I've been thinking about science academia as an employer, or a profession, rather than as a vocation. It's full of very high aptitude people who do a lot of work for very little money. Why? They say they enjoy it, and maybe many do. As do I. However the nature of the work doesn't seem dramatically different to that in any other technical job. Most physicists I know don't do significantly different work than engineers I know. The work environment in a physics lab with a big experiment doesn't seem dramatically different to that at a big engineering company where I interned. If you asked someone why be a physicist rather than an engineer, they might reply that they want to be involved in fundamental breakthroughs or something of the sort, but it doesn't seem like most people in academia are producing many of those. Most people I know have settled into a niche of some sort, and then spend a long time producing incremental improvements on results that are only interesting to a dozen or so other academics. Meanwhile major revolutions have taken place largely in the private sector, such as the emergence of the internet. My point is not that the private sector is necessarily superior to academia for producing technical advances, but I'm left wondering what's the pay-off for those working in academia in return for accepting the worse conditions? I'm increasingly coming to see PhDs and postdocs as just cheap labour, and the most successful people in academia in turn are mostly just managers and entrepreneurs (ie. people who are good at winning research grants). So like everywhere. I have an ugly sense that academia is driven by status-seeking, and that this status is itself pretty much confined within academia. It's not like politics, acting, or journalism, which are also initially low-paid, unstable fields where most entrants are eventually forced to drop out, but where at least the successful gain a lot of status and power in society as a whole. Academia has some of the attributes of a cult: a closed, stable internal value system that does not make sense when viewed by most on the outside. A lot of academics seem to feel a duty to expand the system and encourage others to join it, but I'm starting to feel the opposite.