Education: Future Imperfect: Become a Consultant

The job market for many academics in the humanities and social sciences has been awful for decades now and shows no sign of improvement. Many wonderful graduate students who receive doctorates can’t find academic jobs, though some find rewarding careers in other areas like museums, libraries, films, and the social media. The one area, however, that appears to be growing ever more is that of the educational consultant. Ever more colleges, universities, and, as in Maine, university systems spend untold amounts of money every year on consultants. Their areas of alleged expertise ranges from campus planning to campus enrollment. Some indeed have first-rate educational backgrounds, like the numerous one-time top administrators who, voluntarily or not, have left deanships or vice presidencies or presidencies or chancellorships. But not a few have less impressive credentials and, in some cases, are failed academics. Whatever the case, consultants make handsome incomes yet are not responsible for the outcomes of their recommendations. In a manner akin to talking heads on sports radio and TV and likewise in the realm of politics, educational consultants aren’t usually penalized in any way if their analyses or predictions go wildly wrong. Far from it. They usually keep  being hired regardless of their records, especially, as in the case of the UME System, when it’s easier to do this rather than seek out experts already on the faculty or on the staff. Money, moreover, is almost never a problem, for higher ed institutions like the UME System invariably find hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of allegedly scare dollars to spend on consultants. LET ME BE CLEAR: There is nothing inherently wrong with hiring consultants, but there is surely something profoundly wrong when loyal faculty and staff are denied modest payraises so that huge sums can instead be spent on consultants.

But for graduate students and degree holders seeking jobs in academia, I strongly recommend the consultant route. There appears to be little to lose and much to gain..