The wages of academe

Why, oh why, did an academic career ever seem like a good idea? Andrew Potter, filling in for Andrew Coyne on his blog, is, like me a refugee from academia, and notes with some gratification that starting professors in New York earn half the salary of starting plumbers.

And Philip Greenspun tackles the question of women in science — the question that got now-former Harvard prez Larry Summers fired — by taking a similar tack: “Adjusted for IQ and working hours, jobs in science are the lowest paid in the United States. This article explores this fourth possible explanation for the dearth of women in science: They found better jobs.” He argues that even schoolteachers are better off, especially once you figure in job security (rock solid for teachers at the point where profs are denied tenure) and the fact that teachers start earning a living wage sooner.

It reinforces the suspicion I’ve had that many academics are where they are because they can’t function well anywhere else — it doesn’t surprise me that profs are employees from hell. Those that can go elsewhere, do. As Potter writes (in the first link), “The simple fact is, trying to be an academic didn’t make me happy, it made me miserable. And, slowly, it dawned on me that there are more remunerative ways of being miserable. Or at least, less miserable ways of being ill-paid.” (Oddly enough, I’ve done both.)

(See previous entry: The road to poverty is paved with graduate degrees.)