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simplybiological
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FireDrake was asking me about graduate school yesterday on instant messenger, and I mentioned I was not the best person ask, as I'm intensely disillusioned by my experience at one of the "best" universities for what I thought I wanted to do (that's right, UT, I put your status in quotes).

I received this by email from my graduate coordinator-- she thought, based on some conversations she's had with me, that I might like it. She then sent it to our whole dept, and many grad students sent it on to faculty, who essentially ignored it.

Those of you who talk to me off the board know that I'm getting my master's and leaving my program at least temporarily, if not permanently. Since I have come out of the closet about my desire to teach and my distaste for academia, I have experienced almost all of the the reactions that they discuss in the article... and isn't that sad? I have a 4.0 gpa. I was a National Merit Scholar. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. And yet, by a PERSONAL CHOICE, I have become a failure. Nevermind that I never failed.

I find the statistics that they list about the mental distress of grad students absolutely believable and really upsetting.

anyway, without further rambling:

A Ph.D. and a Failure
By MEGAN PINCUS KAJITANI and REBECCA BRYANT


What you should know about nonacademic careers for Ph.D.'s

As graduate career counselors at two major research universities, we encounter the F-word a lot, but not the one you think. The F-word we hear is "failure" -- a nasty, horrible utterance applied to many an overachieving Ph.D. who falls short of finding a tenure-track job.

Fear of that word -- for the summa cum laude, the Phi Beta Kappa, or the NSF grant recipient -- can become debilitating and demoralizing, turning a once confident and optimistic young adult into a depressed, panic-ridden, and paralyzed recluse. Unfortunately, we are not
exaggerating.

The real problem here is the painfully constrictive definitions of failure and success within academe.

Failure, says academic culture, is anything other than achieving the ultimate goal of a tenure-track professorship. More specifically, the epitome of success is a tenure-track job at a major research university. You're still successful, albeit to a lesser degree, if that
job is at a liberal-arts college, and even less so if it's at a community college. But a nonacademic career, well, that's just
unacceptable.

That may seem a harsh indictment, but we've witnessed such attitudes time and again in our own experiences as former doctoral students and
in those of the graduate students we now advise.

We know there are exceptions: deans who boldly pay for programs to help graduate students explore diverse career opportunities; faculty
advisers who surreptitiously write reference letters for their students to apply to law school, to teach at a community college, or to seek a nonacademic job. And attitudes vary somewhat among disciplines.

But there are countless faculty members, administrators, and students themselves who continue to perpetuate a narrow definition of success in academe. Anything else is "less than."

Unfortunately, the hard facts show again and again that only a small percentage of doctoral students can achieve the success of becoming a
tenure-track professor at a research institution. In their study, "Ph.D.'s
-- 10 Years Later," Maresi Nerad and Joseph Cerny found that only 58 percent of Ph.D.'s in English were on the tenure track or tenured 10 years after graduation. Of those, less than a fifth worked at top research universities (The Chronicle, September 10, 1999).

Those numbers do not include the approximately 50 percent of students -- cited by Barbara E. Lovitts in Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes
and Consequences of the Departure From Doctoral Study -- who never even completed their Ph.D.'s. Thus, a great majority of students who begin
doctoral programs will never reach the "nirvana" of the tenure track.

What happens to all of those students who don't make the cut?

Perhaps such figures help explain the recent finding that "depression and other forms of mental distress" were a serious problem in a study of more than 3,100 graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley. According to the study: "Nearly half of all survey respondents (45 percent) reported an emotional or stress-related problem that
significantly impacted their academic performance or well-being." Another 67 percent reported feeling hopeless at times, 95 percent felt overwhelmed in graduate school, and 54 percent said they had felt so "depressed that
it was difficult to function." About 10 percent had seriously considered suicide, and one in 200 had actually attempted suicide in the last year.

The Berkeley study cites dysfunctional relationships with faculty advisers, significant family responsibilities, financial difficulties,
isolation from campus life and student resources, and an inability to recognize the symptoms of a psychological problem as possible reasons for graduate students' declining mental health.

We argue that all of those factors are part of the overall academic culture that privileges a narrow and largely unreasonable standard of
success.

