By Randy Eldridge
I recently came across an article in the Economist that argued that obtaining a Ph.D. was essentially a waste of time. Not to repeat the entire article, what the author bitterly (in my opinion) claims is that the university system “churns” out Ph.D.s at an exceedingly high rate and that there is an over supply of students. The author also claims that while obtaining your doctorate, you are basically slave labor to your advisors and work long hours for little reward, monetarily or otherwise. Finally, the author argues that obtaining a doctorate doesn’t pay off financially, so why bother.
The comments below the article weren’t much more positive. There were a few that argued as I feel, that obtaining a Ph.D. is a reward in and of itself (idealistic, I know), and that the pursuit of knowledge and discovering something new is reason enough to pursue the degree. However, there were more than few that agreed with the author. They had their PhDs and were miserable. They were treated so badly by their professors. They’re not making $4 billion a year with their degrees. People weren’t bowing to them as they walk into the room. You get the idea.
I was amazed by both the article and the reactions. ‘Wow”, I thought, “this sounds like they’re talking about being an adjunct.”
In the short time that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve very much enjoyed the feedback..both positive and not so positive…that I receive. Most of it is positive. Some of it is people telling me I’m naive and don’t know what I’m talking about. I understand where they’re coming from. I do. Being an adjunct by choice, and trying to do it full time, is most definitely NOT for everyone. Look on any other site that discusses being an adjunct. You go on Linkedin and find, shall we say, robust, discussions about the pros and cons of being an adjunct instructor.
What surprises me most is what appears to be an almost visceral reaction that some people have about the negative side of being a teacher. I’ve read comments about just how miserable it is. How they’re treated so badly and are looked down upon by full time faculty. I read how they work long hours with no pay and don’t received any benefits and how bad the students are and how they have no place to do their work and they have no job security, and….And oh, by the way, they’ve been an adjunct for 10 years? I’m going to perfectly honest with you. I don’t understand it. If people are so miserable, why continue to do it?I understand people are passionate about their field. I am too. We all want to have work that makes us happy. We all want to be able to use our education in our work. But that’s not always realistic. I’m sure we all know people with degrees who are doing something totally unrelated to their education.
I also understand that realistically, not everybody can afford to be an adjunct by choice. I’ll use myself for example. I teach at 3 different schools right now. One school offers very limited benefits, and the other two offer none at all. Fortunately, I have insurance either through my wife and I also have military benefits. I’m fortunate. Now, If I were single and didn’t have veteran benefits, I’d have two choices: I could be an adjunct by choice and take my chances and complain that I have to insurance, or I could do what a lot of people in this country do: take a job that I’m not thrilled with in order to receive benefits (IF I was fortunate enough to get a job). I’m pretty sure I’d do the latter. I know I would. I know the system isn’t fair. I agree that it needs to be changed, but complaining about it while you still continue to work in the very same system you rail against seems counterproductive.
To me, it comes down to expectations of the job.
Just as when earning a Ph.D., we all have reasons for doing things. I never thought I’d get rich teaching. Just as when earning a Ph.D., I would never dream that I’d earn one then sit back and start counting the money. It’s my humble opinion that if you get into teaching for money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. I know it’s hard being an Adjunct By Choice. I recently started teaching at a new school. I had to go through the orientation, meet the staff, learn the system, all the “fun” stuff. I don’t particularly enjoy that part of the job. However, it’s what I choose to do to make a living, so I do it. If it ever got to the point where I really hated it, I hope I would recognize that it’s time to move on and do something else.
I enjoy being an adjunct. I know more than a few who don’t, and I respect that. I’m different, I guess. Or crazy. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. If you disagree let me know. I know, being an adjunct isn’t for everyone.
About the Adjunct By Choice: Randy Eldridge is an adjunct instructor and tutor. He teaches criminal justice courses leading to Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Capital University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to entering the world of teaching, he worked as an Adult Probation officer for Butler County in Ohio. He is a U.S. Army and Desert Storm Veteran, serving four years on active duty. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s currently debating whether or not to pursue his Ph.D.
By Randy Eldridge