It’s pretty well established that non-science degrees are not necessary for a job. In fact, the degrees cost you too much money, require too long of a commitment, and do not teach you the real-life skills they promise.

Yet, I do tons of radio call-in shows where I say that graduate degrees in the humanities are so useless that they actually set you back in your career in many cases. And then 400 callers dial-in and start screaming at me about how great a graduate degree is.

Here are the six most common arguments they make. And why they are wrong.

1. My parents are paying.
Get them to buy you a company instead. Because what are you going to do when you graduate? You’re right back at square one, looking for a job and not knowing what to do. But if you spent the next three years running a company, even if it failed, you would be more employable than you are now, and you’d have a good sense of where your skill set fits in the workplace. (This is especially true for people thinking about business school.)

2. It’s free.
But you’re spending your time. You will show (on your resume) that you went to grad school. Someone will say, “Why did you go to grad school?” Will you explain that it was free? After all, it’s free to go home every night after work and read on a single topic as well. So in fact, what you are doing is taking an unpaid internship in a company that guarantees that the skills you built in the internship will be useless. (Here’s how to get a great internship.)

3. It’s a time to grow and get to know myself better.
If you’re looking for a life changing, spiritually moving experience, how about therapy? It’s a more honest way of self-examination—no papers and tests. And it’s cheaper. Insurance covers therapy because it’s a proven way to effectively change your personal disposition. There’s a reason insurance doesn’t cover grad school.

4. The degree makes me stand out in my field.
Yes, if you want to stand out as someone who couldn’t get a job. Given the choice between getting paid to learn the ropes on the job and paying for someone to teach you, you look like an underachiever to pick the latter. If nothing else, you get much better coaching in life if you are good enough and smart enough to get mentorship without paying for it.

There are very very few jobs that require a non-science degree in order to get the job. (And really, forget about law school if that’s what you’re thinking.) So if you don’t need the degree in order to get the job, the only possible reason a smart employer would think you got the degree instead of getting a job was because you were too scared to have to apply or you applied and got nothing. Either way, you’re a bad bet going forward.

5. I’m planning on teaching.
Forget it. There are no teaching jobs. In an interview last week, the head of University of Washington’s career center even admitted to a prospective student that getting a degree in humanities in order to get a teaching job—even in a community college—is a long-shot at best. And, the University of Washington career coach confirmed that there is enormous unemployment among people who are qualified to teach college courses but cannot get jobs doing it. This is not just a Washington thing. It’s a welcome-to-reality thing.

6. A degree makes job hunting easier.
It makes it harder. Forget the fact that you don’t need a graduate degree in the humanities to get any job in the business world. The biggest problem is that the degree makes you look unemployable. You look like you didn’t know what to do about having to enter the adult world, so you decided to prolong childhood by continuing to earn grades rather than money even though you were not actually helping yourself to earn money.

Also, you also look like you don’t really aspire to any of the jobs you are applying for. People assume you get a graduate degree because you want to work in that field. People don’t want to hire you in corporate America when it’s clear you didn’t invest all those years in grad school in order to do something like that.

7. I love being in graduate school! Everything in life is not about careers!
Sure, when you’re a kid, everything is not about careers. But when you grow up, everything is about earning enough money for food and shelter. So you need to figure out how to do that in order to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. This is why millionaires have stopped leaving their money to their kids—it undermines their transition to adulthood. But instead of making the transition, you are still in school, pretending things are fine. The problem is that what you do in school is not what you will do in a career. So if you love school, you’ll probably hate the career it’s preparing you for, since your career is not going to school.

When I met the farmer, one of the first things he told me was that he went to school for genetic biology. But in graduate school his research was in ultrasound technology for pigs. But he missed being with the pigs, which is what he wanted to do for his job. So he left school.

And every time I see the pigs on our farm I think about how he took a risk by dumping a graduate program in order to tend to pigs. I love that.

 

 

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  1. MarkD
    MarkD says:

    This would be true at the undergraduate level as well, were it not for Griggs vs Duke Power. The Marine Corps put poor, smart but undermotivated me into IT, without a degree. It’s led to a career of full employment for the past 35 years. I did finish my degree when the company I worked for was acquired by another which emphasized degrees beyond all reason. The government paid, it only cost me some time.

