Working hard for our money

OK, academic scientists are clearly upper-middle-class, and on a day when it’s more obvious than ever that the poor in this country get a raw deal in everything up to and including disaster relief, I don’t want to bellyache too much about how hard it is to do a job I love in an interesting place with lots of smart people.

(So please, donate to the Red Cross or your other favorite charity.)

But still, it was interesting to read this on CNN:

A career with one of the most disproportionate ratios of training to pay is that of academic research scientist.

A Ph.D. program and dissertation are requirements for the job, which can take between six and eight years to complete. [Actually, in the UK it usually takes 3-4 years.]… Add to that several years in the postdoctoral phase of one’s career to qualify for much coveted tenure-track positions.

During the postdoc phase, you are likely to teach, run a lab with experiments that require you to check in at all hours, publish research and write grants – for a salary that may not exceed $43,000.

The length of the postdoc career has doubled in the past 10 years, said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. “It’s taking longer and longer to get there. You can’t start a family. It’s really tough.”

And it’s made tougher still by the fact that in many disciplines, there aren’t nearly as many tenure-track positions as there are candidates.