Second PhD

This year, a friend went on the job market with a PhD in Germanic Studies. The field is currently in a very bad situation, so the search was not successful. The friend has one more year of funding and if the second job search is fruitless will have to decide what to do next. There are several options people get in such cases:

1. Try to get a Visiting Professor position (the best option of all these because it does not preclude the possibility of a subsequent tenure-track job);

2. Try to get a post-doc (a less appealing option because in the Humanities this is a position that brings zero respect and offers zero added value on one’s CV);

3. Get an adjunct job (the worst option of all because this is pretty much a professional and financial suicide with zero prospects. I would advise everybody to think very very carefully before embarking on the adjuncting path);

4. Look for employment outside of academia (it heavily depends on one’s personality whether this is a viable option. For some people, it is the best choice of their lives, while for others it is an unmitigated tragedy. It’s quite like getting married or having children: phenomenal for some and horrible for others).

My friend, however, is a very original thinker, so she came up with option number five. If her second job search is not successful, she will start doing a second PhD in a different field. Such a plan would have finished me off because I was as unhappy as a PhD student as I’m happy as a tenure-track professor. For my friend, though, this is a great decision. She thrives in the PhD program, travels constantly, has a very rich, fulfilling existence. So a second PhD means five more years of joy for her.

People are coming up with very inventive ways to address the problematic nature of the job market in the Humanities.

63 thoughts on “Second PhD”

  1. It will be very unfair if she gets funding. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in her freedom to get as many degrees as she wants as long as she pays for them herself.

    She went into German studies program probably being fully funded and being aware that her professional prospects are close to zero (though I think she should consider teaching high school; it’s a much better career choice than being an adjunct). I think it’s time to rip what she’d sown, and let another person get the funding and the grad school experience.

    Like

    1. Why do you think it’s unfair? Graduate schools do not award funding based on the consideration of how likely one is to get a job upon graduation. This is of no concern to them at all. They award funding on the basis of who will be the most useful and profitable to them while in grad school.

      Like

  2. Good for her, but if she gets a second phd I think she would be like a de facto adjunct. She will receive little money to study and to teach.

    Another option to be more “marketable” would be to do what I did: prove that you can teach a second language. I do not know whether your friend could teach another language nor would want to, but if so she should think about that option.

    Like

    1. Yes, she knows a buttload of languages. One of the new PhDs she is considering is in French. If McGill’s Hispanic Studies program hadn’t started going to the dogs in about year 2002, she might have had a PhD in Spanish now. There are many more possibilities in that than in Germanic Studies.

      Like

  3. “Try to get a post-doc (a less appealing option because in the Humanities this is a position that brings zero respect and offers zero added value on one’s CV)”

    I don’t think that’s always true. Many times postdocs are very prestigious and hard to get. If nothing else, they expand a candidate’s teaching experience–which is attractive to more teaching oriented schools. So in my experience on hiring committees, postdocs were looked upon very favorably. In my opinion, she should definitely think about applying for postdocs

    I think the second Phd is a great idea though. I too loved being a grad student so I can understand the appeal. 🙂

    Like

    1. A colleague of mine got a post-doc at Harvard after getting his PhD. His never got employed after that. Also, the person who got a post-doc at Cornell while I got a VP there in the same year at the same department also never found a job afterwards while I did. I don’t know, I’m not seeing any evidence that this is a successful strategy.

      Also, I would definitely argue against hiring anybody with a post-doc if I were on a hiring committee. I consider such people to be traitors to the cause of the Humanities. A post-doc in our disciplines is all kinds of wrong. The whole concept is egregious. Just egregious.

      Like

      1. Oh I know quite a few people who had postdocs right after grad school and then went on to secure tenure track positions. Why do you think postdocs are so problematic? I personally never had one but think they are a good idea–especially for candidates that need more teaching experience.

        Like

        1. I’m completely opposed to the entire idea. The only reason for imposing the STEM model on the Humanities in this instance is to allow universities to exploit people without offering them adequate compensation and benefits. If people graduate from a PhD program without teaching experience, this is the problem of that PhD program. Getting people to pay for what is not their fault by making them sacrifice one ore more years of their lives to correct what the grad program has messed up is unconscionable.

