I Have a Ph.D. and I am on Welfare

I thought the real challenge would be finishing the Ph.D. as a single mother who overcome so many obstacles to be where I was walking across a stage with my son in my arms to have a doctoral hood placed over my head was one of my proudest moments. I thought I had overcome the most difficult challenges, but I was wrong.

I had began my higher education as a community college student ill-prepared for college coursework, along with supporting myself and working multiple jobs, I was placed on academic probation and dismissal my first year. In other words, I was kicked out of community college. I returned a year later and later transferred to UC Santa Cruz where I finished my Bachelors. I then moved to Seattle to pursue my graduate degrees at the University of Washington. Almost as soon as I could after defending my dissertation, I made the decision to return to my hometown with no stable housing to return to and about a week before was given the option of housesitting for a family friend.

Months after returning to CA, I found myself in the local social services office having to explain myself to a caseworker about how I had applied for over 100 jobs and I kept turning up short. It was hard in this situations not to blame myself even though I know I did all I could do. I recently went on job interviews where I was asked why I had worked inconsistently and I wish I could’ve told them exactly why, how after I had my son all I could find was adjunct teaching jobs which are low paying, temporary positions that are becoming the norm at many educational institutions, but I didn’t tell them that. As a woman in academia you never talk about your family especially not in an interview. I opted for the more “appropriate” response of it was never my intention to and I told them if they would look closer they can see most of those jobs are adjunct positions that are usually always temporary positions. I also couldn’t tell them that because my last job didn’t work out, I found myself again in 2017 on public assistance and how much I really needed this job I was interviewing for.

In this most recent situation, my first caseworker at the welfare office was confused, she called me on the phone one day to ask about why in a supplemental document she had requested I had referred to myself as a “Dr. Sanchez” and asked if I was a doctor why wasn’t I practicing. I explained I wasn’t that kind of doctor, nor did I pretend to be, I had a Ph.D. She didn’t understand. I then tried to explain that there are a lot of Ph.D.’s who teach and many are in similar situations because they work as adjuncts and she then asked if I was teaching. I responded that if was that if I was teaching why would I be coming to the office for help. She then requested I write a letter to her supervisor explaining why I was a “Doctor” before they would approve anything. I completed the request immediately as troubling as the situation felt because I needed help. I found it ironic that the same week this event happened, I read an article in the LA Times that Los Angeles County wanted to increase the numbers of those signing up for food stamps and why it isn’t easy. I agree. It isn’t easy.

I was recently assigned a new caseworker for welfare to work also known as GAIN, which I had never participated in before and he commented how I was the first person with a Ph.D. he had seen in that office. I asked him about his caseload and he said each of us has about 140 people. He’s now working with me to develop a plan to find work and satisfy program requirements so I can find work recognizing that most of what their offices offer is geared to people without degrees or those on the path to an Associates of Bachelors degree. Many of the people who are in GAIN are also on a pathway to find a job and there are stringent requirements to meet. If a person fails to meet them, they are counseled and can be removed from the program. Some of the requirements include going to their job center to log in hours (20 per week) to look for a job, working a job that is very minimally paid from opportunities the GAIN office has (these wages are not typically enough to get off welfare) and there is an internship option where a person volunteers 20 hours per week in a field related to a three-hour career assessment they must take first before being approved for the internship/volunteer opportunity.

While I may be off of assistance as soon as I find a job, I must complete the program requirements in order to stay in good standing because if I end up working as an adjunct instructor, I may still be on some type of assistance. To stay in good standing I must do the unpaid internship that relates to the work I want to do which was the best option my case worker and I decided on. I’ve been applying for jobs and am constantly submitting for adjunct ones. I know if I don’t get more than three classes this fall though, I will likely still be on welfare. According to a report by UC Berkley’s labor center, 25% of part time college instructors are on some type of public assistance.

