By all accounts, theoretical physics is the one field of science where the academic job market is worse than that in the humanities.
Hm. Let's pause here to reflect on the fact that the humanities serve as a benchmark of sorts for scientists talking about shitty job markets. It's nice to get a little recognition from our colleagues across the quad, isn't it?
Pressing on, our theoretical physicist goes on to talk about one of my hobby-horses: junior grad students' stupendously bad assessment of job market realities:
It is absurd that 75% of entering [physics] grad students want to be theorists. It’s as though 75% of entering philosophy grad students expected to land an academic position at a research university. That does not happen because philosophy grad students are a lot more aware of the state of the philosophy job market.
Well, the first point to make is, yes, it is absurd that 75% of entering grad students in physics want to be theorists if those jobs are so hard to come by.
Of course, the second point is, if you were going to pull a number out of your ass for the percentage of philosophy grad students who think they're destined for research universities, 75% might be a little low. Add in the people thinking about top-tier liberal arts colleges, and you've pretty much got everyone in their first and second years of grad school. Sure, there are exceptions. But not a lot of people make the decision to spend their 20s in poverty, because their big dream in life is to teach at the Lower Donkey's Crotch branch campus of Eastern Arkansas State.