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Thursday, April 19, 2012

596

Ask a Humanities Grad Student

It’s that time of year — when people the world over start thinking about whether they should apply to grad school. You put out some feelers, you tell your family it’s a possibility, you make long lists of the cities you’d be willing to live in once you quit the job you’ve been thinking about quitting for two years. You're ready to become the lady (or gentleman) scholar you always dreamed you’d become.

I know it’s this time of year because I’m receiving about a dozen emails a week asking about my own experience: what my program was like, if there’s a future to the discipline, how much debt one should be willing to accrue.

Actually, that’s wrong — those are the practical questions your parents would be asking if they were still vetting your schools for you. Instead, these people are asking about potential research topics and the various scholars I worked with — and whether Austin really as is as sweet as people say it is. Ideas! Lifestyle! Isn’t that what grad school is really about?

Historically, yes. And to some extent, it still is today. But those first questions — the culture of a particular program, the future of the discipline, and whether there will be a place for you within it — have become paramount.

For today, I’m going to focus on the two most important questions for you to consider:

Do you really want to go to grad school? Or do you just not want to do what you’re doing now? 

Here's what grad school looks like, at a distance, in your daydreams, when you’re in a crappy job:

- Constant mental stimulation.
- Filled with people like you, or at least with similar interests to you.
- In an awesome college/city town.
- A place to find a sweet grad school boy/girlfriend.
- Teeming with challenging scholars who will make you a better thinker, writer, and person.
- The straight path to professorship.
- Peppered with truly outstanding vacations.
- A good thing to tell people/dates/relatives you’re doing.
- A chance to teach inquisitive young minds about your scholarly passions.
- A way not to be stuck in said crappy job.

Here's what grad school looks like, from close up and way too personal:

- Intermittent mental stimulation.
- Filled with people who are probably very little like you and are by turns a) cutthroat, b) neurotic, and c) passive-aggressive.
- In an awesome college city/town that you don’t get to see much of because you’re always working
- Peppered with sweet vacations, the bulk of which you spend grading, studying, or writing.
- A place to use OKCupid to find grad school boy/girlfriends, in part because they’re the only ones who can understand your crazy life/school mix.
- A chance to teach apathetic first-year students basic concepts about a topic that you know a lot about ... and tamp down the paralyzing despair when they half-ass most things.
- Teeming with professors who have checked out, don’t answer email, and haven’t modified their graduate syllabi since 2001.
- The way to maybe, possibly, after several years on the job market, become a professor.

Granted, there are some fabulous things, such as the following: 

- You get to spend almost all of your time thinking about things that YOU LOVE. Ideas YOU LOVE. People and places and events that have always fascinated you. Or, at least that’s the case once you’re done with coursework and have moved on to your own research topics. The first two years are filled with a lot of reading about things that you do need to know, but don’t necessarily love knowing.

- If you like to read and write, you get to do a lot of that. That is your job.

- If you feel inspired by teaching, you also get to do a lot of that. Even apathetic kids can be fun to teach, mostly because there’s usually one who thinks you’re the greatest. Teaching also gets your adrenaline pumping: I love the feeling right before the first day of class, or when you’re about to start a big lecture or get a good ol’ fashioned Marxist debate going.

- Grad students can be weird (I’m weird!) but I also learned that weirdness can be awesome. Neuroses needs friends. Grad students really like to drink. It’s not all despair and bibliographies.

- You are (90%) in control of your own schedule. You can do things like make doctors' appointments and stay up late. Sometimes you spend the entire day at home in your pajamas. Awesome or disgusting, depending on your outlook.

- You will find at least one professor that you really trust and admire, and this professor will be your friend and mentor for life.

- Your life’s work will be to learn and to help others do so. That sounds cheesy, but it is the f-ing point of graduate school, and phrased that way, it is authentically awesome.

The problem with the entire situation, then, is that it’s broken. There aren’t enough Ph.D. slots for the people that are admitted to Master’s programs; there aren’t enough professor jobs for those accepted to Ph.D. programs. There are other options — adjuncting, going into the private sector — but those options are either highly exploitative or don’t necessarily require the degree that you just spent two years and $50,000 working toward.

I'm not trying to be an asshole downer who goes through the process and then tells everyone else not to follow me. I'm not trying to encourage a club only for rich people who can afford to attend without accruing debt. I loved grad school; I love teaching. And people aren’t going to stop wanting to go to grad school, and schools aren’t going to stop needing Ph.D. students to teach giant first-year classes for cheap. The academic system needs graduate programs in order to survive. But you should be fully aware of the realities of grad school: its beauty and its blemishes, its few remaining promises and its increasing pitfalls.

There are a lot of us here at The ‘Pin who either have been/are currently in humanities grad school. We want to answer your questions: when to go, when to quit, how to find a program, how to make the case to your loved ones, how to make the money situation work. We won’t always agree or even have an answer. But we have many opinions.

If you have a question (300 words max, please), email us.



596 Comments / Post A Comment

L M
L M

it's symptomatic of ABDs and PhDs in general that we never finished the google doc we started, huh?

simone eastbro

@Lucia Martinez yes, and also symptomatic of AHP's radness that she thought of a dope solution.

Anne Helen Petersen

@simone eastbro and symtomatic of my graduate work ethic that I waited until I had had a glass of wine on an empty stomach to say OH FINE I'LL DO IT

L M
L M

@Anne Helen Petersen oh maybe that's why this chapter's being so difficult.

Maryaed

I am not a professor, and I spent 11 years in grad school, and I'm still happy I went. But I did not accumulate any debt. If you can't do it debt-free, do not go to grad school in a field without guaranteed jobs. Just don't.

The Lady of Shalott

@Maryaed Oh my God, yes. I was lucky enough to do it fully funded and I can't imagine what it would be like to be in this job market with debt and without decent job prospects on the horizon. I can't. (Well, I am unemployed right now, so I can imagine it faintly.)

Xanthophyllippa

@Maryaed Unfortunately there aren't (m)any fields with guaranteed jobs, especially in the humanities. Even my engineering Ph.D. students are struggling (as are my undergrads), and that's probably the most wide-open field there is. (This isn't to say that there aren't any engineering jobs -- but rather that the number of applicants for each has gone up significantly as more and more kids enroll in college with the assumption that engineering = automatic job.)

Megan@twitter

@Xanthophyllippa Oh hah, I was just going to say that it is posts like this that make me wish that I had done what my father said and gotten a degree in something practical, like engineering.

MilesofMountains

@Xanthophyllippa Yeah, my program was a natural resource science one, and I live in a place where natural resources are the economic background, so practically guaranteed jobs, right? Maybe about 25% of my cohort has been able to find related jobs? It might have edged up a bit since I graduated 2 years ago, but there are no safe grad degrees anymore.

the angry little raincloud

@Maryaed I babbled on way too long downthread (you must have posted this while I was writing too much!). But, yes, agree on every front.

parallel-lines

@Maryaed I agree with this so much and get yelled at a lot for it. Would you buy a $100,000 car without knowing where you want to drive or why you need it? I am always shocked at how many people are willing to take on the debt without having a concrete plan for what they plan to do afterwards--especially in fields that have very high unemployment rates!

parallel-lines

@Megan@twitter A lot of engineering people end up in finance and other mathmatically-based fields so it's a worthwhile degree. The rate of drop out is really high tho--my bf has his masters in math and had to drop out of engineering undergrad because it was too insane.

Megan@twitter

@parallel-lines Weeeell, I toyed with the idea of getting my M.A. in "some hippie-dippie field," as my father called it, but went to law school instead. Debt + soullessness = win.

Xanthophyllippa

@parallel-lines Yeah. I don't argue that it isn't worthwhile; my point's just that even the fields we'd think are guaranteed jobs aren't. If the criterion for grad school is "don't do it unless you're sure you can get a job," then no one would go to grad school. Or even college, for that matter.

Fodforever

@Maryaed Totally agree; I got my master's on a full ride and never ever ever would have gone otherwise (I studied media, specifically new media... yeah). Basically it was two years of studying something I loved, and I love school... but it was still a lot of work and I'm glad I'm done!

Heat Signature

@Maryaed Of course, the other problem is that even if there ARE jobs in your field, you're still not guaranteed to afford your student loans (e.g. social work, NOT THAT I SPEAK FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OR ANYTHING).

sp8ce

@Xanthophyllippa The problem is that from elementary school kids are taught that if you dont go to college youll end up working at McDonalds, so kids go to college just so they can get a "good" job, not because their interested in a particular subject.

niq
niq

@Maryaed Also, professor jobs are, at best, upper middle class wages. Even if you get a pretty good job, that salary won't go real far toward your new middle class lifestyle if you have to pay off the education that got you that job.

anonee

@Fodforever can I ask which university? If I did a masters I would want to do it in the media/new media field but I'm in the same dilemma everyone else is here...cost/value, will I get a job, etc.

ladypilot

Um, if anyone has questions about getting your MFA in visual art, fire away.

PotatoPotato

@ladypilot: At the risk of making myself sound like an idiot, they're probably not going to accept you into the program unless your undergrad degree was also in your visual art of choice, right?

tatianaberg@twitter

@ladypilot Let's talk!

I'm just about to take the plunge and get my visual arts MFA in Columbia this fall. Am I crazy? Is the program still what it once was? Does it matter since the economy isn't what it once was? Ahhh

And @ladypotato, plenty of people get visual art MFAs that didn't study art before. It's your portfolio that matters, no your prior degrees.

ladypilot

@tatianaberg@twitter i think what was helpful to me was to have a really clear idea of what you want to get out of the degree and the time you're going to be spending. if you're doing this to put something else off (like the article said) don't do it. i didn't write anything down, but i had a couple of clear goals in mind when i started my MFA and always kept them in mind. i was able to graduate three years later knowing i had accomplished those goals.

as for Columbia, i know almost nothing about the program itself, so i can't help you there. just make sure that it's the right fit for you and what kind of artist you are (a lot of my colleagues' misery could have been avoided if this assessment had been made). take a CLOSE look at the program, talk to the professors, really try to get them to pin what the general philosophy of the program is and what the expectations are, not only of you but of them. i went to a VERY hands on MFA program, and it suited me well. my best friend went to a school that had a very self directed MFA program, and it suited him.

now. the market is really not great. especially for teaching. teaching is what i want to do, and it's been really, really hard to find anything. there's a seismic shift going on in a lot of art schools toward technology and away from the foundation year, and i don't yet know how that's going to shake out. my advice would be to diversify your talents as much as possible. get some admin experience, get gallery experience, NETWORK like crazy.

ladypilot

@PotatoPotato yes. portfolio matters more than anything - more than your degree, more than your grades, more than your recommendation letters. if you are doing work that needs to be photographed, go ahead and spend the money to get the best photographer you can to shoot your work. the quality of the work and the quality of the images are EVERYTHING.

smartastic

@PotatoPotato Not true! I am just finishing up an MFA at Yale. In all of the disciplines (Painting, Sculpture, Photography, Graphic Design) I can think of multiple people who's first degrees are in other subjects. Your portfolio is the main thing, not your educational background.

tatianaberg@twitter

@smartastic Do you have any insight into Columbia's current MFA program? I was really keen on Yale for painting (who isn't!) but of course, didn't get in after the interview.

DillyBean

@tatianaberg@twitter I don't know the answers to any of your questions, except that my mum is in American Art and used to work with the director of the Whitney who said to her maybe 10 years ago that he thought that Columbia had the best art program in the country. Do with that what you will.

discocammata

@ladypilot Omg hi! Can you just...tell me everything?? I want to go to CalArts, SVA, or the New School for interaction design (or at CalArts, the experimental animation MFA)

ladypilot

@discocammata i will tell you what i can! keep in mind i have a sculpture degree (ceramic sculpture, at that) so i am not too up to the minute on animation / interactive / graphic design programs. but i can give you a general sense of what an MFA is like. your mileage may vary. did you have any specific questions?

roadtrips

@all I'm about to finish my first year at an MFA program and I'd be happy also to answer any questions as well. Short answer: I'm really glad I did it and in terms of my life, it's been amazing. Long answer: it won't solve any/all of your problems. Also, no it totally does not matter what your undergrad degree is in. What matters is your portfolio and recommendations.

Breakfast

My MFA gave me new questions/directions in my work, a close network of artists, tons of debt, and some adjunct teaching jobs. I wouldn't trade the experience, though it also wasn't a fast track to jobs or fame and fortune. That still depends on how much you hustle. A friend of mine just started a program that is free, and sometimes I kick myself for not going that route, but I did love my program, classmates, and faculty so.... Also, Tatiana Berg, I think I saw your show at Nudashank a couple years ago?

faville@twitter

@ladypilot Another MFA here. Been teaching adjunct for 10 years (not by choice) and still owe $60K on my student loan.

discocammata

@ladypilot This may be asking a lot, but...could you give me a general overview, or a few things that anyone entering an MFA should keep in mind, based on your experience? And of course - public vs. private? (I got my BFA from a state school and all the schools I'm looking at now are private schools.)

discocammata

@roadtrips Ooh! Tell me more! What do you mean by "it won't solve any/all of your problems"?

roadtrips

@discocammata Hmmm. Basically that when I went to grad school (lo these many months ago) I had been messing around with art administration and visitor services at museums since graduating from college (with an art/museum studies degree), half-heartedly pursuing my "real" work. I was stuck in a lot of ways in my life (relationship, job, location, art) and when I went to graduate school I knew that I needed a dedicated time to figure out how to be an artist and to talk to a lot of people about it. I found a program that in faculty, scope, and intent is really pretty perfect for what I'm interested in doing (community art and education that has a conceptual and poetic aspect to it) and I've met some amazing mentors and colleagues. So, in terms of solving all of my problems: it unstuck me from my relationship, my job, my rut I'd gotten in with my art. It really motivated me to work hard and I feel like I am halfway to establishing a sustainable practice. I know so much more about myself and my work than when I started. In terms of solving none of my problems: it's not super practical financially (my program is partially but not all the way funded so my loans aren't debilitating but they're not absent either), it's definitely shaken up my comfortable worldview, it totally wrecked my relationship (which ultimately was a good thing but it sucked at the time), and I've had more than one moment where it's seemed like I've had to solve deeply entrenched personal problems before I could make the work I need to make. I've had the most amazing highs about my work and my career, but I've also had times where I've called my mom and burst into tears saying "this is too hard, I can't actually do it". But, at the moment I'm feeling really good about it, so there you go. It's solving all of my problems and none of them - by which I mean that if you have really good, challenging advisors, you'll have a lot of really difficult and helpful conversations about your work, but ultimately it's like life - nothing is going to magically solve all of your problems; you have to take advantage of circumstances for the possibility they provide, and getting your MFA presents one hell of a possibility.

discocammata

@roadtrips Hey, thank you so much for the thoughtful response, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Did you go to a new city for grad school?

roadtrips

@discocammata yep - I moved across the country. Also best/worst. It gave me an opportunity to start over and really examine my work, which was great. Then again, it took me totally out of my network and I had to start from scratch.

tatianaberg@twitter

@Breakfast Ah! Yeah, I did a show with my buddy Ted at Nudashank some years ago. That was really fun. I'm glad someone out there remembers it.

discocammata

@roadtrips (This conversation is like a million times more relevant now that I just got rejected from my Dream Job.) One more question - what were your preconceptions about grad school? Was it totally different from what you expected it to be?

smartastic

@tatianaberg@twitter eek, sorry I did not see you had replied to this until just now! I don't know much about Columbia's program because I am in Graphic Design, and they don't have a program in design. Sorry, wish I could be more helpful.

roadtrips

@discocammata Hey, in case you get this - It was actually pretty close to what I expected - a lot of work, a lot of conversations. In fact, in some ways it was better than what I'd imagined - I've gotten much more interest and recognition in my work than I had before. I'd say that the only thing that's unexpected is how hard you have to work - no one's doing you any favors and it's the most I've had to hustle, ever. Good luck!

The Lady of Shalott

I just (literally, last week) completed my Master's in history. And as most people saw, got rejected from my PhD program. And I am crushed because I dream, DREAM of being a professor one day. I love teaching history. I LOVE IT. I adore being a TA, I love lecturing, I really truly love it and I want to do it for a living.

BUT. I am on hold for at least one year, on account of being rejected. Because...funding, and a million other reasons. But oh my GOD I could talk about this all day. DOING WHAT YOU LOVE!!! But on the downside....things like I encountered, programs where you hate almost everyone, and they aren't any too keen on you either, and then they start calling you a slut!

Good times. I'm moving from this city soon.

Xanthophyllippa

@The Lady of Shalott The delay might actually be a good thing, given the current market. It's unfortunate that the market doesn't adequately favor (or even acknowledge) how much we love/want to be in our field.

I say that as someone with a Ph.D. in history, and see above re: I now teach engineers. It's a good job and I like it a lot (and I have learned a tremendous amount about teachin here), but even as much as I enjoy it, it isn't what I set out to do.

The Lady of Shalott

@Xanthophyllippa Yeah, it's not too bad. If nothing else it'll give me the chance to save up some money and try to get some stuff published, but it's disheartening, you know?

It kills me how many profs I know who actively loathe teaching, hate it, and are tenured. But adjuncts I know who LOVE teaching, even with the shit pay. It's so fucked up.

Myrtle

@The Lady of Shalott A student and a slut? Now that's just sloppy name-calling. "You're a last-piece of pizza-eating, won't-pet-my-cat, paper-towel-user! YAWN. If people can't focus on one topic, I can't be bothered with them.
Pro moving tip: go ahead and buy boxes that are all one or two sizes. Way easier to stack and move. And label! I use numbers and have an inventory of each box on a notepad. That way I can see everything's been brought in and it's way easier to unpack. Not as hard as it sounds!
You are awesome!! Hugs.

MoxyCrimeFighter

@The Lady of Shalott Even though I know you're really disappointed that you didn't get into your PhD program, can I still say a huge fucking congratulations for getting your Master's? I'm so hugely impressed with people who dedicate that much time and effort to deepening their knowledge of a subject (any subject!) purely because they love it and want to share it with the rest of the world. I have friends in grad school who have alternately loved their time there and found it incredibly frustrating, and I admire them a lot for sticking with it. I haven't gone back to school because of a) laziness, b) poorness, and c) a lack of anything I'd want to devote 2 years of brainpower to, so I'm super impressed (and kind of jealous!) that you've found a passion and have the drive to pursue it. You'll get where you want to go!

The Lady of Shalott

@Myrtle The worst part of my moving adventure is that I'm moving 1000 miles away, via plane, to live with my parents for a couple of months before I move in with my boyfriend at Undetermined Place. Having to pare down my belongings to what fits into two suitcases is KILLING ME.

Thank you guys! The Hairpin is so lovely.

Elizabeth Switaj@twitter

@The Lady of Shalott If what you love most is teaching (rather than the research part) you might be able to skip the PhD entirely. Lots of jobs at two-year colleges (even full-time jobs!) only require a Master's degree.

billie_crusoe

@The Lady of Shalott I did that when I finished my master's! (Well, moved directly in with my then-gf, but the rest, yes.) I kind of loved paring down my shit, but that's just me. Also: Is anyone coming to graduation who can sneak a suitcase back? I did a lot of that. I probably moved in 4-6 suitcases.

And: congratulations on your master's! I finished my master's and dropped out of med school the same year, and my mother was a jerk about it because my master's "wasn't important." Bullshit. Your master's was important, and you'll get to have some non-student experiences in your year off.

The Lady of Shalott

@Elizabeth Switaj@twitter I am desperately, desperately hoping for this and banking on it. Because I truly do want to teach, and research would be fun, but I'd rather teach, you know? So I am out to pounding the pavement...fun.

@che: CAN YOU COME PARE DOWN MY STUFF? Please? I'm dying over here. I moved to this province two years ago with three duffel bags of stuff, and somehow I have accumulated SO MUCH CRAP. I have been throwing away and sending stuff to Goodwill and MISERABLE. Where did all this stuff come from?

Hahaha, I'm totally not going to my graduation. I hated my undergrad one and the day of my Master's grad is my birthday. Nope! Better ways to spend it! (I.e., drunk on the phone with my then-long-distance-boyfriend, I'm thinking. At home.)

billie_crusoe

@The Lady of Shalott I LOVE paring down stuff, but it might be hard to do someone else's? Also, I got rid of some books that I am seriously sad to not have now. So there's that. And it's amazing how much the shit multiplies! I moved to NE in those 4ish suitcases, and when I moved back "home" for PhD (or because I was unemployed and broke, you choose) I had to have my mom drive her SUV up because I couldn't fit it all in my car. Agh.

I wouldn't have gone to my graduation either, except that mine was run entirely by my class of 15, was awesome, and involved beer. My mom, who refused to come to my master's graduation, is all excited that I am getting my doctorate and says NOW she'll come when I get my PhD. Sorry, mom, the graduation ship has sailed. I am going to a huge state university, and there's no WAY I'm going to this graduation.

dtowngirl

@MoxyCrimeFighter Yes, congratualtions! Getting an MA is an astounding amount of work.

Veronica Lemmons

@The Lady of Shalott First, congratulations! Second, is it college professorship or bust for you? Because I was lucky enough to have 2 most excellent history teachers in high school (private) and I remember more of their wisdom than a lot of what I learned in college. My good friend from college never thought he'd end up as a teacher -- he majored in English -- but now he works at a private high school in Austin and LOVES it. And makes decent money.

Xanthophyllippa

@Elizabeth Switaj@twitter Those schools might only require an MA, but there are so many Ph.D.s on the market that it's getting harder to get the jobs that only require an MA. Not impossible, of course, but the applicant pool for those jobs has expanded, and a lot of schools now will opt for a candidate with the Ph.D. if they can be had for the same price as someone with an MA. (With the disclaimer that it always depends on the field and school.)

Lexa Lane

@The Lady of Shalott Recruit a strong-minded friend for help. If I lived nearby I would totally do it - it's so much easier to pare down possessions that aren't yours. I am excellent at helping others move, but I can't move myself without my mother or a really good friend to point me in a direction. Offer them alcohol and food, and tell them to be semi-ruthless.

Springtime for Voldemort

@The Lady of Shalott Congratulations!!!

How do you find grad programs for history, especially history programs that specialize in what you want to do? Is there some website that perhaps gathers all that info together for you?

The Lady of Shalott

@papayalily How do you find a program that specializes in your area? Well, the sad answer is to make connections. There's no website that tabulates that kind of data that I know of--mostly, it's just legwork. Look up the author of your favourite article and see where they work, then look up their university and see if they specialize in it. Or just ask people--I ask profs all the time who they would recommend studying under for this that and the other thing.

Quinciferous

@papayalily I second the "look up the author of your favorite article" tactic. And just start cold checking out department web sites -- you can often tell from faculty interests where the strengths of the department are likely to be. If you see a lot of historians of medieval Europe, for example, you might have found a department that specializes in such a thing. In a PhD program (or even an MA, I imagine) there's more emphasis on working with a specific advisor, so you have to make sure that there's someone in the department you're really jazzed about working with. A lot of people correspond with future potential advisors ahead of time to make sure it will be a good fit.

Anne Helen Petersen

@Quinciferous Similar tactic: Think of a school you know you like. Then look to see where all of the professors there received their PhDs. Not always fail-proof (awesomeness-of-programs shifts with time) but will give you a start.

sparrow303

@The Lady of Shalott I don't know if you'll see this because I'm way downthread, but I am a professor at a 2-year college with a master's degree. I adore the job and my students, and while it would be lovely to have a PhD (and I bet the view from the ivory tower is really something!), the sights from what some consider the trenches are downright inspiring. Just an option.

Ellie

It's hard to find programs. I really really wish there were some database of it. For example, for me there isn't even a list of schools that offer a Ph.D. in Slavic. I've found schools I'm planning to apply to mostly by finding out where my favorite undergrad professors got their Ph.D.s. And looking at the programs for conferences in the field. I also subscribe to the weekly newsletter from my undergrad department and they post events, postings, job listings, etc. from other schools all over the country so you can see who offers stuff in the field.
And, as @The Lady of Shalott said, by looking up where people you like or whose books or articles you like teach or went to school. I'm reading this fantastic book "Traumatic Realism" by Michael Rothberg for my Holocaust project and when I looked him up, he teaches at Urbana-Champaign and they also have a Slavic Ph.D. so now I'm probably going to apply. But honestly I've also just been googling random schools I've heard of and scouring their websites to figure out if they have what I want or not. As @Quinciferous said, you have to find somewhere where there's someone who does your specific area of interest because you need to do an adviser. In grad school admissions decisions (which I see because of my job) the professors reviewing the application literally check a box if they're willing to be the adviser to the student, and you need to have someone check it to be admitted to that program. So when you get on the department website you have to read all the faculty information to see what they do. (I also wish all faculty pages just listed their areas of interest on the main page without your having to click through!)

bookbike

@The Lady of Shalott Hey - in regards to moving x-country, have you tried looking into transporting a car?? My friend moved himself from NJ to CA and back again by transporting the car of someone he found on craigslist. You can pack tons of shit in a car! plus free transportation.

Myrtle

@The Lady of Shalott Whilst reading the entire Internet today, I came across this website. Of interest? The Chronicle of Higher Education http://chronicle.com/section/Home/5/

Xanthophyllippa

@The Lady of Shalott Depending on your field, the associated professional society will often have a list of graduate programs. ometimes they even publish directories of all the schools with departments/faculty in the field, and those guides will note whether the departments grant grad degrees. (There is one of these for history, but I'm blanking on whether it's an AHA publication. We used to have a copy in my former program's library.) Also check the National Research Council rankings for grad schools, which break down rankings by department; you'd then have to see if anyone in the department is working in your subfield, but at least you'd have a sense of what departments are prominent overall.

Springtime for Voldemort

@The Lady of Shalott @Quinciferous Thanks!

Elizabeth Switaj@twitter

@Xanthophyllippa Actually, teaching oriented schools will often hire an MA over a PhD if they have more teaching experience. Trust me, I am well aware of the issues with the job market.

Xanthophyllippa

@Elizabeth Switaj@twitter As am I. Perhaps this is another point that falls into the YMMV category.

Quinciferous

@Ellie Yes! The little checked box that ensures that you at least won't be stranded, advisor-less, from the get-go. It really doesn't make sense to be a PhD student who works on something that no one in the department is interested in.

That said, I entered my program working with one set of people, intending to work with a certain professor. He ended up moving to a different university because of spousal-hiring issues. My own interests shifted, and my department went through some insane upheaval (including an very untimely death of a star professor). Now, six years later, I have an amazing advisor, and I am very happy with my committee, but the personnel is 100% different than I had thought it would be when I was applying!

@Myrtle the Chronicle (and Inside Higher Ed) are excellent choices for information, time-wasting, and subjecting yourself to night terrors about the job market.

mlle.gateau

@The Lady of Shalott I just wanted to say APPLY APPLY APPLY for community college teaching positions! Yes, it's true, the market is flooded with PhDs and ABDs, but apply and get as much teaching experience as you can under your belt. I adjuncted at a two-year college for a year, and I had so much fun; I had taught high school before, and it was so nice to have the teaching part of it and the flexibility of curriculum. Get knowledgeable about as many subjects as you can- I would have had a lot more work if I could have done World Civ I in addition to II- but just get out there and apply. See if they offer courses to get you a qualification in teaching online, too. It's not ideal if you like to be in front of the room, but they always need people for those classes and hybrid classes as well, and the prep courses really do help.

