Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Weatherson's Advice for Prospective Graduate Students

Here. I would have placed the bit about placement records at the top. And its worth attending to the placement data for students of your potential advisers, although I recommend keeping an open mind about who one's adviser will be and what one's AOS will be for the first couple of years in graduate school. (I chose my adviser in part by comparing the work of the students of the various candidates.)

Any other suggestions?

--Mr. Zero

23 comments:

Jaded Dissertator said...

Don't go to graduate school.

But, if you insist on going anyway, which you will, here's advice that will be in no way helpful to you: try to take some time off between undergraduate and graduate school acquiring other employable skills or just really enjoying yourself. I find the people who did take time off are much happier than I am.

Asstro said...

There's maybe more to say about recent graduates of the program. Don't just look at where they placed, look at what they're working on now and where they're publishing. If they're working on issues that seem like they might be of interest to you, then that's a very good sign; if not, then maybe not such a good sign. Those students are basically where you'll be six or seven years down the road.

Incidentally: has anybody noticed a stunning lack of ethics hires on the Leiter placement thread?

zombie said...

Don't go into debt for grad school. Not if you're going to study philosophy.

Xenophon said...

I'll second everything JD says. JD is very wise.

I'll add this: go back in time and get a couple of good internships in college, so that you can make the best use of your couple of years out of school. Maybe at an investment bank, or in the Obama administration.

As an alternative to taking time off, do a terminal MA and then get a real job. If you're wildly successful but find you're 28 and really hate working in the real world, come back for a PhD in Philosophy. If you're unsuccessful in the real world, come back for a PhD in English.

Anonymous said...

I suppose it's possible that non-regular readers of the Smoker might stumble upon this post after having lost the ability to detect sarcasm. This comment is for them.

Xenophon (at 3:01) surely meant to write, "If you're unsuccessful in the real world and would like to be unsuccessful in academia instead, come back for a PhD in English."

I second Asstro's and zombie's comments.

Polacrilex said...

Don't bother going into philosophy. Go into ontology instead. Ontologists make more money and are in great demand. If you can't find an ontology program, get a Masters of Library Science. It's basically the same thing. Just call yourself an ontologist when you receive your MLS.

Anonymous said...

has anybody noticed a stunning lack of ethics hires on the Leiter placement thread?

Well, if you take "ethics" to include applied ethics and political, then there are at least 10 hires out of 42 listed (40 posts, two of which had two hires.) Some of the history of philosophy hires might mostly be ethics as well, but I can't say. Perhaps if you take "ethics" narrowly there's a "stunning lack" of hires, but if it's taken in a modestly broad sense than about 1/4 (or more) of hires seems pretty strong to me. (I think the broader reading is the right one as many jobs are advertised so that the broad reading is the best way to look at things.)

On the main topic of the post, I'd say find out if funding is competitive among grad students each year. If so, that will make for a much less pleasant time and perhaps less cooperation.

Anonymous said...

If you are a woman, check (if you can) on the placement record for women. Make sure the students getting the best jobs are not disproportionately male. Check to see if there are any tenured female faculty, and if there are, whether they are central figures in the department or marginalized. Talk to the current female graduate students to see if they feel respected and supported.

Anonymous said...

FUNDING!!! for how long? what other sources after the original package runs out? summers covered? etc. makes a world of difference.

Xenophon said...

Actually, I meant what I typed.

And yes, it was a joke.

I'm not sure how Anon's edit is supposed to help, but thanks for the attention to my post.

More seriously, I've known academics who were wildly successful in non-academic careers before grad school, and also post-TT. I've also known people who went to grad school because they hated, and weren't very good at, cubicle world. It's rare that those people are better off in academia. But this is getting away from the original post, so I'll be quiet now.

Anonymous said...

Why say again what has already been said before, and so well?

(I apologize for the vicious reposting of these favorites.)

http://chronicle.com/article/So-You-Want-to-Go-to-Grad-S/45239/

http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-in-the-Huma/44846/

http://chronicle.com/article/Just-Dont-Go-Part-2/44786

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Big-Lie-About-the-Life-of/63937/

http://chronicle.com/article/Is-Graduate-School-a-Cult-/44676/




And, if none of that dissuades you,
http://chronicle.com/article/If-You-Must-Go-to-Grad-Scho/45269/

Anonymous said...

