We have argued before that academia is just a job.
We have marveled at how willingness to do math opens up a world of opportunities. (Though not necessarily with a math PhD… but if you’re willing to do the same math as say, an engineer, you’re in better shape. And hey, you can always take actuarial exams or maybe work for the NSA with that math degree.)
So… does the fact that you’ve suffered for 5-7 (or more!) years in a PhD program and gotten your hood and your diploma mean that you are entitled a tenure-track job? What about your debt? Your lost opportunity costs? Are you entitled to compensation for that?
The fact is, there’s an excess supply of PhDs compared to the demand for tenure-track professors in most fields. In fields where industry can absorb those extra PhDs at salaries higher than their t-t counterparts, that’s not so bad. You can cry about your industry job all the way to the bank, so to speak. In fields where the PhD doesn’t provide many additional earnings opportunities, that leads to a lot of unemployed and underemployed people with doctorates. We end up with a lot of people being exploited as adjuncts in the hope that if they put their time in they can get one of those elusive tenure-track jobs. People are willing through their actions to accept very little pay and bad working conditions simply because they hope it will lead to better employment later, and there’s enough of these people that it drives the cost of adjuncts down.
Sometimes you work hard and you take risks and those risks don’t pan out. It would be nice if there were exactly the number of jobs available for the people qualified for them who wanted them and they matched up perfectly and paid well. But not only are there differing demands for different skill sets, but some sets at the same skill level seem to be more likable than others. People like studying the humanities. There’s not enough demand for PhD level humanities skills to ensure all humanities PhDs a living wage using those skills.
So… are PhDs entitled to tenured jobs? Is anyone entitled to anything besides life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?