The Corner

Education

Don’t Enroll in a Ph.D. Program Until You’ve Read this Book

Jason Brennan is a philosophy professor at Georgetown who has written some superb books on political-economy topics, particularly the dubious ethics of our higher-education system. One aspect of that is the way we lure lots of college grads into Ph.D. programs. In his new book Good Work If You Can Get It, he focuses on the realities of grad school and the academic marketplace. It’s a very cold shower.

I review the book today for the Martin Center.

For one thing, the huge majority of students who embark on Ph.D. programs, ultimately hoping for a tenured faculty position, are going to be disappointed. Most will never get any faculty position, even at low-tier schools where all their research training will have been done for naught. Most college profs spend their time teaching and doing service work for the school. Most Ph.D. programs, Brennan observes, do little to prepare students for the jobs they’ll actually do.

We have created a glut of Ph.D. holders, many of whom end up as adjunct faculty, scratching out a living. As a result, even community colleges now demand Ph.D.s for candidates, when a few decades ago lower credentials were often sufficient.

The book is chock-full of sound advice for those who decide that they want to run the gauntlet anyway. A salient piece of advice is aimed at conservative and libertarian students — the bias against non-leftists is real, so if you want to succeed, you must be a lot better than those who are steeped in “progressivism.”

America has needed a book like this for a long time and bravo to Johns Hopkins University Press for publishing it.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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