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  1. #1
    / nonsequitur's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Graduate School - a resource

    Hello. Let me start off with some self-disclosure. As a current graduate student with rapidly-declining interest in academia, I couldn't help but notice that a disproportionate number of people on this forum are considering graduate school and academia/research as a legitimate career choice. The aim that I had with compiling this post with these links is to enable others to make a well-informed decision with regards to graduate school and college teaching. Also, to share a resource on higher education that I wish I had when deciding my future path.

    I basically collated all of the useful (and free because I'm not paying subscription fees) data links from this site. I'm not based in the US but still found it interesting and thought-provoking.

    Firstly, if you're looking to choose a graduate school with a specific program, this is pretty helpful. It provides several parameters in ranking various specific PhD programs at different universities.

    The cost that you'll have to pay per year in tuition and student aid available, broken down as an interactive graphic, with trends across the last 10 years so that you'll know if the university's planning to slap extra tuition on you.

    If you're interested in the median faculty wages (assuming that you can make tenure track) across different fields, this table breaks it all down. For the amount of education that you're getting, it might be better to do/teach law so you can get your money back.

    If you're intending to choose a specific location to look for a faculty job, this reports the median wage across several regions of the US. At the same time, this graphic illustrates which states cut funding for higher education and this graphic shows the states where unis will be under stress when the stimulus package runs out in '11. On a more positive note, this interactive graphic shows the result of a survey of faculty staff indicating which colleges were AWSM (or less bad) to work at. This list compiled pretty much lists the best colleges for people seeking tenure/postdoc-ing.

    My favourite blog series is the Academic Bait-and-Switch, which rather accurately satirises the politics and ridiculous university characters whom I've come across in my academic life. The column by The Shadow Scholar and the !outraged! response it generated also amuses, and provides an interesting perspective on plagiarists and academia alike. More than anything, the comments (trolls or not) provide for hours of entertainment.

    The site itself provides higher education blogs and resources that are probably the best-categorised and organised that I've seen on the web. I've been hooked since I discovered it yesterday; there's a mine of gold there.

  2. #2
    Blah Orangey's Avatar
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    Great thread! I, too, am a graduate student with rapidly-declining interest in academia. In fact, I quite hate it. I'm getting out with a Master's after this semester (if I can finish my shit on time, dammit. I really, really don't want to write these last papers.)

    Don't forget this classic, "Is Graduate School a Cult?"
    Artes, Scientia, Veritasiness

  3. #3
    / nonsequitur's Avatar
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    Hahah, that link's great. It's so true, and applicable not only to the humanities.

    I once attended a PhD oration (at my Elite National University) where the student outlined how the ambition of his project was hijacked at every experiment by reality, and in the end he was so incredibly bitter. He drew the only conclusion that he reasonably could've, which was that all existing literature based on an assumption-laden Science paper was wrong. Bigshot Professor didn't so much address his data as attack him; having vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It was apparent to the rest of us that Bigshot Prof's arguments didn't have a leg to stand on; but guess who's on the committee of that PhD student?

    On the post-graduate school side of things...
    My postdoc friend applied for a small grant and was told by the department head that he "wasn't like supervisor x", who is ostensibly being groomed to build his own lab, and therefore the department would not support his application (said friend applied for and got the grant anyway). Once said friend got a major national grant this year, he was pressured by the department to leave his existing boss (exact words were "if you want a future..."), allocate his funding in a politically "smart" manner, and suddenly the department head wanted to be his best friend. All said postdoc wanted to do was do lab work in stuff that he's interested in... Which probably explains why I respect him. He even said that he wasn't sure that getting research money from the government was worth the trouble that it brought from the department.

  4. #4
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Wow, all my (not terribly high, but not absent either) willingness to apply for a PhD after my Masters have been reduced to zero by reading your first link, lol. Well, I did notice that most of the PhD students I know seems to be nervous wrecks, especially during the central part of their 3 or 4 year long coursework.
    ENTj 7-3-8 sx/sp

  5. #5
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    I'm a year and a half into grad school, and liked it enough to transfer to a phd. My supervisor is fanstastic and the environment is generally supportive. Mind you, I'm sure science is a completely different environment than liberal arts. You couldn't pay me enough to work on a literary graduate degree (for the subject alone).
    And I have no intention of a career in academia.

    edit: the environment may be generally different in the US, too. I only have one isolated experience where 2 students from our lab graduated and went to a post-doc in the US, and both seemed to be having a miserable time with very long hours expected and an unsupportive environment.
    -end of thread-

  6. #6
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    I may report back here a lot.
    thanks....more to come

  7. #7
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    I will make the following two additional observations:

    1. In the U.S. at least, grad students in technical fields can often (almost always?) get financial support, usually consisting of tuition waiver or reimbursement and a stipend. It is not much, but if one is frugal, the bills get paid, and one doesn't pay any tuition.

    2. Academia is not the only career choice for graduates in technical fields who want to do research. Many more positions are available in industry and even government, though sometimes one must be a U.S. citizen for these.

    As someone who has been through both a master's and a doctoral program, at different universities, I agree that grad school is very demanding, often stressful, sometimes tedious, occasionally even uncertain or risky. Having worked professionally now for a number of years, I can also say that it was the time in my career when I was most free just to do research, without being weighed down by stupid administrivia or other duties. I enjoyed it, I have no regrets, I would do it again if I had my life to live over.

    Like anything else, grad school is not for everyone, so the best advice is to learn about it and make the decision that's right for you, with your eyes open so you know what you are getting into.

  8. #8
    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    Alot of recent college graduates also consider graduate school when they never considered it before because they are unable to find jobs in their field after graduating.
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