Thursday, February 10, 2011

We're number 16!

The worst part about being a philosopher on the job market is, you know, looking for a job. It sucks, fer sure. I complain as much as anyone. But hey, being a philosopher is otherwise pretty groovy. You get to think about stuff that's fun to think about. You get to teach stuff that's fun to teach. You get to more or less make your own hours. You get summers off. (Apparently this is a controversial claim. I'll revise it.) If you're a teacher, you get part of the summer off from your normal teaching duties to devote to your own research. (If you're in a lot of other jobs, you don' t get anything like this.) You get to stay in college forever. We're in a pretty safe work environment. No toxic waste, no crushed limbs. My biggest job-related problem today was dealing with a something in a paper that has already been accepted for publication. It could be worse.

CareerCast.com says here in their annual ranking that philosopher is the 16th best job. Surgeons are a lowly 100. Yeah, they make ten times as much money, but they have to get up at the crack of dawn, and apparently it's a really stressful job being elbow-deep in blood 'n guts. A roustabout makes half as much as a junior philosopher, and it's apparently the worst job. So, looking at some of the jobs that ranked pretty low on the list, I realized that I know quite a few people who have those jobs. My dad had one of those jobs, and I don't remember him ever complaining about it. And I reckon my dad would be happy that my job is in the top 20.

Just sayin'.

~zombie

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

You get summers off.

I really think we all need to stop saying this. After all, it isn't true, right? I don't know about other folks who are tenure-track, but here's my summer: May is a busy month in which reports and updated dossiers are due. June is the only time of the year folks in my department have for research, and July is a busy course prep month. I take about three weeks off from late July to mid-August (and that's pretty cool--many non-academics can't manage to do that). Then the last-minute advising rush starts in mid-August and classes start soon after that.

If we say we have summers off, then civilians will think we have a three-month vacation instead of a three-week vacation, and administrators will think they deserve a raise for working so much harder than faculty, who have it so easy.

Anonymous said...

>> You get to think about stuff that's fun to think about. You get to teach stuff that's fun to teach.<<

That's not being "a philosopher". That's being a "college professor". Mathematics is fun to think about and to teach. And so is (I'm told) electrical engineering...

Anonymous said...

In other words, nice work if you can get it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 1:13. When people who should know better tell me how lucky I am to have summers off, it kind of makes me want to punch them in the neck. I mean, yes, it's great to be able to set your own schedule in the summer, work from anywhere, etc., but it's not a three-month vacation.

Anonymous said...

Um, I guess if by having the 'summer off' people mean sipping on Singapore Slings on the beach then, no, that's not true. But I don't spend my whole month of July prepping spending 8 hours a day prepping for courses. Who are these people? I think you still have it pretty good.

A-158 said...

Um, I guess if by having the 'summer off' people mean sipping on Singapore Slings on the beach then, no, that's not true.

Right, it's just silly. There's no beach by my house. I play Madden Football all summer.

Anonymous said...

Right, it's just silly. There's no beach by my house. I play Madden Football all summer.

Wait. Really? How many people actually take the summer off? And of those people, how many manage to publish enough that you got tenure/expect to get tenure? And what kind of course load does one need to have in order to make taking the summer off a viable option?

Anonymous said...

You get summers off.

Shut this shit down. It is destructive.

There are ways to shut it down whenever it gets mentioned at any point in your career; whether out of grad school seeking a job, seeking tenure, and seeking promotion after tenure (your shot a a pay-raise). It goes something like this: "Yes, I get summers off so I can write the scholarly papers required for having my job. Do you write a lot of publishable peer-reviewed papers? " Alternative: "Have you published peer-reviewed papers?" Or "Yes, I get summers off so I can finish my book. This is my second one. How many books have you written and published?"

Don't hem and haw when people say this this. Shut. It Down.

pazogie: the dazzling effect when you slam people with the fact that they couldn't do the work you do across any freakin' possible world. He got hit with a pazogie when she revealed that reading 150 books and articles was just the start of her research.

Anonymous said...

