Coffee heat rising

Considering Grad School? 8 Things to Think About

Come on over to the Plain & Simple Press blog, where I just posted eight guidelines for people who are considering graduate school, especially a Ph.D. program. Or any degree that might lead to a job in higher ed.

Cruising Amazon for another purpose, I happened to run across a book on the same general subject as Slave Labor, apparently (judging from the comments) one whose author shares my jaundiced view of academe.

This led to a rumination: Do I regret having acquired a Ph.D.?

Well, yes and no.

If I had put the same amount of energy and time into climbing the corporate ladder as it took to jump through the Ph.D. hoops, by now I’d own Phoenix Magazine, my first employer in journalism. Or when my boss left Arizona Highways, I could easily have acceded to the throne…and believe me, I’d still be there today, had that been the case.

On the other hand, it did help me get into a few decent jobs, and at Highways it let me enter at the top of my pay grade. And ultimately, I did end up with a full-time, decently paying job in academe, even though it wasn’t on the tenure track. I got an offer for a tenure-track position…declined, because I didn’t want to move to South Carolina. Certainly not for $10,000 less than I was earning here!

If I had it to do over again, I would choose a different discipline: one that would open more doors to employment and that would pay better.

Such as…?

For the mathematically challenged: a doctorate in educational administration will get you into an assistant or associate deanship or a vice-presidency at any number of colleges and universities. At the Great Desert University, these are decently paying, 12-month jobs, and some of them are even non-exempt. Obviously, such a degree would also buy entrée to a for-profit, proprietary school, if you don’t mind ripping off students even more extravagantly than GDU does.

For those who can handle courses in statistics: the Ph.D. in economics renders you eligible for all sorts of national and international jobs in corporations, governments, and nonprofits. Think high-level banking jobs…

A Ph.D. in psychology will let you hang out your shingle as a psychologist and also qualify you for other jobs outside of academia. These are rather more difficult to find than one would like. However…if you combine an M.A. in psych with an M.A. in nursing, presto-changeo! A psychiatric nurse-practitioner! Nurse-practitioners in general are highly sought after, and those with a specialty can easily earn six figures.

For those whose eyes don’t glaze over easily: a Ph.D. in accountancy. At GDU, a brand-new, fresh-out-of-grad-school assistant professor can come on at six figures. Noooo problem.

Microbiology could be promising: government jobs, and possibly some corporate jobs in agribusiness, environmental science, public health, or genetic engineering. Back in the day, I would cheerfully have majored in microbiology, except that women were not welcome in the sciences. Conspicously not welcome. Fortunately, that has changed.

It’s something to think about. Preferably before you start a program…