The Appeal: After four years, you've got your Ph.D. and get to live a life of the mind on a halcyon campus. You help students to flower and conduct research that will make a difference, while enjoying maximum job security, thanks to lifetime tenure after just seven years. And with the cushy 30-week school year, you have lots of time off.
The Reality: The average total time to a Ph.D. is 10 years. And even a Ph.D. from a prestigious university far from guarantees a tenure-track professorship.
Even if you beat the odds, the professor's life is no picnic:
To get tenure, which takes seven years, one typically must, in addition to a carrying full teaching load and advising students, publish original research, serve on committees, and perform other university service. That means long hours and not even close to getting the summers off.
Even if they get tenure, many professors experience considerable frustration:
- the large gap between their intellects and drive and those of their students
- the desire to teach well but a lack of training on how to do so, and a tenure and promotion system that so heavily weighs research that it's self-destructive to focus too much effort on teaching
- the inordinate office politics (it's been said that nowhere else does so much intellect go into fighting over so little)
- the lack of ideological diversity. On many campuses, political correctness is rampant.
The Alternatives: university librarian, program analyst.