Wealth and America: Truck Drivers have it Better than PhD’s

First, an interesting look as what ‘wealth’ actually means. To quote E (albeit borrowed from the situation in Turkey) “Nobody makes money without money”, or real wealth doesn’t accumulate from salaried positions or honest time-invested work. Wealth comes from investment (which takes wealth to make), pure (or not) and simple (probably not).

Second, as most of us who have pursued some elitist degree know (but probably won’t admit), more money doesn’t come with more education. Sometimes, yes. But balanced out over a life time, truck drivers probably make more than professors (considering that most people don’t even get to ‘professor track’ until their mid-thirties, by which time non-advanced degree holding professionals have been working with actual salary for around fifteen years). Honestly, I’d be better off fiscally if I’d gotten a job at Target after graduating high school and just slowly risen through the ranks of management.
Chart of The Most Common Jobs For The Rich, Middle Class And Poor
PhD students in the US usually get a stipend of around 15,000-25,000 a year (if lucky – some state schools don’t offer stipends) for the first five years, and may or may not get dissertation or research grants after that. Which means that a huge segment of the ‘most educated’are in the bottom 30% in terms of wages.
Granted, a lot of people pursuing PhDs (and other advanced degrees) aren’t doing it for the money. There’s this idea(l) that everyone is pursuing what they love, and there’s nothing more that they would rather be doing, nothing at all. But considering that there are a shrinking number of academic jobs, and certain fields have a reputation for not preparing PhD fellows for other lines of work…it might not be the most solid choice. Maybe you can pursue what you love for a few years (though most PhD students in my division gave off them impression that they were stressed-out, miserable, exhausted, and broke), but then what?
Seven years of struggle and subverting your own interests to please professors, hours of unpaid overtime full of mundane tasks like marking papers, and quite frankly doing a lot of stuff that has no relation to your interests or skill development, all for the promise of a job that probably doesn’t exist…even my ahem advisor once told me that “sometimes it isn’t worth it”. Not saying that everyone with academic aspirations should become a trucker, but it seems like some balance is needed (between doing what you love, feeding yourself, and having actual future career prospects).

*To note: I was in the humanities division at a US university, and fraternized mostly with humanities and social sciences students. The situation might be different for science students (where there’s not always an overriding assumption that all students will go on to be professors, and where academic fields are actually growing), and is certainly different for students at schools outside of the US. But what I found in America is near-blind adherence to the idea that pursuing a PhD is the loftiest aspiration one can have, and is something that must be pursued without question – even if you’re broke, even if you don’t actually get to spend your time doing what you love or are ‘guided away’ from pursuing your interests, even if you have very slim career prospects. That’s something I might question.



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