A question for academics: is joining your alma mater 'very bad practice'?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by champbassist, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. It does seem to be quite different, I share a similar background to fdeck, working in the hard sciences where things work a bit differently. Major competition, so much so that most don't even consider academia because it's so difficult to get into!
  2. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    It does. The supply of job candidates with both teaching and research experience beyond their PhD is so huge that there is little chance of getting a tenure track job at any university straight out of grad school.
  3. smperry

    smperry Administrator Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Sorry...I don't know enough about this market to comment either.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education (chronicle.org) has a pretty good discussion forum.
  4. I actually meant to say the salaries in academia are 'low' compared to industrial jobs, rather than 'not low' :oops: Guess you understood it, anyway.

    So, from what I've understood so far (though this is tangential to my main question), academia, by and large, is a more lucrative option than mainstream industry out there, is that correct?

    Much the same here as well. I'm going a bit off the beaten track, with my aspirations.
  5. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    No, most certainly not- mainstream industry will obviously have a wide range, but the average and the peaks are going to be much, much higher. If you know your field well and know where to go to work, then it would be pushed even higher.

    Academia is definitely not the easiest path toward money.
  6. If so, I wonder why academia is so difficult to get into out there (as mohawk said)? :meh:
  7. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I don't think any of the questions discussed here can be answered without reference to the particular discipline. In my field of Psychology (by which I mean psychological science, not clinical practice) many of the answers are different from those discussed above. For example:

    1. It is very unusual for someone to get a job in the department from which he or she earned the PhD, but this is because departments generally are reluctant to "hire their own," not because applicants don't want those jobs. Also, academic jobs for new PhDs in Psychology are so difficult to come by that one usually has to take whatever one can get, so if you did get an offer from your home department you'd probably take it whether if was your preference or not.

    2. It is not at all uncommon to get an MA and PhD in the same program/department. Most students go directly from their bachelor's institution to a PhD program, within which one might or might not obtain an MA along the way. This is probably in large part because in Psychology a Master's degree is virtually worthless, so there is little point in pursuing an MA except as a stepping stone on the way to a PhD.

    3. Until relatively recently, post-docs were relatively uncommon in Psychology; most people (who were able to) went directly into faculty positions with their new PhDs. However, as the job market has continued to get ever more crowded, post-docs have become somewhat more common, but they are still the exception more than the rule.

    4. In Psychology, going into "industry" is a one-way ticket; once you're out of academia it's virtually impossible to get back in. This is mainly because getting an academic job hinges on your research and publication record (and to a lesser extent, teaching experience), which is pretty much impossible to maintain while you're outside of an academic environment and have a full-time job.

    As you can see, many of these answers are highly discipline-specific and owe to idiosyncratic aspects of Psychology as a field. I'd fully expect answers for other fields to be very different.
  8. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Salaries are still good, depending on the field, but some people enjoy the academic research environment and field. Getting a PhD then going into the private industry is not really a worthwhile investment, except in fields like chemistry or chemical engineering, so the PhD process self-selects for people who prefer to go into academia.
  9. Pride and prestige. The kind of research you do at a university will be different too.

    "You've never been out of college, I worked in the private sector, they expect results"

    Also, while industry wages are higher on average, the academic salaries are still pretty good.

    Edit - I guess of you are going into business, you're more likely to be thinking of success in a monetary manner.
  10. Neat quote, though if I hadn't looked it up, I'd have thought you were chastising me, or something :p (not a big Ghostbusters fan).

    Indeed. I guess the job satisfaction at the university for people who like to indulge in independent research (not governed by any company policy etc.) is also higher.
  11. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Because enough people are motivated by non-economic factors, to flood the job market. Those factors could include: 1) A love of the subject matter, or of education in general. 2) Independently wealthy. 3) Entrepreneurial ambitions. 4) Aversion to the private sector rat race. 5) Desire to teach.

    It's hard to compete with those people because, though they claim that they don't care about money, they definitely enjoy winning.

    I had no career goals when I started grad school.
  12. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    This is probably a very simplistic (and perhaps false dichotomy) way of looking at things, but speaking to all of the people I know who have worked in both academia and industry (or government), they all pretty much say the same thing to me:

    Industy = more pay, but much higher stress
    Academia = less pay, but much less stress (and of course, more job security).

    Keep in mind these are profs at a teaching-oriented university where publish-or-perish is not the culture.
  13. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    However, I do notice that many psychologists on the applied side of things, such as clinical and I/O, do take adjunct or part-time faculty teaching positions in the middle or later stages of their careers.
  14. That agrees with the scenario here, and academic positions aren't nearly as in demand as industrial jobs. Probably suggests that if you calculated a ratio of average academia pay to average industrial pay, you'd find the value much lower out here than in the US.

    I think this way, and not too many others here share my perspective. This could be a cultural thing, almost: because of the economic condition of the average family here, money has always been the first priority for families for generations: as such, few people are motivated to do anything with lower pay, regardless of stress levels.
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