We get a fair amount of flexibility in how and under what conditions we do our work. Of course, since your average office drone/veal-pen dweller spends a fair amount of time wasting said time, they could do what they do in a day in few less hours and/or some place other than the office. So, its not that we have privileges; its that work outside academia (overgeneralization!) is poorly organized.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that tenured faculty HAVE NO BOSSES. (Untenured folks have to do some ass-kissing, of course for a while...)
Having spent a few years in the "real world" before bailing out to grad school, I've learned that dealing with the assholes known as "bosses" is the most depressing aspect of any 9-to-5 job, whether on Wall St or at a Home Depot store. And among bosses, assholes outnumber decent human beings 9 to 1 (to give a generous estimate).

A-158 said...

Wait. Really?

Sigh. Fellow Smokers: gullible or troll?

Anonymous said...

Why are you all so anxious to prove to people that you actually have to work hard during the summer? Drop the protestant ethic. Work is for hod carriers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, in one sense being a philosopher is not a stressful job. There is not much physical exertion required in walking across campus to give a lecture or talking with colleagues over lunch. But there is a huge amount of psychological stress in being a professor. Most of my time is spent writing papers for extremely demanding journal referees, writing conference papers, reviewing other people's work, writing decent lectures, giving decent lectures, grading student papers, dealing with student complaints, trying not to embarrass myself at meetings, reading about various academic issues, and revising curriculum for the college. Doing good scholarly work takes time, of which there is little for professors. So, yes, it is a great job, but standing out requires huge amounts of work and commitment to lots of deadlines. What nonacademics don't realize is that intellectual work requires lots of work throughout the year in and outside the classroom.

zombie said...

I don't recall saying being a philosopher was a perfect job. But it is a pretty good job. I've had a lot of different jobs in my life, and they've all got their goods and bads. There seems to be some tetchiness about the "summers off" business. Personally, I think of a summer when I don't have to teach classes as a "summer off" from teaching classes. It doesn't mean I don't have other stuff to do. But that was never the claim.

I took my kid to a movie today. The theatre staff were wearing big, pointy gnome hats to promote Gnomeo & Juliet. I saw that and thought to myself, "it's good to be a philosopher." Yeah, I don't have to wear a silly hat to work unless I want to. Except at commencement, when I wear my silly hat proudly.

Anonymous said...

A small point in favor of what zombie is saying.

Oh, you mean you have to sit at home in your underwear all summer reading books on subjects of *your choosing* in which *you take interest* and trying to formulate your ideas about them in a way that will be acceptable to other people? Boo-fucking-hoo. Go cry about it to people who spend hours and hours on their feet stocking shelves and cashing out the assholes at the grocery store, among which you are one. Or people who have to get up everyday at 5 am, so they can prep before their 5,000 hearings for poverty-stricken people accused of crimes they represent for little more pay than you make writing said articles. Or people who *clean the fucking toilets* at your college/university. Or people who sit in call centers for 8 hours a day listening to complaints about how their cell phone drops calls. I guess I could keep listing, but you basically get the point.

You think our job is psychologically stressful? Seriously? Do you people even know ANYONE who works outside of academe?

Yes, we are all slaves to a system. But some of us are the learned slaves, the body slaves of knowledge, and others are the slaves who get whipped if they don't shovel shit fast enough.

I think we need to start a reality show like The Simple Life, in which the genius-marvelous-brilliant-hard-working-philosophers try to do other jobs -- really, any other jobs -- for a day.

Mr. Zero said...

I agree with anon 6:24 (though I wouldn't describe myself as a learned slave). I like that show Dirty Jobs, but Mike Rowe will not come and do my job with me. It is not dirty enough. Compared with the people whose jobs can get on that show, we have summers off. Also, some of my relatives are farmers. Compared to them, we have summers off. Some of my relatives are white-collar employees of large corporations. Their daily routines proceed essentially uninterrupted year-round, except for some sick days and two weeks of paid vacation. Compared to them, our summers are pretty easy.

This job is a good job. One of the things that's good about it is that there is a lot of flexibility in your work schedule, and it is especially flexible in the summer when the weather is nice. And while it is not technically accurate to say that we have summers off, it is not so inaccurate that any kind of neck punch is warranted when people say this.

