Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More evidence and an update on my situation

Here is an article from the middle of last year in the washington post about the lack of jobs for scientists


An excerpt:
"Dropping her dream, she took an administrative position at her university, experiencing firsthand an economic reality that, at first look, is counterintuitive: There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs."

When I was looking at this post google has chosen "Auto Tech Training School" as an ad to show me.  Perhaps I could have gotten a position with that easier.

This isn't a recent problem, in 1995 Stanford has a report that there are too many PhDs, and instead of doing something the US education system continued to push up the enrollment in PhD programs for the last 20 years.  http://news.stanford.edu/pr/95/950605Arc5192.html

As for my search I have had two interviews so far, one with a software company to do coding and one for a finance firm to parse data from various sources.  The interview questions have thus far been very basic programming knowledge (in the case of the finance firm just a catagorical knowledge of linux and SQL commands would probably be enough).  In all 116+ jobs I have found and applied for not one of them even wants me to solve difficult equations using numerics, I am to help businesss update their menus across the web (if I can even get that).  The job I am currently qualified for is a tutor - but that is the ultimate in dead-end jobs for me as it has no chance for advancement and it does not count as experience to any future place I apply to.  Again I want to really focus on the fact is not that I do not have a job right now - I'll get a job.  It is just that it will be a job that my 10 years of physics training will have nothing to do with.

Keep digging the trap.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Nature Article

This isn't an old article either this is from 2011


Let me pull an extract which is relevant if you don't want to read the whole article, which has an interesting comparison between different countries.

To Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University in Atlanta who studies PhD trends, it is “scandalous” that US politicians continue to speak of a PhD shortage. The United States is second only to China in awarding science doctorates — it produced an estimated 19,733 in the life sciences and physical sciences in 2009 — and production is going up. But Stephan says that no one should applaud this trend, “unless Congress wants to put money into creating jobs for these people rather than just creating supply”. The proportion of people with science PhDs who get tenured academic positions in the sciences has been dropping steadily and industry has not fully absorbed the slack. The problem is most acute in the life sciences, in which the pace of PhD growth is biggest, yet pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have been drastically downsizing in recent years. In 1973, 55% of US doctorates in the biological sciences secured tenure-track positions within six years of completing their PhDs, and only 2% were in a postdoc or other untenured academic position. By 2006, only 15% were in tenured positions six years after graduating, with 18% untenured (see ‘What shall we do about all the PhDs?’). Figures suggest that more doctorates are taking jobs that do not require a PhD. “It’s a waste of resources,” says Stephan. “We’re spending a lot of money training these students and then they go out and get jobs that they’re not well matched for.” The poor job market has discouraged some potential students from embarking on science PhDs, says Hal Salzman, a professor of public policy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Nevertheless, production of US doctorates continues apace, fuelled by an influx of foreign students. Academic research was still the top career choice in a 2010 survey of 30,000 science and engineering PhD students and postdocs, says Henry Sauermann, who studies strategic management at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Many PhD courses train students specifically for that goal. Half of all science and engineering PhD recipients graduating in 2007 had spent over seven years working on their degrees, and more than one-third of candidates never finish at all. Some universities are now experimenting with PhD programmes that better prepare graduate students for careers outside academia (see page 280). Anne Carpenter, a cellular biologist at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is trying to create jobs for existing PhD holders, while discouraging new ones. When she set up her lab four years ago, Carpenter hired experienced staff scientists on permanent contracts instead of the usual mix of temporary postdocs and graduate students. “The whole pyramid scheme of science made little sense to me,” says Carpenter. “I couldn’t in good conscience churn out a hundred graduate students and postdocs in my career.” But Carpenter has struggled to justify the cost of her staff to grantreview panels. “How do I compete with laboratories that hire postdocs for $40,000 instead of a scientist for $80,000?” she asks. Although she remains committed to her ideals, she says that she will be more open to hiring postdocs in the future.

The admiral has your back

Special thanks out to Steve Swiontek

Still looking for more submissions

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Masters in Public Admin.

A friend from another field with a masters sent in this.
Who I am?

I am Patrick S., I graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a Masters in Public Administration degree. I finished my degree requirements December 2011 and have not found gainful employment since graduating, which makes this the 14th month I've been unemployed.  I have over a decade of administrative, leadership, and project management experience. From the day I attended orientation to the date of my graduation I was assured there are plenty of jobs for graduates with a MPA degree. 

