Too many PhD’s

Came across this posting about the fact that we keep producing way too many PhD’s via Big Steve.  This paragraph is the crux:

In short, I think academia shares many of the classic elements of a social trap: It is in most faculty members’ and departments’ best interests to recruit a lot of graduate students. Churning out Ph.D.s is one of the major metrics of departmental “success.” Departments need graduate students to teach their classes, and faculty members need them to run their labs. Yet, as in any social trap, when everybody acts in their self-interest, a negative collective outcome ensues. I have served as chair or co-chair of 13 Ph.D. students in my career, a number I’m guessing is typical of most research faculty. Population growth of that magnitude is a Malthusian melt-down in the making and simply isn’t sustainable. We’re not creating enough academic jobs to absorb all those Ph.D.s, and in today’s economy, applied jobs are disappearing as well.

I knew far too many smart and talented people in graduate school who were not able to land gainful tenure-track employment that I never recommend pursuing a PhD to all but the very smartest and most motivated undergraduates I teach.  As far as I’m concerned, I have the greatest job in the world and I’m incredibly lucky to have it.  The way the job market it now, I’d be SOL if I was just coming out with a PhD.  Not to mention that tenure-track faculty seem to an ever-declining portion of college faculty.  It’s a great job if you can get it, but right now we are producing way more qualified people for the job than there are positions available.  In short, we’re just setting people up for heartbreak and disappointment.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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