Do not go to graduate school in the humanities, especially for philosophy. There are no jobs, and the market, despite what some professors say, is not going to recover, ever.

There are 4 reasons why.

First, undergraduates are not going to major in the humanities at this point, because it's not going to help get them a job. And, whether it's justified or not, all your typical undergrad cares about in terms of going to college nowadays is to do so to get a job. Without undergraduates majoring in things like philosophy, this will not generate a need for humanities professors in things like philosophy.

Second, at the moment, the humanities job market, especially in philosophy, is already extremely tight, and it's just going to get worse and worse as more PhDs in things like philosophy graduate and compete for the already extremely limited number of jobs in an ever-increasing applicant pool.

Moreover, those fresh on the market are competing against tenured professors fired from places like in California, and a fresh PhD just can't compete with a seasoned professor with lots of teaching experience and many publications.

Third, there is a trend among universities, especially in the humanities, away from relying on tenured professors and relying more and more on adjuncts.

Humanities classes won't be completely eliminated ever. But more and more schools, especially in philosophy, are just offering regular introductory classes that fill general humanities requirements. And all you need to do is get adjuncts to teach classes like intro to philosophy and intro to ethics.

I teach adjunct at a big state school right now, and most of the tenured faculty only teach sections of intro to philosophy every semester, because that is the only class that there is a big need for many undergrads to take to fulfill general education requirements.

Fourth, right now, many colleges and universities are hard up for money, and the main concern of administrators is to get enrollment up and make more money for the schools. Such administrators are not going to pour money into things like philosophy, because that isn't going to help enrollment get generated at the school. They are going to put money into programs like nursing and engineering that attract lots of students.

If you have a BA in the humanities, or are in graduate school in something like philosophy, I think that the best thing to do is to start making plans to move into the health field, as that is the one area right now where there is foreseeable job growth for the future. Don't go to law school. This is a natural back-up for an academic, especially in philosophy. But the law market is just as horrible as the academic market, and it's just as bad for the foreseeable future as the academic market, plus law school will put you in huge amounts of debt.

When you are done, go to nursing school, or something like that, because that is relatively cheap, and fast to go through, and you will find a job, because the health industry has great growth for the foreseeable future. There are lots of accelerated BSN programs in nursing for people that already have a BA in a non-nursing field.

Anonymous said...

It always strikes me as odd when people offer the advice "just don't go" concerning graduate school. Do those who offer it really mean this? After all, if everyone took such advice, there would no longer be any graduate students, and thus no graduate programs. I doubt this is the goal - so what is the advice, really?

Anonymous said...

It always strikes me as odd when people offer the advice "just don't go" concerning graduate school. Do those who offer it really mean this? After all, if everyone took such advice, there would no longer be any graduate students, and thus no graduate programs. I doubt this is the goal - so what is the advice, really?

It always strikes me as odd when people offer the advice "don't drive during rush hour (if you can help it)" concerning commuting. Do those who offer it really mean this? After all, if everyone took such advice, there would no longer be any cars on the road at that time, and thus no rush hour. I doubt this is the goal - so what is the advice, really?

Anonymous said...

Going to graduate school in philosophy, or the humanities in general, with the aim of a TT job is like moving to LA to become a rock star.

Publishing and conferencing is like playing gigs hoping a record lable talent scout is watching

It is not impossible that everything works out, most people end up in a dingy apartment, with rent overdue, thinking about moving back home and looking for a real job.

Anonymous said...

If you are applying to grad school because you can't get a job with a BA in philosophy and you don't feel like your college education was adequate as an education -- and I don't know how clearly people at the PhD level remember just how rotten it is to graduate with a humanities BA from a non-Ivy League school; I really do think it feels worse and more desperate than the dim postdoctoral prospects -- realize that you'll probably have to seek a non-academic job when you get out, and devote as much energy as you can during the PhD to making yourself employable in some field(s) other than academia. Try to think about how your philosophical work might connect to other jobs and fields, however you conceive that for yourself. Try not to sign all the wisdom you gain over to academic institutions; humanities grads don't have to sign any intellectual property agreements (at least I don't think I did), so you can basically take everything with you when you go. :)

It is a bit hard to take the "don't go to grad school!" advice from people who don't realize that, for a lot of kids floating around with college degrees in philosophy working entry-level jobs alongside high school grads, grad school will not in any way make things immediately worse (and sometimes the grad stipend is *better* pay than the crap post-college jobs). Times are desperate for everyone. That said, I've had the "health care is the only growth field" thought many times myself, so I guess I cautiously endorse Anon 9:31's comment.