We've had to confront the academic line about failure in our own lives: One of us (Rebecca), a Ph.D. in musicology, recently ran into a former
professor who said Rebecca would "never be truly happy" if she did not become an academic musicologist. The other (Megan) completed four years of doctoral work in communication before deciding that her current staff position allows her the balance that she wants in her life, as
well as the opportunity to have a daily impact. But Megan has been scolded by people she barely knows for "giving up" and not becoming a
professor. (Since when did a master's degree and a meaningful career become failure?)

We've also heard the stories of students who come to us for career advice:

A Ph.D., thrilled to land a faculty position at a liberal-arts college near her home, is asked by her dissertation adviser when she was going
to "get a job." Presumably, a "real" one.

An alumnus, unwilling to spend yet another year unsuccessfully searching for a tenure-track position, moves on to a new career. He hides his choice from his former adviser, fearing his mentor's disappointment.

Two graduate students who are pursuing community-college careers are terrified to tell their dissertation committees, and another student
fears that her fellow graduate students will shun her for considering leaving her Ph.D. program for the nonprofit world. During a recent
meeting of a new career-support group for graduate students, the topic of "feeling like a quitter" evoked painful emotions from many
participants and was revealed as their biggest obstacle in choosing an alternative career path, with "not knowing there were other options" a
close second. Clearly the myopic mission of many doctoral programs often clashes with graduate students' changing priorities, and could be
a factor in academe's high attrition rates.

At both of our universities, we have established programs and counseling services to help graduate students counter the idea that they are successful only if they become research faculty members, and to help them explore other potential career options.

This spring the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a well-attended symposium titled "Defining Academic Success," during
which faculty and staff members from nonresearch-oriented institutions shared their stories and introduced students to new notions of a
successful academic career.

At the University of California at San Diego, a workshop on "Alternatives to Academia for Graduate Students" drew a standing-room-only crowd last year, prompting an encore this year that attracted more than 100 graduate students.

At both institutions, we encourage graduate students to learn about the academic job search process early on in graduate school, so they can
better prepare for what it requires and make conscious choices about whether it feels right for them.

What can be done on your campus?

If you're a faculty member, open your mind to a diversity of career choices for your advisees. Validate their interest in teaching or other work, not just academic research. Acknowledge alumni or former students who have "succeeded" in a range of career paths. Be realistic with
students about the job market, as well as your own experience in it, and realize that not everyone wants to do what you do.

If you're an administrator, support career panels, workshops, and conferences that validate a variety of career options. Offer mental-health services for graduate student and training programs for faculty mentors. Conduct studies on graduate-student attrition and satisfaction on your campus.

If you're a graduate student, step outside of the limited perspective of the Ph.D. world and look at other versions of success. Consider what
you need to be happy and successful, not just your adviser's definition. Cover your bases by pursuing other interests or experiences
during graduate school; don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Take advantage of workshops and support services, and demand them if they're
not available. Finally, realize that sometimes changing your mind is the right decision.

For all parties involved, we urge a re-examination of success and failure in doctoral studies. The abundance of shame, depression,
anxiety, and paralysis among incredibly talented and capable graduate students can be lessened by offering them more options for a satisfying
life and career, and more validation for their choices. Think about that the next time you inflict the F-word on yourself or on others.

Megan Pincus Kajitani is the graduate-student adviser in the Career Services Center at the University of California at San Diego. A former
journalist, she received her M.A. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Rebecca Bryant is the director of the Graduate College Career Services Office at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Illinois.

edit: sorry about the spacing... it was all clusterf-ed in my email and i did my best.

[ April 15, 2005, 04:37 PM: Message edited by: simplybiological ]

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Kit
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Wow, I'm glad I went into grad school with little to no desire for a Ph.D. Of course, I couldn't tell them that when I was applying because it was made abundantly clear that anyone not planning on a Ph.D was less worthy to come to their school. So I told them I was thinking about it, and it was true, I did think about it. I just didn't change my mind.

Of course, I went to grad school not to go into acedemia, but because I wanted the skills and knowledge a Masters provided. But I'm an engineer, and I don't know how many other fields view a masters as a knowldge/skill/career advancer rather than a step to academia and research.

So while I didn't experience much of the problems mentioned, I did experience the attitudes and atmosphere reported.

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Digger
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Chalk me up as one of those "failures". Not only did I choose not to pursue an academic career (much to my advisor's chagrin), I decided early on to stop at a Master's degree and get out in the private sector to work.

I personally never felt the stigma described in this article, but that may have been because I made my choice so early and was effectively 'written off' before I really got out of the gate.

