Five situations when you shouldn’t go to graduate school

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Most people don’t need to go to graduate school. Sure, you need an MBA to run a Fortune 500 company, and you need to go to medical school to be a doctor, but in most cases, a graduate degree doesn’t provide a ticket to play – because anyone can play – but rather, the degree provides a security blanket.

And at some point, you need to admit that walking around with a security blanket makes you look bad. You can do adult life without one. Wondering if this applies to you? Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t go to grad school:

1. A humanities PhD makes you less employable not more employable.
Most people who get degrees in humanities will not get teaching jobs. And people who are looking for jobs in the corporate world, with a humanities PhD under their belt look like someone who tried to teach but couldn’t. Or, worse yet, it looks like you spent five years getting a degree you had not made a plan for using. Both cases serve to make you “probably not even qualified to run a cash register,” according to Thomas Benton, a columnist in the Chronicle of Higher Learning who is discouraging people from pursuing these degrees.

2. You can shift careers by enrolling in a night-class.
Marci Alboher did this – she was a lawyer and took a class in writing, and now look: She’s writing for the New York Times about, what else? How you don’t need to get a degree to change careers, you just need to take a class. Of course, this won’t work in all circumstances, but the majority of fields require some knowledge, but not a degree.

3. Grad school is a bad way to deal with uncertainty.
If you don’t now what to do, and you go to grad school to buy time, and then you figure out what you want to do, you will always have to answer the question, why grad school? It will be hard to come up with an answer that doesn’t reveal that you went back to school so you didn’t have to deal with adult problems. Better to flail in the work world and learn what you like then put it off. Grad school is too expensive to be a backup plan.

4. People who love to learn don’t need a degree for it.
Don’t go to grad school because you love poetry. If you love poetry, read it. No one dictates to you what you have to do after work. If you want to read poems, fine. Why do you need a degree? What will that accomplish besides putting you into debt? Anyway, a good job allows you to learn so much that it is like a continuation of school anyway.

5. Use LinkedIn instead of an MBA.
Okay. I’m sort of exaggerating here, but so many people say they are going to business school for the networking opportunity. Instead, these people should consider spending all that time on networking instead of going to class. Business school makes connections for you, but they might not be for the best; I once read an essay that suggested that business schools are merely headhunters who charge a fee to the employee.

60 replies
  1. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    I never recruit fresh grads so I never do reference checks with anyone from a candidate’s school life.

    Except last year. An experienced person couldn’t supply very many business references so he gave me about six guys who were part of his MBA study group 12 years earlier.

    I really grilled them and was surprised to find how close these people had remained so close after that one year and how fresh the memories of their joint project work was in their minds.

    I don’t think you should go to school to make six business contacts but these were more than that I was really struck by it. They all seemed to be good people (personally and professionally) as well. And the candidate himself was terrific.

  2. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    As someone with a humanities / social science Ph.D., but who chose to leave academia, I agree with all the points except take partial issue with #1.

    Having a Ph.D. doesn’t make you less employable than you were before you went to grad school — unless you let it. But a humanities Ph.D. will not typically open non-academic career doors for you. Your skills, experience, talent and network contacts will do that.

    Grad school teaches a lot of useful skills — particularly in the areas of information and knowledge analysis as well as communications — but no one knows that unless they’ve been there so you have to translate your experience into the language of your new career.

    One of the best things grad school teaches is how to become a specialist. As Penelope has said before, being a specialist makes you more valuable in the workplace.

  3. Emily
    Emily says:

    As someone who’s just finished up a Ph.D. and will be leaving that field, I agree heartily with points #3 and 4.

    The broad bush approach here probably applies pretty well to humanities degrees and maybe even MBAs. However, I’d argue (based on my husband’s experience as an engineer) that if you want a technical job with significant responsibility and self-direction and/or leadership potential a master’s is almost necessary and a Ph.D. can be quite useful.

    My husband got his Ph.D. in his field because he wanted to not only work in a lab doing research, but also to be in charge of the experimentst that would be done in the lab. At his current job he works with a mix of people holding various degrees. His observation is that the Ph.D. holders, and to a lesser extent, the masters’ level people, are the ones best equipped to tackle anything out of the ordinary that comes up — they’ve got more tools for tackling problems and issues that haven’t been dealt with by anyone in the company before.