I knew post Ph.D. life wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be filled with endless amount of paperwork and waiting rooms at different social service offices explaining my situation multiple times. Another challenge for me is the support of mentors from graduate school not realizing how important their support is post-graduate. While I may be struggling, I am also aware that this is not an issue that I face alone, as I sit in numerous waiting rooms it is easy to see it is a larger structural and societal issue, one in a country that still does not guarantee maternity leave to mothers, one that does not have universal healthcare, and one where countless hardworking people everyday turn to public assistance to meet basic needs and it isn’t for failure of “individual effort” or desire, it is a failure of jobs not paying living wages and if anything needs to change, that is what needs to. Instead, the poor are criminalized, when the only thing criminal is when people go hungry, homeless, and without access to healthcare and resources that we all need to live with dignity and respect.

 

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76 thoughts on “I Have a Ph.D. and I am on Welfare

  1. David Guerrero says:

    Thank for sincere inside look Their are many social impedements,
    We. Are failing to look at.Ibelieve this article may open the door to awreness,thus bringing the change required in our barrios and ghettos.Lets bring hope n change. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dr. Lana Walton says:

      Dear Dr. Sanchez, my heart is aching for you. I was teaching adjunct at a private college while working on my Masters, and left their to teach adjunct at university once I received my Masters because of experience in classes ideas teaching. The adjunct position was ongoing, however, but I had to renew contract every semester. After graduation I accepted fulltime counseling position with the state while still teaching, and finally enrolling in the doctorate program. I was told by a counselor when doing internship that once I received my doctorate if I ever applied for any position requiring less than a doctorate do not put it down because they won’t hire me. My goal in getting my Doctorate was to start my Consulting Business, and teach as wanted. After observing faculty being turned down for tenure who I saw as the best, I realized really quickly that you better have plan g. The social service department really need to invest in training on careers focusing on adults in higher education. Some adults with PhD s have even become disabled and no longer able to do that type work. With proper training they would be aware that attaining a degree does not guarantee anyone employment. It does, however guarantee student loan debt. I wish I could talk with them because they are do misinformed. Do me a favor, and do not best up on yourself. You stayed the course and completed your education. This hand up is purposed ti help all in need until they can do better. Hold your head up. I’m re reading to see what your degree is in.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Irene Sanchez says:

        Thank you Dr. Walton. I try not to beat myself up. Some days it is hard, but I will keep holding my head up. My Ph.D. is in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. My personal website has more information.

        Like

    2. Tara's Teas says:

      Thank you so much! I have a Master’s degree and felt so discouraged and disrespected when I had to apply a couple years ago as well. I found that the program was more hurtful to my progress than helpful. I’m so sorry you had to go through this and I’m so happy you have to courage to address the issue publicly. I may not know you personally but I have to say I am so extremely proud of you for continuing to pursue your dreams. You’re child is gonna grow up seeing that he/she has a better life because of you. Blessings to your success!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Valerie Lancaster says:

        I am astonished by the grammar and spelling in many of these posts. “You’re child” instead of “your child” demonstrates why this writer and others may be struggling. I do not suggest that their substance is not valid and correct but the form and presentation shouts out a lack of attention to detail which one would expect from a “Doctor”

        Like

      2. Irene Sanchez says:

        Dear Valerie, I tried looking you up to see what you do, but seems your website doesn’t work. I write at night with my son asleep and edit as I go since I do a lot besides sitting behind a keyboard with too much time. Obviously you have too much time on your hands to come on here to put me down and the woman who made the comment and a simple grammatical error. Keep it moving because I bet if I were to find your online musings there would be errors.

        My writing made it recently from this blog to Inside Higher Ed and NASPA-two reputable organzations. If you don’t have anything nice to say I suggest you keep your judgemental comments to yourself and perhaps dedicate time to making yourself a kinder person (there’s no editors or spellcheck for that) and fixing your own website. All of mine work including this one http://www.irenesanchezphd.com have a good one!

        Like

    3. JoAnne F. Henry, PhD (@JoAnneFHenryPhD) says:

      I thought my life would have some actual financial stability and community value added after I completed my PhD program. I have not found it to be so. Your story is the story of all to many of us. who fought our way through our respective programs to find ourselves under/unemployed, with the added extra treat of devastating loan debt(my school had many important things to offer–unfortunately sizeable money was not one of them). I don’t have a child to look after, but it it weren’t for public assistance, I wouldn’t have access to healthcare or housing. I worked and hoped to give back to POC in particular and to the larger community as a citizen of my country and the world.

