So You Want to Get a PhD in … Anything

Don’t waste your time. Do this instead.

Steven Yates


The dismal prospects for PhDs finding work in their chosen fields.

One of my most read pieces on Medium was this. I advised people thinking about getting a PhD in philosophy to not do it.

But if you absolutely must … if your life wouldn’t be complete otherwise … I worked out some specifics on how to go about it so you minimize your risk of ending up asking, “Would you like fries with that?”

Truth be known, philosophy is hardly the only academic discipline to fall on hard times. University administrative bloat has soaked up resources like a sponge, leading to cutbacks everywhere else. As tuition has soared, moreover, majors and even entire departments seen as unappealing to students have been gutted. And as many students will graduate with five and even six figures of student loan debt, it’s reasonable to expect them to major in subjects they hope will earn them a livable wage when they graduate. High on their lists are subjects like chemical engineering, other STEM degrees, anything tech related.

I don’t see this changing any time soon; powerful corporate interests (especially leviathan banks like JP Morgan Chase) are profiting too handsomely from the present situation. It’s not a priority, therefore.

So prospects for PhDs in fields like philosophy, history, comparative literature — liberal arts learning generally — are dismal. New PhDs often have a choice between teaching part-time (perhaps even just one course!) as an adjunct, or not at all. Do note: if you get “adjunct zoned” for any length of time, your prospects of ever landing that coveted tenure-track job diminish even further.

Thus my quiet counsel: PhD? don’t do it!

I don’t even need to mention the hostile environment on campuses these days, the political divisions ripping them apart: race and gender politics (“wokism”), and now open confrontations between supporters of Israel and those backing the Palestinian cause.

Such hostility doesn’t exist everywhere — there are places (community colleges, technically-focused campuses) where you won’t see them, mainly because of the vocational focus…



Steven Yates

I am the author of What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory. I write about philosophy (especially the Stoics), health and systems, and the future if we have one.