The Economist argues, as they would be expected to argue, given their free market leaning, that due to the glut of Ph.D.s and therefore the poor job market (in academia), it is a waste of time. A Ph.D. who enters the job corporate world for anything except basic research has the wrong set of skills, according to corporate hiring managers, so it is actually better to hire a bachelor's or Masters degree and spend the time in the corporate world. Numbers bear it out. While a Ph.D. earns more than a bachelor's degree today the difference between a Ph.D. and a Masters is barely noticeable.
They have a point - until recently, any sort of college degree was for either the richest or smartest but once demographics showed that college-educated people make more, it became a political effort to give everyone a college education so they would make more money.
Except most people recognize it doesn't actually work that way - it simply means the best people will still get hired, regardless of degree, while some with a Ph.D. are mired in debt because the government did not say everyone should have the opportunity to get a college education for free, just the opportunity to get one, which meant student loans which had once been capped became unlimited. Sensing unlimited money, college tuition spiked accordingly and the status quo was maintained; only the richest or smartest go to the best schools now.
Result; as I discussed in Why did 17 million of you go to college? there are 5 million janitors with Ph.D.s. As The Economist notes, from the book “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids and What We Can Do About It”, America got over 100,000 new Ph.D.s between 2005 and 2009 but just 16,000 new professorships - part of that reason is because academia doesn't need more full-time jobs because they can get PhD students to do the teaching. Talk about a Catch-22.
Does it seem to matter? Not in science. As the bar has risen, so has the need to accept a post-doctoral position, for less money than what a construction worker makes, to get considered for a lecturer position. The glut of post-docs is so high that even if faculty jobs in something like the life sciences rose 5% per year, only 1 in 5 Ph.D.s would get one. And academia is what a Ph.D. is primarily for; the research interests are too narrow otherwise.
Being a principal investigator is no easy task either; researchers from academia prefer the perception of autonomy under the grant system but it's highly competitive.
Clearly scientists are doing it for love, not money. A site like Science 2.0 is proof of it. However, there are limits to what ethical schools should be allowed to do. Under the current system, schools will take everyone, knowing full well there are no jobs. Then they will let them work as post-docs with the promise of better things in the future - though Ponzi scheme isn't the correct term it is certainly vaguely unethical to let students who want to do research underbid each other. Unions came into play in the early part of the 20th century because corporation would let a glut of workers drive down prices. Public and private universities now do the same thing. Certainly unions mean higher wages, and with it fewer jobs, so the solution might be for schools to simply not lining their pockets and accepting far too many people.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Vitriolic Abuse Of Anita Sarkeesian: Why The Games Industry Needs Her
- Sam Ting On AMS Results: Dark Matter Might Be One Seminar Away
- Why Natural Gas, Including Fracking, Is Better For The Environment Than Wind And Solar
- Factor In Space Bubbles Or The Terrorists Win
- Triclosan In Utero May Disrupt Growth Of Boys, But BPA Doesn't
- Scientists Are Not Trusted By Americans - Here's Why
- Mysterious 1808 Eruption - The Real Cause Of The Coldest Decade Of The Last 500 Years
- "I think you mean BICEP2, not Planck...."
- "Where are the sources for this article?..."
- "What causes segregation nowadays? People wanting to live like human beings, moving away from those..."
- "The potential for a discovery is there Anon. It's in the high-energy data and the antiproton data..."
- "It's amazing to see the PR machine that Ting has put together at work. Not only do we have to wait..."
- Modest effect of statins on diabetes risk and bodyweight related to mechanism of action
- Skin coloring of rhesus macaque monkeys linked to breeding success, new study shows
- A step in the right direction to avoid falls
- Stop taking patients in cardiac arrest to hospital, says expert
- Dying brain cells cue new brain cells to grow in songbird