FWIW, I don't regret for a second my choices and the resulting consequences. If I had it to do over again, I'd do it the same way.

Out of curiosity, what are you studying and what's your career ambition?

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KidA
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I'll be done with my Master's next month, and I'm looking to go into an English PhD program. I think I'm the only person I know who wants to earn a PhD but doesn't care much about getting a tenure-track anything. I just want to do the research. I have a love-hate relationship with academia. My favorite professors are people whom I consider indespensible in my life-experience, but the whole atmosphere of academia is not to my liking - even in NYC, it feels like a commune or a retreat, a place where people go to get away from everything.

I think a lot could be done to help graduate students think about and prepare for other options...different ways to make use of their education. Keeping everything stuck on tenure-prep makes academia withdraw from the world in a sense, a little homunculus in a bubble living on its own poop. It's good to engage with the world outside.

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Mr Xin Ku
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I was a dissertation and a couple of classes away from a Ph.D.. Long story. After I had to change course I was seriously depressed for a while. I was teaching a class the semester things changed for me. I got a few comments on the student evaluations at the end of the class complaining that since I obviously hadn't the slightest interest in the topic I shouldn't be teaching it. I loved the class, but I was so depressed it was hard to function.

Fast-forward a few years later, and things have turned out great. I work for myself and make more than the people in my cohort who went on to careers in academia. I'm really good at what I do (if I do say so myself [Wink] ) and train/supervise graduate students in my field. (I'm a practicum site for the local university program).) There are headaches working for a company and there are headaches working for yourself, but give me the work-for-myself headaches anyday! I enjoy it so much I could never see myself not doing it. I guess if you work in a bureaucracy you have a certain amount of freedom, not having to worrying about the bigger picture so much. When you own your own business the buck stops with you, but I relish the freedom. I have to get things done, and I regularly work more than 40 hours/week (who doesn't?), but I do what I want, when I want.

When the graduate students that work for me hear the full version of my story they immediately ask if I will finish up my Ph.D. somewhere else. I like research and the academic part of my field, oddly enough, but what they don't understand is how happy I am working in my profession with a Master's degree.

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Kit
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I've also been asked if I'm going to get a Ph.D. someday, and the answer is maybe. A doctorate is usually a requirement to teach, and I may want to teach someday. But other than that I doubt it.

I have thought about going back into classes for a second masters (mechanical engineering to go with my aerospace). But that is mostly because I enjoy learning and because universities generally get cooler and fun projects than the real world because it matters/costs less if nothing comes from it.

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philnotfil
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That was a great article, it was in the Chronicle of Higher Education a few weeks ago. From the number of articles they have on the subject it must be nearly system-wide (or someone at the chronicle has an ax to grind).

I find it worrisome because I would love to teach at the university level, but I just can't stomach the thought of going through all of that. I really like the job that I have now, and I do get to work with several university students each semester.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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If I do decide I want to aim for a PhD, I would not be planning to teach in a large research university. I see a PhD as increased training, and the opening to a few jobs that require higher training. I also see a PhD as a way to open teaching to me later in life - but not in a large school, but a smaller school.

I don't particularly understand the drive to teach at large institutions.

--Firedrake

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RickyB
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The problem with the rat race is, even if you win, you're still a rat [Smile]

SB, if I may so presume - fock anyone who has the temerity to tell you you're a failure, and the horse they rode in on. If I understand you correctly, you're gonna be a teacher. only in a culture gone seriously mad can that be called failure. You learn for knowledge's sake, and you impart that knowledge in turn in the way that best increases your degree of harmony with the world, while at the same time keeping you roofed and fed and diverted.

Anything else is juvenile status games taken way too seriously.

[ April 16, 2005, 10:46 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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Kit
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hmmm, so if I understand you correctly Ricky, you're saying that grad school society is like junior high society but with booze?

Yeah, actually, I buy that. [Big Grin]

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RickyB
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[Big Grin]
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Omega M.
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I guess I'm an even worse "failure" than any of you---I quit a two-year Master's program halfway through the second semester when I realized I just didn't understand anything I was learning. A few years later I decided to try one class to see if things had gotten any better, and I quit that as soon as I got my first homework assignment and found that I had no desire to waste the little free time I had (I had a job, the same one I do now) on trying to do something that seemed way too complicated.

