I received my Ph.D. over a decade ago. A good number of my grad school friends are very successful academics. But many others are not university professors at all. A few didn't get tenure. One is a successful scholar in a think tank. Two went to business school and got MBAs.
I've been thinking lately about the two MBAs. One didn't get a tenure track job, so after a few years on the job market, she was accepted into one of the very top business schools in the country. The other never moved out of ABD status, and after years of no dissertation, she too applied and was accepted into one of the very best of b-schools.
I fell out of touch with both before they entered b-school. Before that, I think they were loath to speak to me much because the dissertation and job search were going so poorly for them. While I too took a long time to finish the PhD and had a slow start to my job search, I might have looked liked success story to them.
Anyhow, both have recently found me through facebook. They've been working at powerful corporations and have titles like "vice president of xyz." Now, I just read on a blog that University of Chicago MBAs, 9 years out, make $400k (men) and $250k (women). Yikes! Wow! And I bet both my MBA friends are close to the $400k, as neither had kids. Plus, I've seen photos of one of their houses. I can only describe it as a mansion--a humongous mansion.
The blog was by Virginia Rutter, and the main point was the gender discrepancy in pay. It is a good blog, and you should go there to read more about the gender issues she explores. But in addition to her good points, I started thinking that, at least in my own and similar disciplines, it can pay to fail and leave academia completely. $400,000 per year! No one should be complaining about professor salaries being too high.
On that topic, I should also mention that three of my professor friends over the years have married textbook sellers. Guess what--all three textbook sellers make significantly more than their professor spouses. One makes twice as much; another makes about 50% more. Need I mention that the textbook sellers only have BAs?
Yes, I'm a bit bitter.