A question for all of you: it sometimes appears that having a PhD is a liability in the non-academic job search. Does it seem reasonable to hold off filing (if you've got that option) until you've landed a desirable non-academic job? Would it then be unwise to file the dissertation in order to have some closure?

Anonymous said...

If you can get full support for graduate school and not take on debt, there are worse ways to spend 5-6 years than studying something you love to get that Ph.D. Without full support, forget it.

And please think broadly about career opportunities beyond TT teaching jobs. There are many "public humanities" positions that require a PhD -- in education departments at big museums and historical societies, state humanities councils, city cultural offices, etc. At the university, some administrative positions are non-faculty appointments that strongly favor people with PhDs -- grants and development, e.g.

You need to start assembling experience in graduate school that will help you qualify for these non-teaching positions, but it's a career track that exists if people want to stay connected to philosophy and the humanities. The traditional route of teaching & research is not the only way to pursue a career in the humanities.

Anonymous said...

"A question for all of you: it sometimes appears that having a PhD is a liability in the non-academic job search. Does it seem reasonable to hold off filing (if you've got that option) until you've landed a desirable non-academic job? Would it then be unwise to file the dissertation in order to have some closure?"

It seems silly to worry about when you file your dissertation if you're looking for a non-academic job. Non-academics won't care about a technicality like that. I think the relevant question is what, if anything, to say about your doctoral studies. "Doctoral candidate, Leiterespectable University, 2001 - present"? "Ph.D., Leiterespectable University, 2010 (expected)"? Nothing at all?

If you say nothing at all, how do you account for the last n years of your life?

Anonymous said...

It seems silly to worry about when you file your dissertation if you're looking for a non-academic job. Non-academics won't care about a technicality like that. I think the relevant question is what, if anything, to say about your doctoral studies.

Anon 9:44 here -- actually, that was my point, although it got muddled -- I was thinking (without evidence) that not filing, and writing "doctoral candidate" or "doctoral studies" rather than "PhD," might be less of an instant disqualifier on a resume. So if you found that certain employers were wary of hiring a PhD, or felt they couldn't afford it, then you could postpone filing the diss, interview for those jobs, and truthfully say that you don't have a PhD. I have no idea if this matters at all in real life, though.

Anonymous said...

March 10 Anon 9:31 am is scary, because these are just some of my main reasons against further pursuing philosophy to the PhD level. And because I decided the best alternative would be the healthcare sector... at an accelerated BSN program. I wonder if Anon 9:31 is outside my window... right... now.

March 11 Anons 7:16, 7:38 and 9:44, along with Jaded Dissertator, have the right idea.

Yet another Chronicle article, this dealing with another overlooked element of the grad experience, mental health:
http://chronicle.com/article/A-PhDa-Failure/44884

And the post I got that link from on RYS last week. It's similar in advice but adds some anecdotal stuff. The general points at least seem right.
http://rateyourstudents.blogspot.com/2010/03/i-went-grad-and-i-came-back-persephone.html

Anonymous said...

To add to the last comment, here's a response to The Lie of the Life of the Mind in the Chronicle: http://chronicle.com/article/Neither-a-Trap-Nor-a-Lie/64535/

The money shot: "We—adjuncts, full-time professors, researchers, administrators, politicians, and parents—must retool how we talk about graduate school in the humanities. We can no longer present it as a professional school or as career training, with the assumption that more education and advanced degrees always lead to better lives, more income, increased happiness. Instead, we must think of graduate school as more like choosing to go to New York to become a painter or deciding to travel to Hollywood to become an actor. Those arts-based careers have always married hope and desperation into a tense relationship. We must admit that the humanities, now, is that way, too."

Anonymous said...

Does the option of jumping ship with an MA provide those of you who think they've made a mistake any comfort? Does this happen often? Do departments make this difficult?

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