    In addition, science and engineering grad school can be financially neutral or positive — your tuition usually gets paid, you’re usually given a reasonable stipend, and if you go into industry when you graduate, the additional salary increment and seniority level that comes with the advanced degree can do a lot ot make up for the lost earning potential of the grad school years.

  4. Jon Morrow
    Jon Morrow says:

    You know infinitely more about this subject than I do, Penelope, but I don’t think a humanities degree is a career killer. I just think that people in the humanities dislike the corporate world in general and their failure to integrate (when forced) results from a lack of genuine ambition.

    Personally, I’d place a higher value on my English degree than any MBA. The endless papers and constant urging from professors to find my voice taught me how to write, and daily debates about the hidden meanings of a line of prose taught me both how to listen and how to talk.

    I can use those skills to outshine any MBA, and I have. At the age of 24, I’m second in command over three companies with $100 million in combined assets. Guess what I do all day? Write and talk — the same things I learned how to do in the English department.

    Now, are the advanced degrees useless? I don’t know. I don’t have one. Still, I’d suspect the problem is the same. These people are escaping from the corporate world, and if they’re forced back into it, then they behave as someone who doesn’t want to be there.

    I think they’d be in the same position with any degree.

    In any case, I enjoy your (frequently) contrarian perspective. Fantastic interview over at Guy’s blog, by the way.

  5. helix
    helix says:

    Damn it, I wish I had read this blog post in 1994.

    I want to vehemently disagree with you, Penelope, but I can’t.

    The only thing I can say is that it makes me feel _very_ uncomfortable to think a hiring manager would look at a bright motivated person with an advanced humanities degree and think “…not even qualified to run a cash register”.

  6. Kristen Kaleal
    Kristen Kaleal says:

    I could not agree more. Every time someone tells me they are going to grad school for the wrong reasons, I cringe. I think a lot of people funnel their career doubts into greater student loan debt by going back to school.

    They are just avoiding the inevitable – working at the same job level with or without the advanced degree.

    The only time I condone this is when a person’s company is footing the bill and it will bring them a raise to complete the advanced degree and may also give them a slight edge in the marketplace if they decide to shop for a new job.

  7. Adrian
    Adrian says:

    ‘The only thing I can say is that it makes me feel _very_ uncomfortable to think a hiring manager would look at a bright motivated person with an advanced humanities degree and think " – not even qualified to run a cash register".’

    The amazing thing is that they’ll look at the next bright, motivated person without the advanced humanities degree, or any degree for that matter, and think “…not even qualified to run a cash register”.

    I am curious to know how advanced education became a requirement of employment. It baffles me.

  8. helix
    helix says:

    That’s a good point Adrian. Sometimes, it seems, hiring managers have in their mind an absurdly specific idea of what a candidate’s background “should be” (not “too much” of “this”, nor “too little” of “that”, etc).

  9. MarilynJean
    MarilynJean says:

    Once again, Penelope is writing about something that I have sought validation on for quite some time. I didn’t doubt my desire to get an undergraduate degree, but while I was doing so, I did question my desire to get an advanced degree. I see my friends around me also questioning whether or not they should get a Masters in this, or for one, an LLM.

    The one friend has managed to move his way up the ladder without the degree so I ask him why he wants it now. His answer is something like: what am I doing with my life? And why not, my job will pay for it. My other friend JUST finished law school and she is afraid there are no jobs, so she wants to get her LLM. I say go for it, but your point in #3 brings some interesting perspective.

    In my field of work – in most cases – having an advanced degree can lead to more pay, but so can having 5-7 years of actual experience. There is a woman who was hired for an organization because she has a Masters from a great school, but she can barely write a press release. Her degree impressed her boss, but the committees she works with are constantly annoyed by her ignorance of basic workplace functions.

    In my area of expertise, almost all of your “advanced” education comes from the field and is not taught in a classroom. For me, getting any advanced degrees would almost be for fun and it would have to be subsidized by resources not coming out of my pocket.

    Thanks for making me think, Penelope.

