Is grad school "professional suicide"?

Commencement ceremonies at MIT.

One of the things people do when economies slowdown: Go back to school. The hope is, they'll pick up training for new skills along with their law degree or doctorate.

But PhD's don't come cheap, and in fact, consultant Karen Kelsky says getting a doctorate can cost you more than its worth. 

She runs a business that is in part about finding jobs for students with doctorates, and she's an anthropology professor herself.

Kelsky says when it comes to fields like engineering or medicine, funding remains strong and pay in the workforce is high. But for "soft sciences," like political science or anthropology, schools are investing less and less to support advanced degrees:

"It starts with the massive defunding of higher education in the United States. Basically, it has become a revenue-driven institution, and so departments and programs that don't generate revenue in the way that the sciences or engineering or business do, find themselves defunded. So, consequently, in the humanities and social sciences, a typical stipend will be about $15,000. Which - almost anywhere - is not enough to get by."

Kelsky says on top of that, many graduates finish school saddled with debt they can never pay off:

"In the humanities and the soft social sciences, debt can go anywhere from $0 to $250,000, and that's for fields like religious studies, sociology, women's studies and things like that."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...