Also, sometimes turnaround on those community college apps is slow- I applied in January of one year, and didn't hear anything for like 6-9 months, and then got called in for an interview. It's hard because a lot of states are freezing their hiring process, but even if you can get in as an adjunct, it's really nice to spend one evening a week doing something you love for people who are mostly committed to doing well, and possibly more committed than first years at traditional universities in many cases!

TheDogRuiner

@mlle.gateau I have a Master's in Library Science to which I am currently adding 18 hours of graduate Literature in the hopes that this will qualify me to teach community college Lit (in case the small government peeps close all the libraries).

My local community college says "any masters plus 18 hours in content area" qualifies for adjunct, but my grad school advisor kinda sneers at the idea of an MLS as a "real Masters."

Should I just go ahead and get a second masters, so I can be prepared for a job I hope I never have to do????

mlle.gateau

@TheDogRuiner Okay, so first of all, I think your advisor needs to fuck off in regard to the MLS not being a "real" Masters. A lot of humanities people in traditional academic disciplines get their panties in a twist when anyone does something related to their field with a more professional bent to it. For example, I am in a field called "public history," which is history, but with a more professional bent and coursework on stuff like historic preservation, museums, archives, etc. Some of the history department people take this to mean that I/we don't have the scholarly chops to cut it in academia. I take this to mean that they're either ignorant, threatened, or some combination of the two. So, you know, there's that. I think your MLS is awesome, and I think it qualifies you to do all kinds of things beyond being a traditional librarian.

On to the lit thing! Okay, if you really like lit and you think you would enjoy teaching it, do the coursework. On the other hand, teaching English is a shitton of work, like more work than many other fields because essay grading takes forever. It can be really rewarding, but I think if you don't feel a real vocation for it, it becomes really torturous. Also, you could always go back and do an MA in lit or take 18 hours if you get out there and realize it really is what you want to do.

In the meantime, maybe start thinking outside of the box about your future career. Do you want to work in a local library, or be a reference librarian, or maybe work at an archive, or help businesses develop and catalog archival material? There are plenty of things you can do if they close all the libraries, but I don't think they will. Things are tough now, but I think they'll get better, and in the meantime, maybe start looking at cool things you can do with the degree you have/will have rather than stressing out about maybe trying to get a job you don't really want.

Xanthophyllippa

@TheDogRuiner I'd do the 18 hours first and see how far that gets you, if you're interested in teaching at the CC level. MAs aren't cheap, and if they'l hire you with credit hours instead of the formal degree, then power to you. If you don't get interviews/jobs, then you can ask if the full MA might have helped.

Also, what @mlle.gateau says above re: MLS not being a real degree.

Springtime for Voldemort

@mlle.gateau What is public history? I keep hearing the name tossed around, but have no idea what it really entails. What's the program like? What jobs do you get with it? Do you only do local history with it - like, if you live in Scranton, are you only going to do history of PA stuff? Why chose public history over history?

mlle.gateau

@papayalily So, public history is kind of an umbrella term used to describe historians who work in non-academic capacities.* That means it involves doing history-type work in a variety of settings, and probably the best way to define it is to talk about examples of things public historians do. Some public historians work in museums as education directors, others might do materials conservation or work as curators (objects curators, usually, not art, which is different). Some public historians work as archivists (it's a different approach than the library-style archivists). Some public historians do cultural resource management stuff, and the best example of that is historians who work for the National Park Service. Some public historians do historic preservation, which can mean doing architectural surveys and nominating properties to the National Register of Historic Places, writing historic structure assessments, etc. Some public historians work in an administrative capacity and run historic sites or museums, or work for the state historical society and review National Register nominations.

You can do local history with it, just like you can do local history with a traditional history degree. Most of the time, though, we tend to work with local historians rather than as them, but I'm sure there are a fair number of people with public history degrees who work at county archives or for local historical societies. I'm hoping to work overseas for either UNESCO or ICOMOS; there are a lot of international preservation and cultural heritage organizations that utilize public historians.

Public historians usually have a background in history, but plenty of people come to the field with architectural history backgrounds, or interior design, or photography or really most anything. Some oral historians would consider themselves public historians because of how they interact with the larger public. I myself have a background in traditional history, and decided to do public history because it better fits what I want to do. I do eventually want to teach, but only after working professionally as a historian for probably 20-30 years. I think the public history degree is more relevant to my interests, and a huge part of the program I'm in focuses on professional development, which means I'm learning to do National Register nominations and historic structure assessments by actually writing them (under supervision). I ended up doing this because what I like best about history is talking to people about it, and honestly, I had no interest in being in school for ten years writing a monograph no one would ever read. Obviously, for some people, the passion for a particular thing is just there and that's what they want to do, but for me, it wasn't enough, and public history just seemed to offer more in terms of job preparation and employment opportunities.

Now, in fairness, I don't really agree with the sharp dichotomy between public and traditional history; they overlap, and plenty of historians do both. In terms of graduate school, however, I think public history programs tend to be oriented toward hands on experience and explicitly preparing students for careers outside of academia in a way that traditional history programs generally don't.

I hope that makes sense!

*Except for public historians who teach public history at a university.

Springtime for Voldemort

@mlle.gateau Yes, it does, thanks! You have by far given me the best explanation as to what public history is.

TheDogRuiner

@mlle.gateau Thanks for your response. I think I am just going to do the 18 graduate level hours as a 2nd bachelors and call that good enough. I am head of reference at a large public library and my career goal is to just work here forever! I was only considering a Lit MA as a backup plan that I hope I never need!

TheDogRuiner

@Xanthophyllippa Thanks for your response! I am hoping I never actually NEED this degree so I am definitely going to minimize my energy expense.

Ellie

This was really nice to read. I'm actually applying to grad school this fall for fall 2013 (in Slavic Languages and Literatures). I was going to go straight and, delightfully, took the GRE then so I don't have to again, but then realized I was 100% burned out on school AND my subject and didn't apply. But after a while of doing nothing, now I work at a graduate school, am taking a graduate level Saturday course in a subject I'm crazy about and I find myself working on my subject in all my free time. With all these things I feel definitely convinced I want to go. It's worth waiting!

Xanthophyllippa

@Ellie I appreciated grad school so much more when I took two years off in between my first MA and my second time through. I realized after two years that even if I didn't go back to get a degree in what I wanted, I'd still have to go back and get SOME degree to do my second-choice career; that was the sign that I was ready to go back and get the Ph.D.

MilesofMountains

Thanks for writing this. It's interesting how similar and how different humanities and science grad experiences sound. In my school's grad orientation, the Dean told us all "I hope you all really, really love your topic, because that's the only way you'll get through this", because yeah, grad school isn't a good thing to do if you just want to put off figuring out what to do with your life.

The Lady of Shalott

@MilesofMountains Yeah, this. There were a few people in my cohort who were just doing it because they didn't know what else they wanted to do with their lives, and every last one of them had a terribly hard time with the program. You had really better love your topic, in a deep and abiding way, or else you are so screwed.

Ophelia

@The Lady of Shalott Interestingly, that's why I've never gone back to grad school. I always thought I would, but it's been 8 years, and I've realized that the thing I'm totally passionate about...is being a jack of all trades. Sadly, no grad programs for that!

rararuby

@MilesofMountains Yep, I alluded to this down thread too - I know a few grad students who just sort of drifted from school to undergrad to grad school, basically got their PhD topic given to them by their supervisors and they are 1) miserable; 2) institutionalized; and 3) kind of dull. They have never done anything besides be in full-time education, and all of that in the same university, in the same discipline. This does not well-rounded scholars make!
When I started grad school in a new discipline, I was super insecure about how my lack of a primary degree in even a related area would be a disadvantage; in the end it turned out to be the opposite.

nonvolleyball

@Ophelia I could've written pretty much this exact same comment. but hey, better to realize that beforehand than to drop out ABD dazedly thinking, "what did I just do for the past few years of my life?" (or, worse, to complete the program via a project foisted on you by an adviser, which you can't actually do well enough to get a job anywhere because it's not your own brainchild & you feel no passion for the work.)

Mila

@MilesofMountains Yeah, totally. I got my master's in the sciences at the same time as my husband got his phd in humanities. The biggest difference is the role of advisers. Like, your adviser kind of owns you when you are in the sciences, like endentured servant like, and if they are a juicebox, your life is pretty miserable (I speak for experience here...). But also, in the humanities, you are given so much freedom and I have seen that be so terrible for so many students (like professors have no problem giving out years long extensions on papers, until you are drowning under the stress of a million unfinished papers/classes. My friend's husband ended up getting kicked out for not being able to get caught up).

I would never go to grad school without a free ride if your plan is to continue in academia (and I think a lot of programs still do this? I mean, if you t.a. and can live on a very tiny stipend. Is that not the case anymore? I mean, they are getting a good deal. You teach a course for like minimum wage when without grad students a professor who is being paid, well, honestly only slightly more than minimum wage would have to teach the class). And like has been said above, don't do it if you don't love your subject, love it so much that no matter what the outcome, you will not regret having devoted x number of years of your life to something for very little pay and perhaps no future benefit.

jennfizz

@MilesofMountains I hate to be this person but love of your topic is only about 5% of what will get you through a Ph.D. I absolutely LOVE (WORSHIP?) my topic and I just dropped out of my Ph.D program ABD in my 5th year. Love doesn't get you published (in fact, these days, saying controversial and often dumb things is what gets you published--or simply writing on terribly obscure things). Love doesn't help when your first Dissertation Chair retires to a foreign country; or when your second Chair leaves the department for greener pastures; or when your third chairs makes you reframe your entire project, adds a completely foreign topic to your prospectus requiring another year of research, and then just completely checks out of your life and your department because of family issues. Your love of the topic will not pay your medical bills when your health declines. Love for the topic WILL make you a better teacher BUT paying too much attention to your teaching will make your other work suffer and make your committee think less of you.

I loved grad school in many ways (hell, it changes/saved my life). But if you want to become a TT professor, only go to a top five grad school in your field else you'll end up teaching at South Eastern West Texas State for thirty grand a year with fifty thousand dollars in debt trying to explain to your sig other why they should move to the butt fuck of no where because you like teaching.

rararuby

@jennfizz I'm so sorry, that sounds like a nightmare! Sometimes, I despair of how little responsibility professors take for how their choices impact their grad students. It sounds like you were really poorly supported and that sucks. It doesn't seem like love or anything else could have mitigated against that clusterfuck.
I haven't entered the world of publishing yet, and I'm in a European system where it's harder to get a job as a lecturer (our senior academic is the only one with the title of professor), but we don't have to deal with tenure issues, thankfully. Hearing about that breaks me out in hives.
But yeah, it's a good point to make. Basically, only do it if 1) you love it, 2) you're good enough to get funded and, 3) you are confident of being well supported and respected within your department. Oh, and 4) you are aware of the financial and personal sacrifices you may have to make to complete a PhD.

MilesofMountains

@jennfizz I had a similar experience with my MSc. By the end I hated my thesis, hated my supervisor, and was highly annoyed with my committee and my school (and this is why I have no PhD and probably never will) but if I hadn't loved my topic I don't think I would have made it out of there without a degree, and certainly not lasted for a 5 year PhD. Passion isn't enough on its own, but I think it's a necessary componant

DrFeelGood

@Mila Oh man, you are me, except my husband's PhD is also in the sciences, and I have an MS. We finished weeks apart from each other... that was... fun. I saw him actually have a great time in his PhD which for several years deluded me into thinking that I should continue in a PhD program, I'm now off that idea. Oh well, dreams deferred etc. I'll just become a life-long learner :) I think part of my problem is being with someone who has a higher degree than mine? He is really cool, obvs., but sometimes juiceboxes make comments about it, when honestly, I had to f-ing bust my ass in my program, working full time and doing school part-time for 3.5 yrs, while he'd be home in his PJs doing laundry and grading papers.

Kristen

The "paralyzing despair" that sets in when your students half-ass things is what shall keep me twitchily refreshing this page for the rest of the afternoon instead of doing my grading.

Xanthophyllippa

@Kristen Come over here and sit with me!

HeyThatsMyBike

@Kristen My students turned in a paper yesterday - I don't even want to look at them until this weekend, and until I've had at least one glass of wine.

the angry little raincloud

@HeyThatsMyBike At one point, I learned I should only drink white wine while grading. Because I had this stack of papers, and of course I put my wine glass down on the stack, only to leave a red ring o' wine on a student's paper. Oops. So, to mask that, I put a cup of coffee on top of it, hoping the student would just think it was coffee and not booze.

My students got used to getting papers/exams back with various foodstuffs on them. I embodied the Discombobulated Professor.

LoCalCalzoneZone

@Kristen I'm a physics grad student, and this is why I'm so glad all the coursework for my students is online (ie no grading!). Last semester's grading really was terrible, especially days when you realize your students completely missed the major concept of the topic.

hahahaha, ja.

@LoCalCalzoneZone: Hi physics grad student! I'm also a physics grad student! Although at this point more astrophysics and less physics-physics. HOW ARE THINGS WITH YOU ARE YOU (HAPPILY) DYING TOO

HeyThatsMyBike

@the angry little raincloud Ha! That's great. I would probably rationalize it saying that they're the ones driving me to drink with their (mostly) terrible papers, so maybe them seeing it isn't so bad. I'm too far along for them to go through the lengthy, bureaucratic process of kicking me out of graduate school before I actually get out myself, so maybe next time I'll just spill tequila all over everything.

LoCalCalzoneZone

@ietapi Yes, I am (happily) dying too, and am soooo excited to just do research this summer instead of teaching and taking classes. I'm planning on doing dark matter research, what do you do??

hahahaha, ja.

@LoCalCalzoneZone: Oooo dark matter. You guys are the reason a lot of NASA missions have been losing funding!! Well, you and the planetary people. It's OK, all is forgiven, just find it for your thesis, and presto, Nobel prizes galore! :) I work on gamma ray bursts with the Fermi LAT; there's actually a dark matter Fermi group but all they've got are upper limits so far. :(

abigailStev@twitter

@Kristen @LoCalCalzoneZone: I am also a physics grad student in astrophysics!! I've been lurking on The Hairpin for a few months but this is my first comment. I am one exam away from finishing my first year :) and holy shit is it MENTALLY PAINFUL.

LoCalCalzoneZone

@ietapi Fermi is awesome! And I would love to find it with my thesis (fingers crossed) but I know that will most likely not happen.

LoCalCalzoneZone

@abigailStev@twitter Jealous that you're only one exam away. I'm in my first year too, and we have 3 more weeks of classes before exams. It is brutal some times, my quantum last semester was rough. You're almost there!

hahahaha, ja.

@LoCalCalzoneZone @abigailStev@twitter: Guys I promise it gets better. I know everyone's probably told you all that already :) so I doubt this'll be helpful, but ... I swear, first year of grad school was more or less the worst year of my life (fuck you, Jackson E&M). But if you keep good friends, and party once in a while, and drink truckloads of coffee (and maybe try time dilation to get more hours out of the day, but I never figured out how to run that fast) it'll all work out. Cry to your friends, scream in your car, punch some small woodland creatures (but not undergrads!), do you what you need to do. BEST OF LUCK ON YOUR EXAMS!!

I'm Not Rufus

@ietapi I gather that, at physics events, Jackson writes "The Jackson" on his name tag because so many people were coming up to him and asking if he was *the* Jackson.

Waiting

I really want to go to grad school (vocal pedagogy or maybe even performance) so, arts, not humanities - but I have lots of questions too. Mainly how NOT to pay for it. I really and truly will accept a slave-driving program almost anywhere as long as it is free and will serve my future well. But I have to find the right program and aid...

nonvolleyball

@MalPal arts are part of the humanities! but agreed that performance stuff is in a different wheelhouse than research/criticism-based fields.

phlox

@MalPal I'm starting a MA in musicology in the fall at the University of Toronto, which offers guaranteed funding for your first year and I have been told it's not too difficult to get decent funding for the second year, too. And I don't know if they're still doing it but Yale used to have all music grad programs fully funded.

eringthatsme@twitter

@MalPal What ped programs are you going into?
/is at a school known for voice ped
//not a voice ped major

theotherginger

@phlox I go to U of T and the funding is not quite as good as they make it seem. If you get an external grant, amazing, but if you go beyond the funding package either for MA or PhD and your are not Canadian, it can get pricey. Of course, this is pricey on a Canadian scale, not American

AnalogMetronome

@MalPal I have just gone through the process of auditioning for my M.M. and I can tell you, they money thing does not just magically happen like it does for some sciences and humanities grad degrees. My best advice is to ask people. Ask your teacher, ask those who have gone through this recently in your field. Where has money for your program? Is X School of Music really hurting for voice majors? Can you find a teacher that is really interested in you and will make lots of noise on your behalf? Like somebody upthread said, Yale is free to all music grad students, but practically impossible to get into. Rice has great funding. If you are a resident of a state that has a good music school/a teacher you want to study with in-state, take advantage of it! And don't be afraid to ask for more if they don't offer you enough. Use offers you have from other places as leverage. Hope that helps!

AnalogMetronome

@MademoiselleML Another piece of advice that just occurred to me: Especially if you opt for performance, take live auditions. It may seem counterintuitive because traveling all over the place is expensive as shit, but I have had multiple teachers tell me that they are much less likely to admit taped auditions and often don't consider them for scholarship because a tape just doesn't provide as much or as accurate information about a performer's abilities.

oboe-d-amore

@MalPal You should consider CCM (Cincinnati) - they pay something like 80 or 85% of all grad students fees, as long as you maintain a B average, and there are quite a few possibilities of further funding too.

They also have one of the best vocal programs in the country, which is both a plus and minus for applying.

phlox

@robyn.andrews Ah, that's a little disappointing, but I think I'll be ok - I am Canadian and my current job is super flexible so I'll have some extra income there. And there's a prof who may have gotten a grant for a project that I could RA for, too.

(Come out to the next Toronto pin-up! We are very nice and the next plan is a Sangria Sunday afternoon sometime in May.)

hotdog

@phlox shout out for my hometown!

theotherginger

@phlox I do like sangria! Hopefully I will actually make it out... As for your finances, if you have those two as back-ups it will probably work out well!

Waiting

@MademoiselleML Thank you and everyone else for all the info. I am about to graduate with a degree in Music Education, but I have a decent performance background in opera and sacred music. I'm looking for a program that will give me both a ped and performance type of experience. Meaning, I want to study voice in depth through performance and ped classes and research, not just one. I have a good GPA and I think I have a shot at getting aid somehow, but I need to find a program where a teacher (or teachers) really see what I have to offer and want to fund me. Right now I'm looking into different grad programs, both Ed, Ped, and Performance to see what they offer. I really hope I find what I'm looking for.

eringthatsme@twitter

@MalPal Have you looked at Westminster? Program sounds like the kind of thing you're looking for, although the aid situation is lacking.

kateromoo

I am a grad school grad and I do not regret going at all but agree if you can't do it debt-free, don't do it.

But I hope you have someone with a different perspective than Anne around as well - because my program was filled with people doing it to get a bigger paycheck/always checked out and professors who barely cared. I did not form any kind of relationship with a professor and I was rarely, if ever, intellectually challenged. And if not for my student job (which led to a full time job at the same university) I don't know where I would have ended up. But I do love the profession my MS led me toward and therefore would advise other nerdlets to pursue the same with obvious precautionary statements involved (I'm a web developer who didn't acknowledge I was a nerd until I went back to grad school).

Emby

Science journalism M.A. here (several years removed from my degree by now).

Yeah, don't do that.

Xanthophyllippa

@Emby Which is unfortunate, because holy fuck, does the general public ever NEED science journalists to get the science right for them.

Emby

@Xanthophyllippa Yep. But the market for science journalists is basically in utter freefall at the moment. I mean, all of journalism is basically one crumbling tower at this point, but niche journalism in particular. It's a classic free market–demand problem. When money's tight, who's going to pay our salaries? At least the arts occasionally have benefactors and endowments; no such luck for journalists.

chnellociraptor

@Emby Wow, I didn't even know they had niche journalism programs like that. Mad respect -- I just finished my bachelor of journalism and my few brushes with science journalism were pretty terrifying. The industry definitely needs more science reporters; I don't know if the rest are lazy, disinterested or overworked, but they need a lot of help getting it right.

TheBelleWitch

@Emby Hey, another science journalist here! No M.A., graduate certificate. I'd recommend it to someone who was going to be a science journalist by hook or by crook -- the professional contacts have helped a lot -- but no kidding on the "freefall" thing.

sobell

@Emby I actually registered just to post a reply here. Science journalism is how I got my tuition paid for! I was a science undergrad & miserable, then a science-journo grad & content.

I left science journalism because I am not a big fan of the "who can write the embargoed story spoon-fed from the journals best?" job, but I am here to tell you that the skills are easily transferable to technology and business journalism, and OMG, I am drowning in work opportunities. So come write for tech pubs!

Andrea K@twitter

Is there every any point in going back to school for journalism if you have your BJH already? A... friend... wants to know.

Emby

@Andrea K@twitter Not sure if you'll see this cuz this is a bit of an old thread now, but I would say, no, there's not. Employers aren't going to be terribly impressed with more schooling; they want clips and experience.

TDF@twitter

@Emby Word. Masters of Journalism is the hugest ripoff ever UNLESS you have a paid co-op term. Work experience is EVERYTHING.

Petrichoria

Soo... library school? Anyone?

bookworm

@Petrichoria I have a Masters in Library Science. Unless you are working in a library right now, I'd say don't bother. I did it to make a career change, worked full time while I was going, graduated in 2.5 years to a market that (surprise!) is getting rid of librarians, and you'll have to pry the jobs from the older librarians from their cold dead hands (that is, if their full time position isn't chopped up into 2 part time positions to save on benefits).

Excuse me, I'm just a little bitter.

brista128

@bookworm Sounds about right. I almost went but then heard there are a lot more librarians than jobs and a lot of those who are librarians are stuck with a part-time position. :(

wallsdonotfall

@Petrichoria It depends, too, on what you're interested in. Nothing's looking good anywhere, but you're much better off if you're interested in digital librarianship or data curation than, say, public collections.

(I say this as someone who's applying to MLIS programs this year myself, so I don't know everything. But I've been working in digital libraries for the last three years and man, I wouldn't do it if I didn't have a) all that work experience and b) tuition reimbursement from my employer.)

phlox

@Petrichoria I did it, graduated 2008, and there are still people from my class who don't have library jobs. It's a terrible market now.

mackymoo

@Petrichoria Skip it. I graduated last August and while I'm currently working in a library and have a lot of library experience, I can't find that professional position and it really sucks. And I live in a librarian saturated location. If you have a lot of tech experience, you MIGHT be okay. But definitely do not go if you don't have any library experience whatsoever.

Ughh also so bitter. I was told that I would be promoted eventually and now I don't think it's going to happen.

sharkbyte

@Petrichoria I will be the lone person here saying go for it, IF, you love the shit out of libraries. Because yeah, none of us are in it for the money. We're in it for the glamor and recognition! Obvs.

The one thing I would advise is look into employment figures for different types of librarianship. Medical librarians, academic librarians in the sciences, and web librarians seem to be in big demand - so if you were into any of those you'd probably have some good job prospects. Look closely at the course offerings for potential programs to make sure they have some good classes/professors in this area (a good MLS program will make all the difference!). But another thing to keep in mind is that most of these jobs require TWO master's degrees, one in library science and the other in your specialization. It's kind of nice though because then you can be a professor without having to get a Ph.D.! I graduated with my MLS in 2009, and finally got a tenure-track reference and instruction position last January, so it did take a good two years. But now that it finally paid off it's pretty great. My last name is Boss and I never tire of my students being all, "Prof. Boss! Help me research *neat thing I get super into researching*!".

TheCheesemanCometh

@Petrichoria DON'T DO IT!!

No, seriously, don't. I've been working in a library for over ten years, got my degree two years ago next month, and I'm STILL looking for a professional position. That whole "greying of the profession" bullshit? SUCH bullshit. As the older librarians retire (or these days, are more likely RIFed) they just close the positions and redistribute the duties to paraprofessionals.

TheCheesemanCometh

@sharkbyte I absolutely agree about the benefit of a second Masters. I've been thinking of going back for Art History (my undergrad) but honestly, I'm so tired of it all. I just want a job that pays a living wage so I can support my kid and myself. I'm hoping for one before I'm fifty (although I'll no longer be supporting her then (I hope)).

RustBeltFag@twitter

@sharkbyte I will emphatically disagree that medical librarians are "in big demand." EVERY single branch of librarianship is in crisis right now. If you want to work in health sciences, get an MPH & skip the MLS. If you want to work in the other sciences, get a degree in the science you're interested in. If you want to work in web services, start taking on web development projects and skip the MLS. If you want to be a public or academic librarian outside the sciences or web services, marry rich.

Having said that, if you already earned the darn thing and are creative, you can land some interesting gigs outside the library. I was planning on the medical librarian track, got hired for a non-librarian position at the medical school at my alma mater, & things have turned out pretty well so far.

Petrichoria

@RustBeltFag@twitter Oh everyone. But I want to be a children's and teen librarian.

So... not going to happen, eh.

TheCheesemanCometh

@Petrichoria I would say, go for a Library Certication instead (usually through a community college) and try to get a para-position first, just to see if you really like it. If your expereinces really match your dreams, then I'd look at the MLIS. And who knows, maybe by then the market will have improved?

Part of my job woes is that I'm in Tech Services, cataloging specifically, and there was about a decade or so fairly recently where the great minds were all, "Cataloging? We don't need no stinking cataloging!" and didn't even offer classes at most library schools. Then they realized suddenly, that Duh, people can find information if it's not at least somewhat organized, so they're bringing it back, but Tech Services is all but invisible, so it's always the first to get cut.

TheCheesemanCometh

@TheCheesemanCometh Oh, and while it's not technically necesasary to have the certificate to get a para-position, it might get you hired at a higher level, so a bit more money. But, don't count on making big bucks, even if you do get your MLIS. Rich, we are not, but we have all this lovely information to roll around in!

zzzzzzzzzzzz

@Petrichoria No. Just don't do it. Unless somehow you can do it for free (say, if you are employed by a university that offers free tuition to its staff and also happens to have a library school). It's a horrible investment, scholarships are paltry, and jobs scarce. Promise me you won't follow me down this path of misfortune! I went, loved it, and now am doing the EXACT same job I had before grad school put me into crushing debt. I went to a top program, by the way.

TheCheesemanCometh

@zzzzzzzzzz Heh. That's exactly how I did it, although my waiver covered tuition at any of the state schools, so I did mine distance. Distance learning sucks, but at least I didn't add grad school loans on top of my undergrad.

