To Be, or Not to Be (an Academic)

Now that I am (finally) nearing the end of my MA in Philosophy, I face the student’s dilemma: What now –  work or more school? Work is certainly an appealing option, since being a broke student sucks. However, meaningful work is hard to find. Pursuing a PhD is worth it intrinsically, and can (actually) open doors to meaningful work. Either way, the future is uncertain, and uncertainty is anxiety inducing.

I blogged last year about the value of acquiring ‘professional skills’ while studying, since current grad students face either fierce competition in a shrinking academic job market or a world outside the academy that might not understand what a student with an advanced humanities degree can offer. The dilemma has been framed in several problematic ways: The humanities are in crisis, grad students are not trained for anything other than a career as tenured faculty and Canada has failed to generate a knowledge economy because resource extraction is just so much easier. I think that the situation is complex and I will not try to fill out all its angles in one blog post. However, I will try to introduce some ideas about how to respond to the pressing question of ‘what now?’

Luckily for all of us who will be coming out of MA or PhD programs now, the ‘crisis’ is not new and many other talented, intelligent and resourceful graduates have done much of the work of answering ‘what now,’ if a tenure-track faculty position is simply not even open, anywhere.  Much of the resources, blogs, articles and even conferences devoted to what has become commonly known as ‘alt-ac’ come from the US, but I could relate to and find useful much of the content on the following sites and I hope you can, too.

So, here is my ‘what now?’, alt-ac primer for those of you who want, if nothing else, to find some optimism out there in MA and PhD land:

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