146: Skills pay bills

Episode 146 · December 27th, 2021 · 1 hr 9 mins

About this Episode

We answer a series of questions from a listener on whether to start a PhD, what to ask potential supervisors, the financial perils of being a PhD student, the future of higher education, the importance of skills, what keeps us going, and more.

Here are the specific questions that we answered in this episode (the background to these questions is shared in the episode):

  1. Would you have any advice on how I can even decide whether to commence a PhD?
  2. Are there any questions in particular that you think are important to ask prospective supervisors?
  3. How do people make PhDs work financially? You are supposed to treat the degree like a regular 40 hour/ week job (and students commonly fail to do so). However, what full-time job pays ~$540 per week and expects this?! You are not supposed to work > 8 hours/ week outside of this?! I thought I could at least work 2-3 full days a week if I needed to.
  4. Why do people generally leave academia, or not continue, after their PhD, despite obvious potential?
  5. In what form do you think universities will be around in 5 and 10 years?
  6. Are one-year progress reports from the PhD committee enough to stay on track?
  7. What utility do PhDs hold inside and outside of academia? Apparently, skills matter more than a topic, and you have a better chance of getting a postdoc etc... if you have worked on a hot topic with a well-known supervisor.
  8. How can one start the PhD prepared enough to finish it on time and earlier?
  9. I am wondering what keeps academics going. I may be jaded, but lab environments don’t seem collaborative, and academics seem to be ruled by the admin people and hedge fund managers (or whoever). They also seem to make their money off students (i.e., the customer). I see a reverence for science and people trying to game the system, but not people wanting to seek truth in science. I now wonder how much of academia is motivated by pride, comfort, and not knowing what else to do. In my mind (and I am exaggerating a little), the PhD journey is coming to resemble an abusive relationship between the student and the uni, facilitated by the supervisor who hopefully gets something out of it. I assume it only gets worse from here.
  10. I have been told that the PhD is the only program that offers solid research training and the ability to do your original research (something an industry job does not offer). Even if I accept those premises, I now wonder what it is all for.
  11. Where do you both see yourselves in 5 and 10 years?
  12. What keeps you both going?
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Episode citation

Quintana, D.S., Heathers, J.A.J. (Hosts). (2021, December 27) "146: Skills pay bills", Everything Hertz [Audio podcast], DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/PUW6N

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