The Ultimate Guide to Deciding if You Should Get a PhD and Become a Professor

Zak Slayback
Age of Awareness
Published in
16 min readSep 5, 2018

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This is a guest post by Professor Jason Brennan, the Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University.

He’s also the author of several forthcoming books, including In Defense of Openness, with Bas van der Vossen.

I’ve interviewed Professor Brennan before on how he maintains a prolific output that helps him succeed in academia (to give you an idea, he sent me this article just a few hours after I emailed him requesting it, complete with citations). I asked Professor Brennan to put this together because he’s a great example of how somebody can be successful in academia and he doesn’t sugarcoat what it takes.

Should I Get a PhD and Become a Professor?

TL;DR VERSION: Academia is glorious, but the odds of getting any long-term faculty job, let alone a glorious one, are low. Know the risks and plan accordingly.

Zak recently wrote about the pros and cons of getting a master’s degree.

What if you love the life of the mind and are considering being a college professor?

Here’s some candid advice and things to consider. Also, presume this advice applies only to the US and Canada. Academia in other countries can be quite different (and in most countries, quite a bit worse).

To start, here’s what you do when you get a Ph.D.: http://matt.might.net/articles/phd-school-in-pictures/

Does that sound attractive to you? If not, stop here. If yes, keep reading.

A PhD is a professional degree, like an MBA or a JD.

It’s designed, rather poorly, to make you an academic. Some people — certain engineers, corporate scientists, would-be school superintendents — get doctorates for professional advancement. Econ PhDs can get great jobs in banks, investment firms, or in government. But in general, the…

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Zak Slayback
Age of Awareness

Principal @ 1517 Fund, Author @ McGraw-Hill | Featured in Fast Company & Business Insider- https://zakslayback.com/