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"The Perils of Pursuing a PhD in Philosophy"

mcarmichael

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Today, I’m 32 years old with only $100 in my 401(k). I currently work in the tech industry. I imagine where I’d be if I’d gone into the workforce at 22, right out of college, and begun contributing to my retirement accounts from the get-go. The opportunity cost of lost compound interest is staggering. It has literally cost me tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands.
https://medium.com/s/story/a-phd-in-philosophy-was-not-worth-it-4f87b8b109db

This made me feel a little bit better about digging spent lotto tickets out of the trash can at Wawa to play the second chance drawing.
 

NicholasMyra

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A lot to disagree with here. But the terrible job market/grifter universities, predatory journals, and hyperfocused obscurantist paper-writing are all true, from what my buddies still in the trenches say.
 

RobS

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You have to be incredibly stupid to pursue a PhD when you consider all the effort that goes into it and what you get back.

A free library card to check out philosophy books > your lavish $100k student loan bill for 3 little letters. And that's not even accounting for all the dependence and mental health issues most PhD students have. So add costs for recovery and therapy to that bill
 

hecma925

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When I was going for my Master's, I sat down and did a cost-benefit analysis and decided I was an idiot.  So I quit that noise.
 

RaphaCam

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I'm a bit surprised at your view of this level of education as Americans. In Brazil, a Master's is almost a necessity and a PhD is commonplace among the successful.

Honestly, I think your way is better. Overeducation is all flowers in theory, but in practice it means a saturated market in which employers demand that their employees spend more years of their lives. Nowadays some incredibly basic jobs demand a bachelor's degree, so you guys might imagine how much time and money we spend in pointless education just to prove our employees we can read...
 

Papist

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I teach philosophy at a tiny Catholic seminary in the United States, and I agree with much of what is contained in this article. In fact, I shared it on Facebook as a warning to all those thinking about pursuing a Phd.

For someone like me, this path is necessary. I have a pretty severe case of ADHD, and as a consequence, my own success in the business world would be unlikely. However, one of the gifts of ADHD is the ability to hyper-focus on that which interests me. This gift has served me will in the academic world.

That being said, the academic world is a nightmare. The battle for tenured positions, especially in fields like philosophy, is gladiatorial. There are just not enough jobs to go around. What is more, the years of academic research and writing that it takes to complete a dissertation hinders one's ability to enjoy family, friends, and life in general.

I would highly discourage anyone from seeking a terminal degree in an academic field unless one can't imagine himself or herself doing anything other than being a professor.

NOTE: Grammar edit
 

Papist

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RaphaCam said:
I'm a bit surprised at your view of this level of education as Americans. In Brazil, a Master's is almost a necessity and a PhD is commonplace among the successful.

Honestly, I think your way is better. Overeducation is all flowers in theory, but in practice it means a saturated market in which employers demand that their employees spend more years of their lives. Nowadays some incredibly basic jobs demand a bachelor's degree, so you guys might imagine how much time and money we spend in pointless education just to prove our employees we can read...
I absolutely agree. Graduate degrees have become far too overvalued. There will be an eventual collapse.
 

Papist

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Indeed. It's been a while. I had to devout all of my time and energy to research, writing, and teaching. But now I'm a much more available for enjoyable diversions like OC.net.
 

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Papist said:
I teach philosophy at a tiny Catholic seminary in the United States, and I agree with much of what is contained in this article. In fact, I shared it on Facebook as a warning to all those thinking about pursuing a Phd.

For someone like me, this path is necessary. I have a pretty severe case of ADHD, and as a consequence, my own success in the business world would be unlikely. However, one of the gifts of ADHD is the ability to hyper-focus on that which interests me. This gift has served me will in the academic world.

That being said, the academic world is a nightmare. The battle for tenured positions, especially in fields like philosophy, is gladiatorial. There are just not enough jobs to go around. What is more, the years of academic research and writing that it takes to complete a dissertation hinders one's ability to enjoy family, friends, and life in general.

