The Ph.D. Needs CPR

Does anyone balk at a surgeon who expects a job after medical school? How about a dentist? If medical doctors were struggling to find work, would we blame them and tell them to quit whining about the poor job market?

Probably not. Society respects medical doctors—venerates them, even. Spending one’s 20s and 30s in medical residency is lauded as honorable and wise. It’s an act of sacrifice that deserves to be rewarded after graduation, which is why no one raises an eyebrow at the (appropriately) high salaries awarded to these professionals. Doctors sacrifice some of their productive years in exchange for a good job and a good salary later. That’s the unspoken agreement and no one seems to have a problem with it.

So why is the conversation so different with regard to the doctor of philosophy? These students undergo the same kind of apprenticeship and mentoring phase. They sacrifice their 20s and 30s in poor-paying graduate assistantships and adjunct professor positions while they learn their craft, just as medical doctors do (and they usually earn far less money during this training than a medical resident earns).

Ph.D. students and medical students both go through similar apprenticeships, they both graduate with the same title, and they both commit themselves to helping others and to advancing society. So why does America tend to venerate one type of doctor and disparage the other? <Read more.>

Via Josh Boldt, The Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae.