Not much more, and often less, than a master’s degree, at least when counted in cold cash. That’s the conclusion of an unsigned article in The Economist that takes a trans-Atlantic view of what it calls “the disposable academic.”
“Many of those who embark on a PhD are the smartest in their class and will have been the best at everything they have done,” the article perceptively notes. “They will have amassed awards and prizes. As this year’s new crop of graduate students bounce into their research, few will be willing to accept that the system they are entering could be designed for the benefit of others, that even hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed, and that they would be better off doing something else. They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that.”
These strong and insightful words from a “correspondent” who “slogged through a largely pointless PhD in theoretical ecology” appear as part of the magazine’s “Christmas specials” package. Though some may see them as a journalistic lump of coal in the Yuletide stocking, they offer the heartfelt gifts of analysis and experience.