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Envious of others who elected out of academics early

Your parents were wrong. You and them have mistaken the idea that more education equates to better career prospects. It doesn't.

Upto BSc it helps, but then the rules start to change. Certain educational paths allow you to access more options (e.g. medicine and engineering, maybe CFA), but after a point it in other fields can work against you and you become overqualified and unnecessary. Piling on MScs and PhDs are probably going to harm your career options rather than help it as the academic job market has dried up. No one on the outside is impressed by a permanent student (apart from maybe your parents), and you will be starting into the labour market with fewer earnings, no pension and little experience.

You need to re-evaluate your assumptions about what employers want. They want experience far more than postgraduate degrees in most cases. Sometimes too much exposure to academia can be damaging. I had to learn completely how to rewrite things, because my academic training had me writing for journal articles (wordy, over complicated), but working outside I was expected to be clear and concise.

Feeling hopeless after my PhD - Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

I did a psychology PhD and I was able to make it as far as postdoc (2 years) before realising that the academic lifestyle wasn't working out. Similar to you, I had a difficult supervisor and found it hard to find work afterwards due to over qualification and employers being suspicious I would run off the second an academic job came up.

I am now working in a completely different area, in one where I didn't need my PhD and could have got with my undergrad degree. It took me over a year, but I am now on my feet and am happy to be working. Truth is there are far too many PhDs for the number of jobs available, and managers know this and use it to keep academic wages low and job security weak. I accept I fell into this trap, but thankfully was able to see it and move away.

Is my career over?

Depends on a few things. Number of publications, history of gaining awards and grants, and the area you conducted your research in are all critical. Some fields are more competitive than others, and the prospects in Engineering are different to English Lit.

Also it will depend on how good your connections are. If you have a powerful supervisor who can hook you up in some way, or former friends who can get you a position then you will have a smoother ride. If you are coming in from the cold without any of this, it's less likely anything is going to happen.

Unanticipated life after PhD: help needed

I think your experiences match many of us. When I was a post doc I also had my fair share of annoying officemates, petty politics and the daily irritations of working as a junior academic. I was working in England though, so don't really have any idea of the civil unrest you face in Pakistan, but I can't imagine that being easy to live with.

The thing about the insecurity of post-doc life is universal, and I hated it while I was still in academia, and the best thing about life on the outside is that you don't have to put up with the crap of living your life in 2-3 year chunks. I handled the situation by leaving and not buying into the myth that an academic job was better than a non-academic one. Having more money, job security and a sense of being valued, I wouldn't go back to it for anything. If you are bright and capable, you will have a far better life on the outside than inside it.


Really don't know helpful some of this is.

By graduation time, a future Pediatrician will already had been to medical school and will be starting Foundation Year 1. Besides anyone who has ever applied to medical schools can tell you they don't really take babysitting seriously as relevant clinical experience.

Similarly, with ecology getting a job clearing weeds is not really the same type of work, nor uses the same skillsets that people working in that field. I also fail to see how "cleaning" would impress future employers in ecology, but am happy for you to try and convince me.

I also think the idea of graduates happily entering unpaid internships is both divisive towards those that can't afford to work unpaid, but also sets up a horrible precedent that entry level jobs no longer require payment. Gladly participating in your own exploitation is not a brilliant message to be sending. Ask the wannabe journalists, internships often lead to further internships, and those that lead to paid jobs are few and far between.

No doubt there are ways of gaining experience, but there are also pitfalls graduates and postgraduates can easily fall into. These include being taken advantage of, being fed false hopes for future employment and being forced to accept poor working conditions and/or harassment for "experience" or their CV.

Help Me I Am In PhD Funding Hell

I would second the reservations above about self funding your PhD. Due to the structural problems in academia that you will see after you graduate, as well as the punishing repayment schedules that come from paying back your CDL once your period of grace is up, its a really bad idea to go down this route.

Basically it boils down to don't begin a PhD if you have not been offered funding, because it disadvantages you in so many obvious but also subtle ways.

See Reason 1 here for why this may be: http://100rsns.blogspot.co.uk/p/if-you-decide-to-go-anyway.html

Supervisor and supervise relationship: who's the leader/boss?

As much as I disliked my supervisor, the tone of this really irritates me. A supervisor is not an employee of a student, if anything the student is an apprentice.

The idea that a student is a customer is philistine, and turns education into a commodity rather than the transformational process it should be. You are paying to access the facilities and expertise of an institution, and if one part of that expertise tells you to do something you ought to at least consider it.

The idea that you are the boss of your supervisor is as ridiculous as a baby being viewed as head of the family. If this is the sort of thinking increasingly happening among students I am glad I left academia.

Accepted for PhD

Having been through the system and supervised other PhD students when I was in academia I would strongly suggest you think twice before accepting a non-funded PhD (especially in the field of science, but with the arts and humanities being what they are, it probably applies there too).

Being funded has several advantages, including not having to sacrifice precious writing up time in other employment, having greater prestige when it comes to launching your postdoc career and not being seen as a cash cow/ second class citizen. I have heard others say that being accepted onto a self funded PhD is almost like having a polite rejection, but only now fully understand what they were talking about after seeing the effect on others.

Is There Life After PhD? Jobs Market is Terrifying...

