Is a science graduate degree worthless?

Rich Lemert rlemert at clemson.edu
Sat Mar 6 18:40:50 EST 1999


Arthur Sowers wrote:
> 
> On Sat, 6 Mar 1999, Rich Lemert wrote:
> 
> >   Why? If the statistic is reported as "income for people holding
> > a PhD", then why do you want to neglect part of the population
> > you're claiming to measure?
> 
> I suspect that the statistics are leaving out the PhDs who are poorly
> paid, have poor job security and are including those who are doing well or
> even better than well and that is because the former are hard to find and
> the latter are easy to find.

  Are they? Have you maintained your affiliations with the various
biology or medical organizations that you presumably were a member
of? Have you kept the NSF and/or NIH current on your address?
I've seen enough people complain about what they perceive as a 
limited benefit of e.g. ACS membership when they're active in the
field to realize that many of them are going to drop their 
membership whenever they're no longer actively doing chemistry.
Thus it might be as hard to find these people as it is those who
are doing poorly.

> 
> Also, it is misleading to report statistics for "income for people holding
> a PhD" because it implies falsely that if one gets a PhD then they are
> likely to get an income reported by those statistics.

  When one gets a PhD related job, then by definition they are
"likely" to get a salary reported by these statistics. This doesn't
mean they are likely to get the median or the average figure, but
they are likely to get a figure somewhere on the range. This does
have its own implied assumption, that these people will get a job.
However, that's a different set of statistics. You appear to feel
it is more honest to total up everyone's salaries and generate a
total average income. I don't, because I feel it buries two entirely
different sets of data into one number. I feel it is more honest
to report the salary figure for those working, and provide separate
statistics on how many are actually working.

> >   Also, you are making an implied assumption that everyone that has
> > a job "unrelated" to their PhD has taken that job only because they
> > were unable to get a job "in their field".
> 
> And you are glossing over the fact that a lot of people really have taken
> unrelated work _because_ they could not get a job in their field. 

  Not really. I'm just pointing out that the world is not an
either/or situation. My statement does not preclude your statement,
It merely points out the fact that there is a lot more to the
story than _just_ people being forced out. You note that I did
not provide any estimate of the relative numbers of those forced
out versus those leaving voluntarily because I don't have those
figures.

> > There are many reasons
> > why one might change careers.
> 
> I've heard from as many people who couldn't find a job relevant to their
> training and goals as from people who, after completing their training,
> decided that they didn't _like_ what they trained for. I don't like the
> phrase "many reasons why one might change careers" because it does not
> take into account the "why" one might want to change careers.

  Excuse me, but what is the word 'why' doing in the statement, then?

Rich Lemert



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