Increasingly, I get more inquiries from students who are interested in completing a masters or doctoral degree. Some believe that these degrees will help them land their dream jobs in an increasingly tight job market. Others aspire to be professors or researchers. Both groups often have erroneous assumptions about what training in the academy involves. For example, would-be PhD students typically don’t understand what a PhD is for – usually, it’s intended as preparation for a career as a professor or a researcher. Or, would-be graduate students underestimate the length of time it may take to complete a doctoral degree (hint: it doesn’t take 1 year – add a zero behind that 1 for some disciplines or departments), misunderstand what the graduate school process is like (hint: it doesn’t just involve reading and taking classes; students have to be self-directed enough to undertake a research project from conceptualization through write-up), and overestimate the availability of tenure-track appointments (hint: in my field, a tenure-track position may get at least 300 applications; I’ve seen figures that estimate as few as 5% of those completing a PhD overall will get a tenure-track position).
Orgtheorist Fabio Rojas has published an ebook Grad Skool Rulz which expands upon a popular series of blog posts. I’ve read an earlier draft of the ebook; it presents no-holds-barred advice on reasons as to why one should or shouldn’t go to graduate school, how to apply for graduate school, how to select a program, and how to thrive in a program. If you are considering getting a masters or doctoral degree, spend the bargain-priced $2 (yes, just two bucks) to think through whether the opportunity cost of spending between 2 to 10 years out (or partially out) of the job market is worth your while.