Long (mostly self-inflicted) working hours, low pay, one short-time contract after another and no long-term guarantee whatsoever. That is academic life for you, in case you haven’t noticed. Sooner or later all academics start to ask themselves the same thing that Gabby asks:
What are the nicest alternatives to academia?
My personal favourites are careers that involve telling academics how to do (or even better, not to do) their jobs. After years and years of having to deal with people that simply seem to be out to hinder scientific progress I have to admit I am starting to envy them: cushy jobs, a 9-to-5 working schedule, decent pay, stability. That has to fit your definition of ‘nice’. Plus the wholesome feeling of satisfaction of giving us ivory-tower people a nice cup of real life, on a daily basis.
To be specific, here is my list of favourite careers I would seek if I finally decide to escape the madhouse we call academia.
- University manager: who hasn’t envied them? This job shines with stability and promise of great satisfaction. In particular I would enter this career looking forward to the moment I get to decide on the fate of well attended curricula and productive research institutes based on economic considerations alone. What do you say? World-wide prestige? Sure sounds cute, but did you consider the price tag?
- Copy/Editor at a major publishing house: oh, this one has my mouth water already! As academics we are always baffled when our papers, already gone through five rounds of excruciating peer review bounces back at us looking nothing like the latest revised version. Misplaced equations, scientific terms corrected because they looked like typos, figures absolutely unrecognizable because of journal guidelines. This really grinds our gears, but hear me out: how satisfying must be to correct us! Scientists with years of studies on their backs, prestigious degrees, multiple appointments at well renown universities, and they keep mispelling the word ‘radioactive’? What is this ‘radiative’ that they keep gabbling about? Better correct all the occurence in this paper and teach them about scientific communication! Ahhh…the goosebumps!
- Politician: probably not a really good work-life balance if taken seriously, but a job ripe with satisfactory moments. You are the one in charge, not all these so-called “experts” that claim to “know things”. I can simply taste the satisfaction of putting academics in their place by reminding them how the real life looks like. They can keep their noses in their books and scribbles and Matrix-like coding thingamajigs. We are working on concrete problems here! Like how to keep coal mines operating forever! What? Carbon-emissions? Nonsense…
The Sassy Scientist
PS: Writing this post was a nice alternative to about two hours of academic work.