Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Programmer gets a PhD

Then he finds that he can't get a job:
I recently completed my PhD in computer science and hit the job market. I did not think I would have difficulty finding a job esp. with a PhD in computer science but I have had no luck so far in the four months I have been looking.
Education is sold as a benefit by people who work in education.  The benefit from people buying more education, so this really isn't a surprise.  But just like with a car dealer, expecting them not to try to upsell you to a more expensive model is like expecting a compass to point someplace other than north.

But the marginal return on a dollar of education is not linear.  Our hero in this story is finding out that the marginal return on his PhD investment is negative.

Now where have we heard that before?


Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

The money quote: "The PhD was on a very technical topic that has very little practical application"

So, an employer looks at his resume, sees "PhD" which means "I expect you to pay me lots", then sees that his PhD is in something completely worthless and the undergrad degree in the field that could be useful is 4-6 years out of date in an industry where that means he'll essentially need to be trained from scratch because so much has changed in that time.

And he wonders why he can't get a job. SMH

WoFat said...

I'll bet your local police department is looking for good people. And they no doubt have a fine retirement program.

Tony Tsquared said...

He has 2 options: college professor or government job.

I dropped my MBA off my resume about 9 years ago. I do not like management and would rather do technician work. You never get to turn a wrench if you are hired with a MBA.

FrankC said...

Piled Higher and Deeper might get him a job with a computer designer company. (He might have to move to Taiwan).
Desirable computer skills are largely based on Microsoft and Cisco qualifications.

OMMAG said...

I used to be a corporate training manager in telecom technology.
Our sales group hired a few PhDs for the cachet ad of course these guys and gals took themselves very seriously.

After all ... they were being rewarded for having possession of an advanced degree!
Of course, all them felt entitled to "special" training programs ad courses. Not that ay of them would pass the benefit along to the rest of the company. Just more paper to frame and hang on their wall.

Did I say that none of the PhDs were in any technical discipline? Nope, philosophy and poli-sci ... all of them useless.

Chris Byrne said...

The only way I'd hire a PHD programmer, is if their PHD was in math, physics, chemistry, engineering, or some kind of biotech; and I was hiring them to write tools for that industry.

As someone who wrote completely new tools (unfortunately in ADA) for doing computational fluid dynamics, because I needed them for my aerospace engineering work (ended up with a double degree, AE/CS)... no-one is more frustrated, or motivated, or better equipped to come up with better tools for the job, than the guy whose work is being held up by the horrible tools he's been stuck with.

Otherwise, what a PHD CS major says to me is "you have spent the last four years wanking over optimizing compiler design, or algorithms for reduction of discrete logic trees, and if you can code at all, I'm sure it's big, formal, bloated, and you have no idea how to work in a product development and release environment"

... and that's assuming your not a special snowflake or a primadonna.

ザイツェヴ said...

Contra Chris' over-generalization and knowing it all about CS PhDs, a couple of years ago Box hired a CS PhD, Kevin Greeman, who seems to be working out pretty okay. They needed a good understanding of Galois field arithmetics in order to drive the erasure coding implementations (in OpenStack Swift in particular, but not exclusively). That right there tells me that there are CS "PhDs" and then there are CS PhDs.

Chris Maynard said...

6 years out of the industry to do a PhD... Yea that will screw up your resume. If he was truly a programmer, he would have found it impossible to stop playing around with code and programming. So anyone interviewing him is going to question why and how he managed to not do coding for 6 years even though he claims he is a programmer.

Expecting results after 4 months... Yea... Good luck there. The general rule of thumb I have heard is that you should expect a month of searching for every $10k in salary expected. At the PhD level in IT the salary expectation should be well above $100k.

He admits that his degree has no real practical application...

And, any job he applies for that is lower than a director level he is going to have zero luck in because the people interviewing him are going to figure he will be taking their job. His best bet is to teach, colleges require a PhD, even though it may not have real world applications.