Should You Go to Grad School?

I’ve seen more and more posts and videos on this of late, along with the student-loan-fueled “should you go to undergrad?” debate. (Coming up next: should you go to kindergarten? Wouldn’t you make more money as a child laborer?) At any rate, in my grad program, we’ve seen enrollment spike as funding for grad students decreases. And this is likely to continue.

Grad Student, by scriptingnews

Along with this, I’ve read through many types of advice and cautions for Christian students (Stanley Hauerwas), including James K. A. Smith‘s general advice on finances and preparation, as well as posts by Kevin DeRose, John Stackhouse, Dan Treier, and others on the Emerging Scholars Network.

And it’s not just the Christians advising caution. With anthropology (Howard), languages (SUNY Albany) and Marxist economics programs (Notre Dame) shutting down all over the place, there’s been renewed discussion on the value of the humanities. At Texas A&M, a move was pushed through to grade all instructors and professors based on the money brought in by teaching and research grants. Humanities, never a big money-maker, has suffered. Although from what I heard, superstar student Margie Serrato was as productive a teacher as anyone.

Even the career blogger Penelope Trunk advises against going to grad school in a recession. At least for those not in the sciences. As one commenter in this article divides it up:

Hard Sciences/Engineering: Green light
Social Sciences: Blinking Orange light
Law/Accounting: Green Light
Medicine: Yield (to other passions) Sign
Humanities: Giant Red Light + Air Raid Siren + Double-fortified flaming barricade + Huge Sign Reading “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here”

So science would be good, right? With the collapse of the humanities, I’ve been considering it. And then I read this, critiquing the gap between the increase in science PhDs awarded, and the decreasing number of good jobs. Science, too?! At least they can get good jobs as janitors.

These issues have me wondering why we don’t just scrap academia and develop a new credentialing system. If even the sciences are flooded with too many academic researchers, what’s next? I’ve seen the best and brightest of my friends in law school, med school, and finance/MBA. Are these bubbles bursting, too?

The consensus seems to be: don’t go to grad school hoping to get an academic job. The humanities in general is a big risk, unless you’re well off. If you go with a plan to learn specific professional skills (law/MBA/science) to use in the private sector, and choose a program and research that is aimed towards business, you’ll be okay. But don’t just go to wait out a recession, because you may emerge as less employable in the private sector. And if you are in grad school in a declining field, consider transitioning out and cutting your losses.

So why are we still in grad school? Is it a cult? And just how do you deprogram a grad student? I mean,

Let’s say a mother finds an application to Duke University’s Ph.D. program in English under her daughter’s mattress. Obviously the mother is devastated. If she does nothing, in a year her daughter will be dressed in black and sneering in obscure jargon at the Thanksgiving turkey and Aunt Sally’s cranberry Jell-O mold. Where can a concerned parent turn for help?”

The blogosphere, apparently. Thank you, and good night!

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