I Want to Continue in Academia, But My Father Wants Me to be Financially Independent

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male graduate student in my 20s. I hate my father who pesters me about money and how I am seen by others.

I entered graduate school to pursue a master’s degree and do research on foreign languages. Right now, I enjoy my studies and have found a field that I want to put my heart into for the rest of my life. I would like to continue spending my life in academia, but I am conflicted because of financial issues.

My father is very strict about money and constantly tells me that I should be responsible for everything after entering a doctoral program. He also says that many people of my generation have already found jobs and are financially independent.

It is not realistic for me to work part-time to earn money for a living while doing postgraduate work. Even if I could do so, I would not be able to take time off for my research.

I can’t concentrate on my research when I think about money, and feel depressed when I think that I have no other choice but to give up everything and get a job. I cannot see any hope in my future.

— T, Osaka Prefecture

Dear Mr. T:

I am glad that you have found a field that you can devote yourself to. The financial livelihood of aspiring researchers has always been a major issue.

In that sense, the first thing you have to do is realize how fortunate you have been up till now. You criticize your father for nagging you, but if anything you should be grateful that you have made it as far as graduate school without worrying about money. Your parents have their own lives, too. They are not ATMs that allow you to do whatever you want.

There are many graduate students around me who live alone, working part-time and obtain scholarships without receiving any support from their parents. They are continuing their research activities while barely making ends meet.

Of course, there is the problem that the financial situation of researchers as a whole is not favorable in Japan. However, this does not mean that it is acceptable to live off your parents like a parasite.

If you really want to continue your studies, you should show your ability and try to get money on your own by being selected as a research fellow at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, for example.

You can also go to a graduate school overseas and receive student aid that does not have to be repaid.

Above all, if you are not prepared to continue your research even if you become poor in the future, I recommend that you find a regular job and continue your research as a hobby.

— Masahiro Yamada, university professor