Derek Catsam ’93 has some thoughts (scroll down in the comments) that any younger Ephs thinking of pursuing a Ph.D, at least in the humanities, should consider.

[G]raduate students and those looking at entering this competitive world need to be cognizant of the realities. If you are planning to enter a field like, say, US history, it is probably incumbent upon you to know the odds. Further, it seems to me that it is pretty irresponsible of those of us with the ability to advise students if we emphasize the great aspects of intellectual life within the academy and do not point out the reality — your odds of getting the PhD are smaller than you think, your odds of getting a job are slighter still, and your odds of getting tenure at a place yet smaller, and then all of this happening at a place you would otherwise choose to live? Infinitesimal.

The analogy I can come up with now is with professional baseball. If you play minor league baseball, enjoy it, work your rear end off, climb the ranks as best you can. make other plans, though. The odds of you even getting the proverbial cup of coffee is small in such a competitive and limited milieu. And no one owes you a shot. You might get passed over for those you see as your equals or lessers (your impression may be right; it is as likely to be self serving – the manager, or department chair, or search committee, or scout, really may be out for the best fit for their team or department, or may see the other candidate as better qualified — all academics are not Snidely Whiplash, wringing their hands and tenting their fingers with another devious plot in hand. Your 82 mph heater may not match up to the guy you think is your equal; Your dissertation on the politics of butterchurning in 17th century New Hampshire river towns may not be as fabulous as your echo chamber — in whose interest it is to have that dissertation be a smash, remember — is telling you).

I wonder if current students are receiving good advice from the faculty about such topics.

Print  •  Email