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Dr. Helen

Literature PhD? Don’t do it.

April 7th, 2013 - 4:31 am

Slate: Getting a literature Ph.D. will turn you into an emotional trainwreck, not a professor.‏ (via Newsalert):

Don’t do it. Just don’t. I deeply regret going to graduate school, but not, Ron Rosenbaum, because my doctorate ruined books and made me obnoxious. (Granted, maybe it did: My dissertation involved subjecting the work of Franz Kafka to first-order logic.) No, I now realize graduate school was a terrible idea because the full-time, tenure-track literature professorship is extinct. After four years of trying, I’ve finally gotten it through my thick head that I will not get a job—and if you go to graduate school, neither will you.

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I wouldn't say that graduate school is a waste of time or money. I learned a lot, but then I had some really good professors.

It is true that tenure track positions are increasingly rare to come by and hard to get. But if your only goal in earning a PhD in literature is to become a tenured professor, then that's your problem.

Read the Millionaire Next Door. The three careers that are least likely to make you a millionaire are the status careers: doctor, lawyer, professor. That's because of the education requirements and expense. It's much better to go to trade school for two years, become a licensed mechanic, plumber, electrician, a/c repairman, or realtor, something like that. Start your own business, and you'll be making money before the future doctor, lawyer or professor is out of school.

Most millionaires, those that bothered to go to college, were C students. It's an old saying. The A students work for the C students.

That said, a good doctor is hard to find. As is a good lawyer. Even more a good professor. But the same could be said about a mechanic, a plumber, an electrician, an a/c repairman, a realtor, whatever.

The purpose of education is betterment of self. The study of literature is highly rewarding. My master's degree is in British Romantic poetry, with a minor in medieval literature and the humanities. What good did it do me? Well, I was a high school teacher and adjunct professor for several years, and made good money for a while. Today, I'm a realtor. My family owns the company, and I have to help my mother after my father died.

Go to a jobs seminar. You know what these human resources people, these managers, these business owners are looking for? Verbal and written communication skills. Yeah, those skills are important. They're very important.

Even at our small company, when we need to hire a new secretary, we have a simple spelling and math test. We deal in millions of dollars of property every year, and we can't afford mistakes. What's a secretary's responsibility? To answer phones, refer clients to realtors, send emails, write receipts. If she can't pass a simple spelling and math test, she isn't qualified. You'd be surprised at how many people can't pass that test, and most of them are college graduates.

This is why when I was teaching I always focussed on essential skills: analytical thinking, critical reading, and cogent writing. My students hated me in the moment, but loved me afterwards. I was strict but fair, and I made them develop the skills that would make them successful. Many of them are.

When this real estate business is over, after my mother retires or dies, would I go back to college to get a PhD? Damn right I would. But not because I intend to become a tenured professor. That would be a waste. Because I intend to fiinish what I started.

I don't need a PhD. I don't need to be a tenured professor. I'm going to retire a millionaire. The company, the listings, the building, the office supplies, the land, the condos, I liquidate everything and it adds up to several million.

I just do my job. I look after my mother. I would only go back to college to finish what I started. The only satisfaction I'd get from earning a PhD is that I earned it.

I don't need it, but I want it. These people who think that a PhD is their ticket to success are stupid. How many of them could pass a simple spelling and math test to be a secretary at a small real estate company?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (3)
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It's tragic that so many people are spending money they'll never have on degrees they don't need for jobs that don't exist.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I wouldn't say that graduate school is a waste of time or money. I learned a lot, but then I had some really good professors.

It is true that tenure track positions are increasingly rare to come by and hard to get. But if your only goal in earning a PhD in literature is to become a tenured professor, then that's your problem.

Read the Millionaire Next Door. The three careers that are least likely to make you a millionaire are the status careers: doctor, lawyer, professor. That's because of the education requirements and expense. It's much better to go to trade school for two years, become a licensed mechanic, plumber, electrician, a/c repairman, or realtor, something like that. Start your own business, and you'll be making money before the future doctor, lawyer or professor is out of school.

Most millionaires, those that bothered to go to college, were C students. It's an old saying. The A students work for the C students.

That said, a good doctor is hard to find. As is a good lawyer. Even more a good professor. But the same could be said about a mechanic, a plumber, an electrician, an a/c repairman, a realtor, whatever.

The purpose of education is betterment of self. The study of literature is highly rewarding. My master's degree is in British Romantic poetry, with a minor in medieval literature and the humanities. What good did it do me? Well, I was a high school teacher and adjunct professor for several years, and made good money for a while. Today, I'm a realtor. My family owns the company, and I have to help my mother after my father died.

Go to a jobs seminar. You know what these human resources people, these managers, these business owners are looking for? Verbal and written communication skills. Yeah, those skills are important. They're very important.

Even at our small company, when we need to hire a new secretary, we have a simple spelling and math test. We deal in millions of dollars of property every year, and we can't afford mistakes. What's a secretary's responsibility? To answer phones, refer clients to realtors, send emails, write receipts. If she can't pass a simple spelling and math test, she isn't qualified. You'd be surprised at how many people can't pass that test, and most of them are college graduates.

This is why when I was teaching I always focussed on essential skills: analytical thinking, critical reading, and cogent writing. My students hated me in the moment, but loved me afterwards. I was strict but fair, and I made them develop the skills that would make them successful. Many of them are.

When this real estate business is over, after my mother retires or dies, would I go back to college to get a PhD? Damn right I would. But not because I intend to become a tenured professor. That would be a waste. Because I intend to fiinish what I started.

I don't need a PhD. I don't need to be a tenured professor. I'm going to retire a millionaire. The company, the listings, the building, the office supplies, the land, the condos, I liquidate everything and it adds up to several million.

I just do my job. I look after my mother. I would only go back to college to finish what I started. The only satisfaction I'd get from earning a PhD is that I earned it.

I don't need it, but I want it. These people who think that a PhD is their ticket to success are stupid. How many of them could pass a simple spelling and math test to be a secretary at a small real estate company?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
However, a Master's degree engineer in a PhD program will be hired as a teaching assistant making more money then a newly minted Lit/English PhD. And be put on staff, if not hired by an excellent firm, as soon as the dissertation is finished.
Maybe it has something to do with the rigor of the work....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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