You’re still in school??

– written by Dendrite

“You’re Still in School?”

Yep.  But pursuing a PhD is an entirely different kind of school than medical or law school.  Getting a PhD in science means school is paid for through teaching and research positions, you receive a modest stipend to pay rent, and unlike a professional school, no money will come out of your own pocket (providing that you live frugally).  This sounds more like a job, right?

But, unless you are Doogie Howser, this means you’ll “still be in school” in your late twenties/early thirties.  This set-up is not easily explained in a cocktail-party setting (or to your grandma).  Sample conversation:

“What do you do?”

“I’m in graduate school-getting my PhD in biology”

“How much longer do you have in your program?”

“Probably 3 years, our department average is 7 years”

“7 extra years of school?  When will you get a real job?”

(Undertones of “aren’t you supposed to be an adult?  Get off your parents couch you free-loader!”)

I sometimes take this opportunity to explain that “school” at this point is really just doing research and teaching while making marginally more than one might make flipping burgers at McDonalds.  More often, I give the “yep, it’s a lot of school but I’ll get to be a professor someday!” answer with an endearing head tilt.

Yes, I’m almost thirty, and yes, I’m still in school.  I’m also a fully functional adult, even if I don’t always feel that way.  Though I haven’t yet come up with a quick and easy explanation of what exactly being in graduate school means I’m on a path to becoming a professor.  Though this path may be longer than many people realize I think what’s at the end is pretty awesome, so I’m content to stay put until I consider myself an expert in the field.  Until then I’ll just be in school.


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