It is hard to get an academic job these days. According to The Professor is In (an academic job consulting service) a PhD holder has something like a 1-in-20 chance of actually getting a job in a university. Post-docs might make it easier to get an academic position, though they can even be hard to get into.
However, here is my perspective:
I think it depends on your field. PhDs in the humanities are kind of like a dime a dozen these days. At the Victoria University of Wellington graduation I went to last night somebody in the programme (at a different ceremony) was getting a PhD in Design for studying Tamagotchi Fan Fiction. Seriously?
PhD in Information Studies are still quite rare – most people in information studies just want to be librarians and quit after the MLIS. I was the only PhD in Information Studies to graduate in from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Information Management in probably 5 years.
This is mostly because of funding/political reasons – other people do PhDs on LIS topics but because the School of Information Management gets more money for people enrolled in Information Systems, they enrol all the PhD students in Information Systems, regardless of the topic, because really the only thing that matters is the topic of your thesis, the degrees are all PhDs.
So when it comes to graduate you have to be aware of this discrepancy and make sure the graduation office puts “Information Studies” as your degree title rather than “Information Systems”, even though they were all confused and double checked with me several times – “Are you sure your degree is in Information Studies? It says you are enrolled in Information Systems?”.
This was a big issue for me throughout my time at SIM – I think forced enrolment as Information Systems students devalues information & library studies and obfuscates professional identity. I even raised this issue to an external review of the Information Studies programme, though they didn’t do anything or seem to care and this practice carries on. So I was sure to advocate for my PhD in Information Studies when the time came. At yesterday’s graduation one of my colleagues who studied Information Literacy in Malaysian Primary Schools received a PhD in Information Systems. Am I the only person that sees a big discrepancy there?
/End rant on VUW’s School of Information Management.
My PhD in Information Studies is somewhat less common, as mentioned above, and the Library & Information Science Education market isn’t yet completely oversaturated with PhDs at this stage, unlike some disciplines. And, I got a full scholarship to do my PhD, and was unemployed at the time, so it was a good choice for me. I didn’t do it to get rich, no one in academia does. I got a free degree and spent a few years working on an interesting project. It was a win/win for me, even if I did end up just working as a librarian after finishing my PhD. At least with a PhD I could probably get something pretty high up in an academic library if I decide not to try for a faculty position.
But areas like film, history, etc, those PhD are basically useless unfortunately. I apologise to those of you with PhDs in film or history, and hope you have found happiness in your career, but job prospects are really limited in those areas.
You also have to consider what disciplines are getting lots of students & research funding, which unfortunately seems to follow trends quite a lot of the time. Data science and human computer interaction seems very popular at the moment as far as faculty recruitment, because there’s big money for undergraduates who come out with degrees in those areas, and therefore big student numbers, and lots of funding to those kinds of programmes. People doing BAs in art history probably end up as baristas or waitresses, and those departments aren’t hiring. If you are in Chemistry of Physics or something yes you probably have to do a post-doc if you want to get into a research position, but in Information Studies it’s not really necessary, in fact there aren’t many post docs available (though there are a few, mostly in data science type stuff, which I guess would be valuable if you were in that area).
So yeah, I am really glad I have a PhD in Information Studies. Even though my topic was mostly related to culture/sociology/ international development, I have colleagues with PhDs in Human Geography and Sociology who’s research is not very different from mine, but will basically be stuck at a polytechnic forever because there is just such over-saturation of the market for those kinds of degrees. At least I have a slightly more marketable degree.. which was a total fluke because I had no idea going into it! I just got lucky I guess!
But as mentioned above, if you can get a full scholarship to pay for your PhD you might as well do it, even if it doesn’t help you earn more money in the end, at least it’s a cool project you get to work on for a few years and then you can make everyone call you “doctor” :)
enough ranting about academia… I should do some work.