Blondsak

@Petrichoria I'm joining the other few voices who say "Go for it!" if you really think it's right for you. I'm in library school right now, having had no library experience beforehand and taking out 55K in debt for it, and I don't regret it at all. I've found there are two keys:

1. Location location location! I chose my program almost based on one thing: it's in a location that is surrounded by HUNDREDS of libraries. Which translates into: THOUSANDS of MLS student work opportunities, plus networking while still in school so you know some of the right people when you graduate.

2. Be prepared to both go to school and work, even if it's for free. An MLS is nothing more than a piece of paper to most libraries - it's your experience that matters. And luckily, library school is demanding, but not so demanding that you can't work one or more jobs at the same time. I started out 8 months ago volunteering for 10 hrs/wk at a local library because nobody would hire me for pay. In October, I was able to find a tiny-pay student worker PT position at a library, which helped me land a second better-paying PT job at another library in February, plus I began volunteering twice a week at a fourth library a few weeks ago. Yes, 45-55 hour workweeks are tough (not to mention the extra 15-25 hours I devote to class and projects), but I know it's what will get me the full-time librarian job at the end (both because of experience and because of the networking!). The people I go to school with who think that one library internship they did will get them a job? Yeah, no.

So, that's my two cents. The first one is fairly easy, if you are willing to move to a big city; the second, not for the faint-hearted. But you CAN make it work, and make it worth it - you just have to give it your all. Good luck with your decision!

Beautiful Ann Perkins

Well, there goes that dream...

MarilynCrabcakes

@Petrichoria - Don't even bother with the Certification. I have been working as a children's librarian for six years. I was so lucky to get hired right before things went south. I work in a large county system with over 200 employees. We have been in a hiring freeze for the past four years. When our paraprofessionals leave, we fill the positions with temps; if we fill them at all. A quarter of the staff I work with at my branch are temps. When professionals leave, we usually hire internally. We have only had one professional hire outside of the system since the hiring freeze began.

If you really want to do youth services, find any public or school library in your area and start volunteering there. At the same time start a nationwide search for any paraprofessional position that you can find and see if you can get hired for it. Do not even think about going to library school until you have a library job in hand, and even then realize that you may be stuck working as a paraprofessional for several years after you receive your degree (like many of my co-workers have had to do).

MarilynCrabcakes

@Petrichoria On a more positive note, if you're willing to work for peanuts, you may be able to find a rural library (think really rural) that will hire someone without their degree because they won't pay over $30K for the job. You can see if you like the work before deciding to get your MLIS and have a grand adventure to boot.

sharkbyte

@Petrichoria maybe disregard my earlier advice - it's true that the library job market is pretty dismal. my university has been hiring a lot of people recently, but i am forgetting that prior to this we were on a v long hiring freeze, and even with the new hires we're still understaffed. and public libraries, eeesh, my mom is a public librarian, and her library was on a hiring freeze but recently resorted to layoffs because funding from the state is so abysmal.

i blame my earlier enthusiasm on the prospect of other 'pinners joining the profession. there are a lot of cool librarians but we can always use more!! if only our institutions would fund us properly...

xoaxoa

@Petrichoria Hey y'all. Is all of this still true if you were, let's say, interested in archiving, particularly in digital collections?

wallsdonotfall

@xoaxoa I work in digital collections at a major university library. Digital preservation is definitely something we're concerned about (is that what you're getting at with archiving + digital collections?) and we have filled/are filling three professional positions this year in which that concentration would be useful. But our emphasis leans heavily on the digital part, less on the traditional archiving, and we're also strongly visual resources/multimedia based.

There still aren't a lot of jobs, but there are definitely more here than in other library sectors. Learn to program, or be able to work with programmers. Know your tech, as well as preservation praxis.

TheCheesemanCometh

@xoaxoa Digitization is definitely new hot thing right now, so you'd likely find a few more positions, but like wallsdonotfall says, if you have a tech/programming background, it will make it a bit easier, but it's still most definitely a crapshoot.

@wallsdonotfall Do you all look for folks with extra digitization certification like the University of Arizona's DigIn certificate? It looks pretty good, but I can't afford the tuition.

zzzzzzzzzzzz

@xoaxoa That was my field. If I had remained on the job market for 2 years and been willing to move anywhere in the country, I probably would have gotten something eventually. I had actual digital preservation, archives, and digitization experience while applying, as well as a fairly high level of tech abilities (databases, php, etc) but I did lose out to some of the positions I interviewed for to actual programmers (not archivist/librarians). I recommend learning at least Java in addition whatever else you learn in library school. As it happens, I'm married to a humanities PhD and he actually managed to finish his dissertation and have job market success (EVEN RARER than for my field) so I went along with him to a small random US city and I have all but given up on ever having a career in digital preservation or archives. I'm having a baby and working freelance, and am pretty happy most days (especially if I don't think about the $50,000 debt I incurred during this process)!

wallsdonotfall

@Petrichoria I wasn't on the search committee for those hirings, so I can't say for sure. I doubt they would care about the certification as such, but if that's the only way to get experience with a digital repository, for example, then that's useful.

To readers thinking about starting out: remember that fewer and fewer places are willing to give paraprofessional positions to people with their MLIS. That should in theory help stop the devaluation of the degree, but in practice it means there are even fewer jobs available.

theharpoon

@xoaxoa That is my field, and I'm doing a PhD partially because you just can't get all of the skills you need to be a digital archivist in any MLIS or MSIS program at this point - I did mine at one of the best schools (sounds like zzzzzzzzz up there may have gone where I went). So if you want to be a digital archivist (not just a person who digitizes things, because why would anyone want to do that forever, oh wait, no one does) you need to either already have the tech background or be willing and able to teach yourself. Although I will also say that I don't think Java's especially useful unless you're planning to specialize in software preservation.

Caveat - this is assuming that you're interested in digital archives, not digital libraries (although there is overlap) - like, digital archaeology, long term digital preservation, etc.

theharpoon

@theharpoon This is not to imply that I'm going for a PhD in order to be a digital archivist, because that would be ridiculous, since those jobs don't pay nearly what they should for the skill set required.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@Petrichoria I am going to lib school starting in the fall (archives concentration). I've been interested in this for ~5 years by this point and that entire 5 years everyone who knows the job market for librarians and archivists has basically told me that it's a terrible idea.

I'm still doing it because I love it and I can't imagine anything else I'd like to do. And ultimately that's the litmus test for any crowded job field. If it's not your life's passion (ugh I hate that word but I guess it applies), if there's anything more stable/easier to break into that you could see yourself doing...do it.

Otherwise I look forward to all y'all joining me in the unemployment line. XD

isobel

@Petrichoria I finished my MLS in 2009 and got a full-time professional job at an academic library within a few months. Most everyone I know from school is similarly gainfully employed in libraries or education. The catch is that most of them had to move somewhere random or far away. I am at a small town university that I had never even heard of prior to applying for the job. Particularly in academia, I think you have to be willing to pay your dues right out of library school by taking your non-dream job, then move on after a year or two if you don't like it. Getting work experience while in grad school is also KEY. Work/intern/volunteer in your chosen area as much as possible while in school to get professional experience. Choose a school that offers those opportunities. Doing things like presenting at conferences is also a boost for your resume.

Bottom line: going to library school is no guarantee of a job as the market is definitely tight, but my experience hasn't been as dire as others'. I would, however, be wary of accumulating very much debt for this degree unless maybe you're aiming for a more information-sciencey-type career in the corporate sector. Start searching the job lists for library positions to get an idea of what skills employers are looking for before you even start school, and plan your education accordingly.

MmeLibrarian

@Petrichoria I earned my MLIS in December of 2007, found part-time professional work in August of '08 and a full-time libraryland job in July of '10. I had the time/money to wait the market out because of my husband's horrible corporate job and the mad cash he made at it. I now work as a teaching librarian at the school where I got my MLIS, coordinating an information literacy program for tiny freshmen. My husband has also earned an MLIS. He is nearly two years out from his degree and has yet to find a single job (despite being awesome).

My two cents:

1. As I say to every single student who has this conversation with me with a look of panic in their eyes, if you can picture yourself doing something else, go do that. If this is all you have ever wanted professionally and you are willing to do the horrible part, then welcome.

2. Learn skills that the older/other librarians do not have - for me, my hook has been teaching (fun fact: most librarians really, really do not like public speaking). I have made my bones on it and I love it.

3. Like others have said, be willing to move or situate yourself in a library-rich environment. I live in the upper midwest, which is dripping with library schools. It is a terrible place to find a job.

cuminafterall

I want to go to grad school in social science (IR), rather than humanities. During my semester abroad as an undergrad, I noticed several American professors teaching humanities and social science courses at my (relatively newly-established) Turkish university. Is this A Thing, Americans getting tenure-track jobs at up-and-coming foreign universities?

martinipie

@cuminafterall It totally sounds like it WOULD be a thing. My wee college (soon to be my alma mater!) has like, eighty kabillion international affiliates that just opened or are about to open, in places like the West Bank, Kyrgyzstan, Berlin, St. Petersburg...and they totally seem like places that would need young, passionate, and not burnt out teachers.

HeyThatsMyBike

@cuminafterall A few folks from my program have done this, except none of them have been American. But with that said, they've been going to schools that aren't in their home country (e.g. Korean student going to teach at Hebrew University in Israel). And I've seen advertisements for a lot of European tenure-track roles (mostly in former Eastern bloc countries). So it very well may be a thing!

koala

@cuminafterall I'm totally hoping it's a thing. The only jobs I see that fit my specialization are in Asia and Australia.

nyikint

@cuminafterall Where are you thinking of going? You're in the DC area, right?

Quinciferous

@cuminafterall There's a whole forum dedicated to teaching internationally at the Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/board,34.0.html

cuminafterall

@nyikin Ugh, that's tough. I'm in DC, which has some of the best IR programs going, but I'd like to start with a Master's and there's little to no chance of getting funded. And the best programs (I'm like Georgetown for the MSFS or MAGES) require you to go full-time, so I'd have to quit my very well-paying job in addition to paying $80-120K over 2 years. I've been thinking about doing my Master's in Berlin (European Studies is my focus) since I speak German-- would still require me to quit my job, but costs would be lower.

Other option is part-time at AU (my alma mater) or GW while I keep my job. But if I don't leave my job at the salary I'm making now, it's only going to get harder as I make more money... tough decisions.

Xanthophyllippa

@cuminafterall It's a Thing. The other rising Thing is U.S. universities opening outposts of their school in other countries. If you're willing to move literally 12,000 miles away, there are some good opportunities to be had.

nyikint

@cuminafterall Yeah that is tough. I will attend IR school in the fall (Georgetown's MSFS), but they haven't given me money for it (although I have heard that ~80% of students receive at least some funding in their second year).

I had a good relationship with my previous employer and they're now letting me work there part-time while I go to school - is there any similar arrangement you think you could work out?

I've heard that GW schedules classes in the evening and night, so some students are able to work full-time and take a full course-load. I'm sure it would mean that you basically shut down every other aspect of your life though.

As far as predicaments go, not wanting to leave a well-paying job is a pretty decent spot to find yourself in though! :)

cuminafterall

@nyikin I'm a fed, so I'm pretty sure I can't work part-time... my workplace is flexible but not that flexible! I have thought about working part-time as a contractor or consultant, though.

Bittersweet

@cuminafterall: My best friend from grad school (later got his Harvard PhD) and his wife (Stanford PhD) both teach at Australian National University in Canberra because it was the only place both of them could get jobs. Sigh.

iwannabekait

@cuminafterall Were you at Koç by any chance?

the angry little raincloud

A former humanities grad student here (I now have a PhD in the humanities. Whoo): to answer that question "how much debt" should you accrue for a humanities Phd= NONE. Or at least, do not start a program that requires you to accumulate debt. By that I mean, you should be "fully funded," getting tuition and a stipend.

Of course, humanities stipends are often very sad, and if you are in an expensive metro area, very hard to live on. So maybe a student loan here or there to supplement meager stipends is in the future. But do not-- really, do NOT-- go to a program that makes you take out money to pay tuition or all your living expenses.

There are several reasons for this (all culled from years of being on the market, being poor, being stupid, talking with other people, reading the Chronicle).

1) if you're not good enough to get fully funded as a student, you're not going to be good enough to get a job. Sorry. Everything keeps getting harder (getting in is the easy part), and the odds are way stacked against everyone in the job search.

2) grad school is a job. A more-than-fulltime job. You should be getting paid for it (sort of). Not well, but, paid something.

3) the jobs that most humanities people get don't come with salaries that can offset huge amounts of debt. If you are lucky enough to even get an asst. professor job, starting salaries will range from maybe high 40s-70s, depending on school and location. But that's if you're lucky enough to get the job. It might take years of adjuncting or what-not to land one.

4) Relatedly, post-docs-- which even for humanities people-- are increasingly common, sometimes are paid well, sometimes not. I had one that paid $40K. I also had one that paid $32K. I had a PhD. This was in Boston. I'm probably still paying off the credit card debt I accrued from that one.

5) If you end up not being an academic, the PhD won't necessarily mean a higher salary (it's not like in public school teaching, where every degree brings an automatic bump in salary).

Most importantly, go to grad school because you really, really have this burning passion for your area of study, not to escape a crap job. Grad school is hard, writing a dissertation is even harder. It's frequently wonderful, and there is something about being able to work on your own intellectual projects and be free to do amazingly interesting, if incredibly odd, things. But for most people (there are academic superstars who miss out on some of the more miserable aspects of the life), it can come with heavy costs. I've moved frequently, meaning it's been hard to sustain a lot of relationships (I'm single!), and also that most of my good friends are someplace else. Moving is also expensive. But I go where the job, or research project is, because what else is there?

(On a related note: don't go to grad school if you absolutely must live in a certain geographic area. You rarely have that kind of freedom to choose. Jobs-- and very good jobs!--pop up in weird spots. If you will never leave NYC/Portland/Iowa, then don't do humanities grad school).

But if you get fully funded and really, really love your research, then go. I can't imagine not being a [insert random humanities field here].

nonvolleyball

@the angry little raincloud this is all phenomenal advice.

ellbeejay

@the angry little raincloud CHURCH. especially re: 1 & 2.

lalaura

@the angry little raincloud

THIS. All of this is so right.

And everyone considering a PhD program should read this:
http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-Is-a-Means-to/131316/

Xanthophyllippa

@the angry little raincloud This:

"if you're not good enough to get fully funded as a student, you're not going to be good enough to get a job. Sorry."

is ABSOLUTE bullshit. Your abilities and skills as an incoming student - which is how programs determine funding - are not a reliable predictor of your abilities and skills as a new Ph.D., and any grad school that expects its students to be viable on the TT market before even starting the degree - which is what your comment implies - is deluded. Furthermore, being fully funded as a grad student doesn't mean that you'll be "good enough" to get a TT job when you finish; see the glut of unemployed PhDs on the market from hoity-toity schools that DO guarantee full funding to all their incoming students.

Bottom line: the funding you get as a grad student has no bearing - either immediate or predictive - on your success in the job market, except for nationally recognized merit/research grants (NSF, SSRC, Fulbright, DAAD, etc.).

(See also: I had to find my own funding for eight consecutive years and I HAVE A JOB.)

the angry little raincloud

@Xanthophyllippa Lack of funding is not a vote of confidence. Wait a year, figure out how to play the game, buff up the research plans, whatever, and come back a stronger candidate and get into a program fully funded. (And if you’ve lost interest at that point, well then, major disaster avoided). But taking out loans for a humanities PhD is pure foolishness. It’s a lot of money to spend while you’re still trying to figure things out (not just in whatever you’re paying, but also in missed income).

And, there’s often quite a snowball effect: people with grants/funding get more funding. I saw this in my own program: the few students not admitted with proper funding struggled mightily to get stuff later on, either from the program or graduate school or from outside agencies. So, no, I’m not saying an entering grad student is supposed to be TT caliber from the outset. But it’s going in with the deck stacked against you. And the odds for anyone— including precious Harvard PhDs with famous advisors etc— are so profoundly not good right now in the humanities job market.

And, yes, there are always exceptions. Everyone always thinks they will be the ones to beat the odds.

theharpoon

@Xanthophyllippa From my extremely limited experience as a first year PhD student, I would guess that finding your own funding for 8 years probably made you much more attractive as a job candidate.

ellbeejay

@theharpoon Note that you said "finding your own funding," rather than taking out loans. If other (money granting) organizations have confidence in you and your work, sure, that can offset the lack of confidence from your program of choice. But taking out loans because a program/organization won't fund you? Ridiculous.

anecdata

@the angry little raincloud

Cosigned. I'd maybe add this nugget: when I was applying to (biostatistics) PhD programs last year, some of the best advice I got was something to the effect of, "if the program has invested a bunch of money in you, they're going to want to see you succeed."

Xanthophyllippa

@theharpoon It did. It gave me a skill set that I have been able to use in a number of different fields, and in fact, it got me my current job. I can now apply for TT positions in three different areas and be viable in all three of them. The ONE person out of my class of nine, however, who had a full-funding guarantee is about to be out of a job after a series of consecutive shitty adjunct positions.

@the angry little raincloud Lack of funding is not an automatic vote of no-confidence, either. Sometimes it is, in fact, the yoke under which a department labors; I started in a niche field, but my program was the best and the oldest in the nation. It is not at a rich university, however, and had no ability to promise full funding to every single student it admitted - which is still true of a lot of very good programs. At the same time, the department's policy was (and still is) that all students will receive some support at some point in their time in the department, and assistantships in other departments (whether TA positions or office jobs) can be readily had after about two weeks of sending out CVs. It isn't hard, but it does take legwork; that, more than whether the U. hands you a full ride so you never have to work (or teach) outside of your own courses, is the real barometer of whether grad school is a good idea. If you aren't willing to put in the time to find a way to pay for it unless someone hands you the money, then no - grad school is not a good idea.

It would be wonderful to think that every program can hand out a blank check to all its admitted students. But it simply isn't true (and will be less so unless the U.S. manages to convince itself that education is in fact important), and even students of the highest caliber don't get funded anymore. I took out a loan for my first year because my program truly is the best in my field, and it was worth it to me to have these professors and this school's name on my CV. I then busted my ass and ran down jobs to pay for the other 7 years, and by the time I was done, I had a Ph.D., two peer-reviewed publications, a co-authored book chapter with a leading scholar in the field, an edited book, and about 15 conference talks on my CV -- all with only one semester of support from my department. My lack of funding had NOTHING to do with my caliber as a student, and was certainly not a predictor of my future success.

bb
bb

@Xanthophyllippa You are, of course, right that not getting funding isn't a guarantee of not getting in, but I still think (as recent PhD) that one should see not getting funding at the applicant level as a poor sign of EITHER a) school's investment in you or b) your viability in that program (or of course, both). Given that those interested in Humanities PhDs are going into super competitive fields where professional skills are important from the beginning, these are important issues.

There are certain schools (cough, UTexas) where very few students have good funding, and so everyone from there might do well and have to bust their ass. But if you're in a program with competitive funding and you're not getting it, that doesn't bode well. At first year, at fifth year, whatever.

theharpoon

@ellbeejay Exactly. I said "finding your own funding," because she said that she found her own funding. Scholarships and grants go on your CV; loans do not.

Xanthophyllippa

@bb Fair enough, though it would be worse to not get funding in a program that does in fact fund everyone. That's more where my concern is, in part because there are other ways in which a program can be supportive outside of forking over some cash. I was lucky in that some of my faculty really busted their asses to make sure we knew about other opportunities.

I guess my overall point is this: anyone who wants to go to grad school should go. The cost and the loans are part of the responsibility of making that decision: if the loans are scary, then rethink it; if not, then by all means, go ahead. I'm just not down with the idea that getting full funding should be the automatic deciding factor for someone with a desperate yearning, and that seemed to be where at least part of this discussion was heading. It isn't a reasonable criterion for humanities programs anymore, since so many are cash-strapped. Obvs. if we go in knowing we're paying for it ourselves, then we don't have much room to complain about debt afterward. I mean, to borrow the car analogy above (which I don't necessarily agree with, but it's handy here): if I really want and need a new car, saying I won't get one unless someone else pays for it isn't going to get me anywhere (literally or figuratively).

I'm not among the lucky people for whom the loans weren't a big deal - I'm among the people who were willing to take the risk. Not everyone is, and I realize that.

Ellie

One of my biggest fears is getting into my dream school and not getting funding.

bb
bb

@Xanthophyllippa I think each person here is probably speaking from their own dept/school particulars... in mine I felt that some people were taken advantage of, given either low or no stipends and heavy work burdens compared to more high-ranked peers -- essentially making it harder for them to advance as fast when they were the ones who probably needed more preparation to begin with! And now a lot of those people are still toiling away, adjucting or just plain working unrelated jobs while in debt and in their 8-10th year, starting to look less and less marketable.

All of that said, I agree that if someone wants to go to grad school, they should - perhaps it's more the message that it is OK to stop if you find it's not your path would be better than "don't go at all" since I'm not sure if that actually deters anyone. I know it wouldn't have worked for me.

Xanthophyllippa

@Ellie Have you talked to other grad students at your dream school? It's worth asking if they're funded and what the on-campus job opportunities are for students who aren't. Guaranteed funding's nice for a number of reasons - not the least of which is that even if you're teaching or working as a research assistant, you're probably still staying within your field - but if students who aren't on the department's ticket are finding jobs that cover tuition elsewhere on campus, then that can be a good sign.

oeditrix

@the angry little raincloud The funding thing. In my program (PhD, English) there was a huge disparity between the funded and un- or underfunded students. One year the students rallied together, protested, and eventually got the administration to level out the funding package so that in the following years, every student admitted would get the highest level package. (Admitting fewer students, of course.)

The ones who fought for funding were vocal about who was funded and who wasn't, which had been a very hush-hush subject before then. Looking back at that cohort, there is no correlation between who came in funded and who had the most success. Every one of those students was accepted to one of the toughest doctoral programs in their field in the country, and every one of them was capable of completing the work. All the unequal funding did was create a built-in hierarchy and bury first-years in paranoia that the faculty didn't really want them there. It did not foster a healthy intellectual community.

I believe that any correlation between low funding and attrition is due to a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you feel like you don't belong the minute you walk through the door, your chances of success are lower. That said, plenty of fully-funded students in my program dropped out or were unable to get jobs, and plenty of unfunded students did just fine in both the program and the market.

martinipie

Yayyyyy. YAYYYYY. I am so happy this exists and maybe soon will send a rambly, somehow 300 word letter about how the fuck do you figure out the "culture of the program" as stated above and why does it seem so much more opaque than applying to undergrad but it's ok because I am planning on waiting at least two years anyway and agghhhh. Grad school feels, i haz them.

Xanthophyllippa

@martinipie Talk to the other grad students. Seriously - ask them where they hold Happy Hour, buy them a round, and pump them for info. Find the person who seems happiest and the one who seems most disillusioned (and maybe someone in the middle) and ask if you can email them later with questions. If they're even halfway decent people, they'll be honest with you; it's sort of unwritten grad student code to be honest so other people don't suffer as much. If they're not willing to be honest - or if they're shifty-eyed and evasive - then take that as a sign that the program probably isn't somewhere you want to be.

BadWolf

@martinipie What Xanthophyllippa said, it is all wise. Although, speaking as probably the Most Disillusioned Person in my own grad program, you might have to ask the perky people how to get hold of the people like me, since we definitely aren't happy houring together these days. But you should try to talk to the people who are less than thrilled! We have valuable advice! Like "Don't sleep with your classmates" and "Don't maybe try to do architectural conservation if what you really like is history."

Xanthophyllippa

@BadWolf True story: when I was finishing up my first MA at Fancy Ivy League School (with whom I had a mutually vituperant parting of the ways before finishing my intended Ph.D.), three of my fellow students and I met with a prospective student who wanted to come to work in our field. The other three were raving about the program, but I was really quiet; finally, he asked why I hadn't said anything. I told him, "Well, I've had kind of an atypical experience here, and I don't want you to think it's like that for everyone." He looked me squarely in the eye and said, "If something went wrong that you are comfortable sharing, I really need to know." So I told him.

And he thanked me and then I didn't hear from him.

Then one day, two years later, I got an email from him. He wrote to say that he'd balanced what I said against what the other three had said, and decided he didn't want to run the risk. He went to a different school instead, and wanted me to know that he was deleriously happy and his advisor was amazingly supportive and that he really felt like a meaningful part of the program.

So, yeah. If you want to know where the landmines are, ask the unhappy/frustrated students. And if you are an unhappy/frustrated student, be honest with the prospectives who ask -- you're their best defense against a bad experience.

redheaded&crazy

any ... Masters in Public Policy people around? that's what I'm interested in. Like, genuinely interested in researching public policy and developing innovative public policy initiatives and that kind of thing!

Katie Heaney

@redheaded&crazie hey! this is what I'm in! email me: ktheaney@gmail.com

Katie Heaney

@Katie Heaney (I will give you mixed feelings!)

RK Fire

@redheaded&crazie: I have an urban planning degree so.. if you're interesting in urban policy, we could talk! Also a little bit about environmental policy too.

yamtoes

@redheaded&crazie I have an MPP - got it from a well-respected program and have a somewhat related job (though I don't use anything I learned in my program). I'm glad I have it, but let's just say I'm glad I didn't have to go into debt for it...

E
E

@redheaded&crazie I got my MA in a development/planning/policy field, and an alarming number of years working for a very large local government doing policy. And I have deeply mixed feelings about it. Deeply mixed.

Re employment, I don't know where you live, but bear in mind that for many govt fields, the money went when the housing crisis caused a general collapse in local and federal revenues. So when you get out of grad school expect to compete for scarce jobs agaisnt people who have more experience than you do because they actually were employed by a small town that went bankrupt. I'd recommend anyone who wants to go into this arena take the time to polish up on a marketable skill set- a language, a computer program, a concentration with growing needs. Also, don't take on more debt than is actually worth it. If you are going to work for a non profit for 22k a year, it probably isn't worth 60k in debt.

Evidence-based decision-making

@E This is very true. I work for the Ontario government and hire lots of grad students in the summer, and very very few actual people with Masters. In Canada public sector jobs have been declining for awhile now. On the other hand, post-degree certificate programs in public policy from a college are a good option without too much debt acquisition.

redheaded&crazy

This is all so helpful! Thank you guys.

@E I will definitely consider the marketable skill set thing. I've actually been reading/hearing a lot lately about women and technology and how not enough of us are going into it, and there's a need for it in Canada, and I used to be pretty good at that stuff (haha) when I was younger.

@Evidence-based decision-making the college thing is also a route I've considered! So the post-degree cert program makes people more employable in your opinion?

I started to take some college courses in a totally different arena and I don't know what it was, partly i felt they were too easy, or probably some other bad reasons but I didn't keep them up. Which is pretty lame. But maybe it just wasn't the right domain since I also was getting more into this public policy slant at that time!

When you say you hire lots of grad students you mean you hire lots of PhDs but not Masters?

