Over 5,000 PhD’s work as janitors in U.S.

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janitorphd Over 5,000 PhDs work as janitors in U.S.

There are 18,000 parking lot attendants in the U.S. with college degrees. There are 5,000 janitors in the U.S. with PhDs. In all, some 17 million college-educated Americans have jobs that don’t require their level of education. Why?

The data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and can be seen here in handy, depressing chart form:

chart Over 5,000 PhDs work as janitors in U.S.

There Are 5,000 Janitors in the U.S. with PhDs

At the Chronicle of Higher Education, where the above chart was posted, Richard Vedder argues that maybe we place too much importance on higher education, citing a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research:

This week an extraordinarily interesting new study was posted on the Web site of America’s most prestigious economic-research organization, the National Bureau of Economic Research. Three highly regarded economists (one of whom has won the Nobel Prize in Economic Science) have produced “Estimating Marginal Returns in Education,” Working Paper 16474 of the NBER. After very sophisticated and elaborate analysis, the authors conclude “In general, marginal and average returns to college are not the same.” (p. 28)

In other words, even if on average, an investment in higher education yields a good, say 10 percent, rate of return, it does not follow that adding to existing investments will yield that return, partly for reasons outlined above.

Whatever some eggheads work out “college” to mean for people on paper can’t really take into account the experience of going to college, but the numbers are pretty surprising nonetheless. So next time you see a custodian scribbling the proof to some unsolvable math problem on a chalkboard after hours, well, you know. [Chronicle via Nick Bilton]

Send an email to Kyle VanHemert, the author of this post writing for Gizmodo, at [email protected]

 Over 5,000 PhDs work as janitors in U.S.
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Posted by on October 25, 2010. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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31 Responses to Over 5,000 PhD’s work as janitors in U.S.

  1. greenlight Reply

    October 25, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I hear academics can be an eccentric bunch. I wouldn’t be surprised if those 5,000 made a personal choice–kind of like the homeless people who are found to be closet millionaires.

    • macewan Reply

      January 7, 2012 at 1:41 am

      are you retarded?

      • Person Reply

        January 7, 2012 at 1:58 am

        How’s that retarded? They might just be happier doing jobs outside what their field is.

      • greenlight Reply

        January 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm

        Actually I’m a PhD who knows quite well how eccentric PhDs can be… Just sayin’.

      • Selathiel Reply

        March 22, 2013 at 9:57 pm

        My school has a PhD janitor. He took the job so he could have more time reading scholarly works. Academics are really an eccentric bunch.

    • Bob Reply

      January 7, 2012 at 1:58 am

      You *are* retarded.

      • PhD means Pretty Huge Dick Reply

        January 7, 2012 at 3:03 am

        I’ve chosen to piss away shitloads of money and my 20′s to get a PhD because I am an eccentric son of a bitch and I love cleaning puke.

        • Really? Reply

          March 22, 2013 at 10:19 pm

          Most science and engineering fields PAY YOU to graduate school ya fucknut.

  2. C.H. McDermott Reply

    October 25, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Choosing higher education right now is a tricky and risky thing. Things are really up in the air when it comes to choosing the career of the future, because no one is sure what that is right now. When I got out of college I basically flipped a coin between going to law school or getting a master’s degree in journalism. Had I chose journalism I would probably be unemployed and very disillusioned right now, just like some journalist friends of mine have been within the last two years.

  3. Stella by Starlight Reply

    October 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Academics are “a tricky bunch.” L&O: Criminal Intent aired an episode that contained a line which will stay with me forever: “People are most political in academics because the stakes are so low.”

    These statistics, added to another discrimination – ageism – are at least in part to blame. I have a dear friend with three masters’ degrees: she is working as a receptionst, but she’s one of the more fortunate people these days… she has a secure job with good benefits.