I would highly discourage anyone from seeking a terminal degree in an academic field unless one can't imagine himself or herself doing anything other than being a professor.

NOTE: Grammar edit
Getting a PhD in America take a lot longer than other countries, from what I can gather. They have a pointless taught element, complete with exams and students are utilized as incredibly cheap exploitable labor to squeeze out of them teaching, marking, administrative and tech work. The result of that is these students have full time jobs for very small incomes and do all of their actual research/writing on their free time or during holiday breaks.

I believe more than 3/4th of professors are adjuncts or part-timers.

The level of exploitation in higher ed is crazy.

 

Luke

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Welcome back, Papist!
 

RobS

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So what do you think of the writings of Jean-Luc Marion, Papist? 8)

(We can take this chat elsewhere)
 

Papist

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RobS said:
So what do you think of the writings of Jean-Luc Marion, Papist? 8)

(We can take this chat elsewhere)


;)

Gif from this site: https://media1.tenor.com/images/ead2e2345aba59ac4c09a1990c35afdd/tenor.gif?itemid=8125029
 

hecma925

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Papist said:
Indeed. It's been a while. I had to devout all of my time and energy to research, writing, and teaching. But now I'm a much more available for enjoyable diversions like OC.net.
You got your research published?
 

Diego

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I was a double major in History and Philosophy. I was accepted to get my MA in Philosophy at Northern Illinois University. I was accepted to get my MA in History at the University of San Diego, the small Catholic university where I had gotten my BAs. I chose to get my degree in History. I don't know which choice would have been wiser. I haven't done a lot of work in history. I taught university a bit, and substituted in public school. I am writing a book on the history of the Holy Roman Empire, although its been awhile since I worked on it. So which one would have been the better choice? I have no idea.
 

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It's true that pursuing a PhD is no light decision. However, I do have some criticisms of the article. First, for decades now, if not my entire life, the number of PhD graduates has always outnumbered the academic job openings, especially during and years after a recession. Academia is certainly ideal, but if one is to pursue the PhD at all, they should do so with the satisfaction that the PhD itself is intrinsically worth it, even without the professorship at the end of the tunnel. Second, looking at anonymous boards and academic job gossip sites is not only a waste of time, but absolutely poisonous. If one is to interact with them at all, it should be but very brief and very select. This author seems to have gone down the rabbit hole to an extent that saps morale. Academic philosophy is quite notorious for its sexism, as I understand it. How did this individual made it so far without realizing this fact prior to an outsider such as myself? Third, it's true that most fields have a problem with overspecialization and the ideal would be to craft a dissertation that provides a field changing sweep that simultaneously bridges the gap between the public and the hallowed walls of the university. Nonetheless, most will never do that for one of two reasons - one, that someone has already taken the topic that you propose and is further along; and two, that not every topic of interest can be the next grand narrative or popular cross over topic. Fourth, while it may very well differ by field, I'd question the assumption that the author would necessarily be just as well off with but a library card and reading philosophy books on their own. PhD programs indeed require a lot of reading, at least in the liberal arts, but to reduce them to but the solitude of one sole individual reading alone seems quite the exaggeration.

As for the debt advice, I would only qualify that debt for higher education is well nigh unavoidable. The question is not so much debt per se, but rather whether one is able to get funding from their own department or elsewhere from their university to cover most of their expenses. If not, then I would agree that it is generally inadvisable to go into debt to cover the full expense for pursuing a PhD in the liberal arts.

On a side note, am I the only one here who is somewhat perplexed that the author says that they got six years into their PhD but was only halfway through the dissertation? I was of the understanding that a PhD in philosophy took maybe 4 or 5 years tops. Am I mistaken in this assumption? That means they got through 2 to 3 years of coursework (already having a MA mind you) and then spent 3-4 years on a dissertation but only halfway completed it. Not to be, uh how does one say it, an absolute jerk, but this author strikes me as someone who is much more a frustrated person venting over their own circumstances than someone with general sage advice.
 

