More reasons not to get a PhD

Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go

It’s hard to tell young people that universities view their idealism and energy as an exploitable resource


As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:

  • You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living for yourself or provide for anyone else.
  • You come from that small class of well-connected people in academe who will be able to find a place for you somewhere.
  • You can rely on a partner to provide all of the income and benefits needed by your household.
  • You are earning a credential for a position that you already hold — such as a high-school teacher — and your employer is paying for it.

Those are the only people who can safely undertake doctoral education in the humanities. Everyone else who does so is taking an enormous personal risk, the full consequences of which they cannot assess because they do not understand how the academic-labor system works and will not listen to people who try to tell them.

Targuman (Chris Brady) put it this way:

. . . If you are fully funded and, in the worst case scenario, are willing to “lose” 5 years of your life then fine. But there are very few guarantees. I have likened it to this: Imagine you want to buy a $100,000 Ferrari. You give Ferrari all that money and then you have to get the car around the track in a certain time. If you don’t make that cut they keep your money and the car. Same thing with the doctorate. You give the university your money and if you don’t complete the dissertation or thesis to their satisfaction they keep the money and the degree. . .

2 thoughts on “More reasons not to get a PhD

  1. A good professor of mine once told me, if you’re already enrolled in a PhD program, think about applying for jobs outside the states and Canada. Perhaps there’s a position waiting for you in China, or India. This same prof. got a PhD in English from New York University and couldn’t find a job in the states or in Canada after he got through the program. Guess what? He moved to China and taught there for about 6 years. After all taking risks is usually not a bad thing. Well, I’m so ready to go back somewhere in the Caribbean i or somewhere in Africa or even in Asia to get a job.

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