    My youngest is pursuing her (fully funded) PhD in a scientific field. She wants to do research in the industry, and the degree is teaching her her craft, and getting her contacts in the industry. I’m fairly optimistic, her peers are still getting hired at very decent salaries.

  2. Boyd
    Boyd says:

    5. I'm planning on teaching. Forget it. There are no teaching jobs.

    Unless you have a science degree. My daughter got a teaching job (in Seattle!) with no teaching degree or even a single teaching course in college. She has a degree in biology. It is private school (public schools require teaching credentials – whatever those are) that specializes in teaching the kids the public schools have cast out because they are “unteachable”. Sharp kid. No experience. Tough job. The gave her a raise and a promotion after one year because she can do what apparently grad school teachers can’t. I guess I make your point.

  3. Jusuchin (Military Otaku)
    Jusuchin (Military Otaku) says:

    I am a recent graduate. Got a BA in Government and International Politics in George Mason University this spring.

    I am thinking about Graduate school. And I’d love to get an MA in Political Science.

    But I’m not. I’m looking for a job, so I can have something solid for the next few years as I attempt and re-attempt the Foreign Service Exam.

    If there are anything my college professors have told me, these professors didn’t get their MA’s right after getting their Bachelors. They worked in their respective fields for years before Uncle Sam told em that to advance further, they need MAs, and they’ll get some extra money to help achieve that.

    One of them was my old ROTC Instructor. He went to college and got his bars there, worked his way up to Major, and now he’s got practical real world experience he applies to his classes when attempting his MA in Political Science.

    As I’ve told my family and friends. “I’d rather have years of experience under my belt, so when I get an MA, I have the real world creds to back it up when I go back to job hunting.”

  4. Georgiaboy61
    Georgiaboy61 says:

    Re: “So, for those of us who agree with your points but realized them too late, how do you go about *fixing* your career after getting a master’s in the humanities?”

    Indeed, that is a very good question. Adults, teachers and everyone else you can name in my teenaged past insisted that college was the path to a successful life, sterling career, etc. Then, once I was there – more folks told me that graduate school was the path to the top. Now that I have two graduate degrees, they tell me that its all been for nothing, and that a graduate degree makes you less employable! Well, that’s just peachy keen folks… any other surprises? I wish I’d joined the Marines instead…and that ain’t no lie.

    Sarcasm aside, the problem is that colleges, universities and similar programs have been allowed to assume a gatekeeper function for many careers – you can’t get from here to there without first passing through the local diploma mill. Want to change careers? Do not pass go, back through the diploma mill again; sorry old chum, but you don’t have the requisite pieces of paper attesting to your qualifications.

    Many in higher education justify the enormous costs of post-secondary education by noting that college is to “learn how to live,” not train for a career. That excuse might have held water when a college education could be had for a modest amount of money (thirty or more years ago), but not now.

  5. john
    john says:

    I know the writer specifically excluded science degrees from analysis, but since my graduate degree has an s in it (MSEE) its the only point of reference i have.

    an MS has more challenge and more meat to it than a BS. You learn more. some people like to learn things and the world needs people to learn and do new things. no matter how smae old same old my job is it is still a little bit different each time i do it.

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      I found my MSEE classes much easier than my BSEE classes. For my undergrad classes I had to take a wide variety of classes in all aspects of Electrical Engineering. For my masters classes, I took the classes that interested me and were in my sub-specialty. 

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      I found my MSEE classes much easier than my BSEE classes. For my undergrad classes I had to take a wide variety of classes in all aspects of Electrical Engineering. For my masters classes, I took the classes that interested me and were in my sub-specialty. 

  6. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    Love our blog and there are certainly some though provoking topics.

    Just one point. I think it is very simplistic to say we are all entrepreneurs. Some people may do well with their own business and others may not! Some people may actually be in careers where you do need a masters… whether in the humanities or not. For instance in International Development, for most people to even get a foot in the door you do need some sort of post-grad degree. And if you want to realistically get into the UN, the majority of people need a masters. Yes a few can work out a way through without putting in the graduate work, but not many.

    In fact in all fields, it is people who are the exception who are able to get by without a formal education. For those people, grad school may be a waist. For others, who may enjoy school or who may have simply done the cost/benefit analysis, Grad school is a viable and wonderful option. I am actually in awe of people who can balance continuing education and work.

    Leslie

  7. Hugo Schmidt
    Hugo Schmidt says:

    I guess those are all true – but in my line of work, Molecular Biology, you will never, ever, ever go above a certain level without a Ph.D. Isn’t going to happen, no way, no how.

  8. Lee Reynolds
    Lee Reynolds says:

    Worst of all, the things that these people learn in graduate school are largely untrue.

    The humanities have been destroyed by Marxists who succeeded in overrunning and corrupting these fields a generation ago. A graduate degree in one of these fields actually makes a person less knowledgeable than if they had never attended school in the first place. They actually know and understand less than when they got there because so much of what they have learned is untrue. Worse yet, these untruths are not random in nature, but part of a programmed attack on liberal democracy itself. To pursue a degree in these fields is to make oneself a tool of Marxist radicals. There are worse paths in life to choose, but most of them involve sticking needles in your arm, being incarcerated in prison, or committed to an institution.

    I personally know intelligent people whose indoctrination by leftist radicals posing as university professors has made the net value of their life a negative number.

    If someone were to show up looking for a job with a graduate degree in gender studies, or one of the other imaginary disciplines that have been invented in recent years to give the patina of legitimacy to malignant nonsense, I would not hire them because you can’t trust a crazy person.

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      They should replace humanities college course listings with “useless course – won’t mean much more than warm spit in the real world.”

      If you want to function in today’s society, you have to do three things: know how to create something the world needs, or will be better off from; more than a passing knowledge and usage of computers, and work towards expunging liberals from positions of power and influence EVERYWHERE. That’s the real definition of a USEFUL adult.

      Oh: one more thing … learn how to VOTE PROPERLY, and find out WHO it is you’re voting for, for cripes’ sake! If enough idiots vote for a Barack Obama again, then we’re all truly screwed (again).

      • Pat McCrotch
        Pat McCrotch says:

        Everything you said was completely up to “…expunging liberals from positions of ….et all”  was agreeable, but then I started laughing.

  9. JonP
    JonP says:

    all of #7 is valid. I met far too many people in college with that mantra and then no explanation as to how they were going to pay back the massive debt working at that fulfilling job as a social worker or “green activist”. Totally out of touch with reality. I went through college and have a degree in Biology but couldn’t find a job and have driven a truck for the last 20 yrs. I make about $60K. Not rich but a decent living and I didn’t need college to do it.

  10. JonP
    JonP says:

    and by the way, I had 3 companies cold-call me this week offering me a job driving for them. Not bad in this economy.

  11. Lacrymae
    Lacrymae says:

    Most of this I agree with. The only reason to get a phd in the humanities is to try to get a job teaching in the humanities. that is the only reason whatsoever to do it. if one wants self improvement or knowledge for the sake of knowledge, that’s what great book’s programs as a second major are for. I do take issue with #5, however. Teaching jobs aren’t impossible, there are just very few, and some disciplines are worse than others. It all depends on where one’s degree came from. so if you get into a good graduate school, you have a chance, otherwise, you will spend yourl ife adjuncting if you’re lucky.

  12. Lacrymae
    Lacrymae says:

    Most of this I agree with. The only reason to get a phd in the humanities is to try to get a job teaching in the humanities. that is the only reason whatsoever to do it. if one wants self improvement or knowledge for the sake of knowledge, that’s what great book’s programs as a second major are for. I do take issue with #5, however. Teaching jobs aren’t impossible, there are just very few, and some disciplines are worse than others. It all depends on where one’s degree came from. so if you get into a good graduate school, you have a chance, otherwise, you will spend yourl ife adjuncting if you’re lucky.

  13. Ronihan
    Ronihan says:

    What if you attend grad school while you work?  I agree with you on several of these issues, but I disagree at the direction with which you took the argument.  A grad school degree is VERY useful and I still look for them when hiring.  As my father once (very logically) said “you go to college to get an education, you go to grad school to get a job”.  Grad school is designed to help focus attention, gain insight in a more minute area that can help you think logically and decisively about things. 
    Much of what we learn in the business world has little to do with business, and more to do with conforming to the current trends and thoughts in our industry or company.  Firms today care less about good or new ideas and more about “who is on board?”  I know – I’ve lived through this time and again.  “It’s not just good enough to have everyone on the bus – they all have to agree with the direction the driver is going!” is the mantra.
    I’m sorry – but that is wrong.  While we should all work to achieve the GOAL the driver is trying to achieve, there is usually more than one way to reach that goal and it’s important to find as many ways there as possible.  People who have grown up in corporate America are poorly prepared for this.  ANY dissent is a sign of insubordination, or worse!  Few companies value the “outside the box” thinker (though many say they seek them – they don’t really).

    I’ve attended one of the most LEFTIST schools in the nation, and I did it for one reason.  I figured if I could go in there, learn from them (who I disagree with fundamentally on almost every issue) and succeed – then I would be even better at what I do.  I believe I am right – I was the fly in the ointment to many of these professors.  But I got the grades and learned a boatload about how to think differently and achieve things in a manner others never will.  Sadly, these talents are not widely respected in the US.

    Why?  It has alot to do with some of the ideas you posted here.  Many people who start a company foolishly believe that the ideas that started the company are the ones that will help it grow.  Or they think it’s all about them.  Or they think it’s about “the one thing” that made them successful.  Or something like that.  So they discount everything else.  I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve been on and spoken to younger people with terribly closed minds.  Those minds may have successfully started companies, but they have developed closed systems within those companies – and when you look at the failure rate of startups – I can point to one reason why many of them failed.  Lack of proper preparation for the rigors of the market.  Lack of openness to different approaches to running a business.

    These are things you CAN get in grad school, but not so much in the business world.  I’d argue your point is more about the student and what they seek to achieve by attending grad school, and less about JUST ATTENDING grad school.  I make this point to my son (who is preparing to head to college) daily.  What school he goes to is unimportant.  What IS important is what he is going for, what he hopes to achieve while he is there, and how he prepares himself for the day he leaves.

    In business….all most companies do is seek to make others in the image of management.  Conform or die.  And people wonder why so many companies are having problems?

  14. Themis Speaks
    Themis Speaks says:

    For me, graduate school and furthering my career weren’t mutually exclusive: I just went to school full time and continued to work full time, after contemplating graduate school for a few years post-college and working in the meantime. It’s important to research your field and what degrees will train you to excel in it – I consulted about half a dozen leaders in the industry vie informational interviews before applying and they all recommended a specific degree and a short list of schools. Now that I’m relocating to a new state for a higher quality of life, my graduate degree helped me rise to the top of the stack career-wise, making my transition to an extremely insular community and field a breeze. To each her own.

  15. Themis Speaks
    Themis Speaks says:

    For me, graduate school and furthering my career weren’t mutually exclusive: I just went to school full time and continued to work full time, after contemplating graduate school for a few years post-college and working in the meantime. It’s important to research your field and what degrees will train you to excel in it – I consulted about half a dozen leaders in the industry vie informational interviews before applying and they all recommended a specific degree and a short list of schools. Now that I’m relocating to a new state for a higher quality of life, my graduate degree helped me rise to the top of the stack career-wise, making my transition to an extremely insular community and field a breeze. To each her own.

  16. Themis Speaks
    Themis Speaks says:

    For me, graduate school and furthering my career weren’t mutually exclusive: I just went to school full time and continued to work full time, after contemplating graduate school for a few years post-college and working in the meantime. It’s important to research your field and what degrees will train you to excel in it – I consulted about half a dozen leaders in the industry vie informational interviews before applying and they all recommended a specific degree and a short list of schools. Now that I’m relocating to a new state for a higher quality of life, my graduate degree helped me rise to the top of the stack career-wise, making my transition to an extremely insular community and field a breeze. To each her own.

  17. Chris
    Chris says:

    Bold and courageous in your truth telling you are! I’m all for education, but I’m for self-education along the lines of one’s interests, purpose and service to others. I believe that you can get paid quite well and be of service to others by pursuing your passions-instead of pursuing what THEY say you should learn.

  18. Gerald Hodges
    Gerald Hodges says:

    I started a business while earning my MBA, and I found it an extremely helpful combination.  I was able to take what I learned in school — it was an evening program for working professionals, for what it’s worth — and apply it to my business the next day if I wanted.  I found it an extremely worthwhile combination, especially since I had no background in accounting and finance.

    That being said, I agree with you that full-time MBA program is essentially a giant waste of money.

  19. Deyamport Will
    Deyamport Will says:

    The teaching comment is totally false. There are plenty of adjunct teaching positions out there, as well as a plethora of K-12 teaching positions in the South  – except for maybe GA and SC. Also, there a myriad of staff and administrative positives at colleges and universities across the country. 

    Graduate school isn’t for everyone and should be undertaken without a real understanding of what they want to do and how that degree will impact their career goals. That said, I will not tell people who have decided to go to graduate school not to. Just as I won’t knock the personal choices you’ve made. We all have our own journeys to travel. And I don’t find it liberating or fulfilling to criticize the journey’s of others.

  20. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    You forgot to mention why I went to grad school:

    To live in another country.

    Sure I could have just moved to another country, but I was 23 and had just graduated from a no-name state school. I had a perfect GPA and becuase of that, I got into a great graduate program at a top 25 university. This enabled me to live in the UK for one year as a student and then be given, just for graduating, a two year working visa. That enabled me to get a job, a really great job actually. Then I lived in the UK for three more years, traveling and working great jobs. I made amazing contacts and pushed myself to try out all sorts new things that are not available in the states becasue it is so spread out here. When I returned to America 6 months ago, yes I struggled to find a job, just like everyone else, but thanks to my resume, contacts, and references, I ended up with a fantastic job with a great CAREER path.

    I loved grad school in Scotland. My classes themselves helped me to refine my work, but it was the experience of living in another country with people from all over the world coming together that taught me how to work with a wide group of people and how to be comfortable in really random situations. It taught me to advocate for myself and gave me the chances to take huge risks. And I also learned that I can bike 35 miles around a Loch in the rain. I don’t regret spending $20,000 for that experience and I would happily do it again. And again. And again. :)

  21. LongTimeRez
    LongTimeRez says:

    OMG!!! Those are the cutest pigs ever. And they’re beautiful at the same time. One reason I don’t eat pork anymore (apologies to the Farmer).
    Mercy, you certainly have brought the boyz out of the woodwork with this post. Will comment when I’m more awake.

  22. David Cramer
    David Cramer says:

    You should mention Thorstein Veblen in here somewhere. Graduate school is a form of conspicuous consumption, like a large yacht or big house (with lots of wood siding that has to be repainted every few years). It signals that you have lots of resources to waste. In that sense, the pointlessness of it is not a problem, but an essential feature.

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

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  24. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

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  25. Guest
    Guest says:

    So maybe it is the cynic in me, but it seems like the author was rejected by several graduate programs and rather than strike it out on her own, she resorted to that antiquated and distinctly American “pull yourself up by the boots straps” mentality, which most middle-class parents tattoo on the foreheads of their children, settling for writing scathing reviews of the institution that rejected her. Don’t get me wrong, Ragged Dick was a great period piece chronicling the greed and avarice of Industrial America and what one had to endure to scratch out a meager existence much to the chagrin of the robber barons, but in a post-Industrial society you shouldn’t have to grovel before your employer to make a fair, living wage and be treated decently. But hey what do I know……..I am in Graduate school……………….

  26. Michael
    Michael says:

    As someone who just graduated with an MA, I can attest to the truth about a lot of this. I am trying to switch careers and every interviewer so far assumes that I only went because I couldn’t cope with reality. So, working a job that pays less than before I went to college and trying to market myself wherever possible. 

    For anyone reading this and sceptical, feel free to drop me an email. 

  27. Rosie
    Rosie says:

    This article savors strongly of bitterness. I bet that you applied six or seven times to graduate school before giving up on it. Don’t rain on the parade of others just because you couldn’t cut it.

  28. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    It sounds like the author has an envy-driven bitterness to those who went the extra mile or two in their education. These counterarguments are so subjective it’s painful to read. I might suggest a Masters in English to make better points.

  29. Jennm59
    Jennm59 says:

    I have a graduate degree, and a tenured university job…and graduate school was the biggest mistake I’ve made in my life.

  30. Gretta
    Gretta says:

    Humanities are not for everyone, but they remain essential to a democratic society.  Einstein said it best: 
    “It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine, but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good…..He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions and their sufferings, in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow men and to the community. These precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not–or at least not in the main–through text books. It is this that primarily constitutes and preserves culture. This is what I have in mind when I recommend the “humanities” as important, not just dry specialized knowledge in the fields of history and philosophy. Overemphasis on the competitive system and premature specialization on the ground of immediate usefulness kill the spirit on which all cultural life depends, specialized knowledge included.”

  31. extremely confused
    extremely confused says:

    Hi penelope,

    when you say “There are very very few jobs that require a non-science degree in order to get the job.”

    what if i want to become an art teacher but my bachelor degree was in english (literature)?

    I’ve been out of undergrad for 2 years now and have some work experience art related in galleries and an art magazine but would these credentials on paper be enough for let’s say an elementary/pre-school to even consider me for art teaching or even art teacher’s assistant positions?

    sidenote: i went to a well-known high school for fine arts for 4 years (currently still listed on my resume) but im sure people think who cares what you did in high school after a certain point right?

    help : /

    -extremely confused

  32. Ronnie Holt
    Ronnie Holt says:

    I couldn’t agree more! The only thing I would add is all higher education should be more specific to a career field. It takes five years to get a four year degree and most of what you learn will not apply in the real world. It is a shame that most students that graduate from college come out with a lot of debt and few skills. Most don’t even become employed in a field related to their degree. What a waste!

  33. MKK
    MKK says:

    “The problem is that what you do in school is not what you will do in a career. So if you love school, you’ll probably hate the career it’s preparing you for, since your career is not going to school.”
    I’m living this. Thanks P. Where were you 6 years ago? I’m starting my lost stage now and I’m 28.
    I think I’ll be leaving the grad school off my resume.

  34. SLPgradstudent
    SLPgradstudent says:

    I am in grad school right now to be a speech-language pathologist. I would not have done it if I didn’t have to, but its the only way to get certified and be able to work in the hospital, schools etc. I don’t regret my decision, and thankfully will graduate with very few loans to pay back since I am also a graduate assistant at my school. I do agree with you that some fields don’t require it, in my case it does.

  35. Sean
    Sean says:

    This article and the entire ensuing discussion completely fail to appreciate the developments in the U.S. economy and drastically diminished prospects for “successful” career paths under the “new normal”.

    The debate between grad school and work experience no longer really holds any meaning and this will increasingly be the case for some time. Why? The economies of the West are rapidly disarticulating and ever more concentrated wealth and power is amassing in the hands of an oligarchic few who have no need for the structural social and economic balance that accompanied the Fordist and even Post-Fordist eras.

    I believe many young people are opting for grad school not because they believe it will enhance their careers, but because they are well aware that many traditional career paths are closing off and grad school offers a way to avoid facing that reality as they can live off stipends and student loans and maintain some semblance of financial independence.
    These conditions necessitate creative new avenues for subsistence, personal fulfillment and life choices as well as a considerable lowering of expectations.

    In that sense, the writer of this article knows very little about which she speaks. Graduate school is a “career path” in and of itself: If you can manage to extract a livable income from a university stipend or a subsidized graduate loan, you should do it and for as long as possible. Period.

  36. adam marshall
    adam marshall says:

    You seem overly bitter for someone young with a promising future.

    I went to grad school hoping to teach college history. This appears an unlikely outcome, especially in the state of California. But I also went to know things I didn’t already know, and in this way grad school might have been the best time of my life.

    I think you are right to caution people against getting advanced degrees that are not in demand. I should have looked into this more because one can’t trust the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. I asked a few professors while I was taking classes preparing for grad school, and even they seemed to believe there was opportunity, or felt obligated to support their profession. Now they don’t seem to know me.

    Anyway, I’m not bitter. History is a calling for me in some way, though I’m not sure how exactly.

    It is also worth introducing the idea of spiritual vocation. I ground it out in the corporate world for a decade, and finally faced a forced resignation. If I was still there I might have had a stroke or heart attack by now.

  37. Jim Capatelli
    Jim Capatelli says:

    Well, I think this attack on the well-educated reveals two things:

    1) Ms. Trunk’s own personal insecurities about her lack of education. Obviously, she knows that she’s been judged—probably correctly—for the fact that she’s missing an advanced degree. And this is her way of striking back. The entire post has a very juvenile, pre-adolescent tone to it.

    It’s also a way for Trunk to get attention. She knows that being a bit sensational and snarky will draw viewers. However, in the long run, this will hurt her.

    2) This snarky and not well thought out post is representative of the “dumbing down” of American culture. The hatred of smart, accomplished people in an academic setting has been encouraged by political extremists and charlatans for a long, long time. Sorry to see Trunk jump on this idiotic path.

    The fact the Trunk strongly advocates home “schooling” while denigrating the organized, traditional public and private school, is indicative of her mentality. It’s all of one piece—and not the least bit surprising.

    • M. Rad.
      M. Rad. says:

      At the risk of feeding the trolls, I have to reply that Mr. Capatelli is not reading Ms. Trunk’s argument very carefully. Look in the comments and see that she had in fact attended grad school, but found that writing is better learned by actually writing. The result is not an attack on *existing* advanced degree holders, but an admonishment to *prospective* grad students that their finite resources are better spent elsewhere.

      This is not a “My professor is a schlub” essay; the closest it gets is to crticize the ruinously escalating costs of grad school, itself an objectively verifiable fact. The real cost of college has, by most metrics, tripled between the current generation of students and their parents. Risking your nest egg is not enough anymore; today’s students must pre-emptively sign away a lifetime of sweat and toil on the tenuous promises of the academics that Mr. Capatelli esteems so much. Expect uncomfortable questions about the value of such a proposition, and a gritty determination to find lower cost substitutes that disintermediate the educational establishment, to continue.

  38. KC
    KC says:

    As a 50-something person with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science, I’ve returned to school in a technical field for a number of reasons.

    A second Bachelor degree is what I originally decided upon, but I’m attending a state college and post-bac students in pursuit of a second bachelor’s degree are pretty much ruled-out of admission.

    A Master’s is on the horizon. It won’t cost substantially more than another Bachelor’s and the course of study is deep and comprehensive. I think it will make the rest of my life a lot more enjoyable and completely relevant to the experiences that I want to engage in.

    While I can agree that the cost of post-secondary education is out of control and the ROI for education is abysmal, I don’t think that the education system is at fault.

    I don’t buy any of Ms. Trunk’s arguments that a Master’s degree is a waste of time and an indication of someone (even a young and unemployed someone) who is shirking “real-world” experience.

    Her position is disrespectful of those who are earnest in their pursuit of a specific type of knowledge and dismissive of a method of education with which she has issues. Having been a student of both, I can say without qualification that formal education is just as ‘real’ an experience as education at the School of Hard Knocks.

    Wages (real spendable dollars) for the working class have been on the decline for decades. This is due to the current politics of capitalism and the idea that it is right and good for a few to control the wealth and the commonwealth, to amass personal fortune at the expense of many, and to take no social responsibility for doing so. In regard to this askew amassing of wealth, even John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group and creator of the first index mutual fund, has asked, how much is enough? (Read his book, “Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life”.)

    Scapegoating the educational system and declaring that Master Degree studies are, among other things, a marker of laziness is a smoke-and-mirrors ploy to divert attention from the real problem. It is designed to glorify ignorance and the virtue of stupidity: ‘cause all that book-learnin’ ain’t gonna do you no good anyhow.

    It’s revolting.

  39. Liz G from the UK
    Liz G from the UK says:

    Whilst I think you make some valid points, I think you’re sweeping with rather a massive brush. It really depends on the individual and his or her circumstances and goals. Some people I know go back to university to pursue postgrad degrees to try and cover up their subpar performance at undergraduate level or.. like you said in point 7.. because they don’t want to enter the “real world” and want to still live life as a student and I’m sure employers are aware of that, but in my field I absolutely need to complete a Masters because I am studying Chemical Engineering and here in the UK, to become a chartered engineer you need to complete a Masters (MEng) as well as a Bachelors. I’m sure it’s similar in the US, or at least it is in other fields.. Medicine and Law particularly.