          Like

      2. “I would definitely argue against hiring anybody with a post-doc if I were on a hiring committee. I consider such people to be traitors to the cause of the Humanities”

        “Getting people to pay for what is not their fault by making them sacrifice one ore more years of their lives to correct what the grad program has messed up is unconscionable.”

        Here comes the contradiction…

        Like

        1. You can also cut out words “and” and “or” and declare them to be a contradiction.

          Would it make more sense to disapprove of the practice yet to engage in it? That’s called hypocrisy.

          Like

        1. David, are you reading my post at all? 🙂 I said very specifically in the post that being an adjunct is the worst thing of all. At my department, we converted our only adjunct position into a tenure-track last year and gave it to the adjunct. I’m prepared to fight with all I’ve got to never have any adjuncts at my department. We have part-time instructors. But I’m opposed to exploiting a person with a PhD in any position that is not tenure-track or at the very least Visiting Prof.

          Like

      3. “my department, we converted our only adjunct position into a tenure-track last year and gave it to the adjunct”

        Good news! 🙂 So, why this adjunct is not a traitor?

        Like

      4. I don’t know anything about post-docs in the Humanities, but I know that in physics a post-doc doesn’t have to take place in a school. There are national and international labs that take on post-doc students, and it often provides valuable research experience directly in the student’s field of interest. Working at a lab like that is pretty prestigious, and hiring committees often see that. Also, as far as I’ve seen, universities offering post-docs have pretty stringent policies on who gets accepted for what project, and that still tends to provide a lot of research experience and more teaching experience (I refuse to go into exploitation of post-docs because I know next to nothing about the subject). So in some cases, post-docs might not be all that bad. I don’t know if this is the case with Evelina Anville’s experience with people securing tenure track positions directly after a post-doc, but that’s what I thought of when I read her response. If post-docs in the Humanities are perceived differently, that’s one thing. But a generalization about the uselessness of post-docs in general ignores the fact that they’re not useless in fields outside the Humanities.

        On another note, I think it’d be cool if your friend got a second PhD.

        Like

        1. Yes, in sciences a post-doc makes every sense. People work in labs, collaborating on important projects with leading scholars. At this stage, a recent PhD can hardly have a lab of his or her own. In the Humanities, however, post-docs do the exact same thing as professors but for much less money and with no benefits. This is nothing but a way for administrators to save money by exploiting people.

          Like

      1. Many have even less options than that.

        But fair enough, I re-formulate my question.

        So all those who choose to be an adjunct or to have a postdoc instead of doing a work that they hate or to enter a second PH D with less money or to be on Social Security are traitors?

        Like

        1. “So all those who choose to be an adjunct or to have a postdoc instead of doing a work that they hate or to enter a second PH D with less money or to be on Social Security are traitors?”

          – I can only repeat that these are not the only options.

          Like

  4. Wow. I guess I see the postdoc thing very differently. Postdocs don’t make as much money as tenure track professors–certainly. But they make more than graduate students and they have health benefits. They usually only teach 1-2 classes a term and they don’t have committee work so they have some time to beef up their publication record and they also get to expand their teaching experience. Most people that I have known on postdocs found the time to be really enjoyable and productive. Do you think postdocs are exploited?

    Like

    1. “But they make more than graduate students and they have health benefits. ”

      Exactly! But Clarissa and her full professors sycophants think that they are traitors because of some kind of voluntaryist bullshit. SO SHUT UP EVELINA, YOU’RE WRONG! 😉

      “Do you think postdocs are exploited?”

      On this, I agree with Clarissa. They are exploited (and I’m serious), so they’re are considered as traitors by Clarissa and all her full professors syncophants.

      However, all Wal-Mart workers and almost all workers who hate more their jobs and all social social security/food stamps beneficiaries are even more exploited than that, so for Clarissa and her full professors sycophants, they are even more traitors than posdocs!

