PhD on Food Stamps

The world obviously needs historians, but how big a job market did Mr. Yang think there was for history PhD’s?

Take that Ohai! Higgy beat ya to it.

I’m trying. 2 points to start a thread. New dopp kit here I come!

Haha, no disrespect Ohai. I like all the crazy stuff you post. For once I saw the title, but not your name next to it.


I feel for the guy. That could have been me.

Who knows, perhaps it still can.

Hmm. For a moment there, I thought you were on to my irrational hatred for PhD students. (?)

why can’t he drive a cab like other history phds

i knew a few phds that would problably end up like that…they fail to realize a phd is a piece of paper and means jack in many instances…

the problem is there are far too many PhDs in a lot of fields, especially those fields which have no employment opportunities outside academia.

As the OP said, how many jobs are there for historians.

In academia, it’s a question of simple math: you look at how many new PhDs there are a year versus how many faculty members are retiring

When I did my Ph.D., I was told “this is a great time to go into academe; there are all these professors about to retire, and we will need a new crop.” But guess what, the professors did not retire, and when they did get too old to continue, they were replaced with adjunct professors. Basically, the only people with a shot at something like a tenured position were 1) people who were clearly going to be “stars” by the end of their thesis, and 2) people who could help departments with their diversity counts. And if you can’t get a tenured job, you’re not going to make enough to do more than just barely get by.

That’s great for the women and the minorities who studied with me, and I understand that there is a historical injustice that needs correcting somehow, but I can’t change my race, and I don’t feel like changing either my sexual orientation or my sex just for the sake of a job (I do know of at least one professor who was gay until she got tenure then dumped her girlfriend and then married the department chair). I can think of only one white male who studied with me who didn’t end up bitter and adjuncting, and that guy truly was a star in his very narrow subfield.

The problem is that it takes years of work to get a Ph.D., and only at the end of the process do you discover if there is a job there at the end or not. If you look seriously at the statistics, it’s pretty much the same issue as being an entrepreneur - on a risk-adjusted basis, no sane person should do it (get a Ph.D. to be an academic, or become an entrepreneur).

And yet, the implication of that is that no rational person will ever take the route to become a professor (or an entrepreneur), so universities won’t have anyone to teach, at least under the current system. The system depends on people making either economically irrational or uninformed decisions. And if they make it through, we call them very smart. The others, well, we just call them Dr…

For me, pursuing a Ph.D., was an uninformed decision, promoted by survivor bias. A bunch of professors for whom the system had worked for them told me that I should do it because I would be good and there would be a nice career waiting at the end. My family also had academics, and I figured if they had managed to do it, so could I. But the environment had changed, and no one clued me in to it. For one, once the Cold War ended, academe was no longer considered essential for the war effort, and so universities lost support, positions evaporated, etc… But this was not at all apparent when I had to make the decision. Since WWII, the need for academics had been growing. That was more than half a century of positive track record. Now it was suddenly shrinking, but the statistics hadn’t yet captured it.

I still teach sometimes, and I enjoy it. And I use the thinking skills I learned in a Ph.D. program fairly regularly. But it’s no way to make a living and support a family, unless you have inherited wealth or a wealthy-and-understanding spouse, and that’s one reason I’m in this industry now. Unlike many people, I’m not obsessed about dying with the largest bank account on the planet, but I do want something that pays enough to live a nice life, and still requires using my brain to think about things and provide perspective.

You could say it was a dumb decision, but heck, I was 21 at the time. What proportion of ones decisions at 21 turn out to be brilliant, fully informed, and well thought out on one’s own? Heck, it’s hard enough to make a decision that’s just plain sober when you are 21.

And, with so many teachers and academics in my family, for me, there was a lot of pressure to be the one in this generation that goes and does that. Different families have different value sets, and so our early career decisions are to some extent shaped by the pressures and expectations our family puts on us, particularly if their advice has served us well up to that point.

Anyway, I’m still proud of the work it took to get my doctorate, and it did teach me a lot about how to think and how to analyze data. And we now live in a world where political economy is to some extent the hinge on which all our prospects turn. Nonetheless, there’s clearly something broken about the university system; how much it costs, what it trains people to do, and how long it takes. We need good general education, but we also need a kind of education that is flexible enough to react to changing market needs and doesn’t demand that lots of people dedicate large portions of their lives to something that cannot support them.

