Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oh My God the JFP is a Disaster

As several people have pointed out, the February JFP is up, and it sucks. 30 jobs in the print edition, a couple more in the web "only" ads. They have added a search function to the web "onlies," but not to the print edition (that I can see, anyways).

Several people have also asked for a "Plan B" thread. Let's have this serve double-duty. Although I periodically find myself wishing for a viable plan B, I have no idea what it would be. I therefore have no advice whatsoever. Sorry I can't be more helpful.

--Mr. Zero

110 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "print" edition is a PDF, and any good PDF reader already has a search function (as does any web browser). This just makes the web-only version look messy and makes you scroll down to see if there are any new jobs. It was better without this. Now if they would allow right-clicking so the page will stay open when you open another tab for the links, that would actually improve things. But they'd rather make pseudo-improvements than actually make it easier and better to use.

Anonymous said...

Between that and THIS [http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/um/#comments] I have to ask myself, why the hell do I even try to stay in this 'profession'?

Anonymous said...

No offense Zero, but sometimes I wonder why I read this blog at all...it's just so fucking depressing.

Even the supposedly "helpful" threads—where TT philosophers offer advice to us desperate job seekers—are more suicide inducing than constructive.

My favorite bit of "advice" from the last thread was to focus on publication "quality rather than quantity." Sound like good advice, except they followed it with: "If one wants to stand out from the crowd, one piece in somewhere like JPhil or Mind is far better than five in solid, respectable, but not outstanding journals."

Wait...So all you have to do to get a TT job is have an article published in the Journal of Philosophy?

Why didn't I think of that!?!?

After all, I've heard that the best way to get a job with NASA is to build a spaceship and use it to fly to the moon. They tend to be impressed by shit like that.

Anonymous said...

I gave up pursuit of an academic job in December when I was offered a very lucrative IT gig. (Fortunately, I had previous experience before entering grad school)

One alternative some might consider is moving into business intelligence (BI). My own company has had a difficult time hiring BI people because the market for these skills has been steady through the downturn. The pay tends to be quite good, better than that of any assistant professor. If you've got experience with logic, set theory, and abstract thinking, then you've got a serious leg up. If you know about Bayesian natural language processing, regression analysis, etc, even better. It isn't as sexy as philosophy, but I've found making money is actually quite nice.

Anonymous said...

I'm with 12:47. I avoid any comment thread at The Philosophy Smoker when I'm actually in the middle of a job search. There's no useful advice possible. It all comes down to, "Be the absolute best and, on top of that, meet totally inexpressible standards of fit that shift constantly."

So, I just do whatever the heck I feel like, and, maybe, someone will someday decide that makes me worthy of a job. It's not a good strategy, but it's the only plan that can keep me sane.

Anonymous said...

Am I reading the information about Dayton correctly? Does '18 tenure-line faculty and 4 lecturers' mean that they employ (or are planning on employing) a total of 22 philosophers? It sounds like they're doing way better than a lot of schools with graduate programs.

Prof. Kate said...

University of Dayton is a Catholic school, and requires philosophy (actually, I think they require two classes in philosophy) for all students. Looking at their faculty page, this seems to mean a boon for their faculty lines.
http://www.udayton.edu/directory/artssciences/philosophy/index.php?pg=3

Unknown said...

I agree, how is this a "disaster"? What wouldn't be a disaster? 300 jobs? The doom meter needs to be calibrated a little here. 30 doesn't seem so bad, particularly given that some issues' publication has been *canceled* in recent years. (So far as I can recall, those were May, not February, but that strikes me as a disaster.) 30 seems fine, and probably about what we would have predicted.

Anonymous said...

"Be the absolute best and, on top of that, meet totally inexpressible standards of fit that shift constantly."

Pretty much.

I think the market has been so bad for so long that it's effectively a crap-shoot.

All of the advice showered on job applicants is either contradictory, impossible to follow, or blatantly obvious.

The whole thing is basically a reproduction B. F. Skinners' experiment on superstition in Pigeons.

Anonymous said...

@5:44:

I think you are spot on. In fact, I think it was essentially a crap-shoot before the downturn. But things are even worse now to be sure.

If one of the aims of this blog is to reflect both on the nature of the job market and on our profession (rather than just vent for therapeutic purposes) , one has to ask what we should be talking about in light of what you say.

For my own part, it's worth considering the myriad of ways graduate programs could do a much better job of preparing students for the market.

Ben said...

Re: Anon 12:47. Since I gave that bit of advice (or rather, passed on what was given to me)...

Firstly, remember that the advice was pitched towards someone in a specific situation described, already having 7 or 8 'good' publications.

Secondly I picked the examples that I did because I didn't want to get into arguments as to whether journal X is better than journal Y. The three are named are generally considered three of the best. But the advice can be generalized: if your publications are in fourth-tier journals, then try aiming up to third-tier next time.

It's true that the idea of sending papers to JPhil etc will have occurred to many job-seekers, but I reckon a lot won't actually have done it - either because they lack confidence in their work or because they rationally calculate the chances of acceptance as being too low and figure it's better to get another second/third-tier acceptance than a first-tier rejection.

My point was that, when you already have 7 or 8 second/third-tier publications, another one isn't really much of an improvement on your CV, so it's worth buying the lottery ticket.

Anonymous said...

And...the APA's website is not working at all now.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:35 writes, "For my own part, it's worth considering the myriad of ways graduate programs could do a much better job of preparing students for the market."

But that isn't really the fundamental problem is it? No matter what program X does to prepare students for the job market, there are still 200-700 candidates for most positions, and the winners will be chosen for reasons that almost no program can prepare its candidates for. I despair.

What needs to happen is for the bottom 25% (however we measure that) programs to shut down. That would lessen the number of graduates entering the market and (we hope) open up a number of TT to teach those courses.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:35 Said:

"For my own part, it's worth considering the myriad of ways graduate programs could do a much better job of preparing students for the market."

You mean...like passing out cigarettes and blindfolds?

Anonymous said...

The morally right thing to do would be to place an extended moratorium on all Ph.D. admissions (not sure how many years would be appropriate).

But let's face it, this will never happen. All you fancy shmancy profs at R1's need other people to do your grading, after all, and you need your precious graduate students to "teach" so that you can maintain your prestige and think well of yourself. So keep admitting lots of people, the vast majority of which will never get jobs.

Anonymous said...

"What needs to happen is for the bottom 25% (however we measure that) programs to shut down. That would lessen the number of graduates entering the market and (we hope) open up a number of TT to teach those courses."

That would be a start. After that, we need to convince Leiter to only rank the top 10 or 15 programs from now on. Ranking the "top" 50 gives the incredibly misleading impression that as long as you go to a Lieter-ranked school, even one fairly high on the list (but not in the top 15), you have a non-negligible chance of getting TT employment.

Alternatively, Leiter could interrupt the list at about 10 or 15 with an enormous, boldface qualification: "Right here there is a pedigree cliff--not a slope--and if you do not attend a school above this line, your chances of every getting TT employment are dramatically (not incrementally) decreased."

Keep the specialty rankings. Explain the rankings as such: If you're not one of the privileged few that get past the elitist and cronyist admission process at the top places, it still might be worth going to school x, which has Joe or Sally Superstar in area y--provided that you choose Joe or Sally Superstar as your advisor. Be sure that Joe or Sally Superstar has lots of friends in high places. That way, when it comes to getting a TT job, your letter from him/her will count for more than Bob "Non-top-10" Job Seeker's 5 publications and stellar teaching record.

Finally, all philosophy professors (and graduate students, where relevant) should consider it their duty to dissuade as many undergraduates as possible from applying to graduate school in philosophy.

Alternatively, we could just get rid of the elitist and unjust "pedigree and letters trump everything" mentality that drives so much of TT hiring (and graduate admissions) these days. But since that isn't going to happen, I propose these other measures.

