Generally, there are very few Americans who go on to get an advanced degree after their Bachelor’s Degree. Some go on to get Masters and others put in the extra time and effort to get a Doctorate. I made it through the Masters program and I’m constantly thinking about going back to get a Doctorate Degree, but I always wind up reading articles like the one printed in the New York Times the other day that questions the purpose of graduate education in today’s environment. It’s quotes like these in the articles that generally get me thinking twice:
Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).
As one of the folks out there who graduated with a Masters Degree plus $121 thousand in student loan debt to boot, I absolutely relate to the last line of that sentence! But when I was a graduate student (and as I study whether or not I want to go back for a Doctorate), I can’t help but agree with the author’s idea here – that most Ph.D programs are designed for students who will do a lot of research on a particular issue in a particular subfield of a larger subfield of an even larger, but oftentimes irrelevant field of study. What’s the point in spending a ton of money, time, and effort on that?!
I believe that our university systems need to focus on creating Ph.D’s of value to an interdisciplinary curriculum. In other words, we need doctoral candidates who resemble the classic renaissance man (or woman). And don’t give me this bull about being a jack of all trades and a master of none. That’s a bunch of crap. Doctoral candidates should know a great deal about a great variety of topics. They should be up to date on current events and understand all sides of the topics relevant to their study. And it’s fine if they want to become a highly specialized expert in one area, but that should be in addition to a larger, general education.
In other words, the value of the new undergraduate education which focuses on greater understanding for a wider variety of topics should be translated, to some degree, to the advanced degree programs. And the big draw should be as the author states in his op-ed – to create Ph.D’s who are able to do more with the education that they’ve received.