      I understand your frustration and yes your pain–as I sat in the offices of our state’s Labor dept trying to explain to my caseworker why I had a CV instead of a resume, why I found it strange that they wanted me to test my ability to stock shelves at Walmart before they could help me and to come to the conclusion that their program wasn’t really suited to retraining someone with my education and skill sets. So I ended up becoming too old and too weary of heart and soul to get back into the game…le sigh.

      Under/unemployed PhDs Unite!
      JoAnne F Henry

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Irene Sanchez says:

        Thank you Dr. Henry. Unfortunatley this is the story of many of us. Thankfully I am in a job class right now in CA and my instructor gets it. He told me yesterday that I am the second Ph.D. in two months. We are not alone.

        Thank you for sharing your story.

        Like

      1. Carole says:

        I know what you all are going through. I have 3 masters and 2 doctorates and can’t find a job in Higher Ed or elsewhere and I am sick and tired of “dumbing down” my resume.

        Like

      2. subrena2011 says:

        Irene, I read this article some weeks ago, since then, I have been motivated to another level. Look at different things you can do and check all websites online such as highered.com, chroniclevitae.com, glassdoor.com, jobsflag.com and there are more. Look locally at community colleges for adjunct, temporary adjunct and look out for post doctoral fellowships at colleges and unuversities in your field. Just don’t give up.

        Like

    4. Elvie says:

      I’m in the same boat and with a Master’s degree. My life is in ruin because of loans and I still cannot find a job in my fried.

      Like

      1. Michael says:

        In what field is your master’s degree? Assuming the field is in demand, you should be able to get a job utilizing it. There are 3 basic factors that determine if we can get a job: (a) what are you willing and able to do? (b) what wage are you willing to accept to do that job? and (c) are you willing to relocate to do that job?
        If you are flexible on at least 2 out of the 3 factors, then you should be able to find work somewhere, again, assuming your graduate degree is in a practical field of study.

        Like

      2. Irene Sanchez says:

        I completely understand. Sometimes depending on where a person lives the jobs aren’t there and folks have told me to just move to another state, but then for some of us we would really lose a safety net. Do what you have to do.

        Like

    5. Michael says:

      Dr. Sanchez, congratulations on completeing your doctoral degree. I just recently completed mine, so I know how difficult it is. However, in your article you did not mention which field you earned the doctorate. I mention this because some domains are more marketable than others. Another factor could be earning a doctorate in a low demand field. Could your job search results be due to either of those factors? Did you research job prospects in your doctoral field of study before starting on your doctoral program? Have you considered getting state teaching certification and becoming a K-12 teacher? The pay is not great, but it is better than welfare or unemployment. Best of luck to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Irene Sanchez says:

        Hello Dr. Michael. Thank you for your words. I have a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. I understand all you are saying. There is a lot I left unsaid about what led me to this place because I technically can’t discuss it here. Yes I have considered being a high school teacher. I have some things pending in that area. I don’t see it as a step down because I just want to teach period and I have always enjoyed working with high school students. I know others in academia may look down on me, but they are likely folks who already do and in the end, they aren’t responsible for putting a roof on my baby’s head or food on the table.

        Like

  2. Self-imposed Exile says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I am sure that this will be useful to others in the future. I am wondering, though, what exactly you mean by the following:

    “Another challenge for me is the support of mentors from graduate school not realizing how important their support is post-graduate.”

    Are your advisors not willing to support your career goals outside of academia? If so, I completely understand, as there are several people whom I know in the same exact position.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Irene Sanchez says:

      Thank you for writing. I meant that some professors decide early on who they will help and mentor and who they are less “invested” in and this can play out after a person graduates too limiting opportunities not only while a student is in graduate school, but once they graduated. Also if I student is limited in terms of mentorship and support while in graduate school often times this means they wont be as prepared for the job market in some real ways. I feel as if sometimes when we tell people our goals and dreams and if they are outside of academia certain people will be even less supportive and that’s not only in academia. I also think that in the end they don’t pay my bills or feed my baby so I do what needs to be done and will continue to. Judgements help no one and neither do their opinions, but when they decide early on who deserves help and who doesn’t there are real impacts on people.