  10. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    To Helix… on hiring managers not seeing people with advanced degrees as ‘qualified to run a cash register’. I think the real issue is seeing them as ‘overqualified’ in the sense that being a cashier isn’t their career goal so they’ll leave as soon as something better comes along.

    This is also true for many other (more senior) positions — if the person with the advanced degree doesn’t explain why they want the job and how they fit the job, the hiring manager will assume that they’re only looking for something temporary to pay the bills and will therefore likely ignore the application.

  11. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    Good post – food for thought!

    As a PhD student myself I totally agree with Wendy. Grad school won’t automatically open doors for you, but it does teach you a certain style of thinking, analyzing and communicating that can be very useful. And most folks who have taken 8000-level resarch methods and statistics classes will tell you that those skills are definitely applicable in many situations.

  12. Bruno Afonso
    Bruno Afonso says:

    I’m glad some of the comments touched on an important aspect: what besides the strict curriculum grad school teaches you. It teaches you to stay focused on long-term projects and to have some time to gain a style of thinking, etc.

    I disagree with the general trend that backs up this type of posts. Generalization is often not a good way to go, specifically when it’s not thoroughly thought out. For example, you should indeed consider going to grad school if you love poetry. Because having a PhD in humanities will allow you to much more easily end up in a job where you are surrounded by poetry all day, be it in academia or a more editorial position elsewhere.

    I like most of your posts Penelope, but I’d advise more caution with these “x reasons” posts before putting them here.

    stay cool

  13. AK
    AK says:

    I really, really, loved this post.
    I agree whole heartedly with many of the points made. There have been some instances though of jobs that I have either applied for, or have seen others apply (instructional design, librarians, managerial jobs, etc) where people were rejected because they did not have an MEd, an MLIS, an MBA and so on, despite the fact that they knew the field, they knew the theory, they had ‘practiced’ that jobs (or many aspects of that job) in the past, but were rejected because they lacked ‘the paper’.

    As someone who has been in academic for a while, I can tell you that a piece of paper does not make a good employee, but hiring managers fail to see that, and the higher ed lobby reinforced the idea that you NEED a piece of paper to quantify and qualify your worth as an employee. sad but true. the system needs fixing ;-)

  14. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    I understand the article and how further education is not a ticket to the higher level job and pay. Do remember such educational pursuit can be an end in itself in the sense some people thrive in such an environment and use the information acquired to improve their future life enjoyment independent of any job benefit. Not all rewards in life are monetary.

    * * * * * *
    This is a great attitude for people who are born with a trust fund. The rest of the world has to take money into consideration when making a huge financial investment in something like business school.

    For people who say that learning is an end in itself, I say, why do you need a degree? Go home at night, after work, and read.


    • Jenna
      Jenna says:

      Yes, go home after a long day of work when you’re tired and cranky and put in a half-hearted hour or two before you zonk out. There’s a life devoted to learning!

      Some people think there’s actually such a thing as an education — you know, what might happen if one works hard under the guidance of people hopefully more capable than oneself to give serious thought to matters of real importance in life, matters that most people unfortunately are compelled to neglect in the bustle and tedium of every day necessity. Such an opportunity is a real blessing, and I feel sorry for the author of this article, who clearly has no conception of it.

  15. Woody
    Woody says:

    College almost seems obsolete in today’s workplace. It’s so far behind. I only use about 10% of my engineering degree on the job.

    What if I could use the other 90% — wouldn’t I be worth a lot more?

    In many cases the teachers are out of touch with the real world. My best instructors in college were employed outside of the college. They didn’t necessarily have the academic pedigrees that other full-time college instructors have.

  16. Brad
    Brad says:

    The article makes some good points, namely that people should not use graduate school to avoid making difficult decisions, and that a PhD in the humanities isn’t a cash cow. Penelope, however, glosses over the vast differences that exist between PhD programs. Students should not bother to pursue a PhD in the humanities unless they are admitted to a brick-and-mortar school that provides full funding. There is a big difference between a “retail” degree and a funded degree, one is worthless while the other might land you a job in the academy. The thing is, though, that a student will have an extremely difficult time gaining admission to a funded program if they’re doing so just to put off making hard decisions — the decision to enter a competitive program is itself a tough one that requires commitment. And even if a flakey student is admitted, they’ll be washed out anyway.
    Finally, why wouldn’t employers want independent thinkers with outsanding research, analytical, writing, and public speaking skills? A PhD in the humanities certainly is not necessary for most careers, but the skills that a true scholar develops are valuable in many fields.

  17. Master
    Master says:

    Having a degree, be it an MBA or phD or some night classes that issue certs … well … they are like wearing a shirt for men and blouse for ladies.

    Damn it, just get a new shirt/blouse and you’ll know if you look good in it (or at it).

    Some will look good, while others would be fantastic looking naked (think Paris) … well, i’m biased on the latter but anyway, get dressed to kill!

  18. Rikki Honnold
    Rikki Honnold says:

    The last time I checked, persuing isn’t a word. What other use is there for the English degrees if not to correct writers like this one. Hopefully a humanities degree helps people learn to spell correctly.

  19. John
    John says:

    Heavens!! Don’t tell me my high school education has left me lacking, but yet again. I also checked, and yes, you are correct. Persuing is not a bona fide word. Thank you so very much for enhancing my limited vocabulary and/or spelling. Let me try my new word in a sentence: Perhaps you should pursue a life!

  20. Mike
    Mike says:

    Working for a major automotive supplier I whole heartedly agree that the most highly educated MBA and Doctorates running the corporate hierarchy are spoiled children whose parents had the monies to keep them in school. I also appalled at the moral behavior of most still living their college adolescent ways (drinking and doing drugs, partying they call it) and then setting the direction and policy for the common hard working family man. I for one would like to see corporate drug enforcement policies stepped up at mgmt level for if I am to be laid off or cut back in today’s lean mfg culture I would like it to be based on decisions from individuals with clear heads and not pot heads.

  21. Brad
    Brad says:

    The belief that everyone should go to college is absurd; whatever happened to training young people for careers they might enjoy and have an aptitude for, such as working as electricians, plumbers, etc. For some strange reason, though, society seems to think that we only need college graduates, which not only has lowered the standards at most colleges, but also tarnishes the reputation of many excellent professions (that in today’s soft society seem beneath most young people since they involve actual hard work with one’s hands and mind). Young people (esp. those who have no interest in it) should not be railroaded into going to college. By the way, I’m a college instructor.

  22. Shirley
    Shirley says:

    Interesting arguments against MBA and PhD degrees! But when people invest in you by hiring you or by listening to you or by giving or lending to you their money, you better know what you are talking about. It doesn’t matter where you acquire your knowledge and experience. Some MBA, PhD, and law degrees from no-name schools are highly useful because of what you learn. As they say: Those who can, do.

  23. Fouad A.
    Fouad A. says:

    In my opinion, it all depends on what your majoring and what your aspirations are after graduating. If your already working in your ideal field and wish to move up – I say work hard, show up on time, be dependable , well liked grease the right wheels and rub the right backs and usually within the same time it would have taken you to earn your Masters your a position higher. However, if you’ve done all that yet still not getting that promotion because of lack of wall paper, I say go to the cheapest over-night college there is and earn it (usually in less than a year as many of them advertise that gimmick).

  24. PJ
    PJ says:

    I agree with certain of Ms Trunks observations regarding MBA’s, but not for the same reasons. From personal experience, I have found that USA business schools have become very oriented toward younger candidates, with less experience, and who will more likely end up going into mid-tier jobs. At the age of 32 I obtained my MBA in 1995 from Cranfield, a top 3 ranked (in Europe) school based in the UK. I had already successfully founded 2 small companies, each on either side of working for a larger one where I had risen to SVP leading M&A transactions and running operations with over 100 people in my group. I recognized in my work that I had much to learn in terms of building (and managing) massively scaleable orgainzations. Having just sold my second start-up, I chose to take the MBA for three reasons: 1. The Internet was coming, with tremendous opportunity if one could build high performing teams. 2. I figured that a 1 year investment to “get smart” on the latest management theory and obtain a network of two hundred + smart connected people was worth it. 3. I could afford to pay for my time off.