Anonymous said...

"What needs to happen is for the bottom 25% (however we measure that) programs to shut down. That would lessen the number of graduates entering the market and (we hope) open up a number of TT to teach those courses."

This often gets raised, but I can never understand the logic behind it. If these programs really are in the bottom 25%, then presumably their graduates aren't competitive, so cutting 200 uncompetitive people from the market isn't going to affect the chances of those who are competitive.

And if they are competitive, then by what possible measure are they in the bottom 25%?

I write this as a faculty member at a program that isn't submitted to be ranked in the Gourmet report (that is, as a member of the majority of Philosophy PhD programs in the English speaking world - they aren't ranked), so I imagine many people would think my institution is in the bottom 25%. But we have a strong placement record - the majority of our graduates go on to t-t jobs. Not at research institutions, but good jobs at good schools and they have rich and productive careers.

Anonymous said...

After that, we need to convince Leiter to only rank the top 10 or 15 programs from now on. Ranking the "top" 50 gives the incredibly misleading impression that as long as you go to a Lieter-ranked school, even one fairly high on the list (but not in the top 15), you have a non-negligible chance of getting TT employment.

But the Gourmet Report isn't a ranking of graduate programs, right? I thought it was a ranking of faculty quality. Maybe you're suggesting that Leiter should do something to combat some (alleged) misconception among prospective graduate students?

Anonymous said...

"The morally right thing to do would be to place an extended moratorium on all Ph.D. admissions (not sure how many years would be appropriate)"

That's extremely paternalistic. Why should we prohibit students from trying to enter a career merely because it's difficult to succeed? Should we also prohibit people from trying to be actors, sport stars, novelists? I'd wager that the changes of a philosophy grad student are better than the chances of people pursuing those careers.

""What needs to happen is for the bottom 25% (however we measure that) programs to shut down. That would lessen the number of graduates entering the market and (we hope) open up a number of TT to teach those courses."

This seems overblown for the same reason as above. In general, we don't prohibit people from trying to achieve things that they're unlikely to achieve. Why should philosophy be different?

What _is_ needed is something like what 8:42 suggests: make sure prospective students fully understand just how unlikely it is that they'll get a job at the end of their studies. If they have this information, weigh the risks and decide the potential reward is worth it, that's their choice, and should be respected -- just as we respect the choice of (but possibly regard as foolish) the struggling novelist, sportsperson, or actor.

Of course, they don't typically have that information--students tend to think that grad school is a pretty certain path to a job. So just tell your students it's more like trying to be an actor or a novelist than trying to be a lawyer or a doctor. There are no guarantees, and most (many?) will fail.

Anonymous said...

Set aside the concerns about the welfare of those who fail to get jobs. The surplus of job seekers is having a bad effect on the profession. Philosophy would be healthier, as a discipline, if the job seeker:job ratio were lower. Consider two points:

(1) The highly competitive job market means that there is intense pressure to publish early and often. This has all kinds of bad effects. People push out their half-baked ideas before they are ready. People defend loopy positions just to get attention. The overall quality of the philosophical literature diminishes, and the volume of philosophy that gets published each year grows. It is no longer possible or even desirable to keep track of everything that is published in one's subfield.

(1) Many professors have a policy of warning their undergrad students that the employment prospects in philosophy are very bad, and therefore it is unwise to pursue a career in philosophy. This policy (which in itself is quite sensible given the dismal job market) has the effect of pushing away people who have the reasonable desire to make a decent living. As a discipline, we are (inadvertently) selecting for people who are willing to take the risk and plunge into a career with little hope of success. I see no reason why we should want the grad student population to be skewed in this way. After all, many--perhaps most--of the best and brightest happen to be people who want to make a good living. By maintaining a population of grad students that far exceeds the number of jobs, we may be shaping a grad student population that is disproportionately composed of thrill-seekers, risk-takers, and egomaniacs.

I think we ought to care about the fact that lots of people spend a decade-or-so in grad school and end up without a career. This is a bad thing. But even if we don't care about that, we probably still care about the health of philosophy as a discipline. And it seems to me that the health of philosophy as a discipline is harmed by a high job seeker:job ratio.

Anonymous said...

1039 says:

As a discipline, we are (inadvertently) selecting for people who are willing to take the risk and plunge into a career with little hope of success. I see no reason why we should want the grad student population to be skewed in this way.

I think you are making the wrong assumptions here. I don't warning students about philosophy would attract the risk takers (they would be far better off actually trying to be actors than philosophers: the job prospects are just as dim but the payoffs are higher for acting)...

I think warning undergraduate about the dismal nature of the job market in philosophy will tend to lead only those undergraduate who are already financially secure to seek out graduate study. So far as I can tell this would have one good but several bad effects:

1. The Good: this would remove much of the stress of graduate school for graduate students because success does not hinge on getting a job.

The Bad:

1. It would further skew the demographics of philosophy in all the worst directions by widening the racial and gender disparities present.

2. It would also mean that several valuable areas in philosophy would continue to be understudies and under publicized.

Anonymous said...

The philosophy "market" has always been competitive, in the sense that demand for jobs always outpaces available supply, but the situation became markedly worse after 2008, which saw an unprecedented drop in available TT position. As a result, the number of qualified job seekers has INCREASED significantly every year even as the number of available TT jobs has continued to remain low.

I do not see how this cycle can possibly end unless one of the follow occurs:

1. DEMAND DECREASES RELATIVE TO SUPPLY: The number of job seekers relative to the number of available TT jobs drastically decreases.

2. SUPPLY INCREASES RELATIVE TO DEMAND: The number of available TT jobs relative to the number of job seekers drastically increases.

Short of some sort of freak cataclysm, there is no way that (1) could occur all at once. If it occurred at all, it could only do so gradually, and then through a combination of market forces (significant numbers of people dropping giving up on trying to find academic jobs) coupled with proactive measures (moratoria on new graduate admissions, etc.). I find it very, very hard to believe that the latter will EVER be seriously pursued by research departments in this profession.

As for (2), think how many jobs it will take to even slightly minimize the current supply:demand disparity. Where would such jobs come from? Retirements? Government largesse? The Philosophy Job Tree?

It's a doomed situation. It's not going to get better. Give up now.

Anonymous said...

"For my own part, it's worth considering the myriad of ways graduate programs could do a much better job of preparing students for the market."

The only meaningful way to address this is to stop admitting so many students.

However, this will mean effectively closing down half the PhD programs in the US, which—in the short term—will only make the job market even worse.

Either way, it's going to happen. Academia right now is one giant bubble waiting to pop.

Anonymous said...

All you fancy shmancy profs at R1's need other people to do your grading, after all

Yep. The program I got my PhD from barely even attempted to hide the fact that we were there to grade papers for less than minimum wage, not prepare for a job.

Anonymous said...

As this is a thread on plan-B, here are a few real world examples of friends and colleagues who went on to do successful stuff outside of academia.
- someone with a specialization in bio-ethics went on an ethical board of a hospital. It pays better than being in VAP positions and it's a secure job.
- someone with knowledge of statistics and bayesian modeling went to work for a private consulting firm
- a feminist philosopher/philosopher of race/culture went on to be a successful freelance journalist in science and culture
- a philosopher of mathematics/philosopher of social science went on to become the director of the graduate admissions and training program in the faculty of arts and humanities (admittedly, on the borderline of academia).
- a philosopher of science does freelance consulting on exhibitions in science museums.
I'm giving all these examples to show that there is a possible viable alternative outside of academia, and these jobs pay reasonably well, some of them are not so secure (freelance writing and consulting) but I know for a fact that both freelancers can pay their rent and bills with the work they are doing. A philosophy PhD is not worthless outside of academia, and we do have alternatives next to paralegal or high school teaching!

Anonymous said...