      Like

  3. Christina says:

    I’m so frustrated for you and all of us. I am fortunate to have a partner who kept us afloat during grad school and the last 5 yrs post my doctoral studies. I love teaching with a passion butbif it weren’t for the f act that I have the support of another person and income there would be no way for me to survive financially. Especially living in California. I spent the last 2 years unemployed and finally just accepted a position that is not in teaching/adjuncting but working on the student affairs side. I hope things look up for you soon. From a fellow Xicana-mama-PhD.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Irene Sanchez says:

      It is frustrating. I had to go through many many challenges just to finish. Challenges I wish upon no one, but dealing with all this now jsut seems so much more challenging. I fear as time passes, my dream of being a professor diminishes. I am not only applying for teaching jobs though, my last two were coordinating programs on both student affairs and the academic affairs side so I am not anti jobs outside academia either. My degree is in Educational Leadership and Policy so I can always go the policy route too if needed. I am applying to everything. Just had two interviews in July, but didn’t make it so I am back at it every single day trying to find something. Thank you for reading and sharing your story.

      Like

      1. Michael says:

        If you have time, you and all students thinking about getting doctoral degrees should read the short book: A PhD is not Enough, by Peter Feibelman. He warned that there not enough tenured faculty jobs for all the new PhD graduates generated each year. Caveat emptor!

        Like

    1. Ms. Houston says:

      Hi Marlene, in your work as a Licensed and Certified Make-up Artist, does that require you to travel? Do you keep your income options open?

      Like

    1. Curtis Creek says:

      So sorry. Just left a career as a psychologist, I was unable to find a stable position, all of the Community Mental Health providers here in my part of Washington State hire therapists and psychologists on fixed term contracts, which may or may not be renewed. Not to mention, grant funded positions are also by their very nature unstable. As a contractor, I was responsible for my own FICA and withholding, and had no employer provided health insurance….and they knew full well they didn’t pay enough for those positions to afford private insurance. Twenty years I filled those positions, and only got stability and insurance by moving from therapy to testing and evaluation for our State corrections department. I hated it, but I was able to live. Good luck. In 1974 you’d have had a half a dozen job offers to pick and choose from. Now? Better have a second job.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Andrea says:

    Wow, I had a flashback. I was on welfare after having my second child while attending college for my Bachelor’s Degree. I needed to intern to be a teacher . I was told that they did not support the internship and I had to have or get a job. So in the morning I would intern and at night I would work. I was not able to see my children except on Saturday and Sunday the system is horrible for those that are trying to get off of the system. The system is broken and honestly they don’t realize that each person that walks through the door asking for help has a different situation or different scenario.
    Luckily I’m not in a situation anymore. A lot of people do not understand the criteria of the welfare system nor do they care until they are faced with that situation of needing assistance themselves. But in a sense we are punished for those who have continuously abused the system and have stolen from the welfare system.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Irene Sanchez says:

      Many of those intern programs for teaching don’t let you hold another job and then they won’t pay you if it is student teaching. I always wonder how do they expect people to live. Then I found out they tell students to live off loans. It’s unfortuanate because teachers are underpaid and under resourced, but people want to teach because it is is a calling to many of us to teach.

      The second point you raise is too because it almost seems it is set up to keep people down. I wonder as I sit in a job class this month at the office how do they expect people to survive and sustain themselves off minimum wage? Then the automatic criminalization of those who are on welfare. It feels as if the negativity is constant.

      Like

  5. Maria Elena Gil says:

    Hello,
    I can relate to your post. What many people fail to realize is the wealth that lies in having supportive family and social networks. That’s something that Calwrks screening doesn’t assess. Add to that, being a solo parent ( especially if it’s REALLY single parenting- with no free nanny (grandma) or respite (shared custody). I too have been in your situation BTW. Not with a PhD, but with a Master’s Degree. I’d love a PhD, and intellectually can finish one, but they are just too expensive! But that’s another post….. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Irene Sanchez says:

      Thank you for sharing and bringing up the point about wealth. I know other people who wrote after this article saying they would be on welfare too or in horrible situations if it weren’t for parental support or even their grandparents. That isn’t the case with me though. I don’t have too much support at least in those ways so it feels like a lot of pressure.

