Saturday, April 2, 2011

Decisions, decisions

After a busy winter of filling out college applications, Skyping with potential advisors, and flying across the country to visit universities, Alvin is ready to decide which school to attend for his PhD in geology.
    Schools which have accepted Alvin:
  • Purdue University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of North Carolina
      Schools which Alvin would like to attend:
    • University of Colorado
    • Oregon State University
    • Dartmouth
        Another option that we started discussing a week ago is this: not going to school at all. Alvin is already qualified for excellent geology-related jobs in industry. These positions pay very well, have increasing demand, and offer reasonable work hours. That option is very alluring, especially after finding out more about the academia option.
          A PhD takes 5 years to complete, most graduates do a 2-3 year post-doc, and the availability of tenure-track faculty positions is declining rapidly. Alvin has talked to current PhD students who work 50-70 hours a week for a paltry $20,000 annual stipend. Why would we do that when the job competition at the end of that path is so steep? Even if he were to find a job teaching at a college or university, he would have to work extremely hard to obtain tenure. You've heard it: publish or perish.
            Academia is not without its allure. A tenured professor enjoys job flexibility, variety of work, teaching, travel for field work, sabbatical every 7 years, and working with interesting, intelligent, driven people.
              We have until April 15 to decide. What should we do???

              Heather said...

              That's a tough choice.

              My brother in-law has tenure at Cornell teaching microbiology. He always says he's not in the profession for the money. He loves what he does. He loves working with grad students, doing research, and teaching. His job sure has it's perks. He lived in Belgium this past summer with his family while he was on sabbatical. He also travels all over the world for conferences and research (all expenses paid). All of the things you listed he enjoys.

              That said, it would be nice to find a job and be settled. Logan and I have been living all over the country for the last 5 years and will still not be "settled" for 5 more years. I'm okay with the moving and can learn to deal with it. In the end Logan will be doing what he really wants to do.

              It's a tough call. Good luck deciding. We're excited to hear what you'll be choosing. Fast and pray. That's my answer ;)

              Angela said...

              Wow, that really is a biggie. I think the question is what makes you more excited? Usually I can tell when something is a good thing because I'm anxious to do it. If you're dreading one of these, then that is a pretty clear indication. Do you stay with Low Risk and a slightly lower yield (just in terms of flexibility/travel etc) or a high risk with higher yield?

              Maybe Alvin should become a Park Ranger. :)We're always trying to recruit our friends to Moab!

              Logan said...

              Hmmm... I'd lean toward getting a job for a few years and then re-enter education if you still want to do it, having saved up some money, and gained valuable workplace experience. But will you be able to secure a job quickly or are you passing up a good opportunity for grad school? (The wording of this post seems to argue against grad school, so maybe Laura is just trying to get us all to tell you to find a job already??)