25 Reasons why working at McDonald’s is better than being a graduate student

25. In order to get promoted at McDonald’s, there is no need to invent an original sandwich and defend it.

24. You are guaranteed a meal at McDonald’s.

23. McDonald’s has more people of color in top positions.

22. Once you submit an order to a customer, either the customer tells you what is wrong immediately or that is it. You don’t spend 100 hours making a quarter pounder, submit it to your co-workers to be peer reviewed, only to be told months later that it is too cold.

21. If you quit McDonald’s, no one will guilt trip you by calling you a sellout; rather they will praise you.

20. You don’t have to spend extra hours taking home meals made by trainees that are assigned to you, tasting, and grading them.

19. When a guest manager arrives, you don’t have to stick around to have overcooked food with him in the basement.

18. If there is no funding for your job for the next year, they will simply tell you to go home.

17. You don’t have to request grants to buy a cash register or French-fry machine.

16. Nobody ever got fired based on a low volume of articles in the McDonald’s employee newsletter.

15. You just tell customers what food is on their trays. You don’t have to write an abstract stating what is being served, then list the ingredients in great detail, so that anyone can replicate what is being served. As a matter of fact, if you went into detail how to replicate food being served at McDonald’s, you might get a visit from an intellectual property lawyer.

14. If you want to relocate, there are McDonald’s in every part of the country, not a few tenure track fry cook openings listed in a Chronicle.

13. At McDonald’s you don’t go to a nightly seminar, waiting for everyone else to stop asking questions.

12. At McDonald’s, you don’t have to serve on the employee evaluation committee if you don’t want to.

11. In the unlikely event that you are called to an out of state convention, McDonald’s will pay your total cost of travel.

10. To feed people weird chemicals In graduate school, you need to get an IRB approval; at McDonald’s, you just do it.

9. At McDonald’s you get to meet people of all ages, ranging from seniors who are getting their 50-cent coffees to children in the playground.

8. Switching shifts is not taken personally, the way switching advisors is — when really both are the same thing, trying to find a better fit between your needs and the needs of the program or franchise.

7. No line worker at McDonald’s ever pretends that their work has more social significance than it really does.

6. At McDonald’s there is a minimum wage.

5. In a few states, McDonald’s is actually required to pay you a living wage.

4. Federal law requires McDonald’s to pay you for every hour you work. If they made you take work home and did not pay you, they would be in hot water.

3. At McDonald’s there’s no need to wait for the year’s budget to get something, if a national commercial takes off and your franchise succeeds, maybe you can get a raise before your four month period is up.

2. No one walks up to you and says, “You are so lucky to take summers off’,” when you really can’t.

1. There is a real distinction between on the job and off the job. Once quitting time comes, you are truly done.

23 Responses

  1. Mistinguette Smith

    This article is funny … if you have lots of educational privilege. But it’s ultimately an insult to people whose livleihood is earned in low-wage service industry jobs. I’d like Class Action to consider taking it down.

    I’m someone who worked low-wage entry level jobs until I was 35. Then I went to college and grad school. I understand the difference between the two.

    Graduate school is hard, but it’s temporary. It’s intellectually stimulating and (outside of your program) highly socially esteemed. It offers a few years of drudgery in exchange for the possibility of a lifetime of meaningful and challenging work. No one can say that about working the fry machine.

    Grad students bemoan their long hours of dull work on the way to their PhD because they’re sure they are worth more than this. People who work at McDonalds bemoan their long hours of dull work because their futures look just like their pasts, and nobody will ever care what they’re worth.

    To be a grad student is to be exceptionally privileged. Pretending that’s not true *is* classism.

  2. Pingback : Tweets that mention 25 Reasons why working at McDonald

  3. TurkeyCreek McPorkRind

    Couldn’t it also be argued that claiming that no one can say that working the fry machine offers a few years of drudgery in exchange for the possibility of a lifetime of meaningful and challenging work is a bit “classist”? If not, the statement that “People who work at McDonalds bemoan their long hours of dull work because their futures look just like their pasts, and nobody will ever care what they’re worth” sure is! It seems that both meaningful and challenging are highly subjective, and even the idea that a life spent laboring in such pursuits is somehow more valuable than one spent serving the public is built on a semi-shaky foundation.

    While I wholeheartedly agree that being a graduate student is a privileged position, I also remember a brilliant mathematician who I watched drop out of college in order to manage a Burger King. He did so based on his calculation of how much debt he would incur on his way to a job as an engineer, how old he would be when he reached his goal, and how long he would have to work in order to break even, as opposed to how much money he could save at the BK in the same amount of time. His analysis convinced him that this was a much easier way to exit the rat race with enough time left to enjoy it.

    Whether he was correct or not remains to be seen, but the last I heard he had worked his way up to some sort of corporate position. Whereas, I’m still struggling for that intellectual stimulation and social esteem (which seems to get more and more rare as the years go by…) I suppose “to each their own” is my point. Well that, and its funny that in your taking offense to this insult to the working class, you manage to add further insult to injury.

  4. Tracey

    This is one hundred percent true. I don’t think it’s classist in any way. to the person that says going to graduate school is being privileged, i want to know what grad school you went to. I was not priviliged, i worked my butt off, paid everything myself, am still in a working class position and teaching college. I’ve worked the low wage jobs, and still have to work those jobs seasonal and part time, but i do not regret my school experience. This article is spot on!

  5. TurkeyCreek and Tracey and Jay seem to be missing a point about the difference between the academic life and a McDonalds job: the first is by choice and the second is, for the most part, out of profound economic necessity. Most grad-school aged people who work at McDonalds are there not because they had their pick of profession like Turkey’s math professor did, or even the math skills to calculate what he did.

    An academic life is privileged in more ways than just that choice between McDonalds and grad school, however. Like TurkeyCreek’s math professor, you have a high liklihood of starting in a low position and quickly gaining access to higher levels of management in a way that someone with just a high school degree will never have. The person who didn’t get a college education (75% of the US population) has almost no route to professional or economic success in this country.

    Jay, this piece seems ambivalent. You mostly complain about having been a graduate student. Yet in point 7 (“No line worker at McDonald’s ever pretends that their work has more social significance than it really does”), you hint at the hubris of academia and its part at keeping the social class structure intact.

    Which is it?

  6. Daniel

    To those who felt insulted, come on, people, this 25 reasons are a JOKE, One must not take it literally. It’s sarchasm at its (almost) best! So, ease yourself a little, and take it from a bright side!

  7. Of course it’s a joke, Daniel! But since this site is called “Classism Exposed,” are we not also called to name classism when we see it?

    I think Jay is onto something–but it’s not enough to say that it sucks being a graduate student. Most of the population won’t be able to get that (25% have college degrees, even fewer have graduate degrees), and he is missing an opportunity to shed light on real classism, like how “higher” educational institutions themselves reinforce the class hierarchy in our culture. (And since this is the internet, only 1% of the world would have a chance to understand this because only 1% have a college degree).

    I’m in particular thinking about Marilee Jones who was the dean of admissions at M.I.T. who had to resign in 2007 because she’d falsified her resume. Mind you, she was beyond competent at her job–so much so that she rose steadily through the ranks of a very elite institution based on real merit, real ability. And she had to quit. Yes, she lied and that needed to be addressed. But what it does shed light on is that there are a lot of jobs that “require” a college degree and sometimes an advanced degree, and apparently unnecessarily so. But Marilee got punished because she didn’t do what Jay went through?

    Now THAT’s funny, in an ironic ridiculous sort of way.

    I can laugh at this piece, and it also stings pretty badly. I’m sorry I can’t be as upbeat as you are Daniel.

  8. Daniel, here’s the problem with that not-so-funny article:

    As a lifelong member of the American underclass, never having had the chance to escape crushing poverty, which meant almost an entire lifetime (43 years in my case) of living under constant economic terrorism, none of the injustices and deprivations I’ve had to suffer (and am still suffering) matters unless someone with a PhD puts it on the policymakers’ radar.

    Lack of access to health and dental care, lack of any security at all for most of my life counts for absolutely nothing in the national discourse on poverty. My experiences and knowledge about poverty is dismissed — it doesn’t count because I am not considered an “expert” because I don’t have a PhD.

    So someone who is privileged who has youth and health on their side and who can afford to go to grad school; someone who never went hungry involuntarily, never suffered untreated dental problems (life-threatening abscessed teeth), never had to be evicted and homeless because of a $10/mo rent increase after refusing to give sexual favors to their landlord who was old enough to be their grandfather — gets to call himself a poverty “expert” and get all the respect in the world for his opinions, maybe nab some book deals and get on Oprah or Dr. Phil, or launch a lucrative career as a poverty pimp (Dr. Ruby Payne) raking in a fortune in fees for speaking engagements and seminars centered on “fixing” the “undeserving” poor rather than admit that poverty itself is the problem and that its attendant social ills are systemic as structurally determined outcomes of capitalism.