Of course I've had to endure a lot of scorn from people for doing this, but I just can't bother anymore. I did very well in college and got my Bachelor's, so I should always be able to get a job, and I bet I'm happier at mine than a lot of people with more education are at theirs. I'm probably more curious about the wider world now than I was then---certainly more curious than a lot of people I know with more education.

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TomDavidson
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"I quit a two-year Master's program halfway through the second semester when I realized I just didn't understand anything I was learning."

Got you beat. [Smile] I'm a college dropout. No degrees at all.

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Locus
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If you allow others to set your standard for success/personal happiness you will never be a whole person.
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EDanaII
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SB?

You are only a failure if YOU ALLOW YOURSELF TO THINK SO.

quote:
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

-- Johnny Mercer, Mr. In-Between

Your world is exactly what YOU DEFINE IT to be.

Ed.

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Koner
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Uggh, me just dum mekanik me not understand big words
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simplybiological
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no no, i don't think i'm a failure. i'm fine with what i'm doing... what i was saying is that every day when i go into work, i face people who think (and openly say) i am a failure based on my choices. (locus: if i were letting them set my standard, i would be staying)

i don't care who you are, that's hard. i have heard all of the following used in descriptions of why i'm leaving: failed, flunked, quitting, dropping out, breaking down, personal problems, lazy, can't hack it... some of these from people i consider(ed) friends.

it is difficult to work among a large group of people who don't respect your choices. i have a distinct feeling of being a second class citizen around there now... like, "oh, don't bother with her, she's just getting a master's." as supportive as my advisor is, he offered my usual teaching position to someone else without asking me about it, saying afterward, "oh, i forgot you'd still be here."

the sensation is much like going to a church of a faith you don't share.

i've done my best to ignore it- i only hang out with people who are positive and supportive about what i'm doing, i spend as little time in the building as humanly possible, and i call my dad a lot so he can remind me that only in backwards academia-land is a master's considered a failure. but until i can leave, it WEIGHS on me.

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Locus
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sb,

It was intended as general advice.

I believe you're well versed on my view of academia.

Did it occur to you they're trying to justify their own lives? When someone apparently has it all and suddenly decides it's not worth having the experience can be world shattering. The easy escape is to quickly rubber stamp them and turn back to you own life. If you start to question ..where will it lead?

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Digger
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"...i face people who think (and openly say) i am a failure based on my choices."

Ah.

That is tough.

I had a similar situation in corporate america when I left my last job. As short as I can make it, I had started a business on the side and was making plans to leave the company in about 4 months time. Out of the blue, the department I ran was reorganized. My people went to a new home and I was given the chance to take over another department. The department head over the area I was offered didn't know that he was going to be fired in 2 - 3 months - and I couldn't tell him or anyone else, for obvious reasons.

As standard practice in my old company, there was also a severance offer on the table when I was offered the new position. It was worth the equivalent of over 8 month's salary.

So, I did the obvious thing. I took the severance and left. I agreed to stay on for a month to finish up a project my team was working on and then exit the company.

This all occurred at a time when there were a lot of changes going on at the company and many people had been let go. There was definitely a stigma attached to anyone leaving.

For that last month I heard it in the halls, in meetings, and behind my back when I went out to lunch. And I was bound not to tell a soul (other than my wife, who had also worked at the company until 3 months prior) the real story because of the other guy who was about to be fired. It was brutal.

I don't have any advice for you - I'm not sure you'd want it anyway. Some of those people talking behind your back may remain convinced of your failure in perpetuity. But, they're defining success by a set of criteria that doesn't apply to you.

Sometimes its lonely out there. No doubt.

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IrishTD
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As a grad student in engineering I'll chip in my two cents here.

The reason grad students (esp. those from top-notch research institutions) are pushed to enter academia is to improve the faculty/school's name. That simple. As a research based grad student you are doing research in order to publish -- makes both look better. Once you get out, your advisor/school can take credit when you succeed. If you choose a career path that won't get your name out there, they don't look as good, hence the pressure of an academic career.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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IrishTD -

Out of curiousity, are you a grad student at Notre Dame? (I ask because of your username)

--Firedrake

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LinuxFreakus
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At least as it pertains to my field (computers) I find higher education to be a complete waste of time.

The few people I know who are actually good at what they do are the ones who were self taught. I think there is a large discrepency between "book smarts" and just plain "smarts".

The computer industry changes so quickly that almost anything you can learn in school is going to be virtually useless in the real world by the time you graduate.