Also ... you say you work for the Ontario government? hellooooooo stranger

*networking*

redheaded&crazy

@RK Fire Also I am definitely interested in urban planning! I actually am most interested probably in municipal politics, especially things like transit planning (it's being done incredibly astoundingly poorly in Toronto right now). I don't even know what is entailed by an urban planning degree! Oh god there are too many choices!

Evidence-based decision-making

@redheaded&crazie - hey you are in Toronto, right? Some programs are lamer than others, we should talk. I hire students part way through their programs at various levels, usually for 10-week summer jobs. I work in policy and operations - email is barbara.simmons@ontario.ca - and networking is the only way I ever got any jobs at all.

bowtiesarecool

@redheaded&crazie No idea about the Canadian system, but I'm currently getting my MPA, which in the US at least is the fraternal twin of the MPP. Lots of fun! I'm working in my field and taking coursework at night at a public university, so I will have maybe only $10k of debt at the end of all this, which is good because low paying public sector jobs! This is one of those degrees that probably only exists to make money for the school, but...I feel like I'm getting something out of it? Aside from just the piece of paper, I mean.

Danzig!

@bowtiesarecool What program are you attending? I'm at John Jay in NYC and I feel like it's... too easy, almost. Also where are you working?

bowtiesarecool

@Danzig! I go to George Mason in Virginia, just outside DC. I work as a nonprofit lobbyist. I don't doubt that professional programs are orders of magnitude less soul-killing than research oriented degrees (I mean, they can't make us hate it so much that we stop giving them tuition money! That's for the science grad students...), but it is gratifying to address things in class that are directly relevant to my day job, and not just chew on theory. I also tend to choose the more challenging professors when I can, which helps. Frankly, the biggest challenge is managing my time in such a way that I can devote the kind of energy I want to my academic work, instead of phoning it in. One of my school's strengths is the variety of extracurricular opportunities and connections it affords to the Washington policy community, but it's hard to take advantage of when you're already overcommitted!

dtowngirl

I got a MA in English. I loved it at the time, but after taking a break after finishing, I decided not to continue with the PhD. I am really glad I made that decision for a million reasons.

PotatoPotato

@dtowngirl: What are you doing now?

dtowngirl

@PotatoPotato
Marketing. I don't love it, but it's not bad. Things I love: I make more than 20 cents per hour; when I leave work, I actually leave work--I don't have to worry about all the work I have to do when I get home; I can afford to go on vacations, eat out, live a life, have a kid one day, etc. My main concern was that I wouldn't be able to find a teaching job when I completed the PhD, and I would end up as a 40-year-old with no marketable skills (in the eyes of those conducting interviews) and no work experience.

bb
bb

@dtowngirl All of the above (the post) x 1000 for English. I have my Phd in a different humanities field, and English always seemed the worst in terms of grad life as well as postgrad prospects.

liznieve

I can't tell if anyone has touched on this yet, but it also kind of delays Life. Like, seriously dating, moving on, growing up... I spent 3.5 years in grad school (after a year off) and it's disorienting getting out and all of your friends from undergrad are getting married and aren't entry level at their jobs. Seriously dating in grad school is nigh impossible, considering the hours, the stress, and the fact that school is necessarily priority numero 1.

Just my 0.02! Although I also couldn't do my current job without going to school, and although it's a shitty profession, I suppose deep down I love it.

nonvolleyball

@liznieve not to mention that if you DO find that grad school boy/girlfriend, & things work out, you now officially have a Two-Body Problem if it's someone from your program (& even if they're not, albeit to a lesser extent).

my husband & I started dating when I was a freshman & he was taking a year off between college & starting his PhD--that actually worked really well logistically (in addition to, obviously, emotionally) but this strategy isn't really universally applicable.

liznieve

@nonvolleyball
AAAAND if you are on the professor-track, and so is your significant other, HAHAHAHAHA good luck getting matched together.

liznieve

@liznieve
Also, which isn't to say life is all about significant others and babies and whatever. But it will make you feel a little socially stunted when you emerge from your academic cocoon, bewildered and likely still fuzzy from the womb. And not knowing what the fuck a "Katy Perry" is.

Ellie

@liznieve I definitely appreciate all these concerns. However I have to add that my mom, who has a Ph.D. and is a professor and advisor to graduate students, always maintains that graduate school is actually a pretty good time to have a kid because you have flexible hours, can get a parental leave of absence, can make your own schedule, have health insurance, etc. It maybe takes you longer (it took my mom longer because she had me during), but at the end of it you have both a Ph.D. and a kid, and if having both those things is important to you it's ok that it takes longer.

nonvolleyball

@liznieve my husband frequently feels the "why am I still waiting for my career to start?!" pangs, & he's otherwise really happy with his program & work. there are certainly crappier things about the whole system, but that's one of the most unavoidable ones.

& yes, haha, the "Two-Body Problem" is shorthand for "two academics who wanna be in the same program/school/metro area/time zone." if I had been focused enough to get a PhD myself, it would've been in the same field as my husband, which is one of MANY reasons I'm glad I just got a job post-college instead.

maybe the best advice to anyone considering grad school is to try to date/marry a PhD & then derive vicarious intellectual engagement from your partner. :)

christonacracker

@liznieve Oh man. My boyfriend emerged from his PhD cocoon at age 30 and a year later, is still stunned that he can't get his 20's back. Social maturation happens at a very different rate in Grad Land. I'm pretty sure he would chop off his weiner to go back and never have to deal with real life and marriage and babies and working during daylight hours.

liznieve

@Ellie
Also totally depends on what you're studying! If it's something that you can reasonably do off-site, then awesome! Go at it. But if it's something studio-based or library-based, it might be a little harder.

In my own experience, in architecture it would have been entirely im. Possible. to do anything but draw and model and eat luna bars and watch chunks of your hair fall out onto the floor.

the angry little raincloud

@nonvolleyball Never date anyone in your field!!!! Historians can match up well with philosophers, or biologists.

(I've always instinctively done this anyway. I don't want to go home and talk shop with my [nonexistent] boyfriend. I think hot science dorks complete me. Speaking of which: any male 'Pinners / hot science/math/linguistics/comp sci dudes out there?)

HeyThatsMyBike

@christonacracker Weird. Do we have the same boyfriend? Except he's 29 and won't be done for about a year and half, so maybe you are from the future and dating my boyfriend then?

We are in totally different fields and have totally different attitudes toward graduate school. He loves every single aspect of it save the poverty, and wants to go into academia, and I am counting down the words I need to write to get the hell out and go back into the "business" world.

Mila

@nonvolleyball Oh, seriously, this. I remember starting the grad school application process at the same time as my now husband, and looking at the numbers on academic jobs, and realizing it was utterly impossible that we would both get academic jobs in the same location, and that someone would have to change their plans (which worked out fine. Lots of other jobs for science people like me and science academia I learned in grad school is a creepy place, for me at least).

bb
bb

@Ellie All true though studies do show that women with kids Are the least likely to make it from phd to tenure

Most likely? Men with kids. Then men without kids, then women without.
Awesome. Though also awesome that your mom is an exception and an advisor!

Ellie

@bb I'm sure that's the case. It sucks. For what it's worth the three (female) professors I worked with the most closely in undergrad all have kids and relatively stable teaching positions. Only one (dept chair) has tenure though. My mom doesn't. But neither does my dad (also a professor).

bearleader

@liznieve That happened to me. I married someone in my grad program, and it took us a few years of struggling before we ended up getting jobs in the same department. We're still underemployed. BUT there is an upside, and that is that now I have a guaranteed substitute teacher for sick days and an editor for all my research. And I can talk about my weird and obscure area of interest with my husband as much as I want!

mawg

Your last point about how schools need first-year students to teach their giant classes for cheap is something I've been thinking about alot - it seems like any other unsustainable exploitative situation. But here, the product is education, not coffee or tennis shoes. Does that make it ok? I don't know. I like education for the masses. I partook of it as an undergrad. But I definitely don't like the enforced poverty part of being a graduate student.

I'm Not Rufus

@mawg How is it unsustainable or exploitative? Very few people who sign up for grad school are confused about the wages they'll be receiving as grad students. People still line up to go to grad school because there are a lot of other perks (like getting to spend most of your time working on whatever questions interest you) that compensate us for the terrible wages and the frustratingly unmotivated undergrads. If there's any dishonesty or exploitation, it involves taking advantage of moderately but not exceptionally talented people who are mistakenly convinced that a PhD is their ticket to their dream job.

lalaura

@mawg And that's why grad students unionize!
Some public universities (like all of the University of California) have labor unions for teaching assistants and instructors. Private university grad students are not allowed to organize, though.

Kristen

@I'm Not Rufus I'd say it's unsustainable and exploitative because people line up for academia because it sells itself as running on an apprenticeship model -- the idea is if you work long hours for low wages as a graduate student, you'll eventually move on to becoming a tenure-track professor.

In reality, though, the professoriat has been gutted: tenure-track jobs are being replaced by a host of low-wage, part time, insecure adjunct positions. No one in their right mind would spend 6+ years in school to become an adjunct. Grad students are led to believe that if they're good enough (as opposed to "moderately but not exceptionally talented") they will get jobs. The fact is, though, that everyone knows there simply aren't enough jobs to go around. If university administrations were ethical, they would admit fewer students - or, hell, flunk out those students who weren't "good enough" after the first year. However, they won't do that, because they rely on having a huge pool of graduate students to use as low-wage workers and then to churn through the adjunct system for a few years before they give up and burn out. This has nothing to do with any one student's individual brilliance or talent -- this how the system is _set up_, and it is undeniably exploitative.

anachronistique

@Kristen It also has the potential to be really awful for the undergrads. Some grad students make absolutely brilliant teachers. Some grad students are thrown in with no training at all and flounder around and do nobody any good. At the institution I work for you could probably go until your junior year having classes taught solely by grad student lecturers, and I don't think that's the greatest idea ever.

I'm Not Rufus

@Kristen I'm not sure exactly where you're disagreeing with me. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with grad students being paid very little to teach undergrads; it keeps the cost of college low for undergrads and it's something that someone is willing pay grad students for doing. I agree that, if the human capital aspect of grad school is overblown by schools, that would be dishonest.

I don't know how this is in other fields, so maybe you can share your experience, but in my field (which is sort of an exception because very nearly 100% of students who complete a PhD are able to find well-paying, related jobs) it's common practice for schools to post a list of their graduates' initial placements on their websites. So my experience has not been that schools are deceptive about what graduates can expect, but as I say my field might not be representative.

I'm not sure how I'd feel about involuntary restriction of how many students can get a PhD. Maybe you'd be doing some overconfident students a favor, but that also sounds weirdly paternalistic -- "we're not even going to let you get a shot to prove yourself because we're so confident you'll make yourself unhappy" -- without bringing any benefit to the larger university community. I don't know, it seems to me that the most fair solution is to be really upfront with students about what they can expect to get out of their degrees and let them make decisions for themselves like the adults that they are.

I'm Not Rufus

@anachronistique A lot of profs are pretty miserable at teaching too! The tenure incentives are all wrong and schools don't select very much for teaching ability. It probably doesn't help that most of the accountability for teaching quality comes from undergraduate teaching evaluations, which are often a better measure of whether you're good-looking, funny, or assign little work than they are of whether your teaching style causes students to successfully learn concepts and intellectually develop.

jaritos

@I'm Not Rufus I really have to disagree. There is a lot wrong with graduate students not being paid a living wage for our labor. Furthermore, the "savings" for the university at the hands of our exploitation are not being passed on to the students. It's going into the development dreams of every deanlet and provost who is charting a path to the R1 through campus expansion and grant mongering. Undergraduate tuition is steadily mounting as teaching duties fall to underpaid contract labor, which, as @Kristen said, is what awaits the majority of current humanities PhDs for at least the first few years out on the market.

I'm Not Rufus

@jaritos Most graduate students are being given the cost of tuition, access to university resources, and a stipend in return for part-time teaching responsibilities and some research work that often has no social value. In grad school, the focus of your time is on doing things for yourself: Researching the things you're interested in, building your own human capital. It is not surprising (or unfair) that people who pursue occupations where the benefits of their work accrue primarily to themselves are not paid so handsomely.

Point being, nobody is forcing anyone to sign up for grad school! If you find the wages unacceptable, then there are plenty of other careers available. It is really difficult for me to think of graduate student wages as exploitative when most grad students could easily find a different, well-paying job with normal hours and working conditions. The fact that graduate students still pick graduate school goes to show either that they're idiots (who knows, could be true) or that they're getting enough other perks that they prefer the perks and the crap wages to good wages at a "normal" job.

Like I said, I can see a case for exploitation if schools are convincing students to stay in grad school on a dishonest promise of a better career down the line. If anything, though, paying higher wages in grad school would convince more people to go to grad school (and fewer people to drop out), which only makes the promises about a faculty job more tenuous for the rest of us.

jaritos

@I'm Not Rufus I'm not going to continue this argument much further because I have far too much work that may be of "no social value" to do. I understand that you believe individuals have chosen to put themselves in a precarious position by attending graduate school, but I simply cannot cotton to the idea that individual choice negates systemic abuse. The modern university has become marketized to a point that arguments that continue to defend graduate school as a term of apprenticeship are simply outdated. There are far better sources than me on this, so I will exercise the citational politics of a good scholar and point to Marc Bousquet's How the University Works and Chris Newfield's Unmaking the Public University, both beautifully researched and excellent sources for anyone considering (or engaging in) graduate life.

I'm Not Rufus

@jaritos "The modern university has become marketized to a point that arguments that continue to defend graduate school as a term of apprenticeship are simply outdated."

Once again, I think what you're saying here is that it is exploitation if people are deceived by a false promise to sign up for a PhD. I agree! What I don't agree with is that if someone is working hard and not being paid a lot, that necessarily means they're being exploited, which seems to be a key premise in Bousquet's claim that even tenure track faculty are being exploited. (Haven't glanced at the other book.) Are undergraduates exploited because they aren't paid to be in school? Are stay-at-home moms exploited because they aren't paid to be taking care of their children?

Anyhow, maybe a prolonged discussion won't change anyone's mind about what exactly it means to be "exploited", so maybe it's best for me to leave this discussion alone now and go work on my own (hopefully moderately socially productive) research. But I think we can all agree that it's generally a good idea for graduate students (and former graduate students) to be vocal and honest with prospective graduate students about what exactly they'd be signing up for, which is why it's great that the Hairpin is running this kind of article.

DarthChewie

@I'm Not Rufus The posts above have successfully rebutted I'm Not Rufus, so I will address only one point that no one else has.

It is not true that the only options are either 1) to accept things the way they are or 2) find "other careers" if "the wages [are] unacceptable."

There is a third option, and that is to attempt to reform institutions from within by calling attention to unfair and destructive practices.

And to I'm Not Rufus, if people in previous generations had adopted your "live with it or get the hell out" approach, this world would be a lot less livable place for you (and everyone else).

I'm Not Rufus

"There is a third option, and that is to attempt to reform institutions from within by calling attention to unfair and destructive practices."

As I've said, it would make the world a better place if every graduate program published a list of where their graduates had gotten jobs. Great, people should make informed decisions about what they want to do with their lives.

What pisses me off is a self-pity attitude that equates well-informed graduate students with sweatshop workers in genuinely harmful, exploitative situations. Look at these poor college-educated people who could quit and get a job in consulting whenever they want. Graduate students are extraordinarily privileged, but apparently many grad students don't recognize it. We have the freedom to spend our time on what we want. Demanding a higher salary when it was YOU who picked a low-paying but fun job strikes me as incredibly entitled, as if your sheer wonderfulness should cause others to fall all over themselves pulling out their wallets to pay you.

And saying that the money would just come out of administrators' pet projects is a cheap way of pretending that the money for higher salaries would come out of thin air. It reminds me of when politicians pretend that they can cut taxes by eliminating the great mythical Wasteful Spending. No, someone has to pay for it, and it will have a cost. Higher tuition? Less funding for research?

Ok, rant over. Sorry if that was too forceful, I'm sure you're all really nice people but this particular attitude bugs the heck out of me.

Xanthophyllippa

@I'm Not Rufus Consulting is WICKED hard to get into, though, and it doesn't pay enough to support most folks (and I'm not talking gold-plated cars; just basic rent + nutrition beyond ramen) until many years down the pike. I mean, I'm pretty well connected in my current field, and have mad trouble rounding up gigs; even when I do find something, most folks lowball so badly that it's actually counter-productive for me to take the job. If I had to recommend between staying in grad school or quitting to go into consulting, holy crap, stay in grad school.

Yankee Peach

I had the best of both worlds. I had a crappy job at a university that offered staffers with crappy jobs free and discounted courses. I got my master's from a pretty presigious place for very few dollars, just books, registration fees and some significant departmental hurdles to get accepted into the program. I don't know if I would have pursued my degree if I had to pay the big bucks but I loved every minute of it. I still think it was one of the best things I ever did for myself personally and professionally. I guess my advice if this is what you really want, find a way to make it work. You will not be sorry.

Myrtle

@Yankee Peach I've looked at that route also. The advice I've kept in my pocket was from my uncle, who advised me to "Get your work to pay for your schooling." Not sure how one would apply that to post-grad, but surely there are opportunities for some fields.

thenotestaken

@Myrtle My friends in finance jobs have this opportunity, I haven't heard about it from anyone else really. Sounds nice!

anachronistique

@Yankee Peach I'm thinking about doing this - getting a MA in higher ed administration. Useful and would probably bump me up another salary rung. But I'd have to take the GRE again. noooooooo

squid v. whale

"A chance to teach apathetic first-year students basic concepts about a topic that you know a lot about ... and tamp down the paralyzing despair when they half-ass most things"

THIS. And it's not just in the humanities! While teaching the intro to biology labs, I get remarks like, "This is hard!" and "Why is there so much reading?"

College is a privilege, not a right, and if you're not willing to work hard you can GTFO.

Edit: having a bad grading day. I really should focus more on the "happy to be here!" students.

MilesofMountains

@squid v. whale "which part of this do we ACTUALLY need to know?"
My favourite was TAing a lab for a course for which I had no experience in the topic. The day before the lab, the prof would teach me the topic. The next day, I'd teach it to the students and man, would they ever bitch about how it would take years of studying to remember the whole lab and it wasn't fair I was expecting them to learn it in a week.

gobblegirl

Do American grad schools start taking applications in sthe spring, or are you talking about applying for a Fall 2013 start? Because both of those are effed up.
I applied for grad school in February for a September start (rolling admission deadline, but still!).

Ellie

@gobblegirl A lot of deadlines are in December or early January for the following fall. I'm already planning my applications and stuff. There are definitely programs that have the option to start in spring, though.

annepersand

@gobblegirl What Ellie said, and also this is the time that you need to start thinking about/studying for/taking the GREs if you haven't yet for an American graduate program. And some schools really want you to have talked to professors in the department and identified a possible adviser before you go in (depends on school, depends on program) and the earlier you do that, generally the better, I guess? (I didn't do that, and it kind of screwed me over for some programs).

rararuby

The best advice I got regarding grad school was only do it for the love of the subject and absolute passion for your research subject, and never because you fetishize those elusive letters after your name. The passion will sustain you through those times when the scales fall away from your eyes and you realize that you have bought into a system of cheap, captive labour and ever-shrinking job prospects.
If you have a passion for your research, that will translate into opportunities outside of academia if needs be.
But, I am also European, and had free fees for the last 5 years of grad school (I'll pay a nominal amount next year for my final year of PhD), and a scholarship that allowed me to dedicate two full years to research with no teaching duties. I'm broke, but I'm not in debt, and the worst case scenario is that I spent these last few years luxuriating in scholarship, and I feel pretty grateful for that.
Also, I think it's a good idea to think outside of the continuous progression model. Take a year or more doing something outside of academia before starting grad school, it will make your decision more informed and make you a much more attractive candidate for jobs both within academia and outside of it.

Xanthophyllippa

I have a feeling this thread is going to drive home exactly how bizarre my career arc makes me look: Ph.D. in a humanities discipline (mostly history), 6 years as a graduate assistant in a biology lab, and now I teach engineers. On paper, I look like a Frankenstein of education and experience, but at the same time...hey, I stepped right out of my Ph.D. and right into a job. A teaching job, even.

wallsdonotfall

@Xanthophyllippa Bizarre but hopefully satisfying. We live a long time, most of us; what's the point of all that time if we don't try to pursue all that interests us?

(I've had the opposite trajectory of yours, on a shorter timescale: studied the hard sciences, then switched to the most economically useless of humanities. Now I'm in IT and I love it.)

ellbeejay

The best question I was asked: Could you possibly even think about doing anything else? When I answered NO and meant it, then my MA advisor told me she'd write my letters for PhD programs. The answer is still usually no, but usually it's not capslock.

Sunny Schomaker@twitter

@ellbeejay So, so true. There is nothing else that I want to do, and even so, there are days I long to throw myself in front of a bus.

I also volunteer myself for the Ask a Social Science Grad Student.

Enough screwing around; time to get back to studying for prelims and applying for adjunct jobs (yay).

ellbeejay

@Sunny Schomaker@twitter Today is definitely a step-before-a-bus day for me. I am addressing wedding invitations and cleaning my bathroom (<3 u, bleachie) instead of writing my Last Seminar Paper Ever.

blee

@Sunny Schomaker@twitter whoops I meant to reply to you instead of @ellbeejay:

I would like to also volunteer myself for Ask a Social Science Grad Student! Except I'm (supposedly) getting my MA in three weeks, have really hated the entire experience, and am probably not going to pursue a PhD.

oeditrix

@ellbeejay I call bullshit on this question for two reasons.

1) How can you say with any certainty that you can't possibly think of yourself doing ANYTHING else? Do you know about every job there is? Plenty of people have terrific jobs that they love, which they would never have even known existed if they hadn't ended up there.

2) It actually doesn't matter what you can "possibly think" of yourself doing. If there are no jobs in a field, there are no jobs, and if you really can't "possibly think" of doing something else to make a living, you're going to be up a creek. I may not be able to envision myself doing anything but acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company, but guess what? Reality. Most of the employed people in this fallen world did not first envision their careers in a glowing nimbus of light - they ended up there.

Sorry, that all came out rather harsh. It's just that this well-intentioned question doesn't seem sage to me - it just reflects the general ignorance of academics of anything outside their world. Of course they're going to frame the question like that. THEY don't know what jobs are like outside the academy, so of course they can't imagine themselves doing anything else!

Profs who ask this may think they're dissuading students, but you ask an undergrad that, and their eyes are going to light up. It just makes them feel like "wanting it" enough makes them special.

ellbeejay

@oeditrix I get what you're saying. I do! And also, it's not super harsh or anything, because I probably should have added more context to my original post. But!

The question my advisor asked wasn't about getting a job or making a living. It wasn't about feeling special. It was about going into a PhD program/eventually gaining a PhD. And that's it.

Going to graduate school and getting a job are separate things--and a graduate degree, as several (dozens?) of people here have said, is not always a means to an end (or a desirable good-city, tenure-track end). I'm getting a PhD precisely because I "want it." There is no other way I wanted to spend/could think of spending this five-to-seven years of my life, up a creek or not. I know that's not enough to get me a job, especially in my particular field, and I came into my program with eyes wide open re: the job market, etc. The be all, end all, for me, is not being *^~a professor~^*, or even getting a tangentially related job. I came to graduate school because I wanted to study and learn. I want a PhD. If I end up with a job? Oh, hey! Party! But a job? That's not the reason I'm here. That's not a good reason to be here. I'm here for the work. I'm here for my life now, not making a living three or four years from now. Maybe that's financially irresponsible or whatever, but it's true.

(Incidentally, I totally said this to the people who interviewed me for admissions and funding at my current institution just like I'm saying it to you. And I got full funding, plus.)

I do agree that this question (and the context of this question) might not work for everyone, but my advisor (who is actually one of the least ignorant academics I know, re: all the concerns in this thread, and absolutely a no bullshit kind of lady) asked me precisely what I needed to be asked at the time.

oeditrix

@ellbeejay Fair enough. It sounds like this lady is a good egg, and there are lots of good and responsible profs out there who will give it to you straight when you ask.

Still, I do think it's unfortunate that most brilliant undergrads get almost all of their mentoring from professors. I mean, think about it: pretty much every academic an undergrad meets is a "successful" academic, or at least someone who's chosen to stay in the life. No matter what a professor says, it's going to be colored by her experience, which is all as it should be - but there's nothing on the other side to balance it out. Undergrads never meet the ones who went to grad school for a few years, got interested in doing other things, and went on to have exciting careers outside academia.

tvplease

@Sunny Schomaker@twitter Can I also volunteer for Ask a Social Science Grad Student? MA + 2 years into a doctoral program right here. And now I will stop reading this open thread and go write my summer syllabus....

And good luck on prelims (or as we call it at my program, your academic hazing)!

ohpioneer

Grad school part time (MA in History) + teaching full time (high school social studies) = Oh, the humanity(ies)!

dham

In my meeting for my second year review (humanities PhD program), my committee chair had one of his strongest undergraduate students waiting in the hallway to ask for letters of recommendation for grad school. The professor told me he was planning to refuse to write a letter, and instead recommend the student chose another career path.

This is to say that if you do get into and attend a great PhD program, you will also be constantly confronting what a bad idea everyone knows it to be for the next six years of your life.

oeditrix

@dham Wish more professors would take a hard line on this. I wouldn't refuse to recommend a student, but I would insist on sending them to a career center or at least having a good long conversation first. Too many profs have a distinct lack of imagination of what else those students could be doing with their lives.

Scandyhoovian

I just finished my MA in History and while I DO NOT for ONE SECOND regret doing it, I am having a hard time finding a job right now and I'm getting tired of hearing, "So, you want to be a teacher?" (no) and "Are you going to get your PhD?" (not for a while).

Ah, this job market. It's disheartening, but at the same time I know I am not the only person in this boat, and I am not unemployed, so it's not a horrendously scary situation. Even still, it's kind of hard being a recent MA finisher person.

rabbitheart

This is so great because I am entering a humanities MA program next semester at a great school and have my eye on the PhD. I know that getting an MA separate from the PhD is not ideal, but I need the degree to be competitive for the next round of applications. I have a great job in another field, but a burning desire to teach and a super creepy passion for my super creepy subject. My research area is kind of sort of digital humanities/philosophy of science/biotech ethics. SO! TO THE QUESTIONS:

I know party lines have been drawn regarding interdisciplinary departments and research areas, but do you think/have you seen evidence that interdisciplinary programs are doing better in terms of future job prospects? Opinions on interdisciplinary programs in general are also welcome.

Is it like really really really really impossible to get a job teaching at a community college with an MA? I know competition is fierce right now, but knowing that my MA will give me the ability to teach if a PhD offer doesn't happen right away would help me sleep at night.

