Choosing a career in a declining profession

Reasons to do a Ph.D. could be at most four or five. Any collection of these reasons echoes very tempting in my head (comparatively, pardon my set of ethics). Any profession which has low monetary return for relatively hard work generally acquire some sort of respect and dignity (also a sense of morality lingers. Look! I am doing this service and blah blah..). The perception of teaching, research, farming, nursing, social services etc are generally based on these rules only. Almost all of the social works extract the respect they genuinely deserve by these facts and hardly from the fact that the person who is doing this job consider it a vocation. In a survival society like our where every career is mostly made at the expense of others, it is hard to be convinced that one has taken this career under one’s free will.   

This ought not to mean that people are in these professions are morally superior or more ethical than other presumably lesser mortals. The life of scholars (of whatever kind) is not much different and surely not superior that an ordinary person. Personally, I admire people addicted with something. Choosing these careers might as well be a case of not having other options –  which in a way, quite a reasonable argument. A lot of scholars took their jobs in academia after being denied a job in industries (Thankfully!). And one can safely assume they would have spent their life otherwise had the chance been given to them to be a part of better paying industries. For example have a look at the interviews given in oral history project of Princeton University.

Even after spending one’s youth in these professions, a lot of people leave these fields when they get the chances later e.g. a professors is taking up administrative work in an university. Few professors who generally lashes out on students for leaving shores for higher studies go abroad to join better universities. ‘To serve science better’ or some other suitable reasons could well serve as one’s vindications.

Picking up teaching, research or related activity as vocation surely do not need any reasons or vindication. In a country like India, where peer-pressure make people make their choices, it is really hard to assume that people will do what they really like unless they are born with strong will-power or live in isolation so that the influence of peers is at minimum. In this post-Facebook India, this phenomenon is more severe than it was in M. N. Srinivas time.

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Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

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