A PhD in classics mulls over the future of graduate studies and the need for alt-academics. Truth: The need to discover new outlets for those who continue onward in graduate studies has become most real.
I myself plan to do what I can to become a Philosophical Counselor. But my background in business administration and bookkeeping, I believe, also gives me the ability to seek after opportunities in NGOs and possibly among venture capitalists. That does not mean I will not seek to set myself up in some kind of teaching job, but nobody can rely on such opportunities being there over the next decade.
The Ph.D. itself needs to be reimagined. I love the knowledge I gained during my studies. I don’t want Ph.D. programs in disciplines like classics, philosophy or geophysics to disappear. Our society will be more impoverished without this segment of deep-thinking, dedicated knowledge workers. But Ph.D. programs must adapt and find ways to help these passionate minds apply their knowledge in society.
Ph.D. programs must realize that their focus on tenure-track employment is a thing of the past for the vast majority of their students. It is as realistic as the mass return of overseas factories to America. I am optimistic when I read about how national organizations, like the one representing my field, the Society for Classical Studies, are trying to help Ph.D.s find career paths beyond academe. Professors like Leonard Cassuto, author of The Graduate School Mess (Harvard University Press, 2016) are drawing attention to the employment travails that Ph.D.s face. I am equally encouraged to see that other alt-academics are taking initiatives. To cite one example, the Paideia Institute, a classics-focused nonprofit educational organization, is creating a network of classics Ph.D.s who have transitioned into the tech, education and business sectors.