Monday, January 4, 2010

Why I'm glad I'm not in English any more

This year's MLA job market is the worst ever (since they've started keeping records). So, what ought graduates do?

Take a look at comment #7 from lms347: "If humanities PhDs would be willing to say, "Screw this. I can make more money and be just as fulfilled outside of academe" the way that some social sciences or science PhDs are willing and able to do, then maybe things would be a bit different."

Which gives the impression humanities PhDs are simply recalcitrant or closed-minded, yes? If only they would open their eyes!

Those social science and science jobs in industry or think tanks - you know what the required credential is for most of them? A PhD. You know what skills they require? Those learned in PhD programs.

Those alternatives suggested to teaching English and the humanities? Say, being an editor, or a high school teacher (both suggested by other commenters) - or perhaps working in a library or as a consultant - do you know what degree they require? Well, a masters would be nice. Maybe a teaching credential or some other degree that requires even more schooling.

Is it any wonder that after ten years of working on their PhDs, English lit graduates are more reluctant to seek non-academic careers than are economists? "This degree has to get me something - I spent ten years in poverty to earn it - so I'd like a job that uses it." That strikes me as perfectly natural. It's the system that is broken, with production not matching demand; it's not some curious flaw in the product.

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