      Like

  6. Crystal Rook says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your story let me know that my struggle is not just me, but ” larger structural and societal issue…” as you articulated parts of my experience to have graduate degrees and still have difficulty becoming employed. It has been hard to have to explain to people, especially people who work in various assistance programs/services why am I there with these degrees. It really has made me feel some type of way. Nevertheless, I still have hope. Keep pressing and moving forward. Change will come soon.

    Like

  7. eldercrystalrookministries says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and for letting me know that my struggle is not just me, but “a larger structural and societal issue…” You have articulated very well the struggle of having advanced degrees and still experience unemployment. The dreaded question ‘Why are you here?’ by people in various assistance programs/services really makes me feel some type of way. Nevertheless, I have hope. Keep pressing and moving forward because change will come soon.

    Like

  8. Ray says:

    I am an adjunct English instructor. I have been homeless for two years and am currently in a shelter. I hope to teach four classes so I may transition into permanent housing. I have been adjuncting for almost two years, and FT jobs seem minimal. The campus is blackballing me because I had an EEO complaint (which has no merit). I am now assigned 1 class per term. The struggle is real. Medicaid has helped tremendously. Unfortunately, there are no education jobs in Chicago as a result of the budget impasse.

    Like

  9. Paris AJ says:

    A friend shared this with me because it is essentially my story minus the child. Thank you so much for giving voice to these experiences. I was denied by social services because I had the adjunct position despite making $450 a month from that. They too couldn’t understand why someone with my education and resume could not find work. Although they wouldn’t give me assistance, ironically many of my siblings were on welfare and I ate off of them for years. I eventually found work outside of CA but the pay wasn’t as promising. I eventually went back to school for a 2nd masters to change careers into a field I was willing fight the employment battle over. After getting that degree, I still struggled to find consist full-time work. I have had a MA since 2007 and have yet to find a full-time gig with income that covers all of my BASIC bills let alone things like student and car loans. I’m now working on my PHD but have decided to run my own company. So I spend my time hustling up contracts. My support system is in LA but I find more work in DC, so I make bicoastal work. While I haven’t appreciated the struggle, I’m glad it’s made me unable to accept bull and to go my own way. Should you decide you’ll do the same, I’ll help you. Aj@a-well.org. Keep your head up. The little one is watching and our people made us ready for the path. Love to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Angie says:

    I have a masters degree,two bachelor’s two kids and no job. Social services has been my safety net during and now post school. My first position out of grad school didnt work out so now I collect Unemployment benefits. It just seems unfathomable that you can be this educated and not have a job. Either you don’t have enough experience or your overqualified and the company thinks your going to quit as soon as a better offer comes along. I have hope that I didn’t spend all that time in school to end up with a job that I didn’t need to go to school to get.

    Like

  11. miranda8merklein says:

    I was also a PhD on public assistance. I “transferred” those skills to organized labor and got screwed there too, but in different ways. I have no idea where we all can go. It really does feel hopeless at times. At any rate, thank you for telling your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dr. Bettye Okae says:

    I love ❤️ reading your article. I am in same boat however I haven’t applied for government assistance because of little support or resources for people who have education and experiences . I having hard time locating a job however the day is closer because I have three and I use all my saving. I am praying for you , we must keep in flighting!

    Like

  13. Brooklyn Culture Jammers says:

    Reblogged this on Move for Change and the Brooklyn Culture Jam and commented:
    I find this so sad, but also very much in tune with what my friends are finding– pursuing education in furtherance of career is not a working model anymore. I could go work as an adjunct right now, but I would make less money per hour than I would for doing word-processing as a temp. We’re becoming a banana republic, where the only jobs seem to be those that involve making wealthy tourists happy.

    Like

  14. I can relate says:

    This is an ideal depiction of what dealing with Social Services feels like for anyone who has achieved higher education. Shortly after I completed my undergrad degree, I found myself pregnant and needing assistance. During my intake interview with a caseworker, I explained that I had just finished school and the worker looked at me, six months pregnant and said “Oh, I’m sure you can find a job”. I don’t think that was a sincere vote of confidence but more so her jealousy seeping through as she actually did not approve me for services and sent me on my way. Many of the workers don’t have degrees themselves so they, for whatever reason, are not sympathetic to those who end up sitting across from them who actually do posses degrees. I want you to know that you are AWESOME and an ideal role model for your children. Although I know first hand that the struggle is real, you hang in there and despite what it may look and feel like, God’s got you and you in turn got this!

    Like

  15. Dahn Shaulis says:

    Xi, you are not alone. There are several adjunct support groups during these tough times. Try Con Job on Facebook and The New Faculty Majority. Joe Berry (COCAL) also has a listserv

    Like

  16. grouchyinparadise says:

    Thank you for your blog. I also have a PhD, single parent 2 kids and ended up on assistance (again) post-PhD. I know this too well. I was fortunate, my institution hired me as a f-t clinical faculty. However, it was still always a financial struggle that 3 years later, I am still crawling out of. I ended up taking a f-t admin job, I miss the classroom and have been looking for TT jobs to no avail. Meanwhile, I do have regular pay year-round instead of 9 months out of the year, which had helped with the kids. Strength and power to you. Keep blogging and let us know how things are going. I’ll be thinking about you and sending thoughts for the right job to come available.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. subrena2011 says:

    I recently graduated from a Ph.D. program in March 2017. I too am experiencing hardship. Prior to this, I was working as a substitute teacher. My Ph.D. is in education with a specialization in curriculum and instruction. I am networking but like the saying goes ” it’s not what you know but who you know”, so I am trying to know so many people. I have also read books about how to get a position in higher education and doing other things to get your research out there. There is a cohort on Facebook of Ph.D. graduates called “Capella University cohort, anyone can join from any school because they give out great information and they are very positive. I am glad you wrote the article as well and I had read many articles before about discrimination in higher education towards African American females but this is still an eye-opener. If you email me, I will send you what I have and I hope to see you in the cohort, they are very good. they keep you updated on everything. Please check out these websites: glassdoor.com, highered.com and try the community colleges as well. You will get something. I believe for you, you will be employed. God never leaves you or forsakes you and there is a reason why you are chosen for this assignment. God bless, Rev. Dr. Lavern Haughton White

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Morgan says:

    I have only gone as far as my Master’s degree (still working on my PhD), and upon completion, I did work with a Welfare to Work Program in my home state. This was entry level work that I did for a few years, and opened doors for great opportunities. Now while I worked this program, I met with welfare caseworkers who would say that people in my caseload were “LAZY”. I was very upset when at least 5 files that stand out in my mind to this day, had put in work by getting an education were not getting the help they needed. These were individuals that I met with that had a Master’s degree. Caseworkers were calling them “Lazy” and saying these individuals should be willing to work any job that is out there. I just didn’t understand why supervisors of these caseworkers were not brought in to offer these more than qualified individuals jobs, jobs that would get them off welfare. Even though it takes a job to get a job, how can people who are supposed to be trying to help others, not offer/create for someone a job opportunity that they are over qualified for, which would be a job that comes with a rather decent salary and great benefits, with the opportunity for promotion, all for the purpose of getting a person (and their family) off of welfare, and help open real doors of advancement for them. People with advanced degrees can sometimes have a difficult time getting a job, because those jobs usually take several months after putting in an initial application to even be considered for an interview.

    Like

  19. Jacket Jones says:

    I’m currently homeless! Thank God for family or this Master degreed, single mom, mental health counselor might be sleeping in her car! The system is definitely broken. I often ask myself, “what can I do to help change the system¿” I will be getting involved with the political system in someway to help change the system ie. temporary housing, resources, career development. ..to help people such as those of us with degrees that experience the challenges we speak of. I believe in taking my life challenges in life to see how to help others help me to my destiny!! I wish you all well and remember to practice self-care; and this walk is all about you!

    Like

  20. Victoriya says:

    I too am in the same situation and I honestly thought I was 1 of few. It affects your self-esteem and every other area of your life. I am praying for you. Check out teaching jobs abroad. I’m not sure if you have previous experience teaching but teaching English overseas may be the income stream you’re looking for. I tried starting a business too but that has yet to pick up. God bless you and your child and best wishes!