Emby

@24k I know that at least in science, the funding organizations haven't actually caught up with the rhetoric when it comes to interdisciplinarity. Sure they talk the talk, but then it comes to actually funding projects -- let alone tenure review -- specialty in a particular field will usually win out over interdisciplinary considerations. There's some evidence that's changing, but it's not a sure thing yet.

rabbitheart

@Emby You're telling me -- when I was looking at external funding, it was as if nobody had ever heard of my area of inquiry, which I guess is like STEM's artsy younger cousin? I feel good knowing that my work is relevant to current advancement in actual hard science and medicine, but not so good when I realize not everyone even understands the field exists. Also, my work fits into All The Programs! It just depends on the faculty...English, Philosophy, Media. So many questions!

thenotestaken

@Emby This is true for publishing as well. A colleague I know who does a lot of really interdisciplinary social geography stuff has had a hard time getting published even in journals that claim to welcome mixed methods. They always tell her to eliminate either the quantitative or the qualitative. So frustrating!

Mila

@24k I was in an interdisciplinary program (ecology, affiliated with but not a part of a biology program), and there are some HUGE drawbacks. You kind of end up being the orphan step child, where you don't really fit in either program. I remember when T.A. positions were being handed out, they went first to the biology people, and we would only get what was left over. And because you are taking classes all over the place, you are not as known of a commodity in any one department, which can affect the relationships you form with professors.

When it comes to the job market, there are a lot of jobs that are looking for someone in a very particular field (like biology or fisheries science in my case) and aren't sure what to make of your odd ball degree. My husband also got an interdisciplinary degree, and when he was getting it, would totally thought it would confer all these advantages on the job market, but again, if he had just gotten like an English or Spanish degree, there are a thousand academic jobs for English or Spanish prof, and they are sort of distrustful of someone who doesn't fit neatly into the box, even if it means you have a more diverse skill set than most people. But then, he did get a job so it can all work out great.

Personally, I love on an intellectual level interdisciplinary work, and I can't imagine doing my studies any other way, despite the challenges it created. The most important thing about grad school is to LOVE what you are studying.

Mila

@thenotestaken Oh, I forgot about this - getting a book (or articles) published is SUCH a pain in the butt if you are interdisciplinary, because they send it to readers who are in the traditional fields and their responses are so often "why didn't they just write this from my discipline's perspective?" So annoying.

Anne Helen Petersen

@24k You MAY be able to snatch a community college job (depending on your field) but the chances are very low. Desperate PhDs are now filling the CC jobs.

Xanthophyllippa

@24k I think you might be in my field!! The names Kuhn and Popper mean anything to you?

rabbitheart

@Xanthophyllippa ha! oh i know dear old k&p, but i spend way more time with kurzweil and fukuyama

Xanthophyllippa

@24k Ooo! Ooo! I teach Kurzweil. Last time I paired him with a chapter out of Michael Crichton's "Prey" and scared the crap out of my undergrads.

rabbitheart

@Xanthophyllippa ugh you are living my DREAM. whenever my husband talks about the way way way future, i always answer with "well it won't matter because we will all be robots." best ever.

koala

I'm A Humanities Grad Student, and this is all spot on. I've been telling my friends the same exact things when they ask me for advice. I would also add that there is no rush if you're still in school (at least, at the time I applied, when the economy was slightly better) - I took a year off between undergrad and grad school, hung around my college town, had fun working as a cook, and then went back to school well rested and sure that it was what I really wanted to do with my life. Although I do still often find myself missing that restaurant job.

I also agree with the comments above that you should never, ever have to pay your way through grad school, at least in my field. And if you have your top picks among schools, make sure you look at their benefits packages too. The lack of money is soul crushing enough without having to worry about tuition and health insurance on top of that. Be prepared to swallow your bitterness as your college friends buy houses and go on honeymoons in Thailand.

ImASadGiraffe

I got an MBA with an accounting focus. Ended up as an auditor with the IRS, hated that job, and switched to working in IT. Still don't like it, but my pay is almost to the point where my yearly salary matches how much student loan debt I have. Plus, public service loan forgiveness kicks in after another 7 years of income-based repayment.

But, you don't need a master's to work here. A Bachelor's will get you in as a GS-5, if you're in a career-ladder position you'll be a GS-9 in two years. So not sure my grad degree did me much good other than me learning a lot about accounting and taxes.

jobin526

Ugh this is such a great thread for such a fraught discussion topic!

FWIW, I went to grad school for my MA in Arts Administration right after college. While I learned a ton and know I wouldn’t have the job I have now without it, lots of my classmates were so disillusioned they abandoned the field altogether (some are still unemployed two years later!), and I currently have over $100K in student loans to my name (Congress, if you repeal the Loan Forgiveness Act 9 years from now I will never forgive you).

Ultimately, going was the right choice for me, but the number of unknowns and classmates who haven’t found success have made me incredibly wary about recommending it as an option for others.

SternMathPrincess

I would love to comment on getting a Ph.D. in a technical field if anyone is curious about THAT. I just started and I think the experience is a little different here.

SternMathPrincess

@SternMathPrincess Actually, not to blatantly reply to my own comment, but why isn't there a Hairpin column called, "Ask a Technical Ph.D. Student?" Umm, shouldn't this be a thing? You know, for a balanced perspective?

claireh

@SternMathPrincess my girlfriend is going for her PhD in environmental science in the fall. i'm excited for her, but also nervous that we will be poor forever. at least she got funded!

katrina panovich@twitter

@SternMathPrincess Yes! I'd love to commiserate and feel less alone... I'm a 4th year PhD student in computer science.

chickaboom

@SternMathPrincess what do you mean by technical fields? does this include the hard sciences? (i was writing a reply and then i realized you might not be roping science ph.ds in with that.)

SternMathPrincess

@claireh - You will be poor for a while. But it will be totally worth it.
@katrina panovich@twitter - What kind of CS are you studying? That is also what I do.
@chickaboom - I totally include the hard sciences in "technical fields" - Just a slightly different world than the humanities that should also be represented!

chickaboom

@SternMathPrincess Very different world, I think! Similar gripes, because, well, grad student life, but totally different (dare i say) societal privilege. I am about to start a hard sciences PhD and I too thought about how this grad school discussion didn't really apply to me, but it didn't really bother me, I guess. Because society and everyone I meet reinforces my decision to go to science grad school all the time, whereas my humanities friends have to fight to be respected! Which I think sucks, so I'm glad for this post.

That said, it'd be cool to hear from 'Pinner technical field grad students too! I'm sure I'm gonna need some commiserating myself this fall.

mysterygirl

Ah, I've always wanted to pitch "The Best Time I Dropped Out of My Humanities Ph.D. Program" to the Hairpin!

(Best decision of my adult life, FWIW, not that I've made a lot of adult decisions.)

jennfizz

@mysterygirl I'll follow you up with "The Best Time I Dropped Out of My Humanities Ph.D program".

jennfizz

@mysterygirl I'll follow you up with "The Best Time I Dropped Out of My Humanities Ph.D program".

billie_crusoe

@mysterygirl I can add "Best time I dropped out of medical school," but spoiler alert: I wish I'd suffered through. OH GOD THE DEBT and no MD salary to pay it off.

Xanthophyllippa

@jennfizz I could follow up with "The Best Time I Told My Humanties Ph.D. Program to Fuck Off and Ended Up Somewhere Far Better Two Years Later."

mishaps

@mysterygirl I'd be happy to follow up with "The Best Time I Finished My Humanities Ph.D. and then Went Off and Made a Successful Career Outside of Academia." Also a totally awesome decision, BTW, though I got treated like I was going to a leper colony by some of my former colleagues...

Cavendish

@mishaps I want to know your story! I want to finish my PhD but know I don't want an academic job.

mishaps

@Cavendish I could talk all night! Short version is - I did a whole bunch of humanities computing work to help keep body and soul together in grad school, decided I liked it a lot and it would allow me to move back to New York, and I got into what used to be called information architecture and is now sometimes called interaction design. It's a field that asks for (a) creativity (b) insight into people and their situations (hello, cultural studies coursework); and (c) analytic, systems thinking, so it was total catnip to me.

If I can soapbox for a minute, I think it's a great career for anyone who is comfortable with tech and likes asking the question "why?" You don't have to be a great coder, though some basic HTML savvy helps, and while there are now grad programs in the field, there's enough demand that a self-educated person with a good portfolio of work they've put together themselves ("here's how my idea for an app would work!) could get in the door.

I did get a lot of sympathy from my peers for my "failure," and it took a lot of effort to get past that. As a friend of mine in college and grad school put it, all of grad school is about pushing your head down and keeping your eyes on the path. Looking up is hard, and there are a lot of people actively trying to stop you from doing it. But when you manage it, you see there is a whole world out there, not just the path you're on, and you can step off it. He spoke wise. (And then went off to Hollywood, but that's another story.)

@serenityfound

I finished my MA in Cultural Studies and could not get into a PhD program or a teaching job (both because of a dumb combination of the interdisciplinarity of the field and my lack of teaching experience). I loved being part of a community of scholars again but hate that I've got so much debt now and am doing a job that (as noted in the article) doesn't have anything to do with my degree/I could have done just as well before grad school. It's not a bad job (I might get a second MA in Instructional Design basically for free out of it and it has benefits), but I do wish I were at least tangentially related to my field(s) of study.

oeditrix

@@serenityfound Don't hate me for saying this, but you dodged a bullet. Just imagine having the same feeling you have now, only with more debt and you're five years older.

(And YES, even with full tuition and a stipend, you're going to rack up more debt - both consumer and student debt, probably - in a PhD program, unless living in a big expensive city on $18,000 a year for the next 5 years sounds plausible to you.)

@serenityfound

@oeditrix I don't hate you for saying it! It's what I keep telling myself when I start to get depressed or unsatisfied by my job. It was just super frustrating to finally feel like I knew what to do with my life (teach! be a professor! inspire the kiddos!) and then get shot down. Especially when everyone seemed so shocked by it (it seems like that should make you feel better, but it really doesn't).

oeditrix

@@serenityfound Right there with you! Just remember that if you got an MA you are good at lots and lots of things, that there's more than one "path" for everyone, and that there are more ways to help the kiddos (and the rest of the world) than teaching cultural studies (even though I agree that's a good and appealing one).

Also, I am very big on this book for people who've been in academia but are pursuing career paths outside the university: http://www.amazon.com/What-Are-You-Going-That/dp/0226038823
It's easy to read and it helped me sort through some of those feelings and think about my career in a different way.

@serenityfound

@oeditrix Hm...I might pick up the Kindle edition since it's only a few bucks, even though I'm a year out from the initial rejections and flailing confusions with a solid, non-retail job (even if it's often a bit mind-numbing at times). Although my pangs of jealousy at a recent conference I attended over other folks talking about the PhD programs they're starting in the Fall probably shows that I'm still not totally over the whole thing...

(also, this whole thread is so amazing I can't even)

mirror_father_mirror

@oeditrix Ha! One of the authors of that book is a professor IN MY HUMANITIES GRAD PROGRAM. Even they don't have hope for us.

brista128

What if I just want to teach part-time evening or weekend classes at a community college in addition to my normal non-academic day job? Good idea, bad idea? It would be for something like Women's Studies/English/History/etc.

I don't have a Burning Passion for any one particular area, but I really really want to teach. I just know for sure I am not cutthroat enough to deal with tenure and all of that, plus I don't want to be forced to move across country just because that's where the job is. And I don't want a PhD. I have a job I like, I'd just like to supplement it with another job I think I'd also like. The only issue is I'd need a master's to do it.

Sunny Schomaker@twitter

@brista128 Look into community colleges. Many of them only require an MA/MS (and in some cases, a BA and work experience will suffice). Also, if you live in a city with a (seemingly) never ending source of cheap teaching labor (mid-sized cities with large research universities, large cities with several universities), this will not happen.

However, getting a TESOL certificate, while not cheap (depending on where/how you do it, it can be anywhere from 4 weeks to 1 year), can lead to an ESL teaching job, which as a part time gig, is really fun (exhausting, but fun).

yamtoes

@brista128 From what I know, adjunct jobs pay verrry poorly. So while it might be personally rewarding, you probably wouldn't be earning more than a couple thousand per semester.

billie_crusoe

@brista128 My brutal opinion is: Don't pay for a master's if it's not a terminal degree and you don't want to go back for a PhD. I paid for my master's, and I feel like it kind of screwed me in the job market. I'm overqualified for most jobs I apply for, or my master's isn't the right one (an MS, not an MPH), or whatever. I'm working retail for 8.75 an hour with ungodly out-of-state tuition debt. I am starting my PhD this fall with funding, so it's cool, but I kind of feel pushed into a PhD because my master's is useless. I would feel less bitter about my master's if it had been not so expensive, and it was a great experience, etc., but, hindsight.

Anecdata: Where I live, getting to teach at a CC is a long process: apply to be on the college's list of adjunct faculty, and someday when they need a new adjunct to teach a class, they'll interview you and maybe have you teach. My friend in Boston who is adjuncting with a MS in biochem (or something like that) got called for his first class THE DAY BEFORE class started.

Sunny Schomaker@twitter

@che My anecdata matches your anedata. I once got called to teach a developmental writing course a week into the semester. I couldn't take the job, primarily because it was at a satellite campus (and I don't have a car). Then, the next year, I was turned down for the same job I HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY OFFERED because my graduate degree is in French (and not English).

Adjuncting (is that a verb? Sure, I'm a language professional and I say yes.): good times.

Kulojam

@Sunny Schomaker@twitter Good advice! TEFL (or TESOL, or your favorite acronym) is a great way to dip your toe into teaching. I moved to a foreign country where Spanish is the official language, so I figured a TEFL certificate was a great idea, and it was - it allowed me to teach English, which I'd always wanted to do. But I learned I don't like teaching so much. As someone who has always had grad school for humanities in the back of my mind, getting that real world experience with a $1000 investment and 3 months of coursework proved invaluable - I figured out that I don't necessarily want to teach (granted, teaching English at an all-boys school in Chile might not be the "typical" teaching experience, and I did love my adult students from my part-time gig, and teaching ESL in the US might be completely different from what I experienced). Anyway, the point is that while I would still love to immerse myself in what I love, I have to figure out if grad school is worth it if teaching is not my end goal. So now I wait, think and research. But hell yeah, TEFL/TESOL certificates are great!

@serenityfound

@brista128 I just want to second @che's comment about the long process for adjuncting. In a lot of places, you apply for the adjunct pool, maybe get accepted, then maybe get called in for a gig here and there if you're lucky. Another thing to keep in mind is that you'll be in that pool with people who have MA/MS/PhD (or are ABD) degrees so, even if they don't specify that a grad degree is necessary for the position, . Also, depending on the state/district, if your degree isn't "technically" in the area of the class you might have to prove "equivalency", which is a total pain in the ass. For example, I did my BA in Sociology and an MA in Cultural Studies but, since none of my CS classes were listed as *sociology* courses at my grad school I couldn't even apply to teach a sociology class at a CC without going through a bunch of red tape.

kisilsha

@Kulojam Ooh, tell me more! I'm working abroad as a (Soc sci MA'd but non-MLS'd) librarian and considering TEFL/TESOL certificate. Sometimes they want in-person and I think I can only do distance, tho. Suggestions? Anyone know what ranks well for TEFL/TESOL qualifications? How long does it usually take/how much does it cost for online?

I can't go back to US for long for tax reasons, but I suppose I could attend a summer prog for it in another country... do they have that?

I'm sure I can pick up work experience here, but I need the cert as well! I looove my Soc Sci MA subject, but not sure that I want to be underemployed as an adjunct forever, so I'm looking for other ways to have meaningful work abroad.

Kulojam

@kisilsha
I did TEFL institute's online course. I picked TEFL institute because a friend of a friend works there, and.....that's about it. And it is a reputable company, too. Anyway, distance learning was the only option for me, so that's what I did. It took about 3 months to finish and cost 1000 bucks (if you want a "real" TEFL certificate, this is the average price - don't be fooled by the "300 dollar" ads - they only give you partial certification, and everywhere I applied wanted full certification).

I also chose TEFL institute because they had a teaching internship requirement - in order to get my certificate, I had to complete 40 hours of teaching in a student teaching position. The institute did NOT help me find the internship, I had to do it by myself (I had a friend who teaches at a local university hook me up with that uni's English department and then went in and observed for a week). I found that even that small bit of "teaching experience" helped me get a job once I completed the certificate.

As for gaining employment: I'm not sure where you are, but for me, emailing my certificate and CV to English institutes/schools yielded absolutely nothing in the job department, which is a typical Chilean phenomenon. Not until I spent a day dropping off my CV in person did I get any job offers (and in fact, I got three the following day). Do not be afraid to use any and all connections - I got my job at a private all-boys' school by having an acquaintance forward my CV to her boss.

Oh, also: the institute did not help me with job placement. They did provide a PDF of all the known English schools/institutes, but I had to do all the work myself. I do believe some programs will place you, but I think they are in-person programs.

Good luck, and message me with any questions (chilejamie at gmail dot com)!

olivebee

Oh man, I am so thankful for this (and for you all with answers)! I desperately want to become an elementary school teacher and my undergrad major wasn't even remotely related. So to do so, I obviously have to go back to school. I cannot afford full-on grad school (like a Masters in education or something), so I am considering doing a one-year teaching certificate program. Has anyone done one of these? If so, did it make you less likely to get a job than someone with an actual degree in education? Or if you haven't done it, were you able to become a teacher after having majored in something unrelated (my major was tv/film studies fwiw)?

Thanks in advance for any potential responses!!!!

null

@olivebee My boyfriend got his maters in education last year and is a first year third grade teacher so I asked him what he thought about those teaching certificates and he had this to say:

"Well, I suppose it depends on the geographic region in which he/she hopes to work. There are regions where the need is so high that you might be able to find work with solely the certificate. Then there are states like Oregon where you must have a Master's to obtain licensure. Most of the country is moving in the latter direction. Given the general direction things are headed - I honestly wouldn't bother without a Master's. I think it is necessary to be highly qualified, and the competition for jobs for first-year teachers is insane right now."

Xanthophyllippa

@olivebee A lot of states require you to get an MA (or MS) within a certain number of years to retain licensure, too, even if you don't need it to be licensed in the first place. You could end up having to go back anyway.

olivebee

@Xanthophyllippa @klaus

Thanks! I really appreciate your (and your boyfriend's) answers! I kind of figured that would be the case, but I was still holding onto a sliver of hope that I wouldn't have to hemorrhage money and go into massive debt by enrolling in a Master's program. Sigh. Looks like I'll be sticking to my totally unfulfilling career and going through life with a child-shaped hole in my heart. (cue sad trombone).

Kulojam

@olivebee Have you thought about a TEFL/TESOL certificate? The expense (about 1000 dollars) and time commitment (about 2-3 months) are pretty low, and then you're qualified to teach English as a second language. It is a good way to get some teaching experience and see what teaching is like. I got an online TEFL and liked it a lot.

sarah girl

@olivebee I know it won't fill that hole entirely, but seek out some elementary school volunteer tutoring opportunities in your area! This is the worst time of year to start looking, unfortunately, but in the fall, there should be lots of options. At the very least, you can work with a few kids, and it'll satisfy some of that teaching itch. :)

the fourth bot

@olivebee You might consider taking whatever coursework in needed to become a teaching assistant, and doing that while you get your master's degree. It will help you pay and gain experience. Whatever you choose to do, good luck from a fellow aspiring elementary school teacher!

annepersand

So here's something I'm interested in! How many of you now in grad school are doing for your project what you thought you were interested in when you first entered?

I'm mostly asking for curiosity 'cause I'm starting a PhD in the fall in English (Those of you who comforted me because I was freaking out about not getting in anywhere in February, I am passing all my good karma back to you, y'all kept me sane) and I've had a couple of really awesome fellowships come my way that are pretty tied into my area of interest, medical humanities. Which right now seems like what I want to do forever! But, you know, maybe it won't be. So I'm curious about people who might have started out in one thematic area and ended up somewhere completely different or even just kind of different and what that was like for you.

rabbitheart

@annepersand just commenting to say hayyyyy medical humanities. what's your specialty?

annepersand

@24k Welp I am still kind of firming that up but I'm interested in it from a critical theory perspective. Hayyyyy medical humanities!

rabbitheart

@annepersand ummm read "Masks" by Damon Knight and you will love it. It's like the fruit punch of medical humanities. It's definitely a short story reflective of the 1980's medical thriller/cyborg/robo fetish. You can almost hear the Blade Runner score...

billie_crusoe

@annepersand Congratulations on fellowships!!!

I'm starting mine in public health this fall, and I have already changed from my particular area of interest (teen sexuality) to something semi-related (refugee stuff), so that I can work with the advisor I want to work with. I don't know how it is in humanities, but I figure it doesn't matter super much if the particular project I work on isn't what I want to be working on in 10 years because I'm going to grad school to learn the skills, and they'll translate. No one I know in the sciences / social sciences is doing the same exact thing now they did in grad school. (Also, the project(s) I'll be working on ARE interesting, so maybe I'll like this better than my original plan!)

Mila

@annepersand My husband started in a comp lit/critical theory program thinking he would maybe do something with German intellectuals, and ended up writing his phd on a Brazilian music genre. And learned Portuguese in the process (and miraculously got a tenure track job out of it). I, on the other hand, stayed on my original topic from start of my program to the end.

Anne Helen Petersen

@Mila I started my PhD (most MA) knowing that I wanted to do something with the history of celebrity gossip. My dissertation shifted slightly (mostly in terms of methodology) but I never had a moment when I doubted that this was what I wanted to write about.

Also: take the best advice that I was given during my MA, namely, WRITE YOUR SEMINAR PAPERS ON YOUR PROSPECTIVE DISS TOPIC. By the time I started writing my diss, I had already done research and written early drafts of about 1/3 of my dissertation, which is why I was able to finish the thing in a year.

annepersand

@Anne Helen Petersen Oh my god this is the best piece of advice I have ever heard. A bunch of the seminars in my program want you to come in with an existing project anyway, so that's good, but oh maaaaaaaaaaaan you just broke my wee brain.

Lucienne

@Anne Helen Petersen YES, I also got this advice from my undergrad professors and it is such good advice. It is so good, in fact, I suspect I won't be able to follow it.

HeyThatsMyBike

@Anne Helen Petersen Yes, do this. This has saved me at least a year of misery.

Xanthophyllippa

@annepersand I ended up with a completely different dissertation topic than I thought I'd have when I started: different country, different language, different time period, and different core focus. No one so much as blinked when I went through these shifts. I'd accept the funding you're offered now, then do what AHP says and use your seminar papers as a way to explore your intended topic/write the actual dissertation.

Quinciferous

@annepersand I started a PhD six (sniff!) years ago with a vague idea that I wanted to work on expanding a small fieldwork project I'd completed as an undergrad -- at least that's what it said in my personal statement. HA! Totally different project, mostly because my advisor encouraged me to work on a slightly off-the-wall topic that I'd been nursing on the side for a long time. But same methodology, area, period, and language (mostly).

mishaps

@annepersand I went to grad school thinking I was going to work on postmodernist fiction. First semester, I did a paper on a modernist poet that I loved and that one of my advisors said was a dissertation topic. So that's where I ended up, and the dissertation chapter that grew out of that paper is was a well-received published article.

mirror_father_mirror

@Anne Helen Petersen I did this for my M.A. thesis! I *just* turned it in, and only one chapter (out of four) was all-new work. The other three were all revised seminar papers. Not to brag *too* much, but I'm the only person in my cohort who seemed to actually get sleep this past semester, and I don't totally hate the work I did, because I got a chance to think it through over a longer period of time! This worked for me because the topic I chose is somewhat theoretical, rather than being nationally- or period-bound, so I can write papers on it in courses with a variety of topics. I'm starting a Ph.D in the fall and hoping some of that research will carry over. Okay, now I'm bragging...but I felt pretty smart for planning it out this way.

RK Fire

Urban Planning masters degree owner here.. sure it's a terminal degree, but I'm a woman who's inclinations are more on the policy side but I completed my degree at a design-focused school. I can answer all sorts of questions about being confused! yay.

Lucienne

@RK Fire I have a friend in your exact same situation, except she's still got a year left. (Okay, so not exact - whatever. this is the internet.) She's at a school with a significant halo effect, so I hope it'll work out for her at least in getting a job. But it's really frustrating for her, I think - she doesn't get to work with things that really interest her.

lizzietish

@RK Fire I'm heading to a policy focused urban planning masters program this fall! I'm SO excited about it aside from the prospect of taking on debt. What do you think about loans for planning programs? Worth it? Did you take on any debt? I'll have to take loans for program I've more-or-less chosen, but it's far and away the best fit for me.

ach_so

@lizzietish I'm just about to complete my first year of my urban planning program. I love it and I got a paid, full-time summer internship! Hopefully this bodes well for getting a job in a year. I have lots of loans so far (I go to an expensive school), and will have to take on more next year. I am just hoping that it's worth it. There is no way to tell if it will be or not. For me, I really wanted to go into planning and there's just no way to get a job in the field without a masters.

mirror_father_mirror

Finally, something that my multiple humanities degrees qualify me to do.

Interrobanged

Haha, after one of my exams last week my prof pulled me aside and told me I should really consider grad school, because apparently he really liked what I wrote for his class? On the one hand VALIDATION; on the other, lol grad school sux.

mishaps

@Interrobanged If you are in the US, your professor is either blind, deaf, or dumb to be suggesting you go to grad school. The smart faculty members I know spend more of their time dissuading people.

Interrobanged

@mishaps Canada. But at the moment I found the whole idea vaguely horrifying, so.

(I would also only ever do a master's so I can get Big Girl Job, never ever ever a PhD.)

TDF@twitter

@Interrobanged It's still a huge pyramid scheme here in the Great White North. Every single professor I had in undergrad tried to recruit me into their discipline/graduate program. I chose one, graduated, and had absolutely zero job prospects for nearly 3 years. Profs need students, and they prefer teaching/mentoring MAs as opposed to indifferent undergrads, so they do the hard sell on their above-average students.

alabee

Not humanities, but is anyone here in a clinical psychology Ph.D program? I'm applying in the fall and every time I read something like this I feel like vomiting out of fear or something.

Clinical psychology programs are the most competitive field of graduate study in the U.S. and every time I think about my odds, I panic, because it's truly the one career path I have known I wanted to pursue since I was like 16.

Signed,
Application anxiety Disorder-NOS

anachronistique

@alabee I'm not IN one, but I work for one - we literally closed the books on our Fall 2012 admissions process today. I am probably the wrong person to try and calm your panic! But I'm happy to talk with you about stuff, though obviously my perspective is going to be different than a student's.

Decca

Great timing, I'm actually taking the GRE English subject test this Saturday! I'm really just doing it to have it in my pocket, in case I end up applying to PhD programmes in the States next cycle. But to be honest, I'll probably end up taking a year out after my Masters to work out whether I truly want to aim for the USA and work up a good application. It's terrifying and part of me doesn't know why I'm even considering it, but also exhilarating in a way.

annepersand

@Decca Good luck! I remember talking about it with you at some point in the past but the GRE subject test is actually kind of fun and even if it doesn't go very well, most places barely care!

