Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Heartily Concur

By way of The Other McCain, advice to would be graduate students from Walter Russell Meade
Walter Russell Mead:
Lots of tenured professors want to believe that all is well in a university system that works pretty well for them. But as it exists now, the Ph.D. system in this country urgently needs to be pruned back — especially in the social sciences and the humanities. . . .
Tenure track jobs are getting harder, not easier to find. . . .
For millennials, some important advice: If you can’t get into a top Ph.D. program, you should seriously rethink your life plan. Getting a subprime Ph.D. is one of the surest ways to accumulate debt and unhappiness, leaving you bitter and poor. The top schools will probably be fine, but the Grim Reaper is headed toward some second- and third-tier Ph.D. programs near you, and he’s moving faster than you think.
Read the whole thing.
He goes on to suggest a STEM degree rather than Humanities, because of the the greater demand and practicality of the degrees. Up to a point, this is true, but there are STEM fields which have the same problems. Many students go into biology out of fear of the math involved in the more physical sciences.

If that is your position, either buckle up and learn the math (I did, and it only hurt a little). Many fields in biology are absolutely saturated, and the grad schools are pumping out students like there's a bottomless pit to put them in.  There isn't. Back when I was taking interns, I was astonished at the high quality graduates who were having trouble finding position.

The best power a student has in grad school is choice; you can choose which school to go to, if they'll have you, you can choose the major professor if he/she/it will have you. If you can't get a good one of either, go home and rethink the plan.

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