Diego

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An MA in Philosophy takes two years AFTER the BA. A PhD takes two years AFTER the MA, or four years AFTER the BA.The same is true with both degrees in History. My MA took me five years, because I completed the coursework in 1.5 years. The last semester took me four and a half years of working part time, falling in and out of love a couple of times, getting married and divorced once, living in Costa Rica during that marriage and writing my thesis long-distance, using the library at the University of Costa Rica (quite a good school, I might add) to read books originally written in English and translated to Spanish (interesting quoting those; I had to back-translate to English to quote, and then put the Spanish quote in the footnote), and finally getting my degree through the mail from San Diego to Costa Rica. I got divorced sometime after that. And get this: My thesis was on the subject of Henry VIII and the Royal Supremacy in the C of E.

So my way to getting the MA was a saga worthy of an Icelandic tale by fireside. But the long and short of it is, an MA takes six years of total education to get. A PhD takes a total of 8 years education to get. If it takes longer, that is due to personal reasons, as it was with me. There may be other disciplines, like Engineering, that take longer. The BA in Engineering took 5 years to get at my University. All other BAs took 4.
 

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Rohzek said:
On a side note, am I the only one here who is somewhat perplexed that the author says that they got six years into their PhD but was only halfway through the dissertation? I was of the understanding that a PhD in philosophy took maybe 4 or 5 years tops. Am I mistaken in this assumption? That means they got through 2 to 3 years of coursework (already having a MA mind you) and then spent 3-4 years on a dissertation but only halfway completed it. Not to be, uh how does one say it, an absolute jerk, but this author strikes me as someone who is much more a frustrated person venting over their own circumstances than someone with general sage advice.
That doesn't actually involve 3-4 years of writing. It's a start stop process and most of the writing is done in the final 6-9 months.
 

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Mor Ephrem said:
Diego said:
An MA in Philosophy takes two years AFTER the BA. A PhD takes two years AFTER the MA, or four years AFTER the BA.
Boys have a penis, and girls have a vagina.
I understand it may seem like I am stating the obvious, but given that it took the author six years to get halfway through, and she should have been done in four...

It IS a start-stop process, with most of the work done toward the end. But still, for her to have only gotten halfway through in six years is a bit ridiculous.
 

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Like I said getting a PhD in America is longer than other countries. 4-6 years isn't that uncommon. Maybe the OP wasn't as organized or just really lazy, who knows? Who cares? Then again I doubt the laziness, because these universities milk you for every ounce as a source of cheap labor for years...
 

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RobS said:
Like I said getting a PhD in America is longer than other countries. 4-6 years isn't that uncommon. Maybe the OP wasn't as organized or just really lazy, who knows? Who cares? Then again I doubt the laziness, because these universities milk you for every ounce as a source of cheap labor for years...
 

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RobS said:
Like I said getting a PhD in America is longer than other countries. 4-6 years isn't that uncommon. Maybe the OP wasn't as organized or just really lazy, who knows? Who cares? Then again I doubt the laziness, because these universities milk you for every ounce as a source of cheap labor for years...
But getting a PhD in most Liberal Arts takes 4 years after the BA, NOT six, unless you have personal issues that MAKE it take longer.
 

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I just remembered we used to have a guy at my parish who used to lecture at Yale and it took him 6 years for his PhD. Wasn't because he was lazy, just how long it took.
 

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RobS said:
I just remembered we used to have a guy at my parish who used to lecture at Yale and it took him 6 years for his PhD. Wasn't because he was lazy, just how long it took.
I expect he had personal reasons for it to take as long as it did, just as I did in getting my MA.
 

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Nope. It can even go up to 8 years.

Where are you getting your information?
 

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RobS said:
Nope. It can even go up to 8 years.

Where are you getting your information?
It can take as long as you want it to take. But at minimum it takes four years past the BA. I know, I almost decided to get an advanced degree in Philosophy rather than History.
 