It's just my opinion, but I think the situation goes beyond the current economic turmoil.

Its part of a much larger public reform of higher education. Since the 1980s UK Universities have engaged in increased marketisation, and with developments like introduction of tuition fees and lower research investment its looking less and less likely that things are going to return to the old ways of high levels of public subsidy and academic job creation that was the old model from the 1960s-80s. (In some ways its a reversion to pre-20thCentury situation where academics often were independently wealthy, but that's another discussion).

You can read about some of the other wider issues here:

It sounds like you have done the right thing, but you also have to bear in mind that many of your peers will also have done the right thing too. Its almost like an arms race, where the price of entry is getting higher and higher as time moves on, with people willing to go further and do more at each stage. Again, always remember its not you. By getting your PhD and doing the right moves you have shown your motivation and drive. Most of these factors are beyond us.

Waiting for examiners verdict (post viva)

What I am wondering is why aren't your supervisors screaming blue murder over this? It is quite a large part of their responsibilities. Have they mentioned anything, or done the necessary chasing up at their end.

Also its usually the internal examiner that is the main point of contact for amendments. Wouldn't it be easier to track them down at your institution and have an informal discussion with them?

Is There Life After PhD? Jobs Market is Terrifying...

I think its important you see the reasons behind what you are experiencing, so you are not feeling its anything you are doing. Its not just you, what you are coming up against are some fairly severe structural issues that have been happening for some time. This is why according to Vitae over half newly graduated PhDs end up working outside the university system, because there isn't enough space for all of us.

As you notice, more and more posts are being advertised as short term or sessional because these save universities money. Those already in the system are expected to do more with less and this is accelerating in the states. Political drivers like the REF and the need for impact are the reason for entry level posts keep getting higher.

They can do so, because the oversupply of PhDs means there are always people in the lower levels that are kept desperate so keep on accruing that unpaid experience/writing papers which means its a buyers market. Some smart students tend to have an exit plan before graduating, but those wanting to stay are usually well connected as they have realised it's as much about patronage as it is about producing good work. Many will have partners that can support them, pay the mortgage and subsidise their low paid work. Others will just forgo these things and live like undergrads well into their 30s and 40s.

However, people do get jobs and these are the more visible ones that you see as lecturers and academics at university. What you don't see are the line of people that had to leave in order for that one person to stay. There is a life after the PhD, but it may not look like the one you envisaged.

Are we students? Candidate? Researcher?

I think anyone who is studying could be considered a student, regardless of whether they attend lectures or follow a syllabus. Therefore I would regard anyone reading for a PhD as a student. A graduate student, but still very much in a learning role. While I think its unfair that the general public have negative attitudes about students, its probably not useful to get wound up about it. Yes, you are PhD student now, and you do rank low but that's not forever.

I reckon a huge amount of anguish comes from our own egos about PhD students' place in the pecking order and it can backfire horribly. I remember attending a conference where a PhD student had written something like Jane Smith (BA, PhDCand) on the opening slide of her presentation like it was a degree in its own right and everyone just laughed at her for being pretentious and insecure for the rest of the conference.

Whether we accept it or not, the academic community is really hierarchical with precise terms for every rank and it probably doesn't go down well if there is any perception of people trying to pass as something else. An RA is a very specific role, as is a lecturer, professor or associate. If an RA was to call themselves as a lecturer because in the past they have delivered a lecture or two would not do anything positive for their career or standing with their peers. Sadly I think its very 18th Century in its attitude and any whiff of not knowing your place is enough to cause problems. On the other side, I have seen PhD students have similar attitudes towards undergrads or people below them in the pecking order and I think this comic strip sums it up quite well


Why researchers abandoned their research?

As someone who has given up on a research career after being a post doc I would say there are several things that completely sucked the joy out of research and made join a new field.

The hyper competitiveness of getting any kind of academic job that has prospects.

The current structure of funding, where you have to constantly keep looking for grants means that researchers are almost punished for pursuing this line of work. No other field would someone be this trained be paid so little and so precariously.

The ideas around high quantity of publications in high impact journals being the only yardstick to measure research. Nothing about quality, usefulness or longer term implications.

The all consuming nature of the work that means you have to sacrifice relationships, opportunities and life in general.

The politics and drama about university life - by far the most unfriendly place I have ever worked.

Although this may be more about researchers leaving research, rather than a single area, I think it all plays a part.

What if I don't get a merit/distinction on my MSc?

You say your career in academia, but also talk about a clniical psychology doctorate.

If you are talking about a DClinPsy, my ex is a clinical psychologist and most of her friends who were training with her didn't have an MSc at all. However, they were a bit older and had done clinical experience which seemed more important.

If you are talking about a clinically related psychology PhD, all I had was a 2:1 at undergrad and it was mainly how I did at interview with the supervisor. Depending on the subject you end up doing your MSc subject matter may be irrelevant, but your research methods skills will probably be considered, but you can show these via publications and collaborations as well.

PhD boyfriend with NO job

Mackem Beef, I am not blaming myself. I am just commenting, as you do on the fairly odd things that can crop up in PhD relationships, and some of the mistakes I have made in the past, and the way that it doesn't all get better once the viva is over. Its more like a way of life for many, and I remember reading about rates of divorced being higher in academics than other college grads.