Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Academic jobs not academic careers

Words, labels, and definitions mean something. They can colour a debate or idea from the start.
A while back I changed one post label for this blog from "Developing world" to "Majority world" because I think the latter is more accurate and makes a statement.

I also recently considered changing "career advice" to "job advice".
Why might it matter?
What is the difference?
Why care?

I am increasingly concerned by the notion of an "academic career".

First, most people who aspire to an "academic career" actually don't get to have one.
University marketing departments, funding agencies, and politicians don't want to face this painful reality.
Furthermore, the young, idealistic and uncritical either don't realise this or don't want to believe it.
Increasingly, positions in academia, whether Ph.D, postdoc, mid-career fellowships, or temporary faculty, are terminal. They don't lead to another position in academia.
Only a few lucky ones will have an academic career.

Here, I should be clear that I am NOT saying people should not take these terminal positions. There are many good personal reasons to take one. You just need to be realistic about what it may or may not lead to.
Most academic positions are jobs not one stage of a career.

Second, cars career out of control. Similarly careers can career out of control as ambition, fear, greed, or the lust for power may lead people to compromise on their own health, ethics, conscience, or family commitments. Unlike a car accident this does not happen suddenly and unexpectedly but usually as a gradual process over years or even decades.

For most people academia offers jobs not careers.

1 comment:

  1. About time someone from academia admitted that getting a graduate degree doesn't necessarily lead to an academic position/career. The number of students who think that they are going to change the world by becoming a professor outweighs the need for replacement faculty by at least an order of magnitude, if not two orders of magnitude.