    So kindly pardon me if I do not find the article humorous.

  9. Riiiight

    I thought this was a “CLASSISM Exposed” topic under “CLASS in Higher Education”. I get the humor in that at least McDonald’s has a minimum wage, because you’re not even guaranteed any pay in a graduate program.

    The point is that in a graduate program, you’re working for something with greater opportunity in the future considering the temporary grunt work, but at McDonald’s a thesis statement is irrelevent no matter how hard you work at an original summarization. At a fast food chain in the serving positions, you have no input that can change policy or how the hamburger is made, but instead are bound to the manager’s or regional manager’s analysis of your adherance to predetermined critera over which you have no control ( a good or bad public perception of a commercial has more control than your work ethic).

    If some commercial isn’t recieved by the consumer base as intended, you may have hundreds of discontent customers to deal with who all want you fired regardless of your defensive support over your service skills. Who, because you work in a fast food chain, are always right and you are always judged by without question if the complaints garner any unexpected time from higher payed coorprate (more hourly pay or higher salaries means more stress on lower earners to maximise profits).

    Yes, the 25 reason’s has some humor to it, but it’s a little out of place on a CLASSISM EXPOSED web site especially in the class in HIGHER EDUCATION topic section, where CLASS divides in higher education are the focus , not gripes about how annoying it is to have to work for something you want-isn’t that a stereotype of poor people anyway? Again, I’m mentioning POOR PEOPLE and STEREOTYPES because, you know this site is kinda about CLASSISM. Maybe I ate too many lead chips when I was little? They are a bit sweet.

  10. Corin

    Jacqueline, is it not so that many of the underclass are that way because they themselves don’t have the dedication to work and raise their social status? It isn’t as though we live in India where your caste is what defines you and that follows you and your descendants for the end of time.

    “Some” of the people who are living in poverty don’t deserve to live in poverty, mostly children and people who have been dealt a bad hand. However, as someone who grew up without parents and in relative poverty I think I can at least speak for myself by saying that the door was always there for me to open and step into something new.

    If I want I can work a dead end job at McDonald’s, and I can go to community college on loans and prove myself to get into a university. The idea that a person can only do one or the other is ludicrous.

    The only real thing that can keep a person down in the 21st century in this country is stupidity and their failure to make smart decisions. As far as I’m concerned that is entirely fair, Darwinism at its finest.

  11. Corin

    To elaborate, I’m not saying that it isn’t more difficult for someone who is poor to get a higher education and raise the bar on the social ladder than it is for someone who comes from affluence. On the other hand don’t the affluent have a head start? This isn’t their fault, simply a byproduct of their upbringing the same as children growing up in poverty.

    The point is with the continued assistance to low-income families it is even easier now for people living below the poverty line to obtain an education than it is for the middle class, whose parents are more often than not struggling under mounds of debt anyway and therefore unable to assist with tuition as much as a parent making 25k a year.

    At the end of the day anyone can get a part-time job, apply for tuition assistance through the government, fill out a few merit or income-based scholarships, work their butts off and get as good of an education as someone whose parents have millions in the bank. Only at the end of the day, the person who did it w/ out his parents help really earned it.

  12. Ada

    Just as an aside, I’m new to this site: it really upsets me when people say that people in some form of higher education are privileged. I suppose I understand being privileged in terms of actually having access to higher education, but in a society where everyone potentially has that access how does working hard and using an opportunity you’re given make you privileged? To clarify, I live in England and go to university in Cambridge. I come from a family of six, am currently around 10,000 pounds in debt after my first year, and occasionally have to transfer some of my student loan payments to my parents to help support the rest of the family. I went to a state school and took my exams in a distinctly underperforming part of the country. Given that all children in the country are educated freely up to age 18 and that education up to that point and willingness to incur massive debt is all you technically need to apply to university, why is it that using that opportunity i’m still referred to as privileged? I am not trying to deny that there are real barriers for some people to education maybe such as having dependents or traumatic experiences but I really do hate when someone attempts to make me feel like I’ve had a cushioned life just because of the choices I’ve made, when in reality (with all things being equal) those choices are available to everyone else in the country I live.

  13. Austin Wallace

    There are always exceptions to the supposed egalitarian utopia some of you think we live in. Yes, it’s true that everyone has access to public education. What about those who have insurmountable learning disabilities? What about those whose neglectful parents let their severe hearing loss go undiagnosed? What about kids who don’t have parents at all? Ada says she hates when people accuse her of having “a cushioned life.” I hate when people with minor problems like indignation try to pass those problems off as significant. Whining is whining, whether you have the right to it or not…

  14. asdf

    I think this article is supposed to be a mockery of the administrative red tape in higher education. It’s not so much a personal complaint, but a way to underline how ridiculous educational policy/administration would seem if it were compared to a real world employment setting

  15. Ian

    I see that the vast majority posting here are well into their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Which is fine, yes, but I like to see younger people posting their opinions on this as well.

    I hope that this article was simply a joke, because I’ve worked at McDonalds for many years and I can definitely tell people that it’s not at all what it’s cracked up to be.

    Stay in school, even if it takes you 15 to 20 years to get what you want. I see too many kids drop out of high school and college simply because they are too lazy to fulfill a higher education. They work a low entry, minimum wage job for much of their lives and they eventually get stuck into a position where they can’t make any real difference with who they are.

    After they struggle for a decade or two, they’ll want to go back to college, and by that point it might be too late.

  16. Lawstudent


    I’ve done both, and having to PAY for the “Privlidge” to work (externship) makes you wonder if fastfood wouldn’t have been a better choice overall.

    BUT, even with $200k in debt, a lawyer starts out at around half that per year……so it’s still worth it.

    Social Class has nothing to do with it. Pellgrant pays for the poor to go to college. IBR makes sure you don’t have to pay if you can’t afford to after you graduate grad school even.

    No excuse, do it or don’t. Then live with it.

  17. Lawstudent

    Oh, and I got my undergrad done online in a selfpaced college.

    I did that while working overtime at only a dollar an hour above minimum wage.

    So yeah……………………………

  18. Sally

    These are all reasons why work is better than school. I totally agree that work is better than school. That said, I am in grad school, and very much resent the amount of out of class work involved, and I’d still rather do this than be a fry cook with horrific acne. But it’s possible I’m wrong, I don’t know because I haven’t worked at McDonald’s. I have worked my share of menial low paid jobs though. I like grad school better than working at CVS if that’s worth anything.

  19. Truth

    When I took my masters at a top UK uni there were international students there who couldn’t even speak English properly. Most of the assessment was by coursework and it was easy enough for them to just choose easy units then submit coursework on time after having received however much paid-for or voluntary help they obviously needed. Choosing easy units then being assessed solely on the basis of essays in arts-based subjects is a sure way to get a top masters at a UK university. I didn’t do that, I took risks with the choices I made. Nevertheless I did well and prepared a PhD proposal. There was no taker at all regarding supervision (among the very few people who could potentially supervise). The truth is, becoming a grad student in the UK at least has nothing to do with ability but how well you can make friends with a potential supervisor. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. In addition most PhDs in arts subjects are more or less just plain old surveys now. Or they discuss bullshit questions such as feminist issues in east African tribes. No indication of ability whatsoever. But if you’re cracking good at social networking, you can definitely get all the support you need, from supervision to sponsorship to teaching jobs. That’s the culture here. Just to put it in perspective. McDonalds is a capitalist enterprise and is MUCH more merit-based as a system than the UK arts academic sector. By the way the politicians have realised what it’s all about and are cutting funding to ‘jobs for the boys’ grad studentships in the UK. Being a research graduate student in the UK is mostly about politics. If you’re not up for that, you’re fucked.

  20. Hannah

    I just started at McDonald’s, and it’s hard work! It’s a little too fast for me. In response to the first comment, I’d rather be known as a “burger-flipper” working a job nobody wants to work, than a lazy ass cheating the welfare system like it’s a free money career opportunity.

  21. I’ve been working at McDonalds for over a year now and honestly it is not that bad. In most cases you will not have to deal with very angry costumers. You won’t always be running around 24/7. You do, however, get to socialize with your coworkers, and some of them are really cool. Also, for someone who has nothing going for them in life to work at McDonalds and do really well no matter what the situation calls for is quite remarkable. It is hard work, no doubt, and the repetition is even worse. I say, lets give a thumbs up to all the Fast food workers out there, cause they deserve it, and they have been waiting for it far too long.

  22. truth

    To the idiots thinking its one extreme or the other…….
    MOST college students work fast food at some point in their life (normally high school, sometimes undergrad) Yeah grad school sucks but its a stepping stone.

    You see those lifer mcdonalds workers? The ones who have those 20 year pins?
    Don’t ask them if they are happy, WATCH them. What you SEE will make you want to cut open your wrists before following.

    As for the “working for a living” commenter, you still have to be on foodstamps to survive, so no you are NOT ‘working for a living’ if you are an adult not living in moms basement.

Leave a Reply