So You Want to Be an Academic…

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Academia has a tendency to be glorified.

There seems to be a common misconception that professors spend the majority of their time thinking about ideas and discussing them with similarly tweed-clad colleagues for the sake of pursuing knowledge.

Although this may have been the case many years ago, it is certainly not the case now. Most professors have a ton of pressure to come up with innovative (i.e.: industry-relevant) ideas get grants that will fund their research and help the university as a whole. Rather than spending time thinking about ideas for the sake of research, they spend their time thinking about how to publish in high impact journals. Instead of discussions with graduate students about their progress and their development as a researcher, they need to be focused on getting results.

Combine this shift in focus with a decreased demand for academic jobs due to university cut-backs and a lack of retirement age, and you get an extremely competitive market. Most wanna-be professors spend close to a decade either doing post-doctoral work or contract teaching positions, both of which are extremely underpaid and lack any kind of benefits or job security. And given the number of actual available jobs, most of these people will end up doing something else entirely and effectively starting their career 15 years later than they would have otherwise.

All this being said – if you’ve read all this (and believe it) and still want to go for it – please do it. It’s not impossible; it’s just difficult and will likely require sacrifices, but really, what doesn’t?


Do you have any experience with misconceptions in academia? Did you end up in a position you hadn’t planned for yourself? Respond below or contact me! I’m interested in your real-world experiences.

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