Reframing the “irrational” PhD student with dwindling job prospects

August 26, 2016

Why aren’t the diminishing job prospects of PhD holders decreasing the number of people entering doctoral programs? asks Aaron Hanlon for the Los Angeles Review of Books. The author notes that while PhDs in the humanities have long been maligned for being impractical, the declining prospects of PhDs in fields conventionally seen as practical—like engineering or the STEM fields—demands that people reconsider the basic motives behind pursuing a doctorate. Hanlon concludes that “instead of scrutinizing the choices of people who answer the call to doctoral study, or assuming they have some kind of cognitive or personality defect, we should be asking why the abundant promises of opportunity haven’t materialized as stable, middle-class jobs for highly skilled individuals.” LARB