Leaving the Ivory Tower
February 12, 2012 11:46 AM Subscribe
I'm halfway through a PhD program in the humanities, but I'm almost positive I want to quit academia after I get my degree. What are my best options?
posted by derrinyet to work & money (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in my mid-twenties and ABD in a top-ranked PhD program in the humanities. I'll be teaching and studying languages until the end of the next academic year. Then I'll be doing research abroad for a year, and hopefully finish the diss a year later (on a completion grant). So I have 3-4 years to go until I get my degree.
The problem is, I've grown to despise academia (the departmental drama, the exploitation, the entitlement, the arrogance, the masturbatory pseudo-politics) and at the moment I can't imagine living in that world for the rest of my life. My ideal would be working as an IT guy, either in an academic/library setting or anywhere else. I worked in IT in college and I really grew to relish and enjoy the problem-solving aspects and the gratitude and appreciation people showed when I helped them with their computer issues. I don't feel anything like that in academia. I do enjoy my topic, which is fascinatingly obscure and filled with unique challenges but is totally useless and incomprehensible to anyone outside my field.
So I should just drop out as soon as possible, right? Well, that's the thing. I'm not sure if this is something that will pass or not, and in the meantime I'm fully funded and making a modest, but highly reliable income. The two years I'll spend doing research and writing will be a lot easier than the current one, since I won't have any teaching or bureaucratic hoops to jump through. I'm very reluctant to throw away everything I've built up in this program--and I'm doing pretty well, with several publications out already and several more lined up, good teaching evals and faculty support, etc. My reasoning is that it's okay to waste my twenties getting this degree, since at least it's not putting me into debt.
Is this reasonable? What can I do over the next four years to make my path out of academia (and, hopefully, into an IT-guy kind of career) as smooth as possible, without burning any bridges? Is my hatred of academia likely to pass at some point? Please share your experiences if you've ever gone through anything similar.