There’s a serious problem in academics.

There are thousands and thousands and thousands of overqualified, competent, very intelligent people with doctorates who have gone through over a decade of intense work…

…and who will never get a job teaching.

Everyone talks about it. No one thinks it will be them.

But it is.

Even if you went to Harvard. Even if you already published a book. Even if you’re the smartest, brightest star at your school. Even if you know all the right people. Odds are that you’re not getting a job teaching (and I mean a serious, salaried job).

I’ve decided I’m one of these people early on. After a year of abuse from the system post-doc, I’m not really interested in continuing to run up against the wall. I respect myself too much. I respect my education too much.

I refuse to be abused just to prove something to other people.

Buuuuuuuut, I still think getting a PhD was one of the best things I ever did.


Yup. I’m crazy like that.

Wouldn’t change a thing–except maybe the debt and the emotional abuse. But that’s for another time.

I think if graduate programs want to continue to exist they need to recognize and advertise the malleability of their degrees.

I have skills. I have worth. Just because there is one job a year for my field (with probably 10,000 applicants just like me or better) doesn’t mean I have to undersell myself and compromise my dignity waiting for some school/any school to look my way.

There are places out there that not only find PhD holders valuable, but will also pay them a decent wage (sit down!), benefits (shut the door!), say in location (stop it!), and dignity (this is just too much).

After some conversations with other people just like me who have managed to have fulfilling lives outside of professorship, I’ve begun to compile a list of jobs that regularly hire people with doctorates. This list may be different with STEM fields, or others like that, but maybe this can begin the process of thinking outside the box of future potential:

1) Writer

This can vary from continuing the academic route of journal and book writing with the hopes of getting recognized eventually (I know someone who supports his family putting out about 10 books a year), to work as a journalist, to column writer, etc. This path seems the most natural for humanities people like me, but it’s also the least stable and probably even more of a gamble than teaching. Odds of supporting yourself are slim. It could happen, but slim.

(2) Administration

I can feel the groans from here, but this is the most stable, lucrative, easiest transition to make job wise. I even suggest dabbling in different offices while you’re a student to see where you feel the most fulfilled and happiest. You’re still working in an education setting and you’re still working with students.

You’re getting paid.

A friends of mine–after a decade of teaching at a big state school–finally got enough merit bonuses to hit 40k. I got that as an entry level database manager at a seminary…

(3) Foundation/Charity Work

This seems to be getting harder with degrees specializing in this work. But people with pastoral backgrounds or with diverse activity in different ministries (religious dialogue, homeless work, youth work, etc.) are coveted. Head’s up that progressives might find it a bit harder to find a foundation that aligns with their politics and have solid money to pay.

(4) Museum

This gets thrown at me a lot as a historian. I think the idea is that I’d be a natural fit as an archivist, restorer, conserver, historical resource, etc. with all of my training. However, this has about the same odds as a professorship. Tread lightly.

(5) Ministry

I’m sure this is helpful for some people (I think a lot of well-meaning people in my life don’t know what I do), but I get thrown these job postings a fair amount. Unfortunately, a ministry position with a livable wage is going the same direction as professorships. However, I know an amazing amount of PhD holders who take up ministry positions, keep writings, keep traveling, and have very full/fulfilling lives that balance many worlds.

(6) Publishing

This was just sent my way and I’ve been sitting with my own curiosity. Admittedly, this has serious ups and downs, but I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s on the up swing, that you still get to work with amazing minds, and that the work is crazy stimulating/creative/hard/frustrating/fulfilling. It can be dog eat dog, but after my cohort classes I think I can handle more emotional brutality than 90% of the population.


What say you? What do you think? What do you love? What do you hate? Anything to add?

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