Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Career advice

Here's some free career advice. Never ever do a PhD in the humanities in a small language or regarding a thinly populated area, e.g. Swedish and Sweden. I did one in Swedish archaeology (thesis in English available on-line), and let me tell you, I might as well have done it on the demography of Pluto for all the job offers I'm seeing.

I have an opinion piece in Swedish about this in the current issue of Universitetsläraren, the newsletter of the Swedish trade union for university teachers.

The Swedish university system offers two ideal tracks for a young career academic after she completes her PhD. She can either go abroad on a post doc, or she can get a four-year forskarassistent job, with 80% research and 20% teaching. This is intended to give her time to rack up merit points enough to get a steady university job.

In the natural sciences and engineering, this is actually pretty much how it works. But in the humanities, there's no money. In archaeology, there are no post docs since our specialisations are only relevant locally. (Viking studies in Japan? Noooo.) And young archaeology PhDs can't compete for forskarassistent jobs, which are exceedingly rare anyway. Instead of functioning as entrypoints for young scholars, these jobs are hotly desired awards for highly qualified people in their 40s. Not for a few, they become the apex of a scholar's entire career.

So a PhD in Swedish archaeology is a big no-no. Avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid.

All us young 'uns can hope for now is for the Boomers to retire, for their jobs to be taken by people born in the 50s, for their jobs to be taken by people born in the 60s, and then, just possibly, might we get a salary and a desk. Unless we reach retirement age first.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Arkeologen said...

Jag hoppas verkligen inte att det är så illa som du får det att låta *burr* Whatever, jag söker jobb efter hand som något intressant dyker upp. När man minst anar det så får man napp ;)Men jag är samtidigt inställd på att jobba i kassan på ICA efter examen...

Men någon forskarassistent kan jag på heder och samvete lova dig att jag aldrig blir *scoutheder*

01 February, 2006 20:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Varför skulle det vara annorlunda för naturvetare? jag har inte sett min avhandling som ett steg i en akademisk karriär, eller någon karriär alls för den delen. De jobb som värdesätter forskarutbildning är så få att det är löjligt. Antalet jobbannonser är också så få att det är löjligt och hälften av dem är föräldraledighetsvikariat.
Vitnir

02 February, 2006 13:00  
Blogger Martin said...

Yes, there are commercially dead subjects in the natural sciences as well, such as green biology (as opposed to white biology where you get to wear a lab coat) and astronomy.

You didn't do your PhD to work in your field afterwards? Sounds like a lot of time, effort and economical deprivation to no good use?

03 February, 2006 13:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Är det ens 5% som verkligen kan fortsätta som forskare efter en disputation? Själv vill jag tro att jag gjorde det för att chansen att verkligen sätta sig in i ett ämne får man bara en gång, leka på arbetstid.
Vitnir

03 February, 2006 18:12  
Blogger Martin said...

Sounds like you had a more realistic perspective than I did. I went into the PhD programme for two main reasons, one positive and one negative.

What I really want to do professionally is to research, debate and teach archaeology. And the standard digging jobs on railroad projects are such a drag.

I count myself lucky: I work full time with archaeological research and debate. But I don't have an employer, and I don't get to teach much.

03 February, 2006 18:23  

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