If you knew that someone was going into a field where they could only get employment at a 25% rate, would you encourage them? Apparently that is the situation with students in English looking to go into academia. Guide to Grad School Survival says there is a one in four chance of becoming a professor.
People don’t go into this field for love of money, but surely the chances of being hired should make a difference.
Yet I continue to teach graduate students and to encourage them to follow their goals. Why?
One in four will make it. That is true.
And the other three may find something just as fulfilling in related areas, perhaps staff in academics or as faculty-staff liaisons. If they don’t, being bright and capable people, I expect they will find jobs somewhere else that are fulfilling.
Finally, for some of them, the experience of the pursuit of the degrees will be worth it, even if they never go into the field. While I was frankly overwhelmed at times in my PhD program, I was doing what I wanted to do and thrilled to be doing it. If I had never gone back into full-time instruction, I still would have felt blessed to have done it.
That’s why, while I make clear that the path is not easy and many won’t make it into academia, I still cheer my graduate students on.