On the population explosion of Vert Paleo PhDs and students

Evidently there has been a population explosion of students and PhDs seeking a shrinking number of vertebrate paleo jobs out there.

Here is a blog post by Don Prothero on this subject. I found it more than enlightening. I hope it does everybody some good to see the big picture as Don sees it.

Don concludes, “This recent article, entitled “The Odds are Never in your Favor”, in The Chronicle of Higher Education compares searching for academic jobs to “The Hunger Games”: young people pitted against each other in a battle for survival, cruel and unfair judging by the older generation determines your fate, poor odds of making it out alive, disappointment is the most likely ending. I wish it were a joke…”

BTW, Don also wrote, “Almost half of the 1400 attendees are amateurs, who just want to see talks about dinosaurs, and rub shoulders with famous dinosaur paleontologists. Fewer than 200-300 of the 1400 attendees are VPs with jobs at museums or major universities.”  

With regard to Don’s latter observations, an annonymous palaeontologist reports, “The vast majority of attendees are students and slave crews from pro digs not amateurs.”

I wish you all the best of luck in all your pursuits.

1 thought on “On the population explosion of Vert Paleo PhDs and students

  1. This article and all of its associated articles that are piggy-backed onto it told me everything that I already know, and it depresses me. The overall message that they convey is “Don’t even bother trying because you will almost certainly fail”. It sounds defeatist, but the sad thing is that it’s realist.

    It isn’t just in paleontology – ANY academic field is a dog-eat-dog world. When I briefly worked in an academic department (I will not say which one and I will not say where) and an opening came up, I saw with my own eyes whole cardboard crates full of applications from prospective employees. Professors who were on the inside when it came to the hiring process told me that competition for just one job was so intense that the boss was rejecting people from Yale, Harvard, and Oxford, people who, in an ideal world, would be automatically hired based upon their alma mater alone, never mind their GPA, teaching experience, or their publication history.

    Many people think that the higher your degree, the better chance that you’ve got of getting a job. In a way, this is true because you need to meet the bare minimum qualifications (someone with a BA will almost always be rejected from a museum position because they don’t have a PhD). However, there is such an overwhelming surplus of newly-minted scholars that there simply aren’t enough jobs to fill them all, and so you have PhDs who are either unemployed or who are forced to work in jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with what they’re interested in, often working for very low pay. The situation is THAT bad.

    Even if you DO get hired, professors still don’t make that much money. Nobody goes into academia to get rich, that’s for certain! One that I knew years ago told me that his yearly salary was laughably low. He told me the number…and I almost fell down in shock. So even if you’re one of those fortunate few that actually manage to land a full-time permenant job, you’ll only just be scraping by. Believe it or not, peasants in the Middle Ages actually had it better off in some ways than people do now – look it up if you don’t believe me.

    So it’s not just paleontology, it’s every academic field. Sad…very sad…

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