Daniel W. Drezner

The most cynical, bitter political science video I’ve ever seen

Every year I give a talk to Fletcher students entitled, "So you want to get a Ph.D…." in which I do my darnedest to convince them to seek alternative paths — kinda like how a rabbi responds when someone wants to convert to Judaism. I am all too familiar with the possible downsides and relate these ...

Every year I give a talk to Fletcher students entitled, "So you want to get a Ph.D…." in which I do my darnedest to convince them to seek alternative paths — kinda like how a rabbi responds when someone wants to convert to Judaism. I am all too familiar with the possible downsides and relate these to the Fletcherites as clearly as humanly possible.

I bring this up because it’s been impossible to avoid this "So You Want to Get a Ph.D. in Political Science" video over the last 24 hours, as apparently all of my friends/colleagues feel compelled to blog, tweet, or link to this sucker on Facebook. And I’m glad to have finally seen it. See, I was worried that I was becoming the most cynical person in political science. After having seen it, however, I’m now certain that whoever put that together possesses oceans of bitterness that I could never dream of consuming.

Look, pursuing a political science Ph.D. carries all sorts of risks and all kinds of occasionally pernicious socialization effects. That said, I’m not sure that alternative career pathways for someone interested in politics are all that much better at this juncture. The intern route? [Insert your own joke here about interns here — ed.] It’s no less demeaning and far more cutthroat than graduate school. Law school? Supply vastly exceeds demand in that field too, plus it’s a vastly more expensive enterprise.  Political journalism and/or publishing?  That sound you hear right now is the collective gallows laughter from the employees orf that industry about its future prospects. 

The key piece of advice I would give someone who is undeterred in getting a political science Ph.D. at this point is to recognize five important facts:

1) The process of getting a Ph.D. can provide you with a set of analytical skills that are of some use in the non-academic job market;

2) 99 percent of Ph.D. programs are geared to make you think that the only job worth having is becoming a political science professor.

3) If you really want to be a political science professor, you might as well know now that the odds are not good, the job market is terrible, and your control over your future professional destiny is extremely circumscribed.

4) Remember how your parents told you that if you really loved something and applied yourself, you would excel at it? Yeah, that’s not always true. At the doctoral level, simply wanting something really badly is not sufficient to attaining your goal.

5) If you think you can resist the siren song of the academy, however — and this is an important if — then I can think of worse career paths.

Enough of this silliness — I have a talk about zombies I have t prepare. 

Every year I give a talk to Fletcher students entitled, "So you want to get a Ph.D…." in which I do my darnedest to convince them to seek alternative paths — kinda like how a rabbi responds when someone wants to convert to Judaism. I am all too familiar with the possible downsides and relate these to the Fletcherites as clearly as humanly possible.

I bring this up because it’s been impossible to avoid this "So You Want to Get a Ph.D. in Political Science" video over the last 24 hours, as apparently all of my friends/colleagues feel compelled to blog, tweet, or link to this sucker on Facebook. And I’m glad to have finally seen it. See, I was worried that I was becoming the most cynical person in political science. After having seen it, however, I’m now certain that whoever put that together possesses oceans of bitterness that I could never dream of consuming.

Look, pursuing a political science Ph.D. carries all sorts of risks and all kinds of occasionally pernicious socialization effects. That said, I’m not sure that alternative career pathways for someone interested in politics are all that much better at this juncture. The intern route? [Insert your own joke here about interns here — ed.] It’s no less demeaning and far more cutthroat than graduate school. Law school? Supply vastly exceeds demand in that field too, plus it’s a vastly more expensive enterprise.  Political journalism and/or publishing?  That sound you hear right now is the collective gallows laughter from the employees orf that industry about its future prospects. 

The key piece of advice I would give someone who is undeterred in getting a political science Ph.D. at this point is to recognize five important facts:

1) The process of getting a Ph.D. can provide you with a set of analytical skills that are of some use in the non-academic job market;

2) 99 percent of Ph.D. programs are geared to make you think that the only job worth having is becoming a political science professor.

3) If you really want to be a political science professor, you might as well know now that the odds are not good, the job market is terrible, and your control over your future professional destiny is extremely circumscribed.

4) Remember how your parents told you that if you really loved something and applied yourself, you would excel at it? Yeah, that’s not always true. At the doctoral level, simply wanting something really badly is not sufficient to attaining your goal.

5) If you think you can resist the siren song of the academy, however — and this is an important if — then I can think of worse career paths.

Enough of this silliness — I have a talk about zombies I have t prepare. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner