Getting a good job

From: Mark Green <>
Date: Sat Jul 1 21:36:37 2000

> "Eric J. Korpela" wrote:
> > > If you amend that to "...learned more about a very specific topic in that
> > > extra 4+ years..." then I'd agree.
> >
> > That's not my experience. Specialization is required for the project,
> > generalization is required for sucessfully completing it. Perhaps it's
> > different in engineering than it is in the sciences.
> Perhaps. After all, the field that I received *my* Ph.D. in was
> CS, and the joke at the time was that only non-sciences tack "science"
> onto the end of the name of their field, hence "computer science",
> "social science", "space science" and the like. You don't often
> hear people refer to "physics science", "chemistry science" and the like :-)
> > > The principle problem with Ph.D.s is that their knowledge base tends to
> > > be as narrow as any other new grads; the only distinction being that they
> > > have significantly more depth in one very specific area.
> >
> > I disagree.
> YMMV. I'm an empiricist; I call 'em as I see 'em. Is the typical Ph.D.
> more clueful than the typical four year? Sure. Is the typical
> Ph.D. more clueful that a four year with four years of experience? Generally
> not. It really has a lot to do with the dumbing down of CS coursework since
> the late 70's.

Ph.D.'s are incredably variable. Whether they have a clue or not
depends upon the university, department, and even supervisor. I've
seen Ph.D.'s that didn't know why they worked on a particular topic,
or its significance. The only answer I got was: "my supervisor
told me to do it". As far as I'm concerned that's a total waste
of 4 or 5 years of your life. They are basically doing another
undergraduate degree, but in more depth. They will be no better
than a good undergraduate with a year or two of experience, probably

I will not assign a topic to a Ph.D student. I force them to
come up with their own topic, tell me why its important, and
do all the work to produce the thesis. In my area (computer
graphics), this quite often means a fair amount of non-trivial
coding. It also means doing a lot of reading outside of computer
graphics, and CS in general. I also don't care very much about
undergraduate grades, I want someone who can think for themselves
not repeat what the prof said at the front of the classroom.
In computer graphics, almost all of the Ph.D's go to industry,
at the present time its almost impossible to hire faculty in
this area.

I think part of what you see in CS Ph.D.'s is due to the job
market. A lot of the really talented undergraduates go
directlyuy to industry instread of going to graduate school.
The ones that do go to graduate school are always thinking
about getting a job, so do the minimal amount of work to get
through, etc. This isn't always the case, but it seems to
be the case with a large number of students. In the other
area I work in (media arts), the Ph.D.'s are far more
interesting. Since there isn't as large a job market (unfortunately
this is changing), the students tend to do research that is
of real interest to them, and not what will get them a job.
The difference in maturity is like night and day.

Dr. Mark Green                       
McCalla Professor                              (780) 492-4584
Department of Computing Science                (780) 492-1071 (FAX)
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2H1, Canada
Received on Sat Jul 01 2000 - 21:36:37 BST

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