I have found that a large number of people who are highly successful in academic pursuits actually lack some kind of intangible ability to just soak up new technologies and become highly skilled while requiring little or no guidance.

It is hard to explain, but I can tell you it always drives me crazy when I find myself having to go over and over mundane things with people who hold advanced degrees in computer science.

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IrishTD
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Firedrake,

Yup. Been here 7 years now (4 ugrad, 3 grad).

Linux,

Why exactly do you say higher ed (and what level are you referring to by higher ed) is a waste of time for the computing field? I'd probably beg to differ with you (seeing as how computing is my area), but would like to understand your perspective some more.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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LinuxFreakus -

From my perspective, learning languages is simple. I learned C++ on my own. I later sat through C++ courses, and they did nothing for me. However, once we moved beyond the language into complex system design, the computing classes became significantly more useful.

While some of computer science is about learning to write code, most of computer science is about learning to understand complex systems - and learning to make them work smoothly with a minimum of complexity. Learning modular decomposition is simple enough; learning to make it work and learning to design it in a manner that allows others to comprehend your goal is more difficult. This is where I feel CS/CE courses, taught well, do good.

--Firedrake

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LinuxFreakus
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<snip>
Why exactly do you say higher ed (and what level are you referring to by higher ed) is a waste of time for the computing field? I'd probably beg to differ with you (seeing as how computing is my area), but would like to understand your perspective some more.
</snip>

The problem I see is that people learn something in school that works wonderfully for whatever they were applying it to there, yet when they get to the real world they lack the ability to adapt to new situations. Its sort of like the old saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem starts to look like a nail.

The people who are good have skills/abilities which cannot be taught, and that will not change if they have a PhD or if they just have a high school diploma.

<snip>
However, once we moved beyond the language into complex system design, the computing classes became significantly more useful.
</snip>

Which classes are you talking about?

<snip>
While some of computer science is about learning to write code, most of computer science is about learning to understand complex systems - and learning to make them work smoothly with a minimum of complexity.
</snip>

As I was saying above, it is great to learn about complex systems, but since things become obsolete so quickly, the only important part in the real world is the ability to adapt to new things quickly and with minimum guidance, which is not really something that can be taught. Either you are good at it or you aren't. Most people I've worked with are not that good at it even though they have a Masters or a PhD.

If you have the ability, then you're going to be just as good at your job as anyone who has been through years of higher education but you'll have saved a lot of time and money.

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LoverOfJoy
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So if you "have the ability" you can't ever improve?

Granted, some people can learn to dot all the i's and cross all the t's without really learning how to learn. But I have a hard time believing that people can't learn techniques to learn faster and more efficiently...or learn what things to avoid. Even when things become obsolete I imagine it can sometimes be helpful to learn why they became obsolete to avoid repeating mistakes in the future.

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The Drake
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I would disagree, in part, with the broad statement that higher ed is automatically a waste of time and money.

I would say that one can learn all the concepts in computer science from books or code samples. No classes need be taken. However, some students need a little interpretation, and a good professor can illustrate concepts that relate to a project the student is working on.

This "professor" role could also be taken by a mentor or peer in self-study or on the job learning.

A lot of hackers can find "a" solution, but not "the best" or "ideal" solution. Hacker is not an epithet when I use it, it describes a free-flowing sort of creativity in problem solving. Sometimes valuable. They often get sidetracked into issues like "elegance". I had one of them tell me once, that his code was hard to write - so it should be hard to read.

Usually, a college grad is easier to deal with, because they are able to describe their process and communicate better. I don't have to explain "data encapsulation" to them. That's because they are well-versed in theory using the same nomenclature. They are also usually somewhat better in related areas, like economics, writing, verbal presentations, analogies, etc.

Graduate degrees, unless they relate directly to our application, are generally not interesting to me.

I'm a hardware engineer now, but the same things apply. I'd rather have the guy who understands how to analyze any passive network, than a guy who uses a cookbook to determine RC filter characteristics.

