The value of PhD's, part II

Susanna Cornett at cut on the bias replies to Jonathan's post on the value of PhDs, describing her rationales for getting one and taking a bit of an exception to what she thinks Jonathan's point was with regards to value:

I have to say, though, that it all sounds quite reasonable to me. Or, as I said to my brother, "in the context he's discussing, it has a lot of utility", when you're talking strictly about obtaining a job like the ones your professor has.

But that's not everyone's goal.

You can't assess the value of something - be it a car or a degree - solely on the potential for monetary gain, nor can you assess the monetary value of something to one person based on what someone else thinks it is. Wilde uses a super burrito as his example of exchange, so I'll carry that out a little further. Maybe I buy the burrito not because I'm hungry, but because my friend owns the restaurant and I want to help him out; or I'm homesick and they're just like the ones my grandma used to make; or I intend to freeze it to eat when I am hungry.

Which gets you back to a degree. Some people get a PhD because they want to have the whole academic career, from soup to nuts, and yes, those people are in competition for a relatively fixed number of jobs in a market with increasing numbers of people trained for them. (The available positions vs the popularity of the degree varies wildly too, so you can't talk about PhDs as a completely generic state.) But there are other reasons. Some people get PhDs, shockingly enough, because they just want them. Usually they want to get some utility out of them, but they would get the degree even if they were fairly sure there would be no teaching job at the end, because they want the knowledge and the experience. Plus, in many fields there are commercial applications for the knowledge that would keep people out of academia on their own preference. And sometimes just the PhD designation itself has utility as a certification that a person has expert status.

I think she may misunderstand what Jonathan was getting at by discussing value. As far as a PhD's value on the market, he is correct that its value is solely dependent upon the willingness of others to exchange cash for the services of a PhD-holder. Such is the way all things on the market are valued.

However, beyond that, value is subjective, meaning that each individual assesses the world around them, and assigns value to all purposes depending on how well they satisfy a need. When determining what to acquire or exchange for, an individual's own subjective valuation is what matters (that is, just because something may be "worthless" or "priceless" on the open market doesn't mean it has either value for an individual).

Which means that Jonathan's view of the value of a PhD is not that it must be measured solely in terms of monetary gain, but that PhD holders must realize that other people may not value it as much as the holder (and thus not employ them). It leaves open the possibility that someone simply wishes to consume the good of education to get a PhD, for whatever reason.

So we're all in agreement after all. ^_^

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Well. It's mildly annoying

Well. It's mildly annoying to have argued a point that turns out to be what you were saying all along. Fortunately, opining for its own sake carries value for me. :D

Cool blog, btw, and very cool article by Micha in Jewsweek, which is what brought me here to begin with.

Thanks for the compliment.

Thanks for the compliment. ^_^

Getting Micha to blog with us is turning out to be quite a coup, and fortunate too, as Jonathan (our most prolific member) is gone on vacation, so its good to have extra folk on board to carry the load in J's absence (heh).