    I also know people who got their Bachelor degrees in their 20s and returned to university for post-grad in their later years, either on the dime of their employer or when they’ve been made redundant and got a generous redundancy package to fund a Masters/MBA programme.

  40. Doug
    Doug says:

    Awesome post Penelope. I wanted to go to grad school after I finished my undergrad (in the Humanities). Instead, I took a leap of faith, hopped on a plane to Spain and, taught English for 7 months.

    Upon returning, I got a job (unrelated to my degree) in an office at my alma mater, and will likely be promoted several times in the next several years and beyond. Had I went to grad school, I’d be unhappily busting my ass for a graduate degree that would do nothing for me except get me more student loans, and probably make it even harder for me to find a job.

    The crazy part of it all is, my current job allows me to take classes at my university for FREE, and those credits can be used to getting a Master’s degree (or another Bachelor’s).

    So, now I am learning about LIFE rather than how to get good grades. Getting my Bachelor’s degree has been very helpful, but going for a Master’s would have been a huge mistake. Penelope, you helped me figure that out in the summer of 2010, and I will always be thankful for that.

    Thanks again for all of your insightful posts Penelope, you have seriously changed my life for the better!

    • Doug
      Doug says:

      I would also like to add that, even though my job allows me to take classes for free, I don’t intend to take advantage of this unless it would provide for a sure-fire benefit to my career. I have learned so much more about life since I finished school than when I did while living in the bubble of Academia. Life outside of Academia is so much better, and provides for much more important life experiences!

  41. helen
    helen says:

    It is the law in some states that public school teachers must have a masters. I would lose my job if I did not have one!

  42. Frau Jones
    Frau Jones says:

    Whaaattt?? There are NO teaching jobs? None? Anywhere? We don’t need well-educated, qualified teachers who can think in complex ways? Penelope, where do you get your facts? I must know this source so I can cite it in one of my useless grad school papers.

  43. Sunny Lam
    Sunny Lam says:

    You’ve got to admit this is a pretty divisive issue from what’s being said here.

    Personally if you want to be a career academic then by all means that’s great.

    My former thesis supervisor was more of a scholar advocate for better, healthier local organic food in hospitals – even a career academic can do their part to making the world a better place.

    When I sent the original related article to a PhD friend of mine he certainly wasn’t thrilled or impressed and of course I had to remind him that I also took a environmental sci masters graduate degree too (so in a way I was perhaps mocking myself).

    I’ve found that it’s hard and takes time to break the conditioning of the traditional schooling system – it really doesn’t teach you the most important skills of persuasion and expressing the value you have to offer.

    That I learned only from working with nonprofits as a partial link to a thesis project.

    That eventually led me to marketing and careers and entrepreneurship.

    Ultimately the real test for everyone’s individual case is whether they can do what they’re doing and still put food on the table.

    And if you can and still enjoy what you do then wonderful.

    Fair winds,
    Sunny Lam

    http://shinobicareercoach.com

    Author of 101 Job Search Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Landing the Job You Want (http://shinobicareercoach.com/scc/101-job-search-hacks-cheat-sheet)

    Author of The Zen of Job Search – Get Attention! 10 Ideas That Really Work (http://amzn.to/K6j6Ny).

  44. Thizzle
    Thizzle says:

    I don’t know what job postings you’re looking at, but almost every one I’m looking at requires at least a 4 year degree. These are permanent, secure, and most importantly, positions I would like to do. And what about people like myself who leave a low-paying, low-potential position to do an M.A. and get almost instantly rewarded career-wise? But then again, I went to school in Canada where it’s practically free. $6500 for a 1 year M.A. and I’m making more 22,000 per year than I was before…useless, EH?

  45. Jono
    Jono says:

    This is so misguided. Yes, I am graduating from grad school this month. I landed an amazing graduate job – one that I beat out 550 law-commerce-business students for, AND this semester I taught 8 classes per week. My relationships with my lecturers would enable me to lecture if I had choosen to undertake a PHD. How terrible.

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