Grad School in the Humanities: Pros and Cons
Brian Weatherson, who has his Ph.D from Australia’s Monash University and is tenured at Cornell [CV in PDF], argues that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, going to graduate school in the humanities is a grand idea.
His argument, though, is couched with a lot of caveats.
The important point here is that no one ever has to decide to go to grad school as such. The big decision is whether to go to a particular graduate school that has offered you a (hopefully funded) place. In other words, when you have to make the crucial decision, you may well be in position of crucial information (i.e. that youÃ¢€™re at a school with an excellent placement record) that suggests your career prospects are very good.
There is a flipside to this of course, and thatÃ¢€™s that by the time youÃ¢€™re accepted, you might know that your only grad school option is to go somewhere with a very poor placement record. (Or a very poor record of competent advising, or poor morale among students, or what have you.) At that stage, it is a very good idea to reconsider how strongly you want to go to graduate school.
Basically, it boils down to this: Go to grad school if you can get a free ride to a top ten institution or if you don’t mind being relegated to the backwaters of academia teaching dull students or don’t mind losing ten years of earning potential before going into another line of work.
That sounds about right.