1/4 chance of becoming a prof

I stumbled across this article from the Maclean’s magazine about PhD students realizing they won’t become professors. Although, if you manage to go to grad school assuming or knowing you’ll become a prof, in today’s world with access to the internet, and having to have received reference letters from other professors, you’re somewhat deluded. It’s pretty common knowledge that there aren’t enough professor jobs out there for the number of PhD students universities are graduating today.

And, I think many of you will agree with me, that based on some of the grad students you’ve met in grad school, it’s a good thing we don’t all end up becoming profs. Like any job, there’s competition, and a limited number of spots. And, like most spots, a combination of the “best” and the most networked are the ones who get the job.

Anyway, there were a couple of interesting stats in the article:

  • Average age of a post-doctoral researcher is 34
  • Average pay is less than $45,000 a year
  • And, of course, chance of becoming a professor is 1/4

The article spends a fair amount of space on the idea that grad school doesn’t prepare students for industry work. And I did my normal groan here – university (undergrad and grad) was never suppose to be job training. And I feel like we’ve all got our signals crossed when it comes to this. However, in my experience, there is usually a ton of stuff offered (for free or reduced cost) that students can access on campus about job training. From how to write a resume, ace an interview, or develop project managing skills. The problem is, most students immediately delete, with out opening, the emails containing this information and then complain it’s not there. (I’m a very odd liberal – I have some very conservative tendencies when it comes to individuals taking ownership of their own lives.)

Anyway, I was mostly impressed to see that someone out there (in this case the Government of Ontario and Mitacs) has actually been looking at this issue and putting some suggestions forward. Of course, it seems very unlikely that most grad students will find this, or read it, or that most universities will change they way they do anything.

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2 thoughts on “1/4 chance of becoming a prof

  1. Agree with you about the job training thing. Also 1/4 surprised me—as in, it’s high. Do you think 1/4 of our students even intend to stay in academia? And what are the probability of generic person ending up in the career they “studied for”? I know it’s less than 100%, I don’t know if it’s closer to 50% than 100%.

    • I was actually thinking about that 1/4 more this morning. It’s not clear if it’s 1/4 of the x% who even *want* to become a prof or 1/4 of all grad students. I’m guessing it’s it’s the first case – which would mean something like 1/4 of 50% or 12.5% of all students…

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