The fact that there are postdocs (On the Campus, April 24) shows a failure of the Ph.D. educational system. The Ph.D. is supposed to be enough preparation for starting an academic career. The postdoc’s sheer existence indicates an unbalanced supply and demand (as many observed in the article).
The American Physical Society ran a guest essay in its newsletter several years ago in which a graduate student reveled in his seemingly unique realization that not everyone with a Ph.D. in physics would go on to teach. Apparently, his professors and department were saying or implying otherwise. The APS also ran numerous articles advising physics students to go into engineering, in light of academe’s situation. Never mind the fact that they then were competing with engineers trained in the field the physicists came to late.
The argument that the United States needs more STEM education apparently doesn’t stem (sorry) from a need for advanced degrees, but for workers who can understand the math and science to do skilled manufacturing in aerospace and the like. But it’s being used to sell more graduating Ph.D.s who have nowhere to teach.