[D]on't go to graduate school unless you get into a strong program. Period. If you get funding to go to a strong program, and you love the subject, then go to graduate school. The odds of securing a tenure-track job, indeed a good tenure-track job, from a strong program are very high.Now, I take it that the recent admonitions about attending graduate school do not just depend on the empirically false claim that there aren't any jobs for philosophy Ph.Ds. Of course there are jobs. Fuck, the JFP is proof of that. So, let's just ignore the fact that Leiter takes that claim as his ostensible target and consider the content of his claims (based on the placement records from 7 of the top 36 programs). Here, I hand off those duties to longtime friend, who will remain anonymous, who puts the point so much better than I could have (and with data!):
Right now, there are 65 people listed on Leiter with TT or postdoc jobs this year. 65. Let's assume that only the Leiter top 20 count as good schools. If they're graduating 4 people a year, that's 80. Being that 4 people a year is probably a pretty low number, this 81% job rate is our absolute maximum. Not to mention that 7 of those jobs are people from outside North America getting jobs outside North America. So that knocks it down to 58, or 72%. Now recall that Leiter ranks 50 US departments. We'll ignore non-ranked departments. If we assume that they are rolling out 4 graduates a year, which is a pretty fair assumption given cohort sizes, we're looking at 200 people this year competing for 58 slots, which is a 29% chance of getting a job.Let me just highlight the last point that my very smart (anonymous) friend makes because I think it encapsulates a very real worry: "[We] currently have people telling us that good people don't have to worry and they will land great jobs. This, post facto, is a great justification for those with jobs to announce that the system is very good at finding the best people." This, I think, makes the call to either require schools wishing to participate in the PGR to have clear placement records or ask evaluators to factor in placement records in assessing the quality of a department all the more pertinent here. Placement and department rankings according to "the quality of philosophical work and talent represented by the faculty and the range of areas they cover" represented by PGR ranking can come apart in real ways. And, where they don't, we need to be aware of the fact that, while perhaps one important factor, it wasn't just the strength of a program, as correlated with PGR ranking, determining the placement record of a school.
And this is again an upper limit, as there are unranked departments, people coming off of postdocs, people switching schools, adjuncts, and people coming off of VAPs.
Next let's recall that schools are moving away from TT jobs. The average age of a tenured or tenure-track professor is now 55 or so, as I recall. Which suggests that people are not retiring, and when they do retire, those lines are not being re-opened for junior people. So the trend is going away from TT jobs at all.
[Leiter]...makes a big deal out of his specialty rankings. And that opens up the number of schools significantly. If he wants students to not be misled, THEN MAKE SCHOOLS INCLUDE...PLACEMENT RECORDS TO GET RANKED. No school has an incentive to be honest about this, and most places lie about it.
Some people are whiners, I agree. I hate people that blame their job hardship on women and minorities. And [some] people do crap work. Fine, I may be one of them. But claiming that the job market is anything other than a crapshoot is just dishonest. When places get 400 job applicants, your application is not going to receive careful review. It's not anyone's fault, per se, it's just how the market is. Some people get lucky and get a lot of attention. Great for them. Most people don't. Let's stop lying and start realizing that the job market is just too noisy to guarantee that the best people get the best jobs, and the worst people get no jobs. Sometimes people do better than they expect, and most of the time people end up worse off than anyone would expect. But we currently have people telling us that good people don't have to worry and they will land great jobs. This, post facto, is a great justification for those with jobs to announce that the system is very good at finding the best people. But it's not the most honest story to tell.
The advice for prospective graduate students to consider the points and numbers offered in this post, I take it, is real and not silly.
-- Jaded Dissertator