You know those bad days when most of your experiments fail and you realize that you aren’t even getting paid to work 9-5; in fact, you have to pay for the privilege of attending. Welcome to graduate school! All of those stereotypes about under-achieving nobody’s going to graduate school so they can avoid “getting a real job” (I’ve had that said to me so many times it’s not even ironically funny anymore) have it completely backwards. We get to go to graduate school in order to do real-world work while delaying our pay prospects (or in the case of a PhD, actually hurt our pay prospects). Not that I’m complaining, but you know what they say: if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…
That’s why I present: nine ways in which graduate school is like indentured servitude.
- You have to pay for the privilege of attending
In order to have any shot of joining the magic circle you must pay the university tuition to attend. So basically you pay for really expensive administration (come on, it’s even unlikely you need to use the library that much).
- Your labour is compensated by the faint promise of an academic job
We all know how the labour market for academics is nowadays. In sum: getting an academic job is like winning the lottery.
- There’s a clear hierarchy
- You get the blame when things go wrong
When there are headlines such as “replication crisis” we all know that there was some poor grad student having the screws turned to get “results”. Eager supervisors then rush to publish the results without verifying their validity.
- Having a social life is frowned upon
If you think this is a joke, check out this advice to postdocs (these are basically badly paid researchers with PhD’s). In short: you will only have time for either family or a hobby, but not both.
- The only thing that matters is results
I mean, your thesis. The only thing that matters is your thesis (really…)
- Expectations are high while compensation is low (or nonexistent)
As a grad student, you’re expected to read (and understand) complex material related to your field. You also write papers explaining how your work contributes to this field. This amount of brain-work is akin to the high-paying financial services sector.
- You’re seen as a drain on society
Even though most technological breakthroughs have come from years of hard slog in academia, there will be some high-flying ergots who will take sole credit. I mean, who cares about those people in their ivory towers?
- You’re only doing this because you’re either a masochist or an idiot
Speaks for itself.