Saturday, May 23, 2015

The PhD Misconception

[This is an anonymous submission]

Currently, I'm nearing the end of my undergraduate career in Biology/Environmental Sciences. From the start, I thought I was doing everything right. I was studying a STEM major and getting involved in the environmental field, a supposedly "booming" part of the economy. I started research my first semester of freshman year, got to know all of my professors, participated in four internships, led tutoring sessions, and kept on the President's List, all while being extremely active with organizations on campus. I always thought I would stay in academia and become a professor - or that is what all of my professors assured me would be the best route. I wanted to do something important that bettered the earth we live on for future generations. 

But, what they didn't tell me about were the messed up hours, extremely low wages, and countless postdoc years. I started to observe all of the graduate students in my department. Most of them did really cool stuff while they were here - ecological restorations, public health microbiology, etc. - but most either ended up chasing postdoc after postdoc, waiting for a faculty position to open up, dropping out, or just...disappearing after graduation, never to be brought up in alumni news or updates.

Now with graduation nearing, I've almost entirely ruled out attending graduate school for the sake of working in academia. While I believe the work I'd most likely do to be extremely important, especially considering the environmental challenges we face now, I also want to be able to live my life fully, and be compensated accordingly for the effort I put into my work.