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Hey Papist, how many applicants were you competing against for an open position? I'm going to guess like 300 if not more.
 

WPM

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RobS said:
Nope. It can even go up to 8 years.

Where are you getting your information?
Imagination.
 

WPM

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Come and See OC.net after 8:30 P.M.
 

WPM

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Diego said:
RobS said:
Like I said getting a PhD in America is longer than other countries. 4-6 years isn't that uncommon. Maybe the OP wasn't as organized or just really lazy, who knows? Who cares? Then again I doubt the laziness, because these universities milk you for every ounce as a source of cheap labor for years...
But getting a PhD in most Liberal Arts takes 4 years after the BA, NOT six, unless you have personal issues that MAKE it take longer.
All you need is certain kind of High School.
 

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RobS said:
Rohzek said:
On a side note, am I the only one here who is somewhat perplexed that the author says that they got six years into their PhD but was only halfway through the dissertation? I was of the understanding that a PhD in philosophy took maybe 4 or 5 years tops. Am I mistaken in this assumption? That means they got through 2 to 3 years of coursework (already having a MA mind you) and then spent 3-4 years on a dissertation but only halfway completed it. Not to be, uh how does one say it, an absolute jerk, but this author strikes me as someone who is much more a frustrated person venting over their own circumstances than someone with general sage advice.
That doesn't actually involve 3-4 years of writing. It's a start stop process and most of the writing is done in the final 6-9 months.
Right it involves research for the dissertation too. I'm not too familiar with the writing habits of philosophy grad students and maybe it is just much more common for them, but writing more than half the dissertation in the final 6-9 months seems strange to me.

Diego said:
RobS said:
Like I said getting a PhD in America is longer than other countries. 4-6 years isn't that uncommon. Maybe the OP wasn't as organized or just really lazy, who knows? Who cares? Then again I doubt the laziness, because these universities milk you for every ounce as a source of cheap labor for years...
But getting a PhD in most Liberal Arts takes 4 years after the BA, NOT six, unless you have personal issues that MAKE it take longer.
It depends on your specialization somewhat. Perhaps it can take as little as 4 years after the BA, but that would have to be (at least in the USA) the result of going straight into a PhD program after getting the BA. Most PhD programs take at least four years, even if you come in with a MA. The MA might shave off some of the requirements you need to complete the PhD, but it doesn't shave off the equivalent of the time spent to get just the MA. MAs are often either the result of coterminal masters degrees, a student who isn't entirely sure if they want to commit to a PhD just yet, or a student who can't compete in a PhD application process with just their BA so they go for the MA first.
 

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hecma925 said:
Papist said:
Indeed. It's been a while. I had to devout all of my time and energy to research, writing, and teaching. But now I'm a much more available for enjoyable diversions like OC.net.
You got your research published?
Working on getting it published right now.
 

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RobS said:
Hey Papist, how many applicants were you competing against for an open position? I'm going to guess like 300 if not more.
I was actually in a very blessed situation. The following variables worked in my favor: (1) I had already been teaching online courses for the college for several years. (2) I was recommended by the professor who I taught with. (3) The school is so small that not many are likely to apply to the college. (4) The school is so small that the president just hires whoever he wants. (5) The pay is so low that many candidates are not willing to relocate.

What this has been is an amazing blessing: I have been offered a foot in the door into academia, and I have basically taught every traditional philosophy course apart from metaphysics and epistemology. My CV looks great, and when I apply for a position at a bigger school, I will have a better chance at being granted an interview than other applicants will.

Add to that the following: most university faculty are focused on diversity hires. Being a mestizo from New Mexico, I can enter "Native American" for my race on applications, and I can enter "Latino" for ethnicity.  ;D
 

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Another major difference between American and European PhD programs:

American programs usually involve a few years of course work before student begins work on a dissertation.

Many European programs only require a dissertation.
 

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Honestly I would rather re-investigate the High School Education twice as an adult.

(Even if it were Community College)
 
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