In my current field, I do see a Master's as a waste of time, because in my field (VLSI) the schools are behind the corporations in terms of cutting-edge work, with the exception of physical process (nanotech) and application-specific algorithms.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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LinuxFreakus said:
quote:
As I was saying above, it is great to learn about complex systems, but since things become obsolete so quickly, the only important part in the real world is the ability to adapt to new things quickly and with minimum guidance, which is not really something that can be taught. Either you are good at it or you aren't. Most people I've worked with are not that good at it even though they have a Masters or a PhD.
I disagree. An engineering program should teach you problem solving techniques for digital systems. You should be able to apply these to any digital system, new or old. A circuits class (or two) should teach you the specifics of how to assess and solve linear circuits. You should be able to assess any linear circuit, even a circuit that employs new elements.

LinuxFreakus said:
quote:
<snip>
However, once we moved beyond the language into complex system design, the computing classes became significantly more useful.
</snip>

Which classes are you talking about?

Almost any Computer Engineering course is intended to illuminate complex systems. In terms of software, any good Analysis and Design or Software Engineering course should describe how to gather requirements, how to partition the requirements, system design, and techniques for verification and validation. Neither of these undergraduate courses should stress implementation, except as a project or series of student-programmed examples that get the point across.

--Firedrake

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EDanaII
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@ LinuxFreakus:
quote:
The people who are good have skills/abilities which cannot be taught, and that will not change if they have a PhD or if they just have a high school diploma.
There's only one thing wrong this equation. While a self taught person may have qualities beyond those of an educated person, employers are more likely to employ one with letters next to their name. This isn't because the letters make them better, but because those letters help employers feel more confident about their decision.

Ed.

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jefferson101
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quote:
Originally posted by EDanaII:
@ LinuxFreakus:
quote:
The people who are good have skills/abilities which cannot be taught, and that will not change if they have a PhD or if they just have a high school diploma.
There's only one thing wrong this equation. While a self taught person may have qualities beyond those of an educated person, employers are more likely to employ one with letters next to their name. This isn't because the letters make them better, but because those letters help employers feel more confident about their decision.

Ed.

That's correct at some levels, and in some fields.

But we can all feel terribly sorry for Bill Gates, right? If he'd gotten a decent education he could have actually made something of himself.

[Big Grin]

There are still a lot of areas where employers are more interested in your skills than they are in your academic credentials.

And the fact that you did not pay someone to tell you that you know something does not mean that you don't know it.

[Wink] [Wink]

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aupton15
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I'm getting ready to start a Ph.D program in clinical psychology, and I got my Master's in experimental psych. first. I definitely perceive this attitude in much of academia, to the point that applications to these programs have to be tailored toward a research perspective (even in clinical psychology, which is very applied). But the program I'm going to is great. I'll be in the clinic in my first semester doing practical things like assessments and therapy...and that continues throughout the entire program. I'll do research as well, but it's not the primary focus. And when I graduate, I can be a practicing clinical psychologist without shame! But I'm pursuing the Ph.D (rather than a counseling degree or Psy D) for the flexibility it offers in terms of teaching and academic possibilities. If you talked to depressed people for 30 years, there's a good chance you'll be sick of it. With a Ph.D I can get out, and still get a good job that I'm trained for. The established academics with their tenure and their journal publications don't impress me. I've known enough of them personally to know that some of them are great at what they do, and are good people...and some of them are lousy at their jobs and think much too highly of themselves. It's actually a lot like working anywhere else.
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LinuxFreakus
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quote:
Almost any Computer Engineering course is intended to illuminate complex systems. In terms of software, any good Analysis and Design or Software Engineering course should describe how to gather requirements, how to partition the requirements, system design, and techniques for verification and validation. Neither of these undergraduate courses should stress implementation, except as a project or series of student-programmed examples that get the point across.
Sure learning the technical vocabulary is important, but you can just pick up a good book and learn that stuff in a day or two.

Requirements gathering, system design, validation, etc are all trivial things that do NOT require years of schooling. If you get someone who has a broad understanding of computing concepts then they can learn any of the non-techincal details after working on one or two projects to see how its done... in fact you dont really even need to know much about computers to participate in those phases, in the real world its much more about the business needs and you dont need a PhD to tell you what those are.

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LinuxFreakus
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quote:
There's only one thing wrong this equation. While a self taught person may have qualities beyond those of an educated person, employers are more likely to employ one with letters next to their name. This isn't because the letters make them better, but because those letters help employers feel more confident about their decision.
So what your saying is that while what I say is essentially correct, there is a great deal of discrimination which takes place in the hiring process. I will agree with that.

