An elderly relative recently asked me how much longer I’d be in school. I told her that I would finish when I got a job, and that I didn't know when that would be. She was too polite to tell me that I’d given a peculiar answer. She knows that business, law, and medical students can tell you exactly when their 2-, 3-, and 4-year programs will be over. Why couldn’t I give a similarly straight-forward response?
My impression is that, in many graduate programs, the degree drives the job search. Medical students are going to take the MD, regardless of which residency they get (or whether they get one at all). Not me. With one dissertation chapter written, I applied for a few jobs this past year. Just for fun. And I even got an interview for a job I would have taken. When I didn't get any offers, I decided not to finish the degree this year. And I don't plan on finishing it before next year's job market, either.
This talk about delaying the degree may sound odd, even lazy, to some people. But, there is good reason to do it. I've got a couple more years on the graduate student gravy-train (including $20k+, health insurance, and limited teaching responsibilities). With a PhD in-hand, I'd be ineligible for this largess, and would have to adjunct like crazy to pay the bills. And those years of adjuncting would leave me no time to write and, consequently, little hope of ever getting a decent job.
And I’m still hoping to get a decent job. Over the next year, I want to share with you about my (terribly interesting) struggle to get a full-time philosophy gig. Next time I’ll post about some of my experiences from last year’s attempt.