    C.H., the only field that seems to have any possible security is in the medical field. California attorneys are getting laid off here,

    Me? I have my advanced degrees, and am hoping to land a position in a California-based market chain that has values with which I agree, and perhaps a server, both of which trump the office grind for me. Flight attendant doesn’t sound like a bad job: at least I’d have the ability to travel.

    I am well aware that my hire education will not provide any high-paying opportunities, but am happy I had the opportunity for my personal enrichment.

  4. Jess Reply

    October 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I’m working on my second masters and will soon be going into the education workforce. The ‘rents spent a fortune for me to go to Stanford, both under grad and grad school and I came out of there and went into Child Protective Services. Low pay, shitty circumstances but oh so rewarding, till it wasn’t for me anymore with the politics and cover up of some things I couldn’t stand by and watch being done to kids. It was hey Jess, quit or be fired since you chose to be a whistleblower. Guess which avenue yours truly took. Yeah you should be scared, especially if you have kids in CA that could end up in one of my classes ;)

  5. Mother Hen Reply

    October 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Higher education for its own sake is something to be prized, but until it is free for everyone interested in partaking in it, you’ll have to choose to play the lottery with your loans, hoping you’ll make enough after graduation to pay them off. In this climate, even graduates can’t be sure to find a job- a depressing thought to face with student loans on your back.

    I’m increasingly counseling younger kids to go for either a trade or into the medical field. A humanities degree…you want fries with that?

    • Jess Reply

      October 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm

      There are so many kids that are just not cut out for college, they need to bring back trade schools. We need electricians and plumbers and construction workers, oh and those are jobs that cannot be outsourced by the way. Medical is a good field to get into, another job that cannot be outsourced. We have ROP classes that kid can go into in 10th, 11th and 12th grade. They go off to learn a trade and get high school credit for it. I don’t know what the rest of the states do but we have the CA conservation corps, the job corps and things like that from 18-? I can’t remember, kids can go in and learn a trade, whether it is baking or building trades or business and if they choose to go to college help is there for them when they decide. Most of these kids too are lower income, so help is available to them for college costs. It gets me, the poor get help, the rich can afford the cost and it is the kid stuck in the middle that isn’t getting the help they need.

    • The Lawyer Reply

      October 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm

      “A humanities degree…you want fries with that?” And that sucks. That was my predicament. I got a full on liberal arts, humanities degree, and loved it. Got a job working as a cubicle monkey in a call center servicing and selling to satellite television subscribers.

  6. Pingback: Cross Posted from 2+2...who dropped out of college to play poker?

  7. SagaciousHillbilly Reply

    March 31, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Not surprising. These days, anyone with a handful of cash can get some type of “doctorate” degree without too much effort. Same with bachelors. The pool has been diluted. It would be interesting to see how many of those degreed people actually have degrees from legitimate colleges and universities. Not everyone I know with a degree is working a job that requires a degree, but they are working jobs that require some level of skill and creativity. I for example work in the EMS field. Many young people work entry level positions that don’t require degrees just to get a foot in the door. I also did that when I was fresh out of college in the middle of the last century.
    I suspect most of those on this list are graduates of places such as Argosy, Kaplan or Strayer U. . . pay your fee and get your C.

    • TheRiverJordan Reply

      January 7, 2012 at 2:44 am

      Not necessarily, while I can’t speak for them all (you may be right about some of them), the fact is those with PhDs are over qualified for everything. Unless you’re lucky enough to land a job at a college or university, you’re not getting hired. Therefore, those who don’t get those jobs take the PhD off their resumes and get jobs elsewhere, and apparently janitorial companies are in meed of workers…

  8. Mark T. Reply

    January 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I think about it this way. Education, is a necessity to a point. These days, not having a Bachelors or at the very least a good associates in a marketable trade, as a level education is an invitation for discrimination and poverty.

    Even with a bachelors, if you get a degree you don’t really like, or feel engaged in, or something that is not particularly marketable as a skill, and – last but certainly not least – don’t have the ambition – none of that will matter. So an electrical engineer from Princeton might find themselves sweeping floors, and so long as they are content, and their loans paid, it’s of no loss to anyone.

