Is the doctoral school worth the cost?

August 10, 2021 6:38 p.m. ET

Editor’s Note: This forward-looking view examines whether graduate degrees are worth it. Then we will ask, “Would you take a job that does not allow remote working?” Or is it now non-negotiable? Students should click here to submit opinions under 250 words by August 24th. The best answers will be published that evening.

Academia is a numbers game

It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify obtaining a doctorate. in history. Take the job market, or the lack of it. The National Science Foundation’s survey of earned doctorates found that in 2019, U.S. institutions awarded 912 doctorates in history. There is a good chance that a professorship in your field is not waiting for you down the road. Aspiring academics among us should be realistic about this and consider alternative careers in high school education, journalism, and public policy, among others.

The doctorate is also expensive. Some schools offer funding packages that cover all or part of the costs, but this is not guaranteed. Students who pay their own fees will often end up with considerable debt. Even those lucky enough to emerge with a tenure-track position are unlikely to be raking the dough. The average assistant professor made just over $ 82,000 in 2019-2020 according to the American Association of University Teachers, and I’d bet that number is even lower for history teachers. Then there is the opportunity cost. Why waste more than five years chasing after a degree to end up with a job you could have gotten without it? You have wasted time that could have been better spent elsewhere.

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