Monday, December 9, 2013

Required Reading before Grad School

Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle against graduate school marketing departments. The brochures, the photos of smiling grads tossing things, people in suits going off to work that they've secured because of their amazing degrees.

But graduate degrees are expensive, especially if you aren't sure what you want to do. And it turns out they may be a bad move if you do know what you want to do.

If you're looking to change the world, for instance, public policy programs may not be the place for you, according to yesterday's Washington Post. Public policy school graduates aren't making a dent in the world problems, and worse, and no one in positions of power is reading their research,
according to the piece. Definitely an article worth reading if you're considering a policy degree.

Graduate schools increasingly are producing dissatisfied customers, especially in the humanities. A NY Times piece last month details the process of repackaging a PhD, and clues us in on how some graduate schools are trying to make their students more marketable outside of the Ivory Tower, since tenure track has become so unlikely for so many humanities PhDs. Another must-read for potential graduate students.

An attorney is even offering $1,000 to whomever comes up with the best reason not to attend law school, because times are so tough for many law school grads. Eesh. Got an ulcer yet?

The answer may be to get excited about STEM careers, the science and math-track positions that may go unfilled if we don't increase numbers of students heading in that career direction. 

But I majored in religion in college, and I'm not ready to give up on the humanities. I like this solution: make the humanities majors who don't write the next Harry Potter blockbuster series into superstar public school teachers. And fund the arts like we do football stadiums, so there are actual jobs for musicians and artists, not just a cuthroat race to the top (and nothing for those in the middle of the talent heap). Yes!

Bottom line, think hard before you apply to graduate school, and be prepared for the tough job hunt if you go.

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