    Our nation is already hostile to education, to competence beyond that of a modern-day peasantry, smart enough to earn some meager wage, not smart enough to know they are enfranchised and can command their own personal destiny and their nation as they see fit, not leaving it to some oligarchs or ideologues.

    In that way , more education cannot possibly be harmful to our national enterprise, if that means there is an over-educated mechanic, or bricklayer or custodian somewhere, so be it.

  9. Mark T. Reply

    January 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    I think about it this way. Education, is a necessity to a point. These days, not having a Bachelors or at the very least a good associates in a marketable trade, as a level education is an invitation for discrimination and poverty.

    From “education” reform/disenfranchisement, intelligent design type assaults on basic science education, the collapse of public science support, from outsourcing, to the absent immigration enforcement, our media’s obsession with dumbing-down everything, to say nothing of the elevation of outright stupidity and directly anti-scientific political class, the bottom 50% of society is under full assault – all the time.

    Even with a bachelors, if you get a degree you don’t really like, or feel engaged in, or something that is not particularly marketable as a skill, and – last but certainly not least – don’t have the ambition – none of that will matter.

    So, to the point of the article, there may be an electrical engineer from Princeton that might find themselves sweeping floors, and so long as they are content, and their loans paid, it’s of no loss to anyone in some sense, but what it really represents, is a missed opportunity to identify what that student REALLY should have been studying and an opportunity missed for some other student who might have had better advantage.

    Our nation is already blatantly hostile to education, to the promise of some social mobility that a good education can confer to the recipient, so entrenched against competence beyond that of a modern-day peasantry, smart enough to earn some meager wage, not smart enough to know they are enfranchised and can command their own personal destiny and their nation as they see fit, not leaving it to some oligarchs or ideologues.

    In that way , more and better education cannot possibly be harmful to our national enterprise, if that means there is an over-educated mechanic, or bricklayer or custodian somewhere, so be it.

  10. nope Reply

    January 7, 2012 at 1:22 am

    what is this good will hunting

  11. MB Reply

    January 7, 2012 at 1:23 am

    I dont think your explanation of marginal vs. average return is correct. Plus, quote the damn paper. You use it, just name it and its authors.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      January 7, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Perhaps a new pair of glasses is in order? Read the very last line of the article and you will see that both author and source are cited.

  12. Anonymous Reply

    January 7, 2012 at 2:07 am

    False. There are over 5,000 janitors (etc.) working in the US who have a Bachelor’s or higher, according to your table. Not quite a PhD.

    • Brian Reply

      January 7, 2012 at 2:20 am

      False. It says there are over 107,000 janitors (etc.) working in the US who have a Bachelor’s or higher, according to his table.

      With a sample size that large, is it safe to assume 5% of college graduates have obtained a PhD? If that were the case, it would put the number of janitors working in the US with PhDs at roughly 5000

  13. Rob Reply

    January 7, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Interesting story. Is there a link to the source? I’d like to check it out.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      January 7, 2012 at 10:40 am

      The article was picked up from Gizmodo who picked it up from the Chronicle of Higher Education. There is a link to the source in the last line, along with the author name.

      • Rob Reply

        January 11, 2012 at 11:52 pm

        Ah, thanks very much. Sorry I missed it.

  14. Tom Reply

    January 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    That chart indicates that there are 107,457 janitors in the US, and that 5.01% of them (5,480) have “at least a bachelors.” The “5,000 with PhDs” claim seems unsubstantiated!

  15. Bob Reply

    February 3, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Ive got a bac. Degree in industrial design, and I work as a store clerk at the same place I was working during college. Main reason is…no positions available near me. The entry level positions were all 4-7years exp. min. It’s entry level!

  16. Boomer66 Reply

    March 22, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Too many people get PhD’s simply because they don’t want to get out of school. They found a home. Some get them in subjects like Latin Studies, for which there are few openings in the employment world.

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