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During a recent networking event in Manhattan, I had a revelation.

As I waited in 30-minute lines to talk with job recruiters for companies like NBC and Disney, I found myself with little to no individuality. The students around me, standing in line, holding their resumes in their hands with just an ounce of hope that they could maybe be good enough to secure an interview with these companies.

It was almost like I was being conditioned to fit into a certain mold; a mold that shapes me into a person who I don’t want to be, but need to be if I want to succeed.

I decided that I’m not going to measure success by the amount of money I make or by the value of the company that I work for. Success, to me, is being passionate about my career.

Realistically, the corporate world is not for everyone. While I have spent the past three years of my undergraduate career preparing for power suits and press releases, it wasn’t until recently that I became comfortable with the idea of pursuing a career in academia.

To give some background, I chose to double-major in public relations and French with public relations being my main focus. My freshman year, I added on French because I knew that I was talented in the language and I didn’t want to abandon that ability. Throughout my French courses at Penn State, I’ve consistently earned great grades due to my passion and talent for the language and culture.

After careful consideration and consulting from current French instructors, I’ve decided to go to graduate school after graduation to fulfill a M.A./Ph.D in French. Here are some of the key factors that have helped me make this decision:

Most ph.d programs are fully-funded.

I had no idea that most Ph.D programs in the U.S. are fully funded. This means that in addition to free tuition, you are paid a stipend as a full-time Ph.D student. While in most cases this stipend isn’t anything extravagant, it’s enough to cover food, housing and travel costs.

On average, stipends can be anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 per academic year. Some Ph.D programs even include housing and insurance in their funding packages.

While not all Ph.D programs are fully-funded, I suggest that you only consider those that will fully financially support you. I would not be pursuing a Ph.D if these programs weren’t funded!

the academic job market is better than you think.

One drawback to pursuing a Ph.D is the difficulty around navigating the academia job market. Depending on your area of studies, the job market will vary. However, after consulting with some of my current instructors who are Ph.D candidates, the academic job market isn’t as bad as I thought.

So many people argue that the academic job market is competitive and they aren’t wrong. However, the corporate job market is just as competitive! There are many qualified professionals in the U.S. who are struggling to find a job.

Your ability to find a job after graduate school is dependent on your network and graduate school program. That being said, make sure to check the job placements at every graduate school that you apply to!

If for some reason you cannot find a tenure-track position, there are plenty of companies who will hire individuals with Ph.Ds. You could also consider teaching at private institutions. Either way, there will be a job for you upon receiving your Ph.D.

Research, research, and more research!

Throughout my courses at Penn State, I’ve realized that one major strength I have is thorough research. I absolutely adore research in topics like literature, history and art. That being said, I know that I could absolutely dedicate time throughout graduate school to work on my dissertation and thesis.

The 400-level French courses at Penn State have given me the desire to analyze certain texts and movements more in-depth. Although I feel like a bookworm at times, I love to research more than required for my courses because it interests me. Don’t ask me about any French history or literature movement unless you want me to talk your ear off for a few hours.

Obviously, research isn’t the most exciting thing to everyone. But if you want to commit time to researching certain subjects, I highly suggest to look into graduate school.

I WANT TO TEACH.

Have you ever had one teacher or instructor that changed the trajectory of your life? These instructors are so rare, but once you recognize one, you will never forget them. There are very few teachers who I can give this attribute to.

I want to be one of these instructors. There are too many professors who aren’t passionate about their courses, but I want to help students actually learn.

If it weren’t for my current instructors, I would have not re-kindled my love for French language and literature. Through long office hours and talks after class, I know that they want me to succeed. This feeling makes the biggest difference.

Still considering this path?

That’s alright! This decision can’t be made hastily. Consult with your instructors, friends and classmates to see if they may be in a similar situation. I hope this article has helped you to figure out what career you would like to pursue!

Arden Ericson will graduate Penn State in May of 2023. As one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus at PSU, she is a double-major in Public Relations and French Language. After graduation, she will pursue a career that combines her passion for educational equity, social justice and French.