Decca

@annepersand Thank you! I'm actually feeling fairly blasé about it at the moment; I've put in a decent amount of study over the past three months and I know I have a good grasp of the canon and of the discipline in general, but the test is such a crapshoot that all that could be for naught. There's no way to tell! And anyway, this means I have a weekend in Canterbury, which I'm very excited about. After the test on Saturday I'll get to explore the city, see the cathedral, etc.

And many, many congratulations on your PhD acceptance!!

mackymoo

Ok but the question I have is: what do people do when they're not in the humanities? Like where else are you supposed to go if there are no jobs in your field?

mishaps

@mackymoo what, if you get an advanced degree in the humanities and there are no jobs in your field? My cohort from my English Ph.D. program, 10 years on, includes a high school teacher, an environmental lobbyist, a retail marketing expert, an equine bodywork therapist (!), a museum development officer, a Federal attorney, an education researcher, a magazine managing editor, an interaction designer, and I think three total (out of an entering 20) with tenure or tenure-track jobs.

There are a bazillion things you can do with the research, thinking, and presentation skills you gain from a humanities advanced degree. And while that is NO REASON AT ALL to go to grad school in the humanities, if you already have done so, don't feel like you've wasted your time.

Sunny Schomaker@twitter

Also (and this is sort of a chicken/egg problem): your advisor is probably one of the most important factors in the quality of your grad school experience. My advisor (probably mistakenly, but whatever) has respect for me and my work, and he (appears) to know everyone. He's not micromanagey (which is a plus for me). Even though he's seemingly always out of the country, he has a good email response record.

I have a friend who has to literally STALK HIS ADVISOR. I have another friend who has had to switch advisors twice.

The advisor/grad student relationship: the most co-dependent, unhealthy relationship you will have in grad school (even with a good advisor).

Xanthophyllippa

@Sunny Schomaker@twitter THIS. ALL of this.

theotherginger

@Sunny Schomaker@twitter OMG you made. my. day.

Ellie

@Sunny Schomaker@twitter Great points. I had an awful experience with my adviser for my senior thesis in undergrad (A lot of it was my fault for being a delinquent student with thesis anxiety, but it was still a bad experience) and I am so skittish of repeating this experience.

viola bruise

For me, being able to image doing something other than profess in my field is a great relief, not an indication that I shouldn't be here. I love teaching college kids and my ultimate goal is to become a professor. But I also know academia is fucked, there are barely any jobs, there are places I wouldn't live, etc etc, and knowing that I'd also be content to teach high school/be a translator/do whatever ' international consultants' do helps keep me sane. It means that, even if my number one dream job never opens up for me, I'll still have spent six (fully-funded) years devoted to studying, researching and teaching. Not a waste!

Oh, and I'm four years in. Totally stressed but no regrets beyond not studying harder.

Anne Helen Petersen

@viola bruise WARNING TO ALL HOPING TO TEACH HIGH SCHOOL: It is indeed awesome. But if you want to get hired, you need to get some high school teaching experience in some way. I was on the other end of the hiring committee this year (the hiring committee replacing me) and we had hundreds of PhDs apply...and only looked at the ones with some sort of experience teaching high school. This is typical for private high schools.

So how do you do it? Teach a summer program. If you're at a largish university, there's most likely a summer enrichment program that will require about a month (plus you get paid, which is always a bonus when it comes to the summer).

Jenn Casinader@facebook

@Anne Helen Petersen I hope you don't find this stalkery to over-share with you my own weird grad school trajectory bc its kind of Sliding Doors to yours. I started out teaching at a private New England prep school before deciding the best exit strategy would be to try for a PhD at UT in RTF in the hopes of eventually teaching college. I got wait-listed and didn't get into the program that year because they only take like 6 PhDs each year. I guess I was #7 in line. I already had the MA under my belt as that is weirdly what got me the teaching job because my assistantship was being a writing tutor. My braver than I fiance said fuck it, lets move to Austin anyway. I pushed my way in and audited some classes and all my illusions came crashing down. I'd forgotten how hard it was (that kind of reading and writing, having no income again after 4 years of having income, etc.) and went off in a completely different career direction, which in the long run has completely been the best for me. I read your stuff and feel completely not worthy though bc I never would have had the balls to attempt a dissertation on something as fun as "gossip." I would have done something semi-practical and probably would end up hating it in the end after sucking the lifeblood out of it, which is how I felt after finishing my thesis.

Anne Helen Petersen

@Jenn Casinader@facebook Fascinating! I think auditing usually scares people off -- in part because they're neither here nor there. It also is no guarantee that you will actually get in, although it (might) help you establish residency. The having-no-income is a huge bummer, no matter what.

Hot Doom

I'm currently enrolled in an MA programme in the UK, in art history and museum curating. I got my BA 5 years ago and I went back partly because I needed an MA to move forward in art history, and partly because I was bored and was ready to move on with my life, as the stragglers among my graduate friends. I know, these aren't exactly endorsements for being ready to devote a lot of time and money to school, but thee it is. Anyway, because I'm American, I can't get funding, so I had to take out loans. Not great, but! My program is a year ling, accepted on a rolling basis, so I applied last May an got in for September, and I also have a guaranteed placement at a prestigious museum for being part of this program. Also, I'm sheepish to say, it's nit as rigorous as I have the impression grad school should be. I st this having stayed up til 5:30 am writing my 2nd term paper this week, but it's only a once in a while thing. I have no regrets though, and I love the program. Though it might seem like a big commitment to move abroad fir a year, it's balanced out by being only a year and the same price or less than a comparable program in the States, which I probably would have gotten a loan for too. And also, that placement is a huge plus for a resume and connections. It's not for everyone, but even if I don't stick with museums, I will still be happy I did this. Then again, I haven't gotten to the pit of despair that will be my thesis, so check back in August and I might be singing a different tune.

timesnewroman

@LolaLaBalc Am also on an MA programme in the UK, and I have to say that the original post (and most of the stuff I see about "grad school culture" written by Americans) is not familiar to me. (I think the MA programmes here probably are just less work?!) Also the American programmes seen insaaaanely long!

Hot Doom

@LolaLaBalc wow, so typing on one's phone leads to many mistakes. But yeah! I feel almost like a slacker, but I think it is just a different attitude. Even the tutors are pretty chill. One year for the MA feels just right.

Pendulum Swinger

@timesnewroman @LolaLaBlac My base conundrums moving forward! I'm completing my BA next year, looking into grad programmes in the UK. Financing a Masters sounds futile without full scholarships via Rhodes, Fulbright, Clarendon, etc. Do you have any suggestions for an American seeking funding? Or perhaps advice to console (and possibly justify) footing the bill for a one year MSc or two year MPhil?

I did a brief term in the UK as an undergrad and I too was surprised to find that my study abroad course load was far more intensive than most MSc students (their words, not mine!). Is one year in the UK sufficient (of course, it depends on the end objective (which I'm still fleshing out - no intention to pursue a PhD or academia at this point)) when compared to a longer US-based programme?

Thanks for your words!

Hot Doom

@Pendulum Swinger I don't know how helpful my answer will be since I haven't finished yet, and because I waited a little while before applying to grad school, after undergrad.
For funding, I would say that one avenue you could check out is what scholarships are available through your prospective uni. A lot of school have scholarship pages devoted to international students, and have specific awards for US students, as well as ones open to all non-Uk, -EU students. I would do some hunting around those sites ASAP, because their deadlines are often much earlier than the uni's application deadline. For my school, all those scholarships had been awarded, like, the January before I applied (in May) so way past a chance for me to get money. I'm not thrilled about my loan, but to be honest, I probably wouldn't have found a lot of art history funding available to me in the US anyway, so I knew going into this that I would have 40k to pay back once I'm done.
As far as intensity, I did my junior year abroad in a Scottish university, and that was less intensive day-to-day than my home college, but when it came to grading of work, it was pretty intense, and that's sort of what I've found here. It sounds bad, but I sort of dick around until about a month and a half before my term papers are due and then get down to business. It's very self-directed. I don't know how this will serve me when I get out, but I don't think it will hinder me. I chose my program because it had direct links with museums, and weighed my options from there. For me, because I couldn't have progressed further in museums without my MA, this was perfect, because I could have it done in a good program in a year, and get in some volunteer face-time with the institution where I'd like to work. I would say to really think hard about what you will get out of the program. The ones in the UK are rigorous in their own way, but I feel like what has been said in this thread mostly doesn't apply to the experience I've had.

billie_crusoe

Oh, lord, I need to avoid any and all grad school related topics for the next 4 years. I just today accepted an offer at a decent-but-not-top-notch PhD program (with a great advisor), and I am having Second Thoughts. They're giving me a decent financial package, which, combined with the fact that I can live at home (ugh, I know) means I will not be exceptionally poor for the next 4 years. But I don't want to be lonely, single, and poor, in east bum fuck after. I could get into a much better program if I applied next year, but... the money... I already have over $140K from med school (DO NOT DROP OUT OF MED SCHOOL, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU HATE MEDICINE), so I'm not willing to take on more debt. And I can't find a job in my field, which would make me LESS competitive next cycle.

Aghhhh.

Passion Fruit

@che

May I ask why you dropped out? I am currently, at age 27, trying my damnedest to get in, but my anxiety about the fucking MCATs is killing me. Does it get much, much worse? School and rotations sound fun, but residency is what has me quaking in my boots.

billie_crusoe

@Passion Fruit I actually loved my program, but once I saw what being a doctor was really like, I couldn't see myself doing it. I think even if you hate school / residency, you can suffer through it if you know you actually want to be a doctor in the end; I just couldn't see suffering through and not wanting the end result. I actually left with the intention of going to midwifery school, but I can't afford to. And I'm probably not cut out to be a clinician, anyway; I am much better at being an intellectual than a practitioner.

Also, I was 21 when I started, which now seems way too young. The fact that you're a bit older and have done other things is good, I think - I just always wanted to be a doctor and never really thought about it.

The MCAT... I wouldn't take a Kaplan class unless you really feel like you need that structure. Their guarantee that you'll get a higher score on the actual test than on your first practice test or your money back is a scam because their practice tests are way harder than the real thing. I used AMCAS practice tests, but this was back in the time of paper tests; surely they still sell those. And one of my classmates at my top-10 med school had a 27 on her MCAT, which is just "OK" (definitely below average for our school), but she got in because she was awesome in other ways. Which is anecdata, but from what I've heard a really low score predicts poor performance in school, but a really high score doesn't predict great performance, and schools know that. I don't know... it's been 6 years since I took it, but I remember the anxiety. I think standardized tests are dumb.

HeyThatsMyBike

@che I would say stick with your plan, and if you find after a year or so that your program is not so great or may not offer you the job opportunities you desire, you can always try to transfer. And there are ways to get around a not-top-notch school - in my field having lots of publications in good journals will basically negate which school you went to if you're going into academia. And if you're not going into academia, many people are all "oooh! PhD!!" and have no real idea about the caliber of any of the programs, so keep that in mind!

strongyloides

@Passion Fruit I'm finishing my third year of med school now. If your MCATs are your weak spot you might look at some of alternative ways to get in. A lot of med schools have back doors now, usually either a one-year masters of anatomy or biomedical science, that allow them to see what kind of student you are. And in answer to your question, yes, every year is worse than the one before. I'm told 4th year's more relaxing. Here's hoping it's true.

billie_crusoe

@HeyThatsMyBike Thanks for the levelheadedness. This thread combined with committing today was all badness.

My MS kills my marketability outside of academia already, so I'm not going to hurt myself too much in that respect. And I actually don't mind being in school - during my (super research-intensive) MS, I was also working on an MD, so I feel like I had a PhD-level workload. School is just kind of easy for me? Which makes me obnoxious, I'm sorry! It will get harder after I finish classes and have to focus 100% on research, but I am so not stressed about the actual workload. I just... I can't drop out even if it sucks because I already dropped out of med school, and I don't want to be seen as someone who can't follow through.

If all else fails, I will move into a yurt in Vermont and raise sheep or something. Everyone in New England is way overeducated, anyway. (I say that with love. I love you, Vermont!)

HeyThatsMyBike

@che You're not obnoxious. School has been easy for most people that are in graduate school, otherwise you wouldn't go! So it is a GOOD thing that you feel adequately prepared to take on the challenge. You ain't scurrred!

I'm on the tail-end now (hopefully only a few awful months left), and think about moving to a yurt basically every hour on the hour.

Pendulum Swinger

@che We've the same back up plan! If you ever follow through let me know how the domed life is. (Maybe I'll get the courage to fulfill this even-nagging idea.)

billie_crusoe

@Pendulum Swinger @HeyThatsMyBike
I want to be kidding about that being my back up plan, but it totally is. And it is the only thing keeping me from a constant panic attack from this thread (well, this thread combined with 2 of my postdoc friends recently giving up on academia to try to teach HS). If I can't get a good job with health insurance and retirement within the next 12ish years (assuming 4 years for PhD + 2 for postdoc), I am going to go off the grid and live my not-financially-realistic dream of being a doula for teen moms.

@HeyThatsMyBike Good luck with your last few awful months! So close!

Passion Fruit

@che Thank you all for answering my questions! I appreciate the input!

Good luck with figuring things out, che. I think getting a PhD and later possibly becoming a doula (omg!) sound awesome. You could be a PhDoula.

MollyculeTheory

As a molecular biology doctor, I'd be happy to pinch-hit if any questions about science grad school come up, though my answers would probably sound kind of like strangled moan, gibberish, WHY GOD WHY, ahem, the job opportunities for a science PhD have been vastly overstated, and in my ... BEEP hold on, my timer's going off, if this fucking experiment doesn't work AGAIN, for the FIFTH TIME, *crash*, *sobbing noise*

Anne Helen Petersen

@MollyculeTheory You should seriously email Edith.

claireh

@MollyculeTheory tell me more! my girlfriend is starting a Phd in environmental science in the fall and i'm nervous about so many things!

MollyculeTheory

@claireh Grad school was actually the best time in my life to date, don't be scared! Practice saying "yes, darling, you can absolutely quit your program and become a macaron artist if you really want, here, have some gin" and then practice repressing saying "I told you so" when she's ecstatic that she was right about a hypothesis. Get ready to learn more than you ever wanted to know about her project, and figure out when she really needs to not talk about it for a few hours even if she thinks she does. Take all of the breaks the first year because you never will be able to again. Make friends, because they will be some of the best people you will ever meet, even if they are late all of the time because they are stuck in the lab/field.

Basically: patience, understanding, judicious distraction, and lots of drinks?

Also, once she gets to be a postdoc, that's when the real existential crises start ):

magcat

@MollyculeTheory
I am (unless something goes horribly wrong) going to be starting my Master's in Biology next year. Just wondering if it's normal to feel kind of terrified? I'll be doing research in a lab I've already been working in for a few months but I'm still not sure exactly what I want to focus on! Sometimes I think I'm not smart enough and get all bummed out about it.

MollyculeTheory

@magcat In my experience, being in science is like living in an incessant pendulum-swing between terror versus ennui, between feeling like everyone is an idiot & can't keep up with your ideas versus feeling like you are the dumbest person ever & why did you even think you could be a biologist.

The people who think they know what they're going to focus on at the beginning are 90% of the time the people who end up sucking - it takes time to find the question that's going to sustain you over years of research! Someone who is now one of my best friends & I started grad school in a semi-catfight over a project that we both ended up ditching in 6 months because it turned out to be the worst. Come up with (well, really, have your adviser help you come up with) 2+ topics, and you will find one that hits the Venn diagram between something you care about and something that works.

My quasi-Socratian philosophy is that if you realize that you are not smart enough yet, that's how you get smart enough to do what you have to do.

thenotestaken

@MollyculeTheory I would love it if this was done for the sciences! I work among academics as a lab tech right now and am considering an MPH for next year, so I could maybe answer some questions and also ask many?

claireh

@MollyculeTheory best advice ever. it did actually make me feel better! now if we could just be moving already...i hate this stagnant waiting period for the next couple months.

angelan

@MollyculeTheory OMG pendulum of dumb/smart. So very true. I'm finishing my PhD this year(ish), and whilst I've definitely had times when I wanted to run away and be a macaron artist, I've actually...had a pretty good time? I'm glad I did it. BUT...they pay me - if I'd been paying them, I think my attitude would be hugely different! I can't understand anyone paying to do a PhD - in my field there's so many grants out there that it would be a terrible idea, but even in another field, I'm sure it would make the 'sod science, run away, become famous lion tamer' days/weeks way harder if you were paying for the privilege. Maybe people in the humanities have more dedication than I do ;).

contrary

@MollyculeTheory Oh god, I was so hoping you would reply to this thread because YES, YES I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS. I am getting ready to apply to neuroscience PhD. programs and I am terrified/not getting a lot of help or advice. I feel, judging by the current candidates at all the schools I've looked at, they're going to look at my application and just laugh and take my $100 fee. Maybe not though? What if I get in nowhere?

My advisor's advice was "just take the MCATs and apply to medical school" ...but....I do not....she is not a very good advisor.

celeec4@twitter

@MollyculeTheory Amen to all of the above. I'd just like to add, and I think this applies for all grad students, not just science ones...that, well, keep an eye on your sanity levels. Therapy and drugs can keep you on a more even keel. I learned this the hard way, so others might as well as learn from my crazy. ^_^

celeec4@twitter

@contrary (PS- there are actually a decent number of programs that have very low to no application fees with good neuroscience programs, look around. I'm actually at an institution right now that didn't, doesn't charge application fees. Best of luck to you.)

angelan

@contrary wait wait what they make you pay to even apply!? I am such a cheapskate I would so not be in a Phd programme if I'd had to do that.

celeec4@twitter

@angelan It costs a good chunk of money to take the GREs, have your scores sent, and then there are application fees. @_@

contrary

@angelan yes, most of the application fees range from $100-140 because of all the shuffling of scores and transcripts and the like. Also, if you are applying to two different programs at the same school (I was thinking of applying to some genetics programs as a backup incase I get rejected by neuro) you have to pay the fee twice. Which makes sense and all, but, ugh.

@celeec4@twitter can I ask where you are? Everywhere it's been suggested that I apply/schools that I have researched on my own have had fees (which I'm okay with, but if I can apply to some programs that have lower/no fees but comparable programs that would be great). My alma mater pretty much just pushes everyone to go to an Ivy, which don't get my wrong, I would be happy to go to, but I feel like only applying to Ivies would be taking a huge leap of faith

celeec4@twitter

@contrary I'm always happy to chat about grad school stuff, got an e-mail I can drop you a line at?

contrary

@celeec4@twitter squidsyy at gmail dot com (I don't really use this email that much, but I don't want to put my firstname.lastname email up for the world to tie to my username)

angelan

@contrary Yowch, that's rubbish :(. None of the places I applied asked me for money, but I'm in the UK, and we don't have a gre here.

DrFeelGood

@MollyculeTheory Yea, I just finished an MS in earth sciences... thought I'd get a PhD... am finding that the positions for PhD scientists in this area are vastly over-reported and that I'm probably better off just sticking with my MS... I was sad for awhile, since I do love school/science, but I'm also kind of excited about being done with school?...

camanda

I had a heart-to-heart with one of my undergrad professors a couple of years ago and I told her I didn't want to go to grad school. She was disappointed! She honestly thought I would do super well and love it and etc. etc. I was shocked. I'm glad she felt that way, I really am, but I just...can't.

It's a combination of a lot of things. First of all, I can't pay for it. I can't pay for my B.A. as it is. Second of all, my B.A. is in Spanish, so an M.A. isn't going to do me any better. Third of all, a lot of employers interested in bilingual employees want people who are native in both English and Spanish. I am not, and no amount of schooling at this point is going to improve that. I'm better off traveling abroad to improve my fluency.

Sometimes I think, maybe I should have done my Bachelor's degree in something else. But what? What would put me in a better position than the one I'm in, really, truly, for sure? Nothing. And what would I enjoy as much as that? I LOVED my undergrad program. If I could do my M.A. for free, I would go ahead and do it, for the privilege of burying myself in the literature of Habsburg Spain.

Alas.

astauff

@camanda I'm currently finishing up a degree in Professional French (as opposed to a traditional French literature MA.) I don't know if there are equivalent programs in Spanish, but the people in my program generally seem to go on to do pretty cool stuff and still work in the language they love. It's especially good if you are not really interested in working in academia. Admittedly though, there are less native French speakers who are eligible to work in the US than native Spanish speakers, so there is maybe more of a competitive disadvantage for you.

bb
bb

@camanda You are doing the right thing!! Your prof may be mired in her little bubble that says strong student = grad school and that is so limiting. Lots of other things to do in life! Travel, have fun!

cuminafterall

@camanda I had a bunch of profs try and recruit me to apply for grad school in their various disciplines. But do what's right for you! I had some classes with grad students while studying for my B.A. and the grad students who seemed smartest and most on-the-ball to me were the ones who had worked for a few years first. So that's what I decided to do. It has been good to get out of the academic womb!

camanda

@astauff That is one of the few things that makes me sometimes think Spanish was a stupid choice. Too many people speak it!

@bb Thanks. I do appreciate that she thought me a good student, though I wonder if she was thinking of someone else, bahahaha. Her borderline-impossible sociolinguistics seminar nearly killed me.

@cuminafterall Yeah, I really don't miss it! Certain things, I miss, mostly being surrounded by rigorous thought and intellectual discussion all day. But I like being out and I like that I can go back if I decide that I want to, for one thing or another. I certainly don't wish I'd started grad school right after undergrad. Not a good idea for me; I was too burned-out.

Kulojam

@camanda Are you thinking about traveling at all, or living abroad in a Spanish-speaking country? I live in Chile, where employers practically fall over themselves drooling over native English speakers who can speak Spanish fluently. And I know a lot of Spanish majors who moved here to live for a couple years to perfect their Spanish (and have tons of fun) and then moved back to the US to get grad degrees in Spanish or translation or what have you. I think that perhaps in Spain, the market for native English speakers fluent in Spanish might be saturated, but in South America (not Argentina - think small, like Peru, Boliva or Chile) opportunities abound.

camanda

@Kulojam I am! And Chile is one of the countries I have thought about. Short of teaching English, though, I don't know what I would do, or how to start looking, so I haven't gotten much of a move on that front yet. Any suggestions?

Kulojam

@camanda Well, I didn't really like teaching so I ended up at at Indian company that has an office in Chile - and I really like it. I know a woman who runs her own translation company and lots of freelance translators. Some people work for universities as advisors for study abroad programs, and a lot of people find their niche as small business owners (giving tours, bicycle rental companies, trip planners, hostel runners, etc). A good resource for learning more about expat life in Chile is chileforum.net, and I'd be happy to tell you more about what I did (i moved here unemployed, got a job teaching English, left that for my current job, which involves editing investment reports written by non-native English speakers). Chileans are not so great at the email, so finding jobs involves getting up in people's faces and dropping off your resume in person. Message me and I can give you some more specific ideas (chilejamie at gmail dot com). By far, the most important thing about finding jobs here is having a pituto, which I've asked for and given to other people. I could be wrong, and I'm happy to ask my expat friends for their thoughts on this, but I don't think that you'll get a job before moving to South America (that could be just Chile, though) - you have to come here and do the legwork, which is such a daunting prospect, i know, but so worth it. I sound like I work for the board of tourism, but this is such an amazingly beautiful country - i think everyone should come here, and since you're fluent, you'll have a leg up on all the other gringos. Gringos (those who live and work here) are still so out of the ordinary for Chilenos that it can be a world-is-your-oyster situation. AND if you're willing to teach, at least to start out, you'll have a job while you look for something else.

DrFeelGood

@camanda My advice would be to work for a few years, and find something you like doing in addition to translation/language. An example, a friend of mine worked for several years abroad for the foreign office she worked for in the states and found she really liked development. So she got a degree in international development with some science thrown in there. Combined with her language and abroad experience, she got a job at the State Dept.

bskinz

I loved teaching (i got to TA awesome classes on vampires and demonology), but a year in, i realized that the job market for someone in a terminal master's program in contemporary Russian studies was not substantially better than for one with an undergrad degree in Russian lit. So i quit, and have never regretted it. Though it may be different for someone with, say, a useful degree.

theharpoon

Ok, now can we get some tenured professors on here to answer questions? Because I hear that getting tenure is what's really terrible.

theharpoon

Specifically, where's my cohort buddy? We had a terrifying talk on tenure this week.

Thank god for interdisciplinary programs with pretty actual prospects of jobs in industry.

Gertrude

@theharpoon awfully late, but I work in academia and am heavily involved in the tenure process (staff, not faculty) if you have any questions.

VolcanoMouse

This seems like a good place to ask-- if anyone else is still reading-- if any other 'Pinners are going to Kalamazoo Congress on Medieval Studies. (I am not A Grad Student, just A Grad Student Spouse That Talks About Mortuary Archeology and Practice Theory with A Grad Student a lot.) Anyone? C'monnn.

Maryaed

@VolcanoMouse No, but I've been and it was fun, in a geeky way. (And it wasn't my field, but still fun.)

MerelyGoodExpectations

@VolcanoMouse Nope, but I've been and I did not like it.

Springtime for Voldemort

@MerelyGoodExpectations What didn't you like about it?

Lucienne

@VolcanoMouse I think one of my lecturers when I studied abroad went to this. They had the visitors stay in dorms? The idea that American students had to share dorm rooms SHOCKED him. We spent like fifteen minutes talking about dorm life instead of Wilfred Owen.

Valancy Stirling

@VolcanoMouse I can't go this year, but I've been the past couple of years. It can be ... an experience, but that might be a good thing. (It's certainly more entertaining than any other conference I've attended.) There are literally thousands of sessions of papers, and so (if you want to, of course) I bet you could find something interesting. In addition to the more traditional papers, there are always ones on things like Tolkien or Harry Potter, or medievalism in movies and video games. Also, there is usually a demonstration of medieval weaponry, and at night they often do plays or concerts or things. Definitely check out the mead/ale tasting. It's one of my favorite parts. The Saturday night dance can also be entertaining. And Kalamazoo as a city has some decent restaurants and such. DO wear comfortable shoes, though. There are a bunch of different buildings for the conference, and getting between them means trooping up and down hills.
TL;DR It should be a fun experience, whether you're interested in the academic stuff or want to skip it entirely.

Lizzy00

I just finished writing my thesis for my MA in art history (as in a minute ago). I love it and I wouldn't give it up for the world. I'm lucky to be debt-free, so I'm not sure I would commit to it if I weren't. Whatever you do, do not go to a middling program and expect to get hired. In art history, a crazy-high percentage of tenured positions come out of the same 10-15 schools. I almost went fully-funded to not-one-of-those-schools, but I'm glad I didn't. Instead I went to one-of-those-schools living on savings and with a bit of help from the 'rents. (I know, I know. Cue Girls reference.) But this is What I Want To Do. Writing a thesis is hard, a dissertation is harder, and getting a job is hardest yet. If that doesn't scare you off, then go for it. (But stay out of my tiny specific field so I can get a job, OK?) :-)

Pheen

What are the pros and cons of MFA programs? Specifically non-fiction creative writing ones? Specifically the one at University of Texas, if anybody is familiar with that one.

