Since I started as a Rackham student blogger last year, I feel like I’ve definitely taken positive steps forward as I am embarking on my last year of graduate school.
This post is supposed to be a reflection on how things have changed since my welcome post a year ago.
That’s not an easy task. Some things have changed and some have stayed the same.
Graduate school has been an incredible learning experience, not just in terms of my intended field of study, but also in terms of personal growth.
I firmly believe that you set your own path, because ultimately, you’re the one who has to face your reflection in the mirror every morning.
I think for those who view higher education as important, graduate school is a must. But I think that beyond that, we are too set in our ways. We are expected to follow an academic track as far as our future careers are concerned.
However, the reality is that there are so few jobs in this area, so why not encourage students to expand their horizons?
Graduate school is not just an academic learning experience.
I’ve learned about people, life, and love.
For me, graduate school has not merely been a means to an end.
It is an environment in which I have learned a lot about myself, the things that are vitally important to me, and the person I want to be and the life I want to have.
I fear that the way graduate school is heading, those accepted will be those who clearly want a traditional academic career.
Those who merely think they do, and find something different along the way, are seen as wasting time and space.
Threads about lack of jobs are common these days. And I’m sure it is similar in other fields, as well. I’d like to provide some information specifically about my field of Sociology. This is not meant to scare people away; it is simply meant to emphasize that one should pursue the type of career that they will find the most fulfilling, and not jump on the academic bandwagon simply because you feel that is what is expected of you.
For calendar year 2010 there was about 1.2 jobs listed for each sociologist receiving a Ph.D. in 2009 (the last year for which data is available). However, part of the increase in jobs per person is the result of a decline in the number of new Ph.D.s (which dropped from 477 in 2008 to 368 in 2009). This decline of 23 percent most likely represents a strategy of students delaying the completion of their degree in hopes of improvements in the job market. In contrast to the increase in academic jobs, there was a 16 percent decline in the number of non-academic jobs. (Spalter-Roth, Scetza, and Jacobs 2011)
Nonetheless, the data do not indicate that the discipline as a whole is producing “too many Ph.D.s,” the source of an ongoing debate for at least a decade, although reducing the number of graduate students accepted has been the policy of numbers of universities over the last year or so… (Spalter-Roth, Scetza, and Jacobs 2011)
This is to say that you are lucky you are here, at the University of Michigan, as far as education is concerned.
I don’t know if people come into graduate school thinking that they’ll be guaranteed a job when they get out.
But in my opinion, regardless of the jobs available, graduate school is about finding what you are truly passionate about and going with that.
There’s a lot to think about in graduate school and beyond. Getting married, starting a family, moving.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year thinking about what my hopes and dreams are for the future, and how best to spend my remaining time in graduate school.
I’ve also experienced both positive and negative changes in my health, as far as my rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are concerned.
And as usual, these challenges have caused me to sit back and re-evaluate my priorities. This is not something that everyone has to face concurrently with graduate school, and it’s not something I would wish for anyone to have to deal with.
But it has made me realize that what I want to get out of graduate school is the most important thing. Accomplishing my personal goals is more important above all else.
And I challenge others, whether they have “real life” complications and limitations or not, to really think about what you want out of graduate school.
Embrace that. Live that. And celebrate that.
I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had, but I’m also very excited about the future, and whatever lies ahead.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and productive 2012-2013 school year.
Spalter-Roth, Roberta, Janene Scetza, and Jerry Jacobs. 2011. “Moving Toward Recovery: Findings from the 2010 Job Bank Survey.” American Sociological Association (Department of Research & Development).
About the Author
Leslie Rott, Ph.D. Student, Sociology
Published in: Student Voices