School loans are just the start for some Ph.D.s

After tacking on $100,000 in debt, they often need to spend thousands to find a university job, sometimes for years.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 14, 2013 2:22PM

Image: Student studying (© PNC/Brand X Pictures/Jupiterimages)Many would-be academics take out big loans to attend graduate school with the hope of later finding a tenured university job. But the spending doesn't end with their freshly printed Ph.D.s.

Instead, new graduates are finding they need to spend thousands simply to track down job openings in the competitive academic market, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

An entire industry is evolving to "assist" recent Ph.D.s in finding jobs, with that assistance coming at a price, the story notes. 

"I feel exhausted and as though I am throwing money into a gigantic hole," Kavita Finn, who earned a Ph.D. in English literature from University of Oxford in 2010, told the publication. 

Finn has spent more than $2,000 trying to find a job, applying for 75 academic openings. (She also has $100,000 in student debt, the article notes.) Among her costs is $39.90 for an account at Interfolio, which helps would-be academics transmit their dossiers electronically to hiring committees.

Just sending reference letters is also getting expensive. Interfolio, which tells the Chronicle of Higher Education that 100,000 Ph.D.s used its services last year, also charges for sending documents such as teaching statements and curriculum vitae. Another such service called SlideRoom charges $10 to $15 for applicants hoping to score faculty positions at art programs. It sends electronic images of paintings, photographs and other art works to the schools.

It may be harder than ever for new Ph.D. holders to find secure academic jobs because of a shift in how colleges are hiring. Institutions are increasingly relying on part-time academics, hiring visiting scholars and offering contract positions as ways to save money. 

By 2009, only one-third of faculty at U.S. degree-granting institutions were tenure-track or tenured, down from 57% of faculty in 1975, the American Psychological Association reports, citing data from the U.S. Department of Education. While a candidate might have required one year of job hunting in the 1970s, he or she might now be on the market for several years, like Finn. 

The Chronicle of Higher Education didn't discuss if certain academic disciplines are more likely to get socked with higher fees and longer job-search times, although it featured only job applicants in the humanities. 

Graduate programs should be more honest about the fees related to job hunting after the Ph.D.s are handed out, career-advice specialist Karen L. Kelsky told the publication. "You're being asked to spend this money, and it's not necessarily going to pay off."

More on moneyNOW

Mar 15, 2013 4:03PM
Maybe she should have spent that money on a more marketable degree, or to develop a more marketable skill.  I never see an article like this which describes a student studying nursing, engineering, finance, accounting, teaching, medicine, etc....
Mar 14, 2013 2:33PM

It is crazy the barbaric issues we still face today.  Thank you God and Goddess for everything because without you we regular people would not survive,


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