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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Can't Get Tenure? Then Get a Real Job

Bloomberg op-ed:   Can't Get Tenure?  Then Get a Real Job, by Megan McArdle:

[A]cademia is now one of the most exploitative labor markets in the world. It’s not quite up there with Hollywood and Broadway in taking kids with a dream and encouraging them to waste the formative decade(s) of their work life chasing after a brass ring that they’re vanishingly unlikely to get, then dumping them on the job market with fewer employment prospects than they had at 22. But it certainly seems to be trying to catch up.

As I’ve remarked before, it’s not surprising that so many academics believe that the American workplace is a desperately oppressive and exploitative environment in which employers can endlessly abuse workers without fear of reprisal, or of losing the workers. That’s a pretty accurate description of the job market for academic labor ... until you have tenure. ...

If we want the job market to get better for academics, then graduate programs have to admit fewer students. A lot fewer.

The “tournament model” of employment, in which a lucky few win the lottery while most people scrape by on very little, is a cruel and unattractive way to run a business. But it is cruelest in glamor industries such as the arts. Growing up on the Upper West Side, before it became the exclusive province of the wealthy, I inevitably met a lot of the people this model destroyed. The worst off were the folks who’d kept getting just a taste of success -- a minor part in a Broadway show, a critically acclaimed performance at a second-tier festival. Those folks kept waiting until their late 30s or early 40s for success and security that never arrived. By the time it was clear it never would, they were broke, and trying to start another career at a time when most people are heading into their peak earnings years. And the slow crushing of hope over a process of decades often did something tragic to their souls.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/01/cant-get-tenure.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

And journalism, in which you can apparently say anything without supporting it.

Posted by: michael livingston | Jan 9, 2014 1:36:08 AM

The same is true in legal employment which is why the scam bloggers are so angry at law schools.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 9, 2014 3:23:15 AM

I think you exaggerate, anon. The legal market is bad, but not nearly so brass-ring tinged or unrealistic as the entertainment, professional sports, “creative” writing, and academic employment markets. Don’t get me wrong here. Law schools should be held to a higher standard in their employment result reporting and representations. But there are a lot more high school, college, and former college athletes out there who actually believe, or have been led to believe, that they have a chance at a professional career. I would rather we did something about the Florida States, Kentuckys, and Stanfords who lure poor and middle-class high school athletes into the NCAA grinder and then dump them three or four years later with life-changing injuries, no degrees, and no prospects.

And let’s remember that legal employment has a well-known and well-defined bi-modal salary distribution. Yes, there are fewer BigLaw jobs that pay $160k/year than there used to be. But there are still realistic possibilities–now increasing–for $60k jobs. No, they won’t get rich, but they can have stable and fulfilling careers. Who wants to sort documents in a windowless room for $160k a year anyway? Really?

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jan 9, 2014 9:05:51 AM

Stable career at a small firm paying $60k? You know what is worse than being at the mercy of Big Law partners, being at the mercy of a small number of partners that make it very clear all they want is to make as much money off you as possible and will replace you once you cost too much. At least at Big Law, you get the sparkly name for your resume and a nice pay check till they weed you out. At small law, you get a second-rate resume filler name with significantly less pay and benefits. Not sure which path is more fulfilling and rewarding as a career.

Posted by: Daniel Waters | Jan 9, 2014 10:17:29 AM

"I would rather we did something about the Florida States, Kentuckys, and Stanfords who lure poor and middle-class high school athletes into the NCAA grinder and then dump them three or four years later with life-changing injuries, no degrees, and no prospects."

I don't know how Stanford got on that list.

Stanford prides itself on having the highest graduation rates in the Pac-12 year in and year out. This week’s rates, released by the NCAA, again showed how strong the Cardinal are in the books. Among teams in the Top 25, Stanford football has the highest Graduation Success Rate at 93 percent graduating.
http://blog.sfgate.com/stanfordsports/2013/10/24/stanford-tops-pac-12-in-graduation-rate-cal-brings-up-rear/

Posted by: Bill Woods | Jan 10, 2014 1:50:44 PM

"And let’s remember that legal employment has a well-known and well-defined bi-modal salary distribution"

That "well-known" bit is just plain *wrong*.

The NALP didn't even run the analysis generating that result until *2006* and didn't publish it until 2009. (Go search the NALP website).

Hundreds of thousands of JDs were defrauded into the "profession" by the carefully crafted and widely published lies of the law schools (may they be damned forever).

Posted by: cas127 | Jan 10, 2014 4:35:19 PM