Anonymous said...

Here's a more irenic version of Zombie's and 6:24's argument. I (recently tenured in a good research department) personally don't take summers off at all. I work just as hard as I do during the school year, and with a greater sense of desperation. But I would never dream of complaining in the face of "You get summers off" because of course my job doesn't require that I work as hard as I do. In fact, my job doesn't require that I work summers at all. I could do no work for three months each year and not get fired. I'm pretty sure I could even have got tenure with that strategy, as long as I'd worked extremely hard during the school year. In this respect, many of us do get summers off: our jobs don't require that we work summers.

That fact doesn't change the equally salient fact that I don't know a single academic who actually takes summers off. But we all know we more or less could -- that is, without getting fired. This shows that our jobs are crucially different from the jobs listed by 6:24, where the goal really is (more or less) not to get fired.

Anonymous said...

@624

I'm not sure why you are making this point. The point about philosophy being a psychologically stressful job was made specifically in response to the topic being discussed above--whether professors have it easy because they have summers off. Nobody here is whining about the stress of being a professor in relation to the myriad other, labor-intensive jobs you describe. The point that was made should be read in the spirit of "actually, being a professor is not all fun and summer vacation but lots of demanding work." This seems true to me and entirely consistent with the observations made about other people having difficult and stressful jobs.

zombie said...

8:54 -- the original post was about philosophy as a job compared to other jobs. (I'm pretty sure about this, as I wrote that post. The dispute about "summers off" in the comments is tangential, but apparently a sore point for some philosophers.) So 6:24's point is relevant. Compared to lots and lots of people (including lots of people I know), and compared to lots of other jobs I've had (and even worse jobs I've never had), my philosophy job is pretty damn good.

Anonymous said...

It worries me sometimes that we work in a field where it is so hard to admit some positive good aspect of the field. Everyone is so well-trained in the art of extreme defensiveness about the status of philosophy that even the most seemingly commonsensical and innocent remarks like "hey, during my summers I don't have to do the exact same job that I have to do during the school year and in that sense am 'free'" draws cries of indignation and foul play.

Euthyphronics said...

I think there are two issues here. (1) Do we have it pretty good, including summers where we get to work on things we love, set our own schedule, travel around to conferences, and (if we're honest) goof off a bit? Hell yeah. (2) Is it good PR to allow people outside the profession go around telling us how good we have it because we have summers off? Hell no. No matter how good we have it (and from where I sit, it's pretty good), the myth of the lazy, overpaid academic who works fifteen hours a day during termtime and never else is still alive and well in many areas, and should be fought.

"We have it really good" is perfectly consistent with "we work a lot harder than most people think". Especially if the reason we have it really good is that we tend to love the work we do.

Anonymous said...

I certainly agree with zombie that the summers are one of the big advantages of this line of work. Our hours are far more flexible than most, and most of the work we do during the summer - reading and writing - is stuff we enjoy. Hard to complain about that!

But I still don't like putting the point by saying that we have summers off. This implies that we are unproductive (though I assume that wasn't zombie's intention). Our work certainly isn't gruelling, unlike the work done by public defenders or custodians. But an activity doesn't have to be gruelling to be productive work.

There is a perception in some quarters that professors don't do much work, and that state employees (which includes many of us) are overcompensated. I realize that nothing on this blog will have any real effect on this misperception. Still, it can be mildly frustrating to see a philosopher misstate a good point (that our work is very enjoyable, especially in summers) and inadvertently make it sound like a bad one (we don't work, at least not over the summer).

Anonymous said...

I'm 8:54.

Zombie -- your point is taken. I was not responding to the original post alone so much as to the comments about summers off and the ease this creates compared to other jobs. So, in fact, I think some of us are talking past one another. I certainly didn't mean to whine about my work in relation to other labor-intensive jobs people have, which I'm much aware of, having worked summers in factories myself to get through school. I do, though, think the view expressed by Euthyphronics gets it most right. Some people do think professors have the easy life without work during summers and this is ill-founded.