I think it is unethical what we put PHD candidates through. Can you say Amway?

In any case I think this is the way it was always intended to be. These PHD degrees are for rich kids who aren’t socially capable or hungry enough to go into normal business nor display the leadership skills for the military. If you don’t have the money to study for a PHD in basket weaving, then go get a fucking job. Rich people studied Poetry because they could. Because they didn’t need to sweat. They didn’t need to bust their humps. Because they were already rich.

I would happily get a PHD in the Eastern European Slavic Female Gymnast and Tennis Player Bi-Sexuality, the logical next step for my undergrad in Russian, if it weren’t for the cruel fact that I have too many siblings and whatever I inherit will be too small in order to “fund my research” into said Russian Female Tennis Player’s Sexuality.

At some point in the past 40 years we all got the idea that everyone can afford to spend 10 years studying basket weaving or whatever they wish assuming they just had good grades. Well, no. Only the children of wealthy people can afford to do that. My freshman year dorm room was a single. It was tiny but had a huge closet. This was because it was originally a room designed for a servant of the type of person that could afford such a rediculouse liberal arts degree 100 years back and said servant needed to have a big closet to keep the master’s clothes in. Yessir.

So, happily, this PHD in history will starve to death and the world will move back towards equilibrium. The natural order will be restored, the middle class will have no choice but to start digging ditches again. Verily so.

Say it with me kiddies:

“Being Born Rich + PHD > CFA > PHD”

ChickenTikka, I think you’ve gone native.

Do people just naturally go somewhat nuts around this time of the year? Or is the CFA factor that powerful?

Applause @ Bchad! Hats off to you!

We could power India for a year, if we could but harness the strength of ChickenTikka’s anger.

If Darth Tikka had a light sabre, it would surely be fire red.

Not sure what part resonated with you, CFAvsMBA, but it’s always nice to get a compliment. Thanks!

Like my man Jeff Skilling said, “I like guys with spikes.”. Bchad, you have quite a few extreme things going on. I also appreciate those who experience adversity, and adapt. You could have just as easily blamed the system, the school, those who led you; but you didn’t. I applaud those who can be successful even as things do not go as intended.

That’s a useful perspective. To some extent, I did blame the system, but there was also bad luck, and I accept responsibility for my own decisions, and I never felt the system “owed” me. The transition process was very painful, and in some ways still incomplete, but I do like who I am and how I have evolved over time, even if, as I look back on things, I see ways I could have made more efficient decisions. Hindsight is always 20/20, though and sometimes we just need to recognize that “life is messy.”

But I can tell you that it feels awesome to have someone else recognize that navigating adversity is not the same as failure, even if it doesn’t look the same as smooth-sailing success. There were many times in the transition when it felt like wandering through a desert with an empty canteen.

Respect to you.

I think adversity is overrated.

I remember a nice, warm, comfortable place without adversity where everything was given gratis and there was never a struggle. I never lacked for anything there. Then I was literally dragged crying, kicking and screaming from that place. It was that moment when I was born into the cold sleety misery of the north-eastern United States where I was told to work my balls off, if only to stay warm, in our terrible climate. This is the doctrine of my people, the doctine of inertia - to look for adversity where there is none, a uniquely human characteristic and particularly western/protestant one. My people are Nordic, which is to say, idiots.

Ever since that moment, that awful moment, when I was dragged from that warm place, I have been trying to get back into another one. No, I don’t want adversity. I want bisexual russian women tennis players feeding me grapes, massaging me and one another. I want backstage passes to their quims and I want to be given a PHD for mastering how to struggle as little as possible.

I don’t just want a PHD for this, I want a Nobel Prize, an award given by Nordics a.k.a. Idiots. My Nobel Prize will be for the discovery of the only true fundamental ratio that actually matters, the “Tikka Ratio.” It will show the rest of the world how to stop struggling and embrace happiness. What is the Tikka Ratio, you ask? Tikka Ratio = (#Orgasms x # of HCB’s + afternoon naps)/(Hours Worked + Hours Commuted + Hours Spent Studying for CFA/PHD Programs). Or simplified: (Happiness/Adversity)

Really, who asks for adversity?