Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time..

Chris Blattman points to this interesting article from Economist. It says this process of awarding Phd needs to be relooked at.

The article uses strong words as comparing Phd program as Ponzi or Pyramid Schemes!

Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

Demand for skills is there but Phd is not giving the right skills.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research—a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master’s degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as “slave labour”. Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. “It isn’t graduate school itself that is discouraging,” says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. “What’s discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach.”

The whole thing is pretty interesting.

I thought this predicament was mostly for economics, but seems to be quite common across fields. 

As far as doing Phd in economics from India is concerned, less said the better. It is in such an abysmal state that it does not even fit this article. Perhaps we have realised much earlier than others that it is actually a waste of time…..


2 Responses to “Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time..”

  1. Raghupathi Acharya Says:

    Hmm… very interesting and useful post.. thanks for sharing this one….

  2. Anonymous Says:

    This is indeed a very timely article. The Economist should be commended for discussing a problem that has been under the radar for far too long. There are simply too many PhDs being produced every year, and there are too many young adults spending years of their lives earning these degrees instead of earning salaries and gaining professional experience.

    Although the problem has long been recognized within academia, universities depend upon graduate students to reduce the teaching burden on faculty members. As a result, universities continue to recruit graduate students despite the bleak future that so many PhDs face upon graduation.

    Finally, the situation is beginning to get some public attention. Consider the American blog “100 reasons not to go to graduate school”: http://100rsns.blogspot.com/

    The problem is definitely not limited to the field of economics.

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