Last Friday, we had a good discussion on how to pick a graduate program. One issue that came up was debt. I strongly recommended that people only go to graduate programs that provide ample funding. People disagreed (a little) so I wanted to take a moment to explain the underlying logic:
- First, about 50% of doctoral students will not earn a PhD. So it makes no sense to pile up debt for a degree you may not get.
- Second, about 50% of doctoral degree recipients will not work in academia or a tenure track position. It makes little sense to take debt for a job you may not get.
- Third, tenure track jobs have modest salaries. Professors aren’t poor, but we make a middle class salary, not MD salaries.
In financial terms, the academic career is high risk and low pay off. The pay off is mostly in non-financial terms. Once you understand that money is not the guiding principle of the typical academic career, then it makes little sense to invest money in it. Read more...