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Media Literacy

Insights into media & entertainment culture

Universities encourage graduate students to get PhD’s but there are few jobs for those who complete the degree. It takes 9 years on average to complete the degree. Why does anyone do it? Good question – especially in the area of  communications. Many former journalists are now trying to obtain jobs teaching journalism. But they are finding the pay is below what they were making in the news business (55K) and obtaining tenure is a long climb. It takes 7 years. – MT

The New York Times – Law students get a diploma in three years. Medical students receive an M.D. in four. But for graduate students in the humanities, it takes, on average, more than nine years to complete a degree. What some of those Ph.D. recipients may not realize is that they could spend another nine years, or more, looking for a tenure-track teaching job at a college or university — without ever finding one.

As the recession has downsized university endowments and departments, the sense of crisis that has surrounded graduate education for more than a decade has sharpened. “What’s worse than desperate?” asks William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College, in Michigan, who writes a column for The Chronicle of Higher Education under the name Thomas H. Benton.

A graduate-school Cassandra, Dr. Pannapacker calls the graduate apprenticeship system bankrupt and warns students against the heartbreak of pursuing a Ph.D. While finishing his own degree in American civilization at Harvard in 1999 (another difficult job year), he helped organize a protest at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, an organization of scholars and professors of language and literature.
On a large reproduction of Goya’s bloody painting “Saturn Devouring His Son,” he wrote, “Enjoying your apprenticeship yet?”

First- and second-year Ph.D. students in, say, English literature may not face the same aching course load or backstabbing competition as their friends in medical and law schools, but they have a longer haul ahead. Doctoral students are expected not only to master a wide swath of material to pass general and oral exams, but to produce a nearly book-length dissertation of original research that, depending on the subject, may ultimately sit on a shelf as undisturbed as the Epsom salts at the back of the medicine chest. These students must earn their keep by patching together a mix of grants and wages for helping to teach undergraduate courses — a job that eats into research time. Third-year medical students may be bleary eyed from hospital rotations, but at least the work goes toward their degree.