemist and has a job in industry and he feels it is a great field for a woman, but then, he also has his head in the clouds about the history proffie thing, which I KNOW is a bad idea.

      Now that my daughter is 14 and in high school, I have to really help her research these things. She herself is certainly already thinking about them!

    3. Chemists have a pretty low unemployment rate (probably 4-5% now). Of course, they count post doctoral students and grad students as employed, which is a bit misleading. It really depends on the field of chemistry. Currently, theoretical chemists are a dime a dozen because there was such (undeserved) hype 5-10 years ago about how technology would impact the lab. Turns out, you still need to mix real chemicals. Other fields are in demand, though industry and academia find it cheaper to lobby congress to allow more cheap foreign PhD students into the US, rather than train US citizens who demand more salary.

      Of course, by the time your daughter gets her PhD, that might change. Overall, chemistry is a field that has a strong industrial base and keeps academics busy too.

  2. "Anybody who goes into a profession through some combination of a passion for the profession and different degrees of confidence can be really successful. If you’re really good, you’re still going to get a job..."

    Jesu Christu Herrgott im Himmel, this is either positively mendacious, self-serving claptrap, or the product of a mind that is woefully, WOEFULLY out of touch with what is really going on all over academia. It hasn't been true that "the good ones will still make it" in the physical sciences for over 20 years now. Yet all the time, the graduate schools keep cranking out those Ph.D.s, to fill those freeway-flying adjunct and postdoc slots. I hope the jackass provost who said this is reincarnated as an assembly-line worker in China, after spending his retirement as a Wal-Mart greeter.

    1. And don't you point that finger at me! If you do, I'll point another finger back at you!

    2. Did you mean to also leave this comment on the original side, Frod? They're going to wonder what hit them.

    3. Cassandra: I did indeed, and I hope it will jolt this provost out of his bubble, but I wouldn't bet money on it.

  3. If you’re really good, you’re still going to get a job,” Lange said.

    And if you're a really good, dedicated teacher you're going to get 3-5 jobs that don't collectively add up to a living wage.

    What Lange is saying sounds very much like what I'm pretty sure the faculty at my equally-prestigious grad institution were thinking as they saw more and more recent Ph.D.s remaining on the market (and, in most cases, on campus/in the university town, which made the phenomenon rather obvious) for multiple years. But they just kept telling those of us who were ABD to hurry up and finish, and there would be jobs for us. In my experience, the cognitive dissonance that results tends to actually slow time to degree, as the degree candidate tries to figure out what the #$%! is actually going on, and what sort(s) of behavior would actually be in hir best interest.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.