    I ended up chosing Cranfield over the usual USA top tier for the following reasons:
    – I wanted a full time 1 year program (2 years was too long);
    – USA B-schools average out at 25-27 whereas the average age at Cranfield was 32;
    – ALL USA schools focused on what I considered to be basics (accounting, economics, stats, marketing, finance, etc.) in which I had deep operating experience, whereas Cranfield (and other International schools) focused on what I considered to be more important for a CEO, namely the skills required to manage people, and the corporate strategies that define best of breed.

    On qualifying, I took a job in Corporate Development for a large US based financial services company, and for the next 12 years, have been involved in buying, building and investing in a series of Internet focused/leveraged business. Over the years I have worked for, along side, and hired many MBA’s from Wharton, Harvard, Kellogg, Stanford, UCLA and others. They have generally come into our companies with significantly higher starting salaries (all higher than my starting salary – Cranfield was, and may still be unknown in the US), but were not significantly better/more effective than their middle management counterparts who had no MBA. And we found that few if any came in with any of the “senior executive” skills that had been a core part of the Cranfield MBA program. Ms Trunk may argue that I would have achieved success with or without my MBA, but I know for certain that without the MBA knowledge I gained could not have made the progress I did.. I also believe that trying to get myself up the curve at night, as her article suggests, would have required a tremendous ability to translate academic/intellectual understanding into real life situations, whereas my MBA course provided a deep, rich experience that I dont believe could be replicated any other way.

    In summary, as an employer, its becoming harder to be impressed with what one gets when you hire an MBA, even from a top USA school. I still see the MBA as a great tool for getting a headstart in the investment banking/private equity and large corporate world, but I have a jaundiced view of the level of management that American B-Schools are preparing their MBA’s for, and do see MBA candidates being increasingly younger, and who therefore cannot weave enough experience into the academic MBA coursework to really give them a huge head start over their counterparts who have the same smarts and have perhaps built/done something with the same 2 year timeframe.

    thanks for reading..

  25. Anand
    Anand says:

    Excellent article that hits bulls-eye. As a engineer with no MBA degree, I work as a Project Manager where I have to manage many people with various backgrounds and degrees (including MBAs), I have come to realise with any degree including an MBA, your work is only as good as you choose it to be. To sum it up – a person needs to have good basic math, organizing skills, communication skills, collaboration and team skills, personal development, empathy etc a lot of which come through learning, good work experience, a bit from one’s personality etc. If a person is a laggard, he/she cannot hope to have an MBA solve all those problems.

    Thanks for your time to read this.

  26. Aristar
    Aristar says:


    Many of you have made strong and powerful arguments. As an undergrad, I battle issues of question on the daily bases. ” Should I have quit my job, to run toward an MBA and PHD?” Look at the big picture everyone… What security exists anymore. Even if a degree at this point isn’t important to the majority in society, hard times are close. Those who invested years and money into something, will NOT except the idea it was for nothing. Humans have the ability to create something, out of nothing. Working the mind, is probably one of the most important functions that can be utitilized in the near future. Its not the fact, that its a paper. BUT WHAT IT REPRESENTS TO THE HUMANS THAT INQUIRED AND WORKED FOR SOMETHING, that can not be touched. The PAPER represents, investment in the future of Humanity. It does depend however, what you study, weighted by what your aspirations are. I am 21, and plan to Lead Thousands. This is a system, and we are subjects. We are elements and tested for strength. REPRESENT TRUTH.

    A. D. Williams

  27. Aristar
    Aristar says:

    I meant I meant Millions. LOL
    Random Fact:
    As one psychologist expressed it: ” No one has the power to reform another person, but by liking the other person as he is, you give him the power to change himself”. Regard this, to Foreign Relations. How ever do we as humans, Relate?

  28. B. Carpenter
    B. Carpenter says:

    Some of the points I disagree with, mostly due to the way my field of work is. I don’t think these points can apply to other fields.

    I have a public health degree, and when I started job hunting before finishing school every position I applied for wanted some sort of graduate degree. I was locked out of about 80% of the opportunities in my area in the public health field because I do not hold a masters or a doctorate.

  29. Sandra Draper
    Sandra Draper says:

    To the lawyer who left her job to become a writer: “persue” is actually spelled “pursue”. The only absolute rule in writing is to spell all the words right, something that I learned during my graduate studies in Technical and Professional Writing.

