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comment by birchbarkcanoe
birchbarkcanoe  ·  1129 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The academy I dreamed of for 20 years no longer exists, and I am waking up

I'm a bright-eyed bushy-tailed undergrad about to start the PhD program application process, and I ask myself more and more often if the system is too broken to even be worth a shot. I alternate between "it's different in science because the degree is still useful outside academia" and "My dream is looking like an awful, awful decision."

    We are more than cogs in a machine: together, we are the machine. It matters how we treat each other. It matters which journals and publishers we choose to publish our ideas with. It matters which conferences we choose to attend. It matters who we collaborate and constitute panels with. And it matters how we talk about our working practices. Being overloaded is not a badge of honour

The problem that I see related to this is that some academics (read: the old tenured dudes who can do whatever they want) don't really see the problems in the system because that very system has led them to a comfortable success. They're blind to the burnouts and the crazy job market etc. She does mention, however:

    ... the current system is not working for everyone – and not just early career researchers: even senior academics are “choosing” to leave academia. And when the system isn’t working for everyone, it is working for no one.

and I don't know if I find that more alarming or what.

ilex  ·  1129 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I've been working on a PhD for mumble years now and I continue to have mixed feelings about it. My research is often rewarding and I like the niche I'm trying to make for myself in a couple different topics. I've learned a lot, significantly more than if I were to have gotten a job and tried to study on my own. I've enjoyed teaching and would love to continue.

But I don't know what I'm going to do when I leave. Having seen what is expected of professors -- I don't think I could do it, not without burning out long before I got tenure. Maybe at a liberal arts school where there's more emphasis on teaching and lower expectations for how much grant money you bring in, but that also means (from what I can see) less access to people with the skills to do the kind of mathematical research I like to do.

I'll probably end up in a national lab if I can manage a security clearance and stomach the additional pledge of allegiance to the US government.

I would definitely do grad school again if I was offered the choice, although I'd make some different choices about specific details. Aside from the job opportunities, I did it to satisfy my intellectual curiosity and that has made grad school "worth it" for me.

You didn't ask for it, but here's the one piece of advice I wish someone would have given me when I started: above all else, guard your mental (and physical) health. It only takes one or two bad semesters to really set you back. Without a doubt my failure to do so has added at least a year to my program, and I've seen people develop PTSD symptoms and not finish as a result.

birchbarkcanoe  ·  1128 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I would definitely do grad school again if I was offered the choice

Wow this is so good to hear. Maybe the more vocal side of the internet is the side that regrets it. I think my dream is a teaching-focused position, though I could also see myself in a non-university research setting or, well, I don't know. As you said, it's an intellectual curiosity type of thing.

That is really great advice, thank you! I've had some professors mention that as a sort of aside when talking about grad school, and I'm starting to reach the conclusion that the people that are miserable are the people that don't take care of themselves. Anyway, thanks for your insight!!