College graduates at one time or another may be thinking about returning for a doctorate in the belief that it will enhance their chances of landing a good job (“Are You Sure You Want to Go to Grad School?” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, June 3). But based on the best evidence available, it’s a big mistake.
I’m referring now specifically to those who want to eventually become a tenured professor, although it also applies to work in the private sector. That’s because only about 20 percent ever do so. There are certain notable exceptions. A doctorate in STEM will open doors because STEM holders are so much in demand in academe as well as in the corporate world. Remember that a PhD is primarily a research degree. It doesn’t prepare its holders to become an effective teacher.
It takes on average five years to get a PhD in most fields. During that time, professors load candidates up grading papers and teaching discussion groups. The stipend they receive for their work barely covers the rent, let alone anything else. Given the total picture, it’s hard to understand why anyone would pursue this long-haul degree.
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