  30. Grad Student
    Grad Student says:

    Miss Trunk should not discourage individuals from pursuing advanced education. What individuals do with their time and money is their business.

    Although most jobs do not require a college or postgraduate education, the reality is that many managers and HR professionals use those academic degrees as a barrier to employment for certain types of people in certain fields. An undergraduate degree is now becoming the new high school diploma. It is very common to find administrative personnel with undergraduate degrees and sometimes from good schools. An advanced degree is starting to become the barrier to advancing beyond the entry level job.

    And, a Ph.D in Humanities is not the end of someone’s career opportunities. I have met people that have multiple graduate level degrees – some in the humanities, library sciences, and even MBAs. I once met a woman who had four (4) Master’s degrees and worked as a program analyst in a government office. A person with a Ph.D in Humanities can pick up other skills – like learning a little HTML or web programming and become a web content editor (for example).

    People should consider combining their academic credentials in new and innovative ways. It can be done. Education is not a waste. People who pursue higher education should be commended for their achievements rather than pitied.

    But, make no mistake about this…today’s work environment is not just about putting in the time in the workforce to gain the “experience” necessary. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the ole saying “the reason why we didn’t promote or hire YOU is because YOU DON’T HAVE A (MASTER’s Degree) or fill in the blank with any postgraduate degree you can think of. Happy Hunting!!!

  31. Diane
    Diane says:

    A humanities PhD isn’t entirely worthless. If you finish, that means you’ve conceived and executed a large, complex project that normally involves a lot of intricate little steps, not all of which are writing-related. For instance, in order to get and keep a funded position — and the poster who mentioned the distinction between retail and funded is spot on — you need to do a lot of networking. Not to mention the self-discipline required to prepare for oral exams and then finish a dissertation. These skills transfer.

  32. Ace
    Ace says:

    Advanced degrees are what you make of them. Granted the more prestigious the school the better chance you’ve got of landing a better paying job. I would recommend going back part time while your building work experience. When you have obtained your MBA you will also have 3-7 years of work experience under your belt. That is a tremendous advantage. You want an exmaple, take a look at the CEO of MFS investments. He went to Umass Lowell for his undergrad. He then was hired at MFS and went to B-school part time at BC. He’s now the ‘CEO’. I have to vehemently disagree witht fact that an MBA is invalid now a days. Go to school learn more and take that experience with you to your next job.

  33. A Baker
    A Baker says:

    I’m guessing that my grandpa went through a similar thought process when he decided to leave school in the 8th grade. “Who they heck needs those 4 extra years, it’s not like I’m going to ever need trig or understand comparative govt’s, or dissect a frog.”

    What’s with all the hate for MBA’s? I think it mostly comes from people who either didn’t get into a program, or who got into one but didn’t do anything with their opportunity once there. Look at all the people in charge of companies in this country – far more of them have MBA’s than not. In addition, the starting salary’s out of top 50 programs are far more than what people earn going in. Money always talks, and MBA’s easily pay for themselves in the long-run, even if it is for a ‘glorified rolodex.’

  34. Charles
    Charles says:

    My experience with MBAs is that they like to screw their vendors. I wonder what they teach in these business schools. When I get a project from a Wharton grad like Donald Trump or Vernon Hill, two famous for amassing wealth on the backs of others, I automatically add 30% to the job because I know a snake will jump out of a hole on the back end. The Donald just declared bankruptcy for the third time- How’s that for “The art of the STEAL”.
    Maybe 50% is a good mark-up for these folks!!

  35. kevinbrown
    kevinbrown says:

    I believe college education is the best possible way to insure a higher earning power after graduation. There are a number of different majors to choose from, all paying differently but on the whole, a college graduate will earn more money than those who do not have a college education or degree. In fact, in keeping with the increase in demand by mature students, colleges are offering more options for students who wish to return to their education even after they have entered the work force. People now realize that it is never too late to increase your earning potential or improve your chances of being promoted by seeking a higher education. Also, with many colleges offering accelerated degree programs nowadays, more and more people who had been taking break from their jobs or switching careers are returning to complete their education that was left unfinished. One such college which I know of is CollegeAmerica. Check out their degree programs yourself.