Its is unfortunately true that some employers will *only* hire someone with a PhD for certain jobs even though that person is just as likely to be good at the job as anyone else with lots of experience regardless of the education. Personally, I think practices like this should be illegal, just like you can't decide not to hire someone because you think they are too fat or the wrong skin color.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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LinuxFreakus said:
quote:
Personally, I think practices like this should be illegal, just like you can't decide not to hire someone because you think they are too fat or the wrong skin color.
Yes, but you can decide to hire someone based on their qualifications. A PhD is a qualification, just like '4 years of C++ programming experience' is a qualification. Point of fact, anyone with a PhD is guaranteed to have a large amount of programming and design experience. Simply because you feel that a PhD is useless is no reason to assume that everyone else does.

If nothing else, a PhD separates those willing to put a career on hold to learn more about a subject they love. That is probably a lot of the reason that many new things related to CS/CE in this day and age come from holders of PhDs. It doesn't follow that they have more skill than those in industry. It does however follow that they are intensely interested in their field. While they are by no means the only ones, I am willing to bet that if you compared 100 PhDs with 100 industry IT staff, you'd find that there were significantly more PhDs that had a genuine knowledge/interest in the field.

I would add that from what you've said, your experience with college graduates is with students just out of a 4-year college. Few of those students (especially in the past 5 years, imo) are as genuinely interested in the field as your average no-college IT guy. With that apathy comes a high learning curve. To assume that PhD programs produce the same (average) quality of student is not wise.

--Firedrake

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LinuxFreakus
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quote:
I would add that from what you've said, your experience with college graduates is with students just out of a 4-year college. Few of those students (especially in the past 5 years, imo) are as genuinely interested in the field as your average no-college IT guy. With that apathy comes a high learning curve. To assume that PhD programs produce the same (average) quality of student is not wise.

Some of them are just out of 4 year college programs, but in my experience those are actually a lot BETTER than those with advanced degrees.

Some of the worst coworkers I've had also held a PhD in CS, or EE, or some other technical field where you would think they should be very good at programming, design, etc, but in the vast majority of cases they have been awful. Out of about 30 or so PhDs who I have worked with, only ONE was good.

Perhaps my experience is atypical, but I have not been impressed at all with people in the computer field who come from academic backgrounds.

In fact, in my top 10 list of programmers/engineers I've worked with, only one holds a technical degree, and only 4 hold any degree.

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EDanaII
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@ jefferson101:
quote:
There are still a lot of areas where employers are more interested in your skills than they are in your academic credentials.
Yes, and I.S. is becoming less and less one of those.

After the dot com bust and the Year 2000 fiasco, when the job market became flooded with Programmers, employers got to pick and choose. And more and more, they pick those with educations over those without.

This is reality.

Ed.

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IrishTD
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Other thing to keep in mind, especially for entry level positions, is that a degree says you have done some level of provable work (granted, this varies wildly). If you say that you are self-taught, where is they employers guarantee that you are capable of handling the position?

To follow up on Ed's comment, when they have a huge number of resumes for a position, a degree is a first level sorting method. It's a quick way of narrowing the applicant pool down to a slightly more manageable level.

@Linux --
Most people don't go on to grad school to become a better programmer/software engineer. Normally they are focused on a certain subject area (AI, architecture, so on) -- while programming is a component of these, no one checks to see if you are any good at it. Additionally, if you're developing software during the course of a research project there are undergrads that will do the programming (and it's a win-win for both).

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jefferson101
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quote:
Originally posted by EDanaII:
@ jefferson101:
quote:
There are still a lot of areas where employers are more interested in your skills than they are in your academic credentials.
Yes, and I.S. is becoming less and less one of those.

After the dot com bust and the Year 2000 fiasco, when the job market became flooded with Programmers, employers got to pick and choose. And more and more, they pick those with educations over those without.

This is reality.

Ed.

'Round these parts, they'll take someone with an MCSE cert over a degree and no cert most every time.

At least that's been my son in law's experience. (He's the programmer, not I.) He's having to beat headhunters away with a stick.

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Lewkowski
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Tenure is stupid and should be done away with.


Also, I think employers look at your previous experiences and job performance over every other consideration. Your initial degree is most helpful when first finding a job, but becomes less important as time goes on.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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jefferson101 -

Are you sure? For years, the MCSE has been a huge joke. Since they changed the test it is significantly more legitimate, however, an MCSE Cert. is generally still taken with a bit of salt.

--Firedrake

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