I agree with Professor Startz.
I have an admission to one of the top Ph.D. in Economics program in Europe. However, I have certain concerns regarding my decision.
First of all, let me mention one thing. I have a keen interest in financial markets and I have a strong performance in my portfolio. This implies two things; on the one hand, my opportunity cost in doing a Ph.D. is high because I believe that I can be very successful in jobs in financial markets. On the other hand, I am not sure if I want the financial markets will be my essential job. It can also be my secondary income source.
Secondly, as a person who loves comfort and quality, academic position in universities seems to be very attractive. You don't have a boss, you can choose the topics you want, you can choose the time you work, and so on.
However, the four years in the Ph.D. actually scares me... Students seem too tired and drained. Many studies show mental health problems that graduate students face. There are conflicting claims about the job market, is there an oversupply or not? Finally, even though the routine tasks in the private sector are not very qualitative, sometimes the research in academia feels the same. Since, it turns into a race for publishment and, actually, the research topic will possibly be a very narrow question that has very low likely to change anybody's lives.
Hence, sometimes it feels like it is an investment that thrives me and sometimes it feels like it is an investment that fails..
Would you want to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts?
Hi Miriel, have you already accepted your offer? And academics isn't as free as you might be thinking -- the reason students all the way from high school to graduate school are stressed out is because it is competitive and their future prospects are at stake. So if you've made it this far, then it's just a matter of whether you are willing to dedicate yourself for another four years or if you'd rather do other things like travel, maybe start a business that you're interested in, etc. Professors aren't exactly boss-less, they answer to the school, their department, and their students (who grade them on their effectiveness in teaching well). They usually don't choose what time they teach, or if they do it's not guaranteed. But if you're getting a PhD in Economics because you think it's a chill job, then I think maybe you would not be the most qualified applicant for a professorship. Teachers are almost always in fairly high demand, although with the current coronavirus situation many schools are cutting costs.
Graduate school is in fact stressful. In many ways it's like being a playwright or a performing artist--your work gets judged. Grad school--and the subsequent career--is also thrilling if you like the material. You get to create things no one has ever done--it's like being a playwright or a performing artist.
While the coming year or so might be bad, in general there is not a shortage of jobs in economics. Placement rates hover close to 100 percent.
If you become an academic, you have tremendous control over your own life. You have to work very hard, but you mostly decide when and on what to work. There's an old joke that the great thing about being an assistant professor is that you have complete control over your schedule--you can work any 70 hours a week that you like.
But anyone who can get a PhD in economics can make more money doing something else. It only makes sense to get a PhD if you love the subject.
I want to clarify one thing; I do not think academics is a free and just a chill job. I was thinking that I highlighted especially from the psychological perspective it's very challenging. Also, of course, you have responsibilities about your students, teaching performance, and department. However, my feeling is that it is not as intense as in the private sector, especially from competitiveness and pressure perspectives. Finally, the university environment and teaching mentally/spiritually more satisfying.
Last edited by Miriel; 08-07-2020 at 07:11 PM.
What you enjoy ultimately depends on you, what you like to do, and how you perceive situations. What is ideal to one might be torture to another. Comparing academia and industry. Some individuals might view academia as a secure, rewarding career that allows them to interact with smart students, stay current in the latest advances in their field, and to pursue a research agenda that excites them and contributes to their discipline and society as a whole. These same individuals might view industry as a stressful, soul sucking endeavor where the employer compensates your youth and health for more money.
On the other hand, other individuals might view academia as a stagnant job with no career advancement that requires them to babysit spoiled adult children while they pursue research that no ordinary person will ever care about, know about, or use. They might view industry, however, as an exciting adventure with unlimited career advancement, a higher salary, more perks, and access to projects and work that will impact the fabric of society.
Everything depends on your perceptions and on the job you end up with. Some industry jobs are a delight and some academic jobs are a delight, and vice versa.
Some important things to note is that academia is a job. You have bosses. You aren't are free as most initially believe, and the publication game can be quite unscientific and unfair to those who do not know how to navigate it properly.
You should go into academia if you value researching, teaching, and learning. Most research say "love" rather than "value", but valuing what you do rather than loving it is oftentimes much better. Loving what you do can lead to profound disappointment when you receive a rejection, while valuing what you do can soften that blow and even steel your resolve. Enjoying committee work helps a lot too.
You should give academia a second thought should you dislike the above, dislike working on long term projects, and dislike rejection. You might also want to give it a second thought should you be overly passionate about academia. Passion is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse depending on how it affects how you react to adversity.
Another alternative is to think about the negatives in academia and see whether you are okay with them. Enjoying the positives is great, but being able to not let the negatives eat away at you is oftentimes more important.
Last edited by Kaysa; 08-08-2020 at 02:51 PM. Reason: Correct some typos
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