Saturday, February 21, 2009

Grad school advice

Someone called Penelope, the brazen careerist, offers up some advice about grad school in recession times. She is against it.

The post is funny at points, and worth reading as an antidote to the sort of "the future is in plastics" type of career advice one sometimes hears, in which one particular career or set of careers is posited as a sure thing, regardless of the talents or interests of the advisee.

At the same time, some of the advice seems quite misguided. The health care sector seems likely to experience changes in its industrial organization whether or not they come from the government, but that fact does not change the crude demographics of an aging population, which suggests increases in demand in future years.

Sure, science jobs have relatively low money wages, and yet there are still queues for them, as there are to be, say, an English professor. This suggests that the non-money aspects of their compensation are viewed as valuable. In notation, what matters is U and not Y and for most people, Y is not the only argument in the U function. [For non-economist readers, U is the utility function and Y is earnings in this example.]

I will agree with a couple of points. Going to a low-rated but expensive business school is likely not worth the trouble. And some fields are risky. If you want to be an English professor and not a writer of technical manuals, getting a doctorate in English is a necessary but hardly a sufficient condition. On the other hand, some graduate degrees are pretty low risk - anything in statistics, computer science or economics comes to mind.

Hat tip: