Yesterday over at DrugMonkey, who congratulated everyone who got their NIH grants out, the discussion turned into a disgruntlement of postdocs talking about whether or not you could call being a postdoc slavery. I let the pessimist disgruntled postdoc in me come out again and commented this:
“Sure, being a postdoc is not literally slavery, and it was also my free choice to do this. But if I think about the fact that a large proportion of my paycheck goes to daycare and we had to move to a cheaper place to be able to pay for daycare, and I compare myself to friends who work in industry jobs, I sometimes feel a little sorry for myself. I love what I do, but it would just be nice if that paid slightly more.”
To which DrugMonkey responded:
“Yet interestingly none of us chose those other industries where we’d be appropriately valued.”
Well, that is not entirely true: this study shows that (at least in the UK but I don’t think this is an exception) only 12% of third year PhD students want to stay in academia. Maybe that’s because in that year they are all suffering from their PhD dip LINK, but it shows that not everyone WANTS to stay in academia. I don’t know what the numbers are for post-docs or even young faculty but from listening to friends and colleagues a lot of us are thinking about leaving academia. (you would think that this would make it easier for the rest of us to get enough grant money to stay in academia but I’m not sure that’s the case either).
To speak for myself: I would love to stay in academia and become a professor. I love to do research, think of new ideas and see how they turn into experiments and data. But I don’t love the idea that if I want a second child, I don’t know how we are going to pay for daycare. I don’t love that the past three grants that I’ve written have been rejected (all of them had funding percentages of less than 10%). And I don’t love that if I go to the home country lab that I’ve been talking to for after my postdoc, they can only offer me a year contract if I don’t have my own money by then (and with a year contract it will be impossible to buy a house and renting prices in the home country are insane). The fact that both Dr. BrownEyes and I are in the same position doesn’t help either. If one of us had a little more and/or steadier income that would make things easier (but then again; where in the world do you find that steady income nowadays).
I don’t want to be such a pessimist and I generally have faith that things will turn out okay, but especially now that I have a baby I sometimes wonder: when is it enough? And when am I going to look for a steady job with more security? And are those even around?