Invisible Adjunct explains why professors should try to talk their undergraduates out of going on to grad school. She makes some good points.

Back in my professorial days, I used to do exactly that. I also tried to disuade those wanting to go to law school, for similar reasons. It’s not that I think academe or the law are not worthwhile endeavors; both are. But, as IA notes, most students go into grad school with very little understanding of what they are in for and an unreasonably optimistic view of their future employability. Likewise, I think the vast majority of law school wannabes are drawn by the lure of big salaries and a totally inaccurate image of what lawyering entails.

FILED UNDER: Education
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bryan says:

    I’m likewise struck by how many students graduating from our program want to go on to grad school. When I got out of school the first time in the early 90s, NO ONE from my department was thinking about going to grad school. I don’t know exactly what’s changed over the past 12 years, although I suspect a mixture of things.

    I begin PhD work in July. I’m under no illusions. I’m already employed, and it will only boost my salary, (I’m also in a field with fewer PhDs) but I don’t know if I would be doing it if it were just a way to get a job.

  2. joy says:

    Well, these same debates rage in any profession. In the business world, it’s wether an MBA is worth it or not. In technology, it’s the CS vs. everything else degree or for the IT folks which certification will get me the best job?

    I guess my point is that most business and professional types reach a point in their career when an advanced degree can lead to different opportunities. (I won’t say “better” because quite frankly, the salary differences aren’t all that much.)

    To me, it’s the folks that delve right into the advanced degree with nary a break for real life who suffer from unrealistic expectations.**

    **Although for some subjects (I’m thinking science, medicine) it is indeed easier to plow through school.

  3. Chris says:

    I realized that the practice of law was not glamorous several months after passing the bar when I showed up for a 341 Creditors Meeting at Bankruptcy Court and my debtor client was drunk and it was 8:45 in the morning.

  4. Richard Riley says:

    It’s all Television. It wasn’t so bad until LA Law – until then, lawyers were good people, helping the downtrodden, but LA Law made them hip and sexy.

    Maybe The Practice will help. There, every other week some client tries to kill you.