      Like

      1. “However, all Wal-Mart workers and almost all workers who hate more their jobs and all social social security/food stamps beneficiaries are even more exploited than that, so for Clarissa and her full professors sycophants, they are even more traitors than posdocs!”

        – When Walmart employees are trying to organize a strike and strike-breakers cross the picket lines and offer to work for even less, I think the strikers have every right to see them as traitors.

        We need to take responsibility for our profession. Yes, abusive administrators are vicious animals. But if we meekly accept anything they offer, any crumbs they choose to dispense to us, then what does that make us?

        Where is your limit? Your personal limit? Would you work for free, with a promise that one day a little paid position might be made for you? Would you work in an adjunct job if it included washing the Dean’s car? Cleaning the Dean’s boots? And how would you feel about people who agreed to such humiliating conditions massively, thereby normalizing these practices?

        Like

      2. My personal limit is to work in something that I like to do, to be not harrassed by stupid bosses like in almost all jobs in the non-academical working market and to have a reasonable pay equivalent to a 35 hour with minimum legal salary in Wal-Crap.

        This is enough for me, everything else is bonus.

        Like

        1. So you believe that it is perfectly fine to pay people with PhDs what Walmart employees get? Well, I’m sure college administrators love you. It is a dream of theirs to get us all on minimal wage. You have already accepted this as a normal possibility. The moment there is a critical mass of people who accept this, we will absolutely end up paid $7,50 an hour for a professorial job.

          Honestly, this is the only profession in the world where people do all they can to get minimal wage. Imagine a doctor or a lawyer writing what you did.

          Like

      3. “My personal limit is to work in something that I like to do, to be not harrassed by stupid bosses like in almost all jobs in the non-academical working market and to have a reasonable pay equivalent to a 35 hour with minimum legal salary in Wal-Crap.”

        And in the job recruiting market, this is considered as a unreasonable attitude and overambitious thinking, except maybe for your sister…

        Like

        1. “And in the job recruiting market, this is considered as a unreasonable attitude and overambitious thinking, except maybe for your sister…”

          – How many recruiters did you contact?

          Like

      4. “So you believe that it is perfectly fine to pay people with PhDs what Walmart employees get?”

        Yes. The problem is that Walmart employees doesn’t get enough. And another bigger problem is that the vast majority of workers are in jobs that they hate. And I don’t want it and I’m ready to be called a traitor and to extend my studies forever to fight for that.

        “You have already accepted this as a normal possibility.”

        I don’t accept “hating my job” as a normal possibility.

        “The moment there is a critical mass of people who accept this, we will absolutely end up paid $7,50 an hour for a professorial job.”

        The problem is that there is actually a critical mass of people who accept that hating his job is normal.

        Like

        1. “Yes. The problem is that Walmart employees doesn’t get enough. And another bigger problem is that the vast majority of workers are in jobs that they hate.”

          – As opposed to adjuncts who all are paid enough and massively love their jobs? If you look at blogs run by adjuncts you will see that this is not the case.

          “The problem is that there is actually a critical mass of people who accept that hating his job is normal.”

          – And what would totally improve the situation is to pay professors $7,50 an hour?

          Like

      5. I’ve contacted one private recruiter and an employee in my university recruiting service told me the same thing. So I concluded that they’re all idiots and I moved on…

        Like

    2. “Do you think postdocs are exploited?”

      – Absolutely! I was hired by the same department together with a woman whose CV was in everything like mine. Only I was a VP and she was a post-doc. I made exactly twice as much as she did, had my own office, and had health insurance. And I got hired for a TT right after that. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever better about me that would make this fair. I definitely think she was exploited. And yes, being a very strong person she managed to make this an enjoyable and productive experience for herself. But that doesn’t make the practice any less wrong.

      There is absolutely no way that people with PhDs deserve to be paid >$20K per year. What next? We will work for food? And agree to wash toilets into the bargain?

      Like

      1. You don’t have to convince us that VP is better than postdoc and that this postdoc practice is wrong and exploitative, we agree with you on this, this is not our point.