  36. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    There are many reasons I got my MBA. Some of them make it a good decision and some of them make it a bad one. Like most choices in life, nothing is black and white. I learned a lot from my MBA, both inside and outside of class, just by making that decision.

    I will also point out that while you can learn from reading, I’ve learned far more from class interaction and discussion than I did from straight reading a book. Night class is always an option, but I wanted something more in-depth and my current job left me in too much of a coma to be any use after the fact. It’s not the right choice for everyone and I can’t say it’s was completely the right choice for me either; but you learn from your decisions so right or wrong, I don’t regret the decision.

  37. jdizl
    jdizl says:


    There is a big difference between the upper echelon of academia, and well, everybody else. A humanities PhD is only a weak investment if you are not able to deal with the consequences. I do not expect somebody with an MBA to understand intellectual pursuits in the same manner anyway. People who are doing MBA are almost solely interested in money as their highest priority, a pure extrinsic value, as opposed to the intrinsic value of an intellectual pursuit. The thought that one can go self study at home and equate to an elite academic program is absurd, unless you are an intellectual great as it is, then you would more than likely publish regardless of education, and be appointed honorary degrees. If you are not that, then speaking in that manner again, is absurd.
    There are a multitude of problems however when it comes to career aspects. The young undergraduate is bright eyed, but often naive. They have been told to pursue their dreams, but with life, there is of course diminishing returns.
    If they KNOW they would be happy going to a non top 20-25 program in their field, with the possibility .
    The other problem is, they are so young with little life experience, how would they know what their future selves will think? Are they really going to be happy teaching at some obscure school in Nebraska? Because at that school, it is almost guaranteed nobody will ever read anything they publish anyhow, and all of these humanities kids want to be published.
    So, if you can do a PhD in humanities at a top 20-25 program, by all means pursue it. Your likelihood of getting placement at a similar program is still there, as is your likelihood of going to quite a few name brand state colleges. If it is out of that range, be comfortable with what you bargained for.
    I went down the same path previously, but I knew my limits, and I knew where I wouldn’t consider living. I actually narrowed mine down to about the top 15 schools for political theory or political philosophy, if I wasn’t accepted to them, it was time for real life and to face reality. There is certainly no reason those going to other schools are inherently smarter than me, they just now have a piece of paper and teach at some obscure school, community college, or adjunct and move everywhere. Not for me! I certainly hate the rat race world just as much, or more than them, but was forced to find another “out” instead of academia, which might have actually been worse. Be able to flourish somewhere you live, in not the perfect job. Or be forced to pick 1 or 2 spots, as those are the only job offers you have, insert random crap city. Again, no thanks!

  38. Me
    Me says:

    I recently finished a Bachelor degree and that is going to be enough for me. Of course, I thought a lot about going to graduate school, but I came to the conclusion that it was just not for me. Going to graduate school implies many things that I cannot afford. I cannot afford what it costs monetarily since I already have a loan to repay for a degree that I’m not sure is going to worth all the time, effort, and money I put into it. Going to graduate school implies that you will commit your entire life to study, and study, and study. Having good grades is not enough. Having very good grades is also not enough since you have to be well liked by a professor to take you in charge if you want to pass a doctorate. I also believe that these days, too many people are getting degrees to the point that soo it won’t mean anything. Some years ago, it was such an event when someone graduated with a simple Bachelor. Now, it’s not much. Of course, it is much, but not in the eye of society in general anymore. I also believe that these days, it’s way too risky to get into such an ammount of debt. If I ever decide to continue my education and get a graduate degree, it will be because I will have the money to pay for the courses I take and it’s going to be on my own time, not full-time.

  39. Teza
    Teza says:

    “If you don’t now what to do..”

    I think Ms. Trunk might consider attending spelling classes. And maybe therapy as well – too much bitterness, dear. Arguments like “I once read an essay that suggested..” are making me sad. Remind me to avoid her immature articles from now on.

  40. jonathan
    jonathan says:


    I’m just wondering what your take on social sciences degrees are — politcs, psychology,etc. I hear some of these arguments about phds often, but they rarely distinguish between the fields of study and whether or not they are employable. Thanks.

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