The professors would often mention the promising careers in the public sector that this degree program would prepare us for. That the skills we were learning were invaluable to organizations and their graduates go on to work for local governments and non-profit organizations. That there were more jobs out there then there are people to fill them and we’d have no problem finding work after graduation. The reality is that the job market is scarce, organizations want volunteers, not employees and the MPA degree is considered a terminal degree there was no fallback to going on to a PhD.

I faced a stark realization after graduation because of the lack of jobs is that I presently have over $100,000 in student debt accruing interest of 6.9% and 7.9% APR (depending on the loan type) and a monthly repayment of over $1,150 for 120 payment periods. Given the experience I've had over the last fourteen months and factoring in the two and a half years of my life I dedicated to earning my advanced degree. I regretfully see my Masters for all intent and purpose as a joke and a mistake which has cost me tens of thousands of dollars.

How am I to survive with my massive credit card debt, my overwhelming student debt, and the personal debt owed to friends without gainful employment? I have applied to hundreds of positions with universities, non-profit organizations, and government entities. Only getting to interview for one out of fifty positions I applied to. I've often gotten the response that I am best qualified for the position but I have not been selected for interview. This is not the job market my professors told us about. 

Out of desperation I've found temporary employment for hourly pay through a temp agency. The only job they had was so far enough away from my home that the cost of fuel to commute to and from work costs 25% of my income. Yet I was told by the recruiters I should be grateful to even find employment at all. I am not grateful that after taxes and associated costs of employment I am roughly earning $4/hour which equates to roughly $160 a week take home pay which will barely pay half of my present bills. Which has caused me to use my life savings to live off of because of my present underemployment situation.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Known but well silenced

I don't know about anyone reading this blog, but for me and the people I went to school with none of this information was made available to us.  This has been known for about 20 years, that there is no scientist shortage.

A NYTimes article from 1992


Then there is this dated 1999, the lovely "don't become a scientist" article


More to come.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Who I am : PhD in Physics

I am Dr. Jeffrey Berger, I graduated from Penn State with a PhD in physics.  I defended in August and have not gotten a paycheck since the summer, which makes this the 8th month I've been unemployed.  I have years of programming experience in different languages and almost a decade of teaching experience.  There are 5 papers out with my name on it, 3 proceedings, and 6 talks.  I was told when I started working towards my degree that there are plenty of jobs for physicist PhDs, "There aren't PhD physicists living in cardboard boxes".  The only reason I am not in a cardboard box is my friends and my credit card, which I have been living off of for over half of a year.

I was signed up to work as a software developer at a start-up  but shortly after I defended they told me that they never got the funding they were supposed to.  They went under without paying me for a day of work and I started applying to jobs in New York City.  I have over 80 applications out currently and not a single call-back or interview from an employer.

Most all of the PhD positions I can apply for require some industry experience already - so I apply for them and I am under-qualified.  Therefore I am forced to apply for jobs which require masters or bachelors degrees.  This puts me in the realm of the overqualified applicant and again no callbacks.  I have spoken with several recruiters and their responses have been varied from telling me I am not competitive in the workforce to simply telling me they have no companies interested in hiring a new PhD.  My favorite was the recruiter who tried to offer me a position at 10% more than my graduate stipend (which was 20k + tuition a year).  

Most of the jobs I have begun applying for are programming jobs, to use the years of C/C++ experience I have.  However, even though I worked as a researcher programming for almost 4 years this experience does not count as work experience.  I cannot get a job at a university without post-doctoral experience and this problem deserves its own post at a point later in time.

I know I'm not the only one who is having trouble finding work, but the people who are having these issues are all of my friends with post graduate degrees.  Just about everyone I know who has only a HS degree, a associates, or a bachelors degree has a job.

I'll give you updates on how my search is going.


Welcome to the Higher Ed Trap blog.  This blog isn't about me, it is about us.  Those of us who went to get a higher degree (masters, doctorate, ect.) under the advice of the opportunities that were available to the educated.  Now, having completed our training, we find that our degrees are not worth what we were told.

I'm going to post the struggle and plight of this countries best and brightest, so send me your tales (Jeffrey.J.Berger@gmail.com).  Even if it isn't an epic struggle or you are just starting to feel the pressure of the rest of the world.

Hopefully this will let you know that you aren't alone, and it isn't just you.  Also this gives a more realistic view for those of you out there who might be looking at getting a post graduate degree.  Finally, the rest of the country who is pushing for more and more education - you should know that this isn't always the answer and there needs to be places for them.

I'll put up my continuing story soon, and hopefully some of my friends.