        “There is absolutely no way that people with PhDs deserve to be paid <$20K per year."

        I agree but people with Ph D. deserve even less to be paid even less than adjuncts.

        Like

        1. “I agree but people with Ph D. deserve even less to be paid even less than adjuncts.”

          – The people who want you to believe that these are the only options are greedy college administrators. Who, by the way, are not sitting and arguing that THEY should be getting $20K because there is no other choice for them.

          Like

      2. Wow. I guess the postdocs I have known were just in better situations. All my friends who had postdocs made between 35,000 and 42,000 a year (and this was almost ten years ago now), taught 1 or 2 classes a term, had offices, only had to be on campus twice a week and were excused from all committee work and university service.

        I started out as a VP myself before I was on the tenure track and the only real benefit I had compared to my friends with postdocs was that I made a bit more money (but not much more money). And I taught more classes, had committee work and their postdocs were more prestigious than my visiting position. So the money issue balanced out. But I do agree that the postdoc you described sounds awful and exploitive. I agree that PhD shouldn’t be paid 20 K a year.

        Like

        1. ” All my friends who had postdocs made between 35,000 and 42,000 a year”

          – This is what Assistant profs get paid these days for teaching 4:4 loads. Texas A&M offers $40K to teach 4:5 load with an obligatory 2-month study abroad teaching in the summer.

          Like

  5. “This is what Assistant profs get paid these days for teaching 4:4 loads. Texas A&M offers $40K to teach 4:5 load with an obligatory 2-month study abroad teaching in the summer.”

    Exactly. Which is why I didn’t think that the postdocs I knew were in bad situations at all. I tried to get a postdoc position but wasn’t accepted! Also Texas A and M is a 4/5 load?????? That’s truly insane.

    Like

    1. “Exactly. Which is why I didn’t think that the postdocs I knew were in bad situations at all. I tried to get a postdoc position but wasn’t accepted! Also Texas A and M is a 4/5 load?????? ”

      – I interviewed with them, so I know these conditions first-hand. After telling me about the 4:5 load, they asked me what my research agenda for the next 5 years was. 🙂 🙂 I was very desperate but I terminated the interview after that because it felt like they were mocking me.

      Like

        1. “Okay, so even for a traitor like me, this is too insane to consider.”

          – What if crowds of people decide that this is not too insane to consider and the job market responds to their willingness to do anything just to get this “job”?

          Like

      1. “What if crowds of people decide that this is not too insane to consider and the job market responds to their willingness to do anything just to get this “job”?”

        Good question (I agree that the market responds with shitty working condition) but other questions are:

        1) What if too much people get a PH D so that jobs are scarce by design?

        2) What if too much people find normal to hate their jobs?

        4:5 with a research agenda… this can’t be taked seriously…

        Like

        1. “1) What if too much people get a PH D so that jobs are scarce by design?”

          – That’s capitalism. People could start a communist revolution and then absolutely everybody will get $7,50 an hour. 🙂 But nobody will have to work.

          “2) What if too much people find normal to hate their jobs?”

          – They should contact a specialist to solve their psychological problems.

          “4:5 with a research agenda… this can’t be taked seriously…”

          – How is it any worse than working as a professor for a minimum wage?

          Like

        1. Nobody becomes a strike-breaker because they are rich and have tons of options. So what? Let’s all go back to 18-hour workdays because there crowds of people in the world desperate enough to accept such conditions?

          Like

        2. You can’t have what doesn’t exist.

          Everybody condemns adjunctification but nobody seems interested in doing anything to put an end to it. I’m beginning to suspect that everybody is happy with adjunctification except me.

          Like

      2. With 18500$/year, I would prefer to be a regular adjunct than to work in Wal-Crap.

        I talked about “regular adjunct”, not this Asshole & Mockery postdoc junk.

        Like

    1. If it’s a position given to a person who doesn’t have a PhD in hand, it’s normal. In the contract, the word “convertible” or equivalent should be used, which means that the moment one gets the PhD awarded, the position changes to Visiting Professor. I would look carefully at the contract and what it implies.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.