    Like

  21. Ciara Wilder says:

    It angers me how the government encourages people to get higher education, only do that to be in the same potential boat. No one with a masters, Ph.D, or even a bachelors should have to struggle to get your foot in the door. Were you ever told you were overqualified for a job? I’m just curious on that because I don’t necessarily know what that means.

    Like

  22. Carolina in academia says:

    I’m wondering if many of the people who are on this post have Master’s or PhD degrees from non profit or for profit colleges? I often see advertisements for advanced degrees from for profit colleges and wonder if these are similar to the students who have Bachelor’s degrees and have been saddled with debt from U of Phoenix, Corinthian and Devry. Are these degrees from Capella, Walden, Regent or others like this? If you all have similar stories and experience from these schools I would seek the advice of a lawyer who may be able to help you because it is a difficult market, but if you’re trying to get a job from a non profit educational institution and you have a degree from a for profit I’m guessing they aren’t ‘valuing’ your education in the same way and those for profit institutions have taken advantage of you for advanced degrees in the same way that they have for Bachelors degrees. Go after them in an organized way and in numbers!

    Like

  23. chris says:

    It really depends on the type of degree you go after. Certain PhDs can lead to good pay, but others won’t. STEM is usually a good choice, it’s where I’m at but it’s still crowded and you only need 1 PhD per 3-4 ms or b.s. degrees holders. It’s very tough to get ab job, I had to beat out 250 otter applicants for an industry job. For non STEM degrees I have no idea what you can do with a degree besides teach. And why would places need a PhD and pay more when a b.s. or ms is 95% sufficient. It’s a hard choice and I feel for you. In the end there are too many PhDs being graduated and not enough selection or cutting during they process as universities just are after $ and dint care if you get work afterward.

    Like

  24. Mary Costello says:

    I recently read an article about a woman with a phd in English who got tired of the adjunct merry-go-round and became a truck driver because she would have steady work and benefits. We are all told education is the ticket to success and it simply isn’t true. I wish you all the best.

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  25. Diane says:

    Thank you for sharing. I received my PhD from Berkeley in 2001, and have been unemployed, underemployed, and inconsistently employed ever since. I raised my two sons alone, as a single mother, and searched endlessly for a tenure-track position. I finally gave up and went into non-profit work, always hoping I could some day get back into my research and academic work. Since my last lay-off four years ago, I have been unable to find full time employment, and am now over 50 (with two grown sons in college) and was never able to enjoy the kind of career I was trained for. I’ve spent the last three years writing grants, with only marginal success. The challenges we face as academics just trying to survive are outrageous–especially for single mothers. It’s demoralizing, depressing, and personally and economically devastating, but I still stay hopeful that one day hard work–and maybe some luck–will eventually pay off. I didn’t even try the welfare route. If it weren’t for my parents, my kids and I would have been homeless.

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    1. Ms. Houston says:

      First, I have to say, HATS OFF TO YOU (and the other responders) for completing the Ph. D. level of education! That is truly a blessing. As an educator myself, I have taught in the school system, and was hired as a part-time adjunct professor after I completed my M. Ed. I also worked a part-time job at a high-end handbag store, in addition to teaching, for 17 years. I have no complaints about my part-time earnings as an adjunct, but I definitely understand that depending on where you live and your other responsibilities, the pay may not be enough. Additionally, there can be a total problem if your class doesn’t make – it means you don’t get paid. I said that to say that there have been times, when like many of you, with multiple degrees behind our name, the amount we are earning wasn’t enough for “ends to meet” from month to month. With that in mind though, some of the things I have always had are a willingness to step outside of my degree or career field to earn income in other areas, a very good work ethic, and an entrepreneurial spirit. I believe that no matter how many degrees we have or what our 8-5 is, we have to build something in addition to that to earn additional income and to build a financial fence around our family. We can’t have multiple degrees and be skeptical of other opportunities just because they aren’t “regular 8-5s” or come in a different package than what we are used to. We have to build multiple streams/sources of income. I work my regular job during the day and on evenings and weekends, I run my travel and fundraising businesses. I also have a couple of other areas that I am looking to invest in as well. We teach our students that with an education, they can live their dream. So why should the teacher/professor be living a nightmare?! We shouldn’t! Part of my purpose is that I want to live an abundant life, and I want to show others how to do the same. We didn’t get all of this education to be broke and homeless. I would love to speak with you and anyone else who reads this about building other income streams in your life. The possibilities are endless! I am in Texas, but am helping families build businesses in Alaska, North Carolina, California, etc. You and anyone else reading this – Feel free to contact me at sow3travelguru@yahoo.com, or inbox me on Facebook at Chrisdya Houston. I look forward to hearing from you!

