October 21, 2006

$11.72 per hour

As a Ph.D student, I'm supported pretty much exclusively by the stipend I receive from my university, which is right around $15k before taxes. That covers rent and utilities, food, transportation, books, health insurance, everything. When I have the time, I can teach at a local CC for an extra couple thousand, and summer support is an additional few thousand. But those are extremely contingent -- they depend upon whether my department decides to give me support over the summer, and whether or not any nearby CCs need someone to teach a math class. The $15k is the only reliable form of income I have.

As a Ph.D student, I study a lot, and TA for a couple of sections of Intro to Philosophy. I would estimate that I've averaged 60 hours a week in studying and TAing for all but a few of the last 30 weeks; but perhaps this is a bit exaggerated, and it's more like 40 hours a week. If you think that's too high, consider this: I did not take a single day off between 21 August and 13 October. Some days I was only putting in, say, four hours; but most of those days I was working more or less continuously between 10 am and 10 pm.

Put this all together, and I earn about $11.72 per hour. With the 60 hour per week estimate, it drops down to $7.81.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data on average hourly wage for a wide variety of jobs. Airplane pilots (because of their low weekly hours) are at the top, followed closely by university-level instructors, engineers, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals. This means I can compare that $11.72 with averages in other jobs.

In particular, my hourly wage is comparable with that of "Guides", "Bill and account collectors", "Supervisors, food preparation and service occupations", "Furniture and wood finishers", "Production inspectors, checkers and examiners", "Automobile mechanic apprentices", and "Animal caretakers except farm".


Goddess Cassandra said...

One small quibble.

Pilots make incredibly high per hour wages because they don't fly very often at first. That's true. But it overlooks that for a lot of pilots, the hours are the paycheck, not the actual money. Lots of hours means more money. Few hours means debt for 30 years.

Luke said...

motivating, a little scary, and interesting. can I ask you a question? Did you immediately go from undergrad to grad? Did you take time off? If so, how much? I'm in that sort of limbo mode and am starting to wonder if I need to take another year off to, I don't know, just recharge and at the same time work.

MosBen said...

Well, I took a year off between undergrad and law school which I found beneficial. It always felt a bit snotty to me when I was a student to complain about having to go to school, but I definitely think I benefitted from having a year where I had a fixed schedule and didn't always feel like every spare moment I had should be used working on school. That's not to say I actually worked all the time in school, but there's a certain guilt I would get if I knew that I could be studying for something instead of playing video games.

That year off was a nice recharge and by the time law school started I was excited to get back into classes.

Noumena said...

Cassandra - I'm not sure I understand your point. Is it just that the case of pilots shows trying to rank objects based entirely on $$$/hour isn't the best idea? If that's so, then I entirely agree.

Luke - I strongly recommend taking a year off between undergrad and starting a MA/MS/PhD program. I did not, and I regret it often.

Academia -- like serious, professional activism -- is incredibly rewarding, but it's also incredibly demanding, and you will not be able to let yourself push back and take time off. I spend my evenings and weekends studying, and I have to force myself to read novels instead of philosophy when I visit my parents between semesters (and even then, I feel guilty). The drive to work just a little bit harder -- that guilt MosBen talked about -- is pervasive and indelible. I know lots and lots of grad students and pre-tenure faculty with sleeping disorders, and I'm starting to develop one of my own.

Taking a year -- or two, or three -- off gives you a chance to live in the real world: to think of weekends as time to relax instead of a chance to get even more done, to have hobbies, and to have friends who aren't your professional colleagues. It's important to take a moment and enjoy those things before enterting the academy, where you won't experience them again for quite a while.

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