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The Curse of PhD Unemployment

Today marks nearly my 11th month of job searching.  While I have not been unemployed for that entire time, it is beginning to feel like it.  I finished my PhD in May 2017, but the outlook for jobs is rather bleak.  I have had a few campus interviews, but was not able to earn the job for any of those positions.  Each time, I was devastated as I had enjoyed each university where I interviewed.  Now that I have applied for more than 70 jobs, I have been applying for private sector jobs for the past three months.  Yet, these have all proven unfruitful as well.  In fact, I have never even received a phone call or invitation to interview.  It has become so bad that I have even begun to apply in retail.  At this point, I have run through my emergency fund and had to borrow money just to survive.  I am at risk of losing my apartment and car.  The days do not get any easier as time progresses.  As I search and apply for more jobs, I have been working on this blog, my Facebook page, and about 10 other revenue streams in the hopes that I can build some income as a freelancer.  However, this will take time to start earning money from these endeavors.  Therefore, I am left in a quagmire of unemployment.  The academic jobs I apply for seem to want someone else every time and every private sector job wants someone with less education.  It feels as if my PhD was a colossal mistake.

I am attempting to remain optimistic, but I am not naturally an optimistic person, so this becomes even more difficult for me.  I appreciate everyone’s kind words telling me that I will find something.  I know they mean well, but at the same time, the evidence to the contrary is becoming overwhelming.  If you are going through a similar situation, I can understand your plight.  All my faculty ensured me I would get a job if I published an article or two and presented at a national conference.  Based on their advice, I published 5 articles, have a book chapter in press, and presented at 1 regional and 2 national conferences.  I gave everything I could to my PhD experience.  I joined committees to gain important experience, taught a variety of classes, and went above and beyond on every assignment, paper, and activity.  However, here I sit in my bare apartment searching for the umpteenth time.

I did not write this post to discourage anyone, but to shed light on the reality of the job market for those with a newly polished PhD.  One goes from the acme of academic achievement to the despair of unemployment rather quickly.  While I cannot tell what the future holds, I can tell you that far too many people are lying to graduate students.  I know universities are trying to protect their completion rates, but it appears they are apathetic to the situation of their former students.  My university, former faculty, colleagues, and friends will start a new semester this week with all the eager energy that goes with a new crop of students.  However, there are some of us holding that new degree questioning whether we made the right decision.   The PhD is a proud accomplishment, but it often comes with the curse of prolonged unemployment.


Cody_Perry View All

I recently completed my PhD in Education (Curriculum and Instruction) at the University of Wyoming. I have published multiple articles in peer reviewed journals and have a book chapter coming early next year. I aim to explore issues of privilege and equity of education, especially as they pertain to STEM education.

2 thoughts on “The Curse of PhD Unemployment Leave a comment

  1. There’s something wrong if someone with a PhD can’t get a job. I was actually have this discussion (sorta) on Facebook about employment and wages. I dare anyone to blame this on illegal immigrants cus they are stealing all of our jobs (/sarcasm) Keep your head up, keep doing what you’re doing!


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