Susanna

@Pheen I haven't done an MFA but I do scrape a living as a creative nonfiction writer and I cannot, CANNOT imagine doing that with a ton of additional debt. I think practical experience and networking as a journalist are far more useful. Read what authors you like say about their working practices (Paris Review have a huge interview with John McPhee for example, also, this: http://www.theopennotebook.com/2011/11/22/rebecca-skloot-henrietta-lacks/ ) and keep on reading the kind of thing you want to write. Read it critically. And write. All the time.

bibliostitute

@Pheen, to the best of my knowledge, there is no CNF workshop/MFA option at UT. If what you're interested in is being in a warm and dry desert climate, allow me to suggest Arizona!
The thing with CNF is because it's still deciding what it is, and kind of making a hot mess of itself (The Life of a Fact? Not a helpful text in convincing people we are worthy!), it's not hugely present in the MFA world. But Arizona, Minnesota, Iowa and the NYCs all have great programs for CNF.

ETA: GET FUNDING OR BUST. IT'S SO POSSIBLE: NOW MORE THAN EVER!

Ingrid Nilsson Goatson@facebook

I plan on applying to a Comparative Literature MA program this fall. I have so many questions it's overwhelming. Any other Comp Lit people out there? Would anyone be interested in exchanging a few emails with me and answering some questions about applying? I promise I will love you forever....

Mila

@Ingrid Nilsson Goatson@facebook Husband was comp lit undergrad, and went to a "Literature" (heavily critical theory) program for grad. I have heard comp lit is a particularly hard degree to get jobs in because comp lit is sort of on the decline as an actual program, so most of the jobs are just in things like spanish lit and french lit, and you end up competing against people who have a degree that more closely fits the job being offered, and also they usually have more language teaching experience, which is one thing prospective programs are going to look for in people they hire. Oh, so that is my biggest piece of advice. Do some language teaching in grad school.

theotherginger

@Mila I have taken several comp lit classes in grad school - but I am in Spanish - and going on the job market will be more difficult for them especially if they are interested in 1. theory and 2. english lit. even if part of their project is on spanish, if we were up for the same spanish undergrad job in the middle of nowhere my teaching experience will outweigh theirs, because it is all in spanish. of course, I would end up in the middle of nowhere, so that might be a downside

dham

@Ingrid Nilsson Goatson@facebook I'm in a Comp Lit PhD program, and I'd be happy to answer questions if you have them. While it is not necessarily true that it is harder to get a job in a national lit department with a PhD in Comp Lit (I know our English program just hired two Comp Lit PhDs), it is totally true that almost all comparatists wind up on the national literature job markets. This means that if you choose to apply for Spanish jobs, as mentioned above, you should only get a PhD in Comp Lit somewhere they will let you teach Spanish. It also means that a "truly comparative" dissertation can be hard to market. It's lot easier if you are doing multiple romance languages, for example, than if you're doing French/German/English. Etc. However, I cannot think of a single funded M.A. program in our discipline, and I would totally advise against paying for that degree unless you have to.

But it is useful to know: there are no comp lit jobs. Not in the same way there are "no jobs" in other disciplines: like, literally one or two good jobs specific to the discipline per year, and even those will often specify a joint-hire with another department.

superdreaming

Y'all, any thoughts on MFAs? I'm thinking of getting a MFA in poetry (or whatever the specific academic jargon is)...but I also care a lot about queer theory, (post) colonial theory, etc., and sort of want to do something with English and critical theory with an anti-oppression slant? I'm doing an honors thesis next year (senior year of undergrad) in poetry, so I'll have a 30+ page manuscript by the end of the year, and profs have said I should look into getting an MFA, but I sort of want to stay on the East Coast which makes that harder? Please talk to me about being a poet/writer/theorist and living in the midwest for grad school (ugh am I going to have to do that?!?). Also lots of my grad school friends have pointed out that half of the interview process for hiring new profs is the meet-and-greet and lecture thing the applicants do for the dept, and that none of the Am. Studies folks know how to make small talk, so I figure at least I can hold a decent conversation and that should get me somewhere, right??
#academicanxiety #<3uhairpinscholars #allhashtagsallthetime

Limaceous

@superdreaming What is your goal with the poetry MFA? Like, what do you plan to do after? What do you think the MFA will do for you? (And remember that MFA programs generally violate the don't-go-into-debt rule, as they are almost never fully funded.)

If you want to study theory and eventually be a professor, then an MFA might not be the right program. If you want to write and workshop and meet weird people and focus on publishing a book of poetry when you're finished, then the MFA is still a terrible idea but I won't be able to talk you out of it. (Full disclosure: I have a poetry MFA, and I had a great time getting it, and I have no regrets, but I think it's important to manage expectations.)

Sgt. Exposition

@superdreaming

Building on Limaceous, if you do want to continue to study theory, why do you? Is there an area that you feel you can fill that is under-covered? As much as I hate saying it, you and a bajillion other prospective applicants all want to study theory of one kind or another. To get into a really crackerjack department that you come out of a marketable degree with, you've got to prove to your possible future advisors why they should expend the money on you specifically.

As an example: When I was on interviews for Ph.D. programs, faculty in my future department asked me over and over, "So, why do this project?" My answer was: "Well, all the literature either devotes one sentence ("X was key to the rise of Y in the 1990s.") or has footnotes to the effect of, 'Someone should really be studying this.' So I am." Granted, both sides of what I do are becoming increasingly hot commodities. So I'm lucky in that regard. But even if you don't stick with that specific initial idea, if you can prove you've got the chops to think creatively and in-depth about a problem, then they might bite.

Also, as someone who did their M.A. at a school in the Midwest: Yes, you might have to live there. Yes, it may not be amazing. But you may be able to make it work out. There are some cool towns, if you really look around.

Canard

@superdreaming The MFA can be great if 1) you're fully funded (actually not that rare, although start weaning yourself off any expensive habits right now), 2) you wind up somewhere with a pleasant, supportive, not crazy competitive cohort, and 3) you don't have very specific expectations for your post-MFA career. If you're cool with adjuncting in freshman comp programs for at least a decent while when you're done, then why the heck not?

Cavendish

@superdreaming Check out the MFA program at UMass Amherst. It's funded, and you are required to take a certain number of Literature classes in addition to your poetry workshops. I know there are several literature professors who fit your areas of interest. Plus I know at least one person who did an MFA there and then was accepted to the PhD program in English.

superdreaming

@Sgt. Exposition Thanks for such a smart theory-grad-school comment! The points you bring up are mostly why I have been leaning towards a MFA program instead of something more "academic," but I have a great prof right now who is really encouraging me to think about theory (especially with regard to social media/"new media" like tumblr which is really my favorite thing to talk about currently b/c it's such a fascinating way for folks to interact and the queer/indigenous communities on tumblr are full of folks talking theory about their lives in this really cool, completely informal kind of way #endrant)
Anyway, what I mostly wanted to say was I think somewhere later on in the comments you mentioned studying yourself/your identity groups/labels? How is that? I would feel weird about (do feel weird about?) doing anything queer theory without having a lot of Capital Letters Feelings about being queer. So. Also the midwest, man, can I ask which state you were in? I have a friend in Michigan (not sure if Michigan counts as the midwest?) who kind of hates it out there in the middle of nowhere, but I know a lot of bigger schools with funding, etc., tend to be out west.

superdreaming

@Cavendish Yes I will thank you! That sounds like a dream! (Plus I could totally live in Massachusetts if I bought a lot of sweaters!)

Sgt. Exposition

@superdreaming That's actually kind-of what I do. My project's part historiography, part multi-site ethnography of the contemporary trans community online, including but not limited to Tumblr.

You totally can do queer theory without having deep feelings. You will interact with people who do have Serious Feefees, though. And if you do end up working with real, live people, you may end up in a position where you're challenged by the community on your legitimacy, your "rightness" in studying it.

So in doing my project, I had to think long and hard about research ethics: whether or not I would go to IRB about my project, about what lengths I would go to to obscure my subjects. About the amount of surveillance that I'm performing on people who may never know I'm watching them--literally, since I've been studying vloggers. I fought with myself over how I would approach challenging these spaces as well, because in some cases, I have an active personal interest in them. And then there's the most basic: I'm a Young White Trans Dude, so I have a lot of privilege and power I have acknowledge.

I was in Kansas, and Lawrence tends to be an island compared to everything around it but KC. One of my undergrad mentors who grew up in Santa Cruz called it, "SC in the middle of Kansas." However, you really need to have a car, or you really can't get anywhere outside town.

I hope that helps instead of scares you off! I have Capital Letter Feelings about research ethics, so it's not always that dire. It may be totally fine, esp. if your advisor is cool.

hoo:ha

Some food for thought: Getting an MA in London (England) was cheaper than if I had gone to a comparable program in the States (where I am from) even given the higher cost of non-EU tuition. Why? MA courses are generally only one year over here. (But now they've got me on the 3 year PhD program, so well done, UK. But I got funding so phew.) But if you're just after that MA, it's a totally feasible option, financially. Probably looks good on an application too, to have international academic experience, although I have never interviewed students in the States.

synchronized
synchronized

@hoo:ha Curious: How do you afford basic living needs on a program like this? Many of the master's programs I've seen in the U.K. cost non-EU students around $26,000 a year. If you're already paying for THAT out of pocket, how do you afford an apartment (a.k.a. flat), food, etc? Not trying to snark; just genuinely curious as someone who has considered graduate study abroad.

hoo:ha

@synchronized Stafford and grad plus loans that you will never have to pay back thanks to IBR and the fact that you have a grad degree in humanities/arts and will never have a high enough income to require a repayment and then in 25 years Alacazam!!! They are forgiven. Note: if you DO have a high enough income to be required to make a partial payment then... Hurray! You are making a high income! And you are still forgiven after 25 years!

synchronized
synchronized

@hoo:ha Cool, thanks for the info. Much appreciated.

Jenn@twitter

...I read all of the comments here and am suddenly glad that I'm in for a PhD in materials science.

fully-funded and the job placement from this particular program is phenomenal and looks as though it will continue to be so?

nyikint

@Jenn@twitter You're killing me, Smalls. ;)

(I'm just jealous).

HeyThatsMyBike

@Jenn@twitter Yep! I go to a very engineeringy/sciency grad school, and have seen that ladies in STEM fields are not likely to have a huge problem finding employment when they are done assuming they're willing to do post-docs or work in research-based roles.
I am even just in a "STEM-adjacent" sort of field, and the job prospects seem pretty good, particularly because about 75% of our program's graduates do not go into academia.

Sgt. Exposition

< - M.A. in one Studies, about to do a Ph.D. in another Studies. Questions about doing interdisciplinary work, in my case actual sciences/humanities? Considering studying yourself (that is, your identity group/label(s))? I can answer those!

Also, I've worked at a for-real interdisciplinary academic journal, so I can answer questions about the process of what foes on behind the curtain.

My big advice: Have a back-up plan. Take on jobs in the summer that build marketable skills, and stay up-to-date on skills you built in undergrad. In my case, I've got expertise in media production, and I also am in the beginning stages of a sideline as a freelance academic copyeditor.

Bri Lee

I was enrolled in a top 10 PhD program in history, fully funded with a very good stipend for the metro area I was in. I left after my Master's despite loving my advisor/topic/students/classmates.

The fact was, I wanted to 1) eventually have a job where I could afford food and possibly nicer things also. 2) I wanted to live where I wanted to live. 3) increasingly, academia in the humanities looked like pointless navel-gazing that doesn't do anybody any good.

I found a great position in a corporation. It's a little hamster-wheely from time to time, but it more than pays the bills and I am so so happy with the life/brain time/work time balance. Book clubs at work! Read what you like! Enjoy big ideas about changing the world! Can avoid reading boring theoretical tomes that use diction and syntax that are unnecessarily complicated (I'm looking at you, Judith Butler and Benedict Anderson. Yeesh). And I can still publish, get people to read my work, and live a varied and interesting life of the mind.

To be honest my graduate worked probably worked against me in getting my initial job outside of academia, so keep that in mind. Your humanities degree is worth zippo outside the ivory tower and just makes you look questionable to potential employers. If you get a humanities grad degree, you realize that you are often going to be ranked lower than the undergraduates who are also scrabbling for the same entry level jobs.

Even my friends with Ivy League PhDs have had a ridiculously difficult time finding TT jobs. In fact they will probably have to look at the entry level private sector jobs, and will end up feeling hamstrung by their PhDs. The sad part is that they all would have been amazing profs and academics, but the academic market is collapsing in on itself like a black hole.

TL;DR:
1) Don't go to graduate school in the humanities. As someone who's been there, I reeealllly would recommend against it, unless you are a millionaire heir(ess) with lots of time and ennui.
2) If you must go, make sure you are in a top 10 (preferably top 5!) school.
3) Do not go unless you are fully funded (scholarship + stipend).
4) An exciting and satisfying intellectual life is more than possible with a normal 9-5.
5) Make sure that you have job back up plans in case you decide to quit or the funding dies.
6) If you want a retirement, children, good healthcare, home ownership or other expensive things, you should not go to graduate school in the humanities.

anachronistique

@Bri Lee Oh my good sweet lord, job searching with an MA in classics was terrible. I wasn't looking for stuff remotely in my field and I had to explain what the classics WERE and WHY I was interested and WHY I wanted a job (to pay bills) before we even started discussing the position.

mishaps

@Bri Lee My experience is that the first job is harder to find, and you will end up having to start at the bottom of the totem pole along with (not below) new college grads, but that humanities MAs and Ph.D.s rise through the non-academic career track fast. It helps if there is another field you are interested in enough to want to start at the bottom, of course.

Bri Lee

@anachronistique I know!! And I remember thinking to myself, any minute now this guy is going to think that I'm an elitist jerk. I got lucky, but man, how I wished I could have buried my education history sometimes!

Bri Lee

@mishaps I think where the "below" college grads thing is actually prior to getting the job--some hiring managers will assume that you're going to be too hoity toity and overeducated/cynical to really do the (oftentimes crappy) stuff the entry level people have to do. I agree with you that things can change once you get the job.

I also suspect that humanities MAs and PhDs rise through other job tracks quickly because they are clever and have a great work ethic, but the degree itself doesn't do them any favors in the eyes of potential employers. But once we're in, we're in...:)

minou

@Bri Lee Yes. If you are a humanities MA or PhD applying for a non-academic job, what's attractive about you is your ability to be thorough and see a large project through from start to finish. Foreground this, rather than your field specific qualifications, on non-academic CVs. I can't remember who gave me this advice, but it is really good advice.

Xanthophyllippa

@Bri Lee I had an industry interview in January in which the recruiter entirely ignored my Ph.D. - and my current job! - and focused exclusively on my BA. Which is > 15 years old. I wanted to be all, "I'm sorry; you realize that I've spent the last 5 years teaching people to do what you want to hire me to do? Then why are you asking about what I was doing when I was 22?"

Bri Lee

@Xanthophyllippa Well, you're a rare bird, and they can't really apply the same questions they'd put to a non-graduate-degree-bearing person. But still: lazy recruiter.

anachronistique

@mishaps To be fair, I think having a graduate degree did help me when I started looking for jobs on the admin side of higher ed - it showed that I was familiar with university culture, could navigate it well enough to finish a degree, and would understand the plight of graduate students. But a lot of schools are hemhorraging staff as well as faculty, so I can't really recommend this as a strategy, I guess.

TDF@twitter

@Bri Lee No. It really didn't. I was completely unhireable until I took my humanities MA off the resume and left the "teaching assistant" experience to fill the gap. And I live in a government town that (presumably) values education and intelligence.

minou

I got my PhD in a humanities field almost exactly one month ago. I have not had time to read every single comment here but I want to address a couple of these points. First of all: Don't go into debt for grad school if you aren't sure you will be able to get a job. This is really easy advice to give, but less easy to follow. The average time for a humanities PhD, start to finish, is 9 years. It's true! A fucking lot can change in a decade, such as, for example, the availability of jobs in your field. Even if you somehow manage to breeze through in a miraculous five years, a lot can change in that time. Plus, the only way you can really do all that coursework, research, and writing in five years is if you are funded solely by fellowships and don't teach. But no teaching experience = no job. So.

I was fully funded, and pretty well funded at that (by humanities standards) and I still have a lot of debt. I picked a good program in a cheap city, and it made no difference. You have to pay rent and eat, yes, and you can be frugal about these things, but you also have to buy A LOT of books, present at conferences (you will be paying for travel since even in the top departments funding is being cut and grad student travel awards are the first thing to go), and publish. The last two you have to do a lot of if you want to ever get a job. Conferences cost money, but you have no choice (if you want a job). Publishing won't generally cost much, except in some circumstances (if you have to use images, you'll pay for the rights -- even really good journals will not pay). My point is, these costs add up, and it's not as simple as "get funded or don't go." As with any business, you have to spend money to make money in grad school. And in today's economy, I'd rather have student loan debt than a mortgage.

Finally, there's the argument about not going to grad school unless you are so good at what you do that you can't NOT get a job. I'm not even going to go into the reasons why this is bullshit. There is no formula, and no guarantee. The market changes every year, and you may be the best in your field and not match what the market wants in any given year.

(ETA: Full disclosure, I went to grad school hoping I'd eventually end up in a private sector job, so I have never been in thrall to the tenure track, which probably colors a lot of my opinions about the whole situation. Also I absolutely think the grad school industrial complex is a totally exploitative racket. Here nor there?)

This is all to say, it's really easy to give advice about grad school. The reality is much, much more complicated. So then I think what it comes back to is do you love it? Do you really really love it? That's the only part of this that you will be in complete control of, the only part that's certain. So maybe go with that.

bb
bb

@minou
Finally, there's the argument about not going to grad school unless you are so good at what you do that you can't NOT get a job. I'm not even going to go into the reasons why this is bullshit. There is no formula, and no guarantee. The market changes every year, and you may be the best in your field and not match what the market wants in any given year.

TRUE TRUE TRUE. I saw so many people experience true, outright rejection for the first real time in their lives at the end of their PhD. You've been top of your class literally your whole life, then nothing. I had something like 25 applications in, some realistic, some reaches, and one interview. I got the job. I still feel like I won the lottery.

minou

@bb Today was my first day at my new mid-level private sector job, a rare good one, and although it's not totally in my field it is certainly related. It's not perfect, but nothing about this process is, and I feel pretty lucky too. More importantly, congratulations on your job! I'm very happy for you!

Xanthophyllippa

@minou Yeah, the bit about things changing is why I disagree with the "don't go if you're unsure you'll have a job" -- too much changes too quickly, and even people who ARE sure they'll have a job end up surprised. It's excellent advice in theory, but in practice it translates to "don't go at all." Even my engineering undergrads are getting rude awakenings these days.

Maryaed

@Xanthophyllippa It's worth remembering, too, that academia is about discipleship and sponsorship. You can be a very brilliant and gifted person who doesn't connect with the right people, or has a falling out with those people at the time when letters need to be written, and your brilliance will mean fuck-all. Or, some other wunderkind comes along and the professor who was putting energy into the success of YOUR job search doesn't want you messing with that person's prospects. See also the tenure process. It's very political. You don't control your own destiny necessarily.

This wasn't my experience but it sure happened to some friends of mine.

oeditrix

@minou Thank you for saying all these things. They are all true. People are especially unaware of the financial burden they're taking on in entering a PhD - even fully funded, with a stipend. Being on the market is expensive. You might spend the first four years of your career moving across country yearly to chase post-docs and one-year visiting professorships that pay $25K-35K, while paying off loans.

And remember that even if you "love it" - what you love may change over time. There's no shame in wanting different things out of life when you're 26 than you do at 32. You just need to recognize it for what it is, and make sure that you are okay with alternate routes should they begin to seem more plausible/less soul-crushing.

Here's an awesome book for PhDs who are considering pursuing non-academic careers. I should get royalties, I mention it so much: http://www.amazon.com/What-Are-You-Going-That/dp/0226038823

anachronistique

@oeditrix That book is The Best and definitely helped me figure out what the hell to do with my post-grad life. I recommend it to a ton of people.

wee_ramekin

Lolaaaaaaaaaa McClure!!! Can you answer questions about becoming an NP?!

I'm taking pre-requisites at the local community college to become an RN. I will also be applying to their (well-reviewed) nursing program. Once I've got two years of RN-ing under my belt, I want to go to UT and get my Family Nurse Practitioner's degree.

Can we talk about funding? I am a lady who makes a sort-of decent wage, but definitely not enough to have enough savings to live off of for two years while I go to nursing school. A lot of federal funding seems to be only for students who have never gotten a bachelor's, and I already have mine. Halp?

Coleen@twitter

@wee_ramekin Oooh, I know something about this! Make sure you read the admission requirements of the NP programs everywhere you want to apply. Some places require not just a valid RN license, but a BSN. Other places prefer critical care experience, etc. I am not an NP but I work for a program and know a little about the admissions process. Good luck!

wee_ramekin

@Coleen@twitter Girl! You just saved me oceans of heartbreak about a year from now! I looked at the UT website, and they do require a BSN, which my community college doesn't offer. ARGH! Now I'ma have to reformulate my plan yet again. Sigh.

Thank you so much for writing though, because it would have been really terrible to realize this if I had come to the end of the pre-reqs I need for the associate's RN and only then realized that I needed a BSN! Please accept the hearty thanks of a stranger on the internet!

jaritos

@wee_ramekin you could always try for an accelerated non-major masters in nursing (MECN), but prepare to have ZERO LIFE for two years at least. this has always been my plan B if i can't find an academic job.

anachronistique

The important things I learned in grad school:

1) Don't go to grad school for Classics.
2) Don't quit your antidepressants and stop going to therapy before you get there.

Bri Lee

@anachronistique oh God, grad school would be the WORST place to go off antidepressants...

Xanthophyllippa

@anachronistique I truly believe that grad school acceptance letters should come with a prescription for antidepressants included. Maybe with a post-it that says, "Trust me. You'll need this."

anachronistique

@Bri Lee I was young and stupid and then my family dog died and it was awful and sometimes I'm amazed I didn't just jump off the nearest bridge. But here I am!

I'm Not Rufus

@anachronistique My advisor likes to say that the biggest thing which differentiates successful and unsuccessful grad students is the amount of time spent in the quasi-inevitable "too depressed to be productive" zone. I've been lucky enough to have avoided it so far but it's definitely A Thing.

gospel_plow

@anachronistique This fall I'm starting a PhD program in Classics. Uh-oh! But I am still on my anti-depressants...

like a rabid squirrel

Anyone else about to head off to a PhD program and having a minor panic attack reading the comments here? I keep getting drawn back into this comment thread even though it's causing a resurgence of the should-I-or-shouldn't-I panic that I thought I got rid of! I'm graduating with my MA in a month. I'm headed to a highly-ranked program with good placement records, on a fellowship, in a humanities field (and research interest) that is actually growing. I want to be a professor, more than anything else I have ever done/thought of doing. It's just that as someone with a fair amount of really awesome non-school, sanity-saving stuff going on (like the most sane and stable and fulfilling relationship of my adult life) sometimes I wonder exactly what I'll be passing up to move to the Midwest and make this happen. Deep breaths. My therapist says ambivalence is a healthy process at least?

Anne Helen Petersen

@olliegrace My advice: don't start worrying yet. You're on the track that just might land you in professorland. Things can and do work out. Pick a dissertation topic that you love but that is also in demand. People are still becoming professors; it just might not be the direct path that it once was.

Bri Lee

@olliegrace And keep in mind that it's kind of a crapshot. Your first year out you may not see any positions that fit your qualifications. Your second year you might. Your third year out you may not. There may be tons of other people more/less qualified than you who are also applying whose advisors may/may not know the people on the selection committee. You just don't know. That's the difficult thing about getting a job in academia; it's unpredictable, and even if you are amazing! smart! committed! hardworking! it doesn't mean you will get that TT position. For talented people such as yourself who have been achieving your goals your whole lives, this may seem like a really painful disconnect.

Now, you can commit further by doing years of postdocs and adjuncting while waiting for that right TT to come along, but that's another unpredictable process altogether.

My advice would be to cultivate other options while you're in grad school. Not because you aren't going to finish your PhD, but because you definitely need a fall back plan, and it's just common sense. Work part time in a non-academic position if at all possible, just so you can have claim those years on your resume as real-job years in case you end up in the regular job market!

If you must go to grad school then go, but always always have a plan B. :)

minou

@Bri Lee Cultivating other options and getting (hopefully related) non-academic experience is really good advice. In addition to the advantages you listed, it can help you get your head out of the academic hamster wheel a little bit -- the whole process can feel suffocating and often, a little time outside the academy helps you re-energize, take a breath, and get through to the end.

Bri Lee

@minou Yes. Also, date non-academics. Or at the very least, date science grads if you are a humanities grad. There are few things more dangerous than cohort-cest.

billie_crusoe

@olliegrace
Jeeze, yes. After this thread, I am avoiding all internet forums / news articles / etc. about how bad the job market is for PhDs, and how tenure is going away, and... all of it.

Xanthophyllippa

@Bri Lee All of this! Yes!

mlle.gateau

@olliegrace I realize I'm tardy to the party here, but just keep in mind that experience in grad school varies. Of course there are people who have the worst time of their life- I've been that person, and it was my MA. There are also people who have a great time- I'm that person right now, working on a PhD in the humanities. Even when I was in my MA, I was surrounded by people who were having all sorts of times, but the school and the program were just a bad fit for me. It tore me up emotionally, but luckily it was a one year program so by some sort of divine intervention I managed to stick it out. This time around, I spent a few years working and doing different things before coming back with a more specific goal in mind. Not terribly specific, mind you, but more specific and this program is strongly committed to job placement and career path assistance beyond the first job. Now, that's not to say that everything is rainbows and kittens all the time, but on the whole, I'm enjoying myself. There are frustrations, yes, but I like my work and I've made friends. I try to avoid people who are negative, because it's easy to get sucked into that attitude, so I would recommend the same to you. I don't mean that you should find some pollyannas to hang out with, or that it's not okay to bitch sometimes, but there's a difference between blowing off frustration and trying to find a way to resolve the issue and just dwelling in negativity. And yes, go to meetups or pinups or do whatever you can to cultivate friendships that aren't within your program, because you really need a life beyond grad school to keep you sane.
TL;DR: Everyone's experience is different, work on being positive, surround yourself with positive people, and try to cultivate relationships with your supervisor or other professors where you can talk about your stress level and such- not whining, just sharing so you don't feel alone.

like a rabid squirrel

@mlle.gateau Thanks for this comment. I definitely relate with regards to the fit of the program - I had a pretty rough go at my MA program for a number of reasons, and made sure I put a lot of thought into assessing the departmental atmosphere at PhD programs (though it's hard to tell on first impressions). It's hard not to get sucked into the negativity and I think it definitely got the best of me at least for my first year or so of my MA, but from what I can tell the PhD program I'm headed to seems a little more positive in general.

minou

One more word of advice: Find friends with prescriptions for Adderall and Xanax. Or better yet, be the friend with the prescriptions for Adderall and Xanax. Also, for the love of god, don't forget to exercise.

Anne Helen Petersen

@minou I am going to write an entire column just on exercising in grad school. This is going to happen.

minou

@Anne Helen Petersen Let me know if you need to interview anyone. I got so desperate at one point that I joined Curves.

Xanthophyllippa

@Anne Helen Petersen YES. Let me tell you how many of my fellow students said things like, "Wow, you're a lot nicer now that you started rowing."

bb
bb

@minou so depressing to me that people take drugs to get through school. Drugs are supposed to be fun! (though don't tell me caffeine is a drug)

minou

@bb Ideally, that's where exercise comes in. But it's nice to have a Xanax around for those nights before your prospectus exam, or your defense, or whatever, when you are freaking out but really need to get a good night's sleep. And I know people who swear by Adderall for the tough times, but YMMV, of course. I am pretty tightly wound to begin with, so... back to exercise.

Jen See@twitter

@Anne Helen Petersen I was a bike racer all the way through my PhD (History, now a freelance writer). It made all the difference. Trained my brains out in the morning, sat in seminar in the afternoon. Worked a charm.

theotherginger

@Jen See@twitter @Anne Helen Petersen I only started the gym in grad school. So much better. I also started therapy. Well, that's not strictly true, I tried it before but they were like "you are just stressed" and I was like "not helpful". I am now thinking drugs might be a good complement to the talking about feelings and endorphins.

mlle.gateau

@Anne Helen Petersen YES please write this! Exercise: it will keep your hormones in check!

Signed,
A Humanities Grad Student Who Will Be Climbing Back On The Fitness Bandwagon In May.

Cavendish

English PhD student here! I'm 3 years in and have thought about quitting since I started. I'm not quite ready to give up just yet, even though I'm already in my early 30s and would really like to be able to make enough money to take a vacation before I'm 40.

I'm lucky enough to be in a program with a livable stipend, and pretty excellent health insurance. My advisors are great, and my department is super collegial. I also get to live in a beautiful New England college town. There are a lot of great things about my program, and I'm really interested in what I'm working on, but I still wonder if I would be just as happy doing something else that would pay a lot more money. I have at least 3 years left until I finish, so it seems like this would be a good time to leave. I don't know. I also am certain I don't want an academic job, so.

My husband just finished his MFA in poetry (God help us), so if anyone is has questions about that I might be able to answer them.

Xanthophyllippa

@Cavendish Recently I cleaned off my hard drive and found eight versions of an"I Quit" letter, all with different dates - one for each year I was in grad school. I guess my comment would be that pretty much everyone hits that point where they wonder the same thing you're wondering; if you enjoy what you're working on and you can live on the stipend comfortably, then I'd suggest continuing onward to see what happens. I'd also suggest thinking about whether you'd be happy with yourself - intellectually, psychologically - if you left; the reason I was able to make it through years 6 and 7 was that I knew I'd hate myself for a long time if I didn't just grit my teeth and push on through. I had to finish because I had to prove to myself that I could. I was a first-gen college student, so I was determined to fly in the face of stats that say first-gens have a disadvantage in grad programs, and that was enough to drive me to finish even when I started hating my topic.

oeditrix

@Cavendish If you're already wondering at 3 years, I'd say give it some serious thought. The hardest part is still ahead of you. I soldiered on, but sometimes I look at my friends who left after two, three, or even four or more years, and wonder if I was the idiot. It sounds like you can imagine life outside grad school, which is kind of a huge psychological barrier already to have overcome. Give it some serious thought, and ask yourself who you're trying to please by finishing your degree. Again, I say this as someone who made the decision to stay, that might be right for you too.

oeditrix

@Xanthophyllippa There is no guarantee that finishing a PhD will make a person happier with herself. In fact, if dropping out of school is going to make a person hate herself, then hating herself is something she would have eventually had to deal with anyway, unless she has the good fortune to succeed at everything in life and never have to improvise, change course, adjust, or even back down in the face of obstacles.

There's no virtue to staying in a bad situation just to prove something. Sometimes I wonder if I would have been happier if I had "cut my losses." As it is, I came out with a very prestigious degree, no job, and a bunch of gray hairs. My friends who left had a very hard time, but grew a lot too, and some of them found very rewarding careers.

oeditrix

@Cavendish This book has some great advice if you're still trying to figure it out. I found it really helpful:
http://www.amazon.com/What-Are-You-Going-That/dp/0226038823

Xanthophyllippa

@oeditrix I'm not guaranteeing anything, and this is a YMMV issue. My point, based on my own experience, was that it was better to make myself finish than it was to drop out and feel like I'd let myself down. I'm suggesting that anyone who thinks they might have the same reaction should consider sticking it out a bit longer so they have time to explore that attitude.

It's also not true that I'd have had to deal with hating myself anyway. Other than needing to finish the degree I started to prove to myself that I could, I was (unusually) content.

oeditrix

@Xanthophyllippa I'm sorry, I DEFINITELY didn't mean that as a personal thing about you and your life, and I apologize if it sounded that way. Your experience is your experience. :) Just speaking from experience of me and my friends - that thing about worrying that you'll "hate yourself" can have toxic effects. As I say, I did stick with it and get the piece of paper, and most days I don't regret that. But some days I do, and on those days I wonder if fear of a sense of personal failure was what kept me in it.

oeditrix

@Xanthophyllippa (and today is obviously one of those days, which is how I somehow became the anti-PhD troll on this thread, lol)

Xanthophyllippa

@oeditrix Oh, pffft - I didn't take it that way at all. I think this thread is making tempers and bile and whatever run high for a lot of us; I also came across worse than I meant. (My own regrets have nothing to do with staying in and more about the sacrifices.)

So - c'mon over here and grab a beer and tell me the worst story you have about your prelims!

mishaps

@Cavendish are you the kind of person who will refer to yourself as an ABD till you die, or are you OK with saying/believing "I got an MA and decided not to go further"?

I think that even if you're loving it, it's good practice to ask yourself regularly "is this still the right place for me right now?" when you're in grad school. This is also a good practice to continue into your professional life, as well! I still revise my resume every January.

slutberry

@Cavendish TELL ME ABOUT YOUR HUSBAND'S MFA IN POETRY. Please?

I am all excited about going for mine, but DANG they're competitive! The funding is awesome, but I'm so scared that I'm not a good enough writer. Le sigh.

minou

Well, now that I have started I can't seem to stop, so: Do we need to talk about dissertation length? We might! This is more important, and can get out of control more easily, than you might think. I can't tell you how long yours should be, but I can definitely tell you how long it shouldn't be: As long as mine was. Your advisors may not stop you, and you are the only one who can prevent bloated and unwieldy dissertations!

billie_crusoe

@minou Oh, god. I recently looked at my master's thesis, all 140 pages of it, and I was like, "What? WHAT were you thinking? This background material is SO FREAKING IRRELEVANT." I mean, it was important to building my understanding of the topic, blah blah blah, but seriously.

Fortunately, my dissertation is supposed to be a series of 3 articles submitted for publication, so I feel like that will help limit my verboseness and my tendency to write down every thought I ever had about this topic.

Xanthophyllippa

@minou My advisor told me she'd stop reading at 350 pages. I nearly bust a gut laughing because I knew I wouldn't come anywhere near that. (I think I ended up at, like, 260, including bibliography.)

I ordered someone's dissertation from ILL once and it came on two reels of film because it was 800 pages long. I looked at the canisters, looked at the ILL librarian, and handed them right back to her.

minou

@che 375 pages. I am not sure how I am still above ground right now.

billie_crusoe

@minou Oh my lord. I am impressed / horrified.

minou

@che I defended a month ago, may still be in shock to some extent.

billie_crusoe

@minou Well, congratulations!

anachronistique

@minou My mother claims she knew someone whose dissertation was less than ten pages long. Someday I am actually going to look this up.

superdreaming

@Xanthophyllippa I work in ILL and i sort of love your 800-page-dissertation story because I frequently send folks items I know they are going to take one look at and ship right back (see: everyone who has ever requested more than two volumes of anything).

Sgt. Exposition

@che That's why I'm so glad my program let me defend an article-size piece, with the assumption it will be sent off to the target journal after graduation. 30 pages and off to get a rejection!

HeyThatsMyBike

@anachronistique There was a woman in my department who had a dissertation proposal that was 14 pages long (not including references), but she was getting a degree in animal behavior, so I guess the lit review on whatever aspect of Pandas that she was studying was probably pretty brief. But everyone in the non-animal behavior parts of the department was still huffing about how unfair it was.

Fissionchips

@minou y'know how everyone's talking about number of pages...Just out if interest, is there a font type and size that everyone has to use? Cause I've always had a word count rather than a page number to work to.

Xanthophyllippa

@Velvick Check with your department and/or grad school - they're the ones who set the specs.

oeditrix

@minou Congrats! I defended in December (250 pages, thanks for asking!) and am still having Vietnam-like flashbacks.

Jen See@twitter

@minou Over 400. But that was with notes! And it was history! So there was a lot of notes! Also, I'm crazy, maybe.

Our university had very strict rules about formatting. It had to be 12 point, some sort of Times Romany font.

thenotestaken

@HeyThatsMyBike Proposals are supposed to be short, though? At my school the bio department limits dissertation proposals to 10 double-spaced pages, though you're allowed appendices so they usually come out about twice as long.

HeyThatsMyBike

@thenotestaken That makes perfect sense in biology! But in psychology, a lot of your work is on the front end, so really (at least in my department) when you're defending, you're just adding more charts and graphs and a results and discussion section, so about 75% of your actual writing should be done in the proposal. Mine proposal is shaping up to be about 75 pages of actual text, and I'm betting my final product will be about 90, and that's on the low side for my department, which is why people were bent out of shape about the 14 pager. But I looked at that one and there wasn't much else for her to write!

alabee

@HeyThatsMyBike, what kind of psych program are you in, if you don't mind my asking? I'm interested in clinical and am always looking for people who managed to get in.

HeyThatsMyBike

@alabee I do industrial and organizational psychology, so a pretty far cry from clinical (though my dissertation is about assessing Narcissism, so I've read a TON about NPD). However, I do know some clinical people. And yes, those programs are incredibly difficult to get into - I think the acceptance rates for I/O programs are about 12%, and for clinical it is more like 6-8%, which is madness. From what I understand, research experience and publications (preferably plural) are effectively a prerequisite.

billie_crusoe

@Sgt. Exposition I have to have one accepted for publication to be able to graduate! Which I am OK with because I am going into a not-top-10 program so I really need several pubs. But still terrifying!

anachronistique

@minou My mother claims she knew someone whose dissertation was less than ten pages long. Someday I am actually going to look this up.

MollyculeTheory

@anachronistique My dad always claimed he invented the beer koozie during grad school. I looked it up, and the first patent dates to the 1920's. Just, let your parents' claims be lost in time.

stephanieboland

No sensible warnings can stop the careering runaway train that is my excitement about further study.

kingstitcher

@stephanieboland "Careering" is the greatest word that nobody uses.

OwlOfDerision

@stephanieboland I also find it ironic that 'careering' is being used to describe ANYTHING grad-school related.

*this comment brought to you by a bitter final-year PhD person who has yet to find a job.

Fissionchips

I'm very late to the party here. But are there any good websites to search for funding opportunities at American Universities? I only ask because I'm currently in a pickle, in that I've been saving the amount it would have cost for a year of study prior to the UK fee rise for several years, now it's nowhere near enough, and I've been accepted on to a masters at the RCA that would be awesome to do, but I can't responsibly take on £10,000 debt when it's really hard to find any work paying significantly above minimum wage. THEREFORE, unless some rich strangers I've written to pay for me, I've got to look elsewhere, and I've heard that there are more funding opportunities over there since costs have always been prohibitively high. This may of course be wishful rumour.

bb
bb

@Velvick Are you talking about US funding sources to attend a UK masters program? That may be difficult. Or are you talking about scrapping the RCA program and looking to a US alternative? Most entry-level grad funding is provided by the institution you are attending, and then after that you apply to outside sources.

Fissionchips

@bb A US alternative...so it's a case of looking on the websites of institutions? I just didn't know where to start, and there a few websites here a bit like price comparison sites that help you search for courses and funding options. I really feel like if I'm going to do this (Art-Writing) I have to go somewhere really good, but I've only got savings of £3,700 and no family that can help. Bah, I did go to my Uni's career services to see if they could help me find a plumbing apprenticeship so I could eventually fund myself through postgrad study by being really useful, but they kinda just laughed at me and said I was too old haha.

HeyThatsMyBike

@Velvick What you'll need to find is how many Masters students are supported through Graduate Research Assistantships or Graduate Teaching Assistantships. This will vary widely from program to program - even in one institution, and to add to the fun, that information may not be immediately obvious. A lot of times, it's best to target a few schools (maybe those you think you might be able to get into), then email graduate coordinator and ask those kinds of questions.

HeyThatsMyBike

@Velvick And to further clarify, a GRA or GTA almost always comes with a tuition waiver and stipend. If it doesn't, you're doing it wrong!

Fissionchips

@HeyThatsMyBike Thanks! That's really helpful :)

Norrey

I work as a academic and career advisor at a University, and I get *a lot* of students who want to go to grad school because they can't find a job, or are just worried about the job market. I almost never advise people to go, especially for humanities or fine arts. Honestly, if your answer to the question "Why do you want to go?" isn't because you love it and you want it to be your life, then it's *never* a good idea. Which, hilariously, I say as someone who went to grad school right after undergrad.

thinksmall

Reading this thread is making my heart hurt!
I'm two years out of undergrad and I desperately want to go back to graduate school because I miss academia so much. But I know that grad school is, objectively, a bad idea for me (#1 reason: I don't necessarily want to be a professor, and I really don't want to do the academic TT job search).
But aaaah, even hearing people's negative experiences just makes me want to go!

Sassafrass

Thank you! This is a great piece,and as someone who has been talking about, mumbling over, pondering returning for a PhD for about 3 years very well timed. I think I've come to the conclusion that what I really want is to change what I'm doing, ie leave my current job. That may or may not mean going back to school. It's nice to see so much discussion around something I've often tried to tell myself, should not be so hard to decide. As always, the comments and discussion after are invaluable. My degrees are in sciences not humanities, but I think the decision making process is much the same.

hairdresser on fire

Umm can someone speak to my horror about dropping out of a MA program in international studies after year 1 of 2? I got some great input from Xanthophylippa and others about this butttt that was before I got indefinitely waitlisted on funding at a program I cannot afford or justify affording. Am I going to fuck myself over forever on getting into good programs in something else because I couldn't finish???? AAAAHHHH

Jen See@twitter

@hairdresser on fire I droppped out of a MA program in international relations after the first year. I had doubts that it was what I really wanted to do, and I couldn't get full funding for the second year. I then applied to a MA/PhD program in History, got in, stayed funded, and finished. So, no, dropping out of one graduate program doesn't necessarily mean you won't ever get into another one. You do need to have in mind a good explanation about why you're leaving the old program and why the new program (if you decide to apply) is a better fit for you. Also, if possible, try to cultivate at least one faculty member from your old program to serve as a reference in the future. Good luck :)

Xanthophyllippa

@hairdresser on fire What @Jen See@twitter said. Sounds like you've got the perfectly legit reason of the program not meeting your interests - I'm extrapolating there, but I'd assume if you'd been dreaming of a degree in IS all your life, justifying the cost might be easier. Grad programs are familiar with the "I realized this wasn't what I wanted to do;" as long as you don't leave a string of Fs behind you and you can get a faculty member from your old program to write a letter, I'd think most admissions committees would take this in stride.

Ingrid Nilsson Goatson@facebook

Anyone have any suggestions for an alternative to a literature enthusiast instead of going to grad school ... ?

mishaps

@Ingrid Nilsson Goatson@facebook Live in a city with an arts scene, or make one. Go to lectures and start/join a reading group. Read and contribute to literature blogs. Believe me, you have no time to be a literature enthusiast in literary grad programs.

Ingrid Nilsson Goatson@facebook

@mishaps Great advice. Thanks :)

theotherginger

@mishaps @Ingrid Nilsson seriously, get rid of your grad school dreams, they are revolting (j/k) but my literary dreams kind of died in my MA. That was sad. I am trying to recapture them by reading children's books.

ladykin

I am a few months from finishing my PhD in social psychology (freedom!), and I feel really torn about giving graduate school advice. I don't know whether grad school was a wonderful or terrible idea. I think that in many ways, the only way to understand what grad school was like was to actually experience it. I don't know if I will ever have a job in my field, so the 7 years seem a little like a waste. However, I received funding my entire time, so although I have no savings, I also didn't acquire any more debt. I've made some great friends and probably learned some important things about myself. But, (just to nerd out) without a control condition, I can't be sure that grad school caused these changes.

I also really appreciated the earlier comments about how grad school delays real life. Sure, you can make major life decisions in grad school. However, for a crazy neurotic like me, I usually only like to make those decisions when I have some semblance of stability in my life. I'm not sure when I will ever have that stability...

Finally, I can't stress enough how helpful a pet can be in grad school. A wee babe to love you and force you to maintain some type of schedule in your life.

itstimetopaytheprice

So, I'm also a grad student. I'm four years in, with a master's degree under my belt, and now I'm in the beginning process of writing my dissertation. The problem is, I'm stuck. I can't get motivated. I work a lot, because my program is horribly funded (I WISH someone told me NOT to go until I found a funded program... too late now), so I always find an excuse NOT to write. Part of me doubts I really WANT to write my dissertation, but the other part thinks, "ARE YOU CRAZY! YOU'RE ALMOST THERE!" I'm really scared I have put myself into a lot of debt and now do not have the drive to finish. Any advice for a fellow grad who feels completely overwhelmed and unsure how to proceed?

tvplease

@itstimetopaytheprice I am also at the "just write the thing dammit" stage. I actually sent an email to the Ask a Humanities Grad student asking them to put up a posting for a 'Pinners dissertation writing group.

Quinciferous

@itstimetopaytheprice I know you probably know this source, but have you read _Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day_? I found it really helpful in just jumping off the cliff and plunging into the writing portion of the program.

On the other hand, maybe someone who has actually finished their dissertation should hop in with REAL TALK, but at least I've been able to start writing. For me, consistently freewriting gave me the freedom to write terribly, but daily, which has helped a lot.

Also, go to conferences, for that built-in deadline feeling! I've made a rule that I am only allowed to write conference papers that will be re-organized into dissertation chapters (or stand a chance of turning into peer-reviewed journal articles).

mlle.gateau

@itstimetopaytheprice So, the best advice I've ever read about writing, and this is sort of echoing @Quinciferous, is just to write. I think it's from that Stephen King book, On Writing, and I mean, if anyone knows how to churn out some pages, it's King! But seriously, just start writing. Don't try to write the whole thing, just say, Today, I am going to write two paragraphs with no explanation about my argument. Then read it, and figure out the series of questions implicit in your statement. Each day, try to answer one or part of one, and write some more questions. So if on Day 1 you write, "The US should not have seceded from Britain," you have some questions: Did the US secede? What was the US's relationship to Britain? How did the US secede?. The next day you come back and deal with the US' relationship to Britain, and so on and so forth. It doesn't have to be beautiful, and you'll have to edit the shit out of it, but the editing process is so much less painful than the initial writing process, at least for me. You can do it! Go fight win!

mishaps

@itstimetopaytheprice Can I also suggest that you spend some time looking at WHY you do not have the drive to finish? You may be trying to tell yourself that it's time to go do something else.

It would suck not to get the Ph.D., but it would suck SO MUCH more, three years on, to have even more debt and still not have written anything. Think about cutting your losses, and why you would or wouldn't want to do that.

Jen See@twitter

@itstimetopaytheprice You didn't mention what field you're in, but if you're in a humanities field, you are probably not really "almost there" if you're just starting your dissertation. If you're like, two chapters to go? You're almost there. But the writing process is long - and if you're not sure you really want to do it, it's worth thinking about whether there's something else you want to do instead, or at least, why you are struggling with motivation.

If it's writers block, not lack of interest, then, that's a different story altogether. It is easy to find reasons not to write! I do it all the time!

A couple things: Find a routine - and for me, that routine has often meant going to certain places, the library, a certain coffee shop, whatever it is. You need to make writing part of your life in a way that you can't ignore. At 10am or 8pm or whatever time it is, you are going to library or the coffee shop and you're going to write something.

If you're facing the blank page, pick up a book or one of your source materials, and find something interesting on the page. Start typing that passage - then, start writing about the passage you just typed. You'll have something on the page, and something usually leads to more somethings.

Try finding a few other people at a similar stage to you - in your field or not - to trade chapters around. Acccountability buddies can really help.

There's no real magic to writing a dissertation. It's an endurance test as much as anything else. Keep writing, and don't stop.

DrFeelGood

@itstimetopaytheprice From watching my spouse write his diss, first you have to cut yourself some slack. It is one of the few things in life that while you've committed to do it, no one is going to MAKE you do, and it's not really fun, at all. Nor is it linked to monetary gain, prestige, or anything else. It's all from you. It's also painful and you have to have real endurance, since you've already been studying this topic for quite awhile. My advice is seek out a writing group, don't do it at home alone, do it like a job or a part-time job; like today at 9 AM i will be dressed and at the library with my internet disabled. Then reward yourself after writing for x numbers of hours, or x number of lines/pages. It doesn't matter (at first) if what you have isn't good. JUST WRITE. You're running a marathon, not sprinting. Good luck!!

Donovan Gentry@twitter

I'm too late to this thread and now there are a billion comments! I met some good people in grad school (including AHP), but it remains one of my greatest missteps in my adult life. MAJOR regrets, still recovering from it. There have to be less expensive ways to figure out what you NEVER want to do again in your life.

theotherginger

@phlox I do like sangria! Hopefully I will actually make it out... As for your finances, if you have those two as back-ups it will probably work out well!

kingstitcher

I would love it if the roster included someone who has gone or is going through grad school with a child.

Lucy Honeychurch

I had to create a profile just to jump in on this one.
Has/is anybody pursued a masters degree in social work? I finish undergrad in seven weeks (eep!) and am hoping to apply for 2013. My husband, who is ABD in chemistry, is certain I will have no problem getting into programs. But, he doesn't know my field. I currently have a 3.75 GPA and have considerable volunteer experience, but no actual job experience in that field. What are my chances? How competitive is acceptance? Any advice is most welcome!

mija

@Lucy Honeychurch Right here! I'm getting my MSW right now and I will graduate in December. Social work programs aren't very competitive but scholarships are hard to come by, so do check out what the average aid package is for schools you're considering. I volunteered/worked for three years before going back to school and the experience has definitely helped, but I know several people who went straight from undergrad. Good luck! You'll love it!

Annie Hollis@facebook

@Lucy Honeychurch HI! I'm halfway through my MSW program. It's unlikely that you'll get funded but I got my first year free with graduate assistantships. I won't be able to do that my second year because I found a fabulous part-time job in the Real World that I'm not gonna quit for another GAship. That means I'm taking loans for next year but I also got $7100 of grants and scholarships and my school is pretty cheap, so it's not too bad.

Things to keep in mind:
1) go to school in the city/location you want to work in. Connections, connections, connections.
2) practicum requirements are SERIOUS. If you're doing a 2-year MSW (and you are, unless you have a BSW), it's 225 hours a semester, so 500 hours per year. Works out to 16 hours a week. It makes working hard, so if yr gonna work (and you should, in the field) finding a part-time job with a flexible schedule is a must. Advocate for yourself about practicum--do NOT allow the practicum office to place you somewhere you don't want to be.
3. In my experience name-brand schools don't matter. Do this as cheaply as you can. Social work doesn't pay a lot but thank god for IBR/PSLF.
4. Work your ass off in the community to network, make connections, get a part time job in the field, kick ass at your practicum. Stay connected to whatever field of social work you want to be in and you will be fine. Social work jobs will never go away - there are good times and bad, but distinguish yourself, get your foot in some doors and it will be okay.
4. The best thing about an MSW IMO is it's so versatile. I've been in the nonprofit/social services world for about 6 years, put myself through undergrad working full time swing shift managing a domestic violence shelter, moved to Hawaii, found work here in housing then started grad school and have been working on a bunch of different stuff like foster care, mental health service for adolescents, and policy/organizing. I've (re)discovered a deep love for macro social work and policy and it seems like my career is heading in that direction. Figure out what you want to do and run with it.

Places to look for PT jobs that usually hire people with little to no SW experience: shelters. Homeless or domestic violence shelters. That's what got me started in this world and the experience is and has been INVALUABLE and I am way far ahead of most of my classmates in terms of real-world knowledge.

HEY NOVEL, feel free to reply if you wanna chat more. I love social work!

Dorothea

law school, anybody? it's what i did after a professor crushed my phd-dreams.

ianmac47

While there are many reasons to attend graduate programs, a good number of people attend academic liberal arts programs with the abstract notion of remaining forever in the academy at an educational institution, specifically intending to become, one day, a professor. For anyone considering that track, I highly recommend reading Frank Donoghue's book, The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. If it scares the piss out of you and you still want to go to graduate school, you're probably ready. If it doesn't scare the piss out of you, you're probably too stupid to succeed.

Danzig!

Way late on this one, but I'm in a program (MPA!) that feels really, really easy. Like, the work itself is not difficult or challenging, there's just a lot of it. It's making me nervous because I feel like I'm just going through undergrad again, and getting into what I feared I would get into - namely, a means for delaying my entry into the real world for another few years. I need something meatier than this. So I'm transferring to a different, better-ranked program, but I don't know if it'll be enough. It's scary because I feel underqualified for absolutely every job I could apply for.

bowtiesarecool

@Danzig! I know I just kvetched about being overcommitted upthread, but if you can get a day job or internship in your chosen field and do night classes, you get SO MUCH MORE out of the work. I worked in the field for a few years before applying to grad school, and I notice a serious difference in the way I study and how applicable it feels to my profession. I don't know that rankings are as big a deal with MPAs as they are in other things, unless you're thinking of transferring to the Kennedy School or something, but if you can do a program with other people who have public sector day jobs, in really enhances the classroom experience. It's one thing to study issue networks or the hollowing out of the bureaucracy, it's another to have a fellow student explain the contracting process within their agency, or the impact of government shutdowns, or how their organization interacts with others in the same policy area.

Grad school! More than just a means of procrastination!

Danzig!

@bowtiesarecool There's a Fall internship program at the SEC but maaaan I don't know shit about finance

DrFeelGood

@Danzig! That's the secret dude that most employers don't realize. My undergrad degree, at a small liberal arts school was HARDER than my MS at a prestigious fancy-pants Ivy League school. Most of my friends have the same experience. Basically, I learned, that your masters is basically another undegrad degree. You only learn as much as you put into it. I was working full-time so it wasn't an option, but my classmates got their new jobs via internships, not because they had good grades in our program.

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Okay, well now I'm totally excited about applying to grad schools! *sarcasm* Anyone have any thoughts on museums studies/public history programs? I'd love to study in the U.K. (since I studied British History in undergrad and would like to work in a British museum/heritage site one day, but is it worth it anymore?

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