      Like

  26. Michelle says:

    I began to understand the negative side of academia when I was half way through completing my masters degree. I finished and I didn’t continue to a doctoral program. Everyone in my program looked at me like I was a failure. Professors urged me to apply to a doctoral program but I knew it would be a mistake. After I graduated I invested all my money and opened my business. The best decision I ever made.

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  27. Bridgettely says:

    Have you ever considered teaching or holding a leadership role in a public K-12 school system? They pay really well and provide benefits for teachers and administrators with a PhD.

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  28. Kevin Aiken says:

    Thank you for your transparency, and the strength to tell the truth. I know that as a PhD. candidate, the daunting task of the dissertation process is a miracle in of itself. Therefore, I want to encourage you to keep writing your dissertation of life and I am sure you will pass your final defence! Keep on defending, because as long as you have breath in your body, there is always a chance. Thank you for this reality check! Blessings!

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  29. EastTexasPhD says:

    My husband says I should write a book! Somewhere along the way, the people “in charge” have lost their minds.We have recruiters without life experience as gatekeepers and hiring managers fearful of anyone who might know something they do not know. I worked non-stop since the age of 15 and never dreamed I would be unemployed for 5+ years. I was taught that education was the key to employment. As a PhD (with one degree in Mathematics!), I no longer believe that. If I could do it all over again, I would go to technical school or get an engineering degree .There are truly a lot of educated people and brainpower in our country that is going to waste!

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  30. Coffee Then Jiu Jitsu says:

    Reading your entry kind of scares me a bit. I’ve never had a problem finding jobs with just my bachelor’s, but I plan to get my M.A. and hopefully Ph.D. I want to do it out of sheer thirst to do research. I love writing, hence my job as technical writer. But if I’m going to end up worse off with a Ph.D. than I would be with just my B.A., I’m not so sure I want to go for it, especially since I don’t want to teach. I want to write articles, excerpts in books, essays, etc. I’ve looked at university websites and at a particular university, they have programs that promote those with a Ph.D. do pursue occupations outside of academia. I’m hoping it’s possible for me to find my niche in one of these non-academic areas. I’ll keep my hopes up for the both of us that our future, along with others that have or are contemplating getting Ph.D.’s, will look brighter.

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  31. Jane says:

    All of these comments (and the original post) make it clear that higher education is corrupt. People are encouraged to get graduate degrees in fields where degree-holders far outnumber available jobs. The programs recruit students merely to get their tuition money, or to be TA’s for lower-level programs.

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    1. Dahn Shaulis says:

      Higher education was literally built on corruption. The early US universities were built and maintained during an era of slavocracy (see Ebony and Ivy). Thorstein Veblen wrote about business interests in higher education more than 100 years ago. Adjuncts have been a growing phenomenon for decades and at are now the New Faculty Majority. Today we are entering a time of reduced trust in higher education…part of the college meltdown. Check out the Wikipedia on Higher Education in the United States. I have made many of the entries here.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_education_in_the_United_States

      Like

  32. subrena2011 says:

    Irene don’t feel down. I am there too, however, i belong to the Capella University doctoral cohort on facebook and they helped me to celebrate me when I was going to graduate school. I also obtained my Ph.D and I am still looking for a job with the Ph.D. I have learned to look every where. I use the major of my masters and I look for positions. I listen to people talk and I look for jobs with keywords I would not think of like my Doctorate in Philosophy in education with a specialization in curriculum and instuction. Before I would look in Curriculum and instruction. I started looking in educational testing, equity education and leadership for educational equity just this week. What I found was an organization for Equity in education and Columbia University Teacher’s college has a post doctoral fellowship for $50, 000. I am finding so many other websites such as: https:www.highered.com, www,chroniclevitae.com, http://www.glassdoor.com and jobflags.com. So, don’t give up, just look a little differently!!

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