Friday, May 01, 2009

Quitting Graduate School- I Didn't Do It, Should You?

Despite a continuing number of hits to this blog from individuals considering "quitting graduate school," I acknowledge that I am no longer an expert on this topic. I consider only those poor, overly tortured saps currently in school to be experts on this topic. Did you graduate? Then you don't know what you're talking about anymore. (HELLO, recall and Pollyanna biases.) Did you quit already? Recently or many years ago? Then you're clearly not an expert either. (Quick, what type of bias is this?)

Anyway, I still get a lot of hits on this so I thought I'd revisit how I feel about not quitting graduate school. Clearly, as a disclaimer, this is pretty field-specific. I have the (um? luxury?) perspective of working in a relatively interdisciplinary field with connections to both hard and squooshy and very very fluffy sciences, so while that gives me some options, it also shows me that in terms of faculty appointments and expectations, that while I someday (Imshallah) may have it much easier than some, I may have a much harder academic life than others. (As in, there is no program in my primary field in which I could ever have a summer break. I know, boo-hoo!)

Did I quit graduate school? No. Am I glad I finished? Abso-fucking-lutely. Will I actually be able to use the knowledge and skills that I was taught in graduate school? Only time will tell (so far I've been lucky on this and the answer is "yes" but I'm still only a postdoc.) Am I still considering "quitting" academia? Yes, just not as often as I once did. Am I trying to gain some realworld skills just in case? Yes.

...and now, more about you:

Should you quit? Odds are, yes. Why should you quit? This depends on your goals. Have you always thought you would be able to grow up and be just like your professor? Hey, you might, but don't hold your breath. If you think you can apply the knowledge and skills and socialization you gained in school in a number of different environments and toward different ends...well, more power to you. Keep going. If you just want someone to call you "Doctor" someday? Then keep going, you can totally make it and get what you want from the experience. If you seriously think you'll get tenured someday? Take an informal poll of assistant professors out there. If you want to stay in academia but can't stand the thought of adjuncting or remaining research faculty? Consider a different field or get ready for disappointment.

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Anonymous Sabine said...

Hey, Julep. I was really happy to find your blog! The whole should-I-or-shouldn't-I-quit thing is really hard, which is part of the reason why I started the Leaving Academia blog. But you raise a good point--people still can finish their Ph.D.s even after they have decided that they do not want to pursue an academic career. It's not a waste of time, as long as you know your reasons. That's kind of what happened to me (though it really wasn't until the last few months of the process that I really, really, REALLY knew I wasn't going to continue with academia).

2:38 PM  

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