You will never, ever, ever convince graduate programs to stop admitting graduate students. It's not just a question of contingent labor; it's a question of MONEY (and not just for the university either--I'm talking about the professors' fat salaries, too).

Anonymous said...

If you look at Leiter's full Tenure Track Placement list from last year there are a number of people from low ranked schools that got tenure track jobs. One might assume, for a variety of reasons, they fit well with the departments. Perhaps last year was some weird year of charitable hirings of 'low-ranked' people or maybe some people make a bigger stink of all this crap than need be stunk.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the effects of discouraging undergraduates to go to graduate schools, I disagree with the two comments above. I do not think it selects for thrill-seekers (10:39) and I do not think it selects for financial secure students (10:56) (although I do think the latter is more plausible than the former). I think it selects for intensity of interest.

The basis of my view is of course just my own very meager collection of personal experiences. I regularly discourage my undergraduate students to continue on to graduate school. What those who go on anyway have had in common is an intense passion for the study. They just couldn't see themselves doing anything else.

If this is right and in general discouraging undergraduates tends to select for those passionate about philosophy and academia, then that is probably a good thing, relatively speaking.

Just as an aside, I'm always completely horrified by the students that decide to apply to graduate school after failing to get into law school. Is there this general impression outside of academia that becoming a professor is a good back-up plan?

Anonymous said...

I would like to suggest that the hosts of this blog move Anon 11:15's post to the front page. This post is a succinct statement of the facts. So, in light of these facts, what do we do?

The strategies so far: (1) either obtain a degree from a leiterrific program or publish in JPhil or Mind; (2) come up with an alternative career; or (3) devise a way to strengthen one's application short of either obtaining a degree from a leiterrific program or publishing in JPhil or Mind.

The value of this particular discussion (as opposed to the dozens of similar discussions over the years) is that the following two points are now apparent: there is virtually nothing left to say about (3) and the odds are such that (3), as necessary as it may be for those of us in this category, will most likely not have any impact on job market performance.

So let's have a discussion about what the discipline can do with respect to shifting supply and demand in such a way that (3) *can* impact job market performance.

Anonymous said...

The last time there was a seller's market in philosophy (when job-seekers had an easy time of it) was in the late 1960s, when universities were on a hiring binge to handle the first wave of baby-boomers, who were then undergraduates. And those undergraduates headed off to graduate school having been told that college teaching was a good career path, as there was a shortage of college teachers. Hah!

It was not until 1973 or 74 that everybody woke up and realized there was a collapse of the job market for several reasons (colleges have over-hired in the 60s, the draft had ended, the biggest bulge of college students had gotten through, etc.). The recession of 1974-5 was described as "the worst downturn since the Great Depression," making it harder to find any kind of job(sound familiar?).

The job market for philosophers has never been good since the late 60s. The difference now is that everybody knows what to expect. There are ebbs and flows, but it has never been "easy" to get a college teaching job in the last forty years. And it is highly unlikely it will ever be easy again, what with the shift to more and more adjuncts and part-timers of various sorts.

This means that the onus is on the undergraduate advisors to tell the truth to students thinking of graduate school. And students need to look realistically at the job prospects. With ample information available, there's no excuse for not knowing the realities nowadays.

I have tried to be as blunt as I could be with students thinking of grad school. I urge them to talk with the adjuncts they see in our department and ask about their own travails on the job market. If a doctoral program offers them a full assistantship, and they won't have to take on any debt, there are worse ways to spend 5-6 years of your life than studying something you love. But don't borrow money expecting to get a good TT job.

And don't go to grad school thinking you will be the exception who gets the great job. Think of other things you would like to do and start making sure you are qualified for that, whether non-teaching work in the academy or related fields. Learn how to write a grant proposal. Organize something and gain a little administrative experience. You can build relevant experience during grad school that will help you move to a plan B when the time comes, if you need to, as most will.

It doesn't do any good to blame Leiter or the graduate schools. Blame the undergraduate advisors and grad students who went into this without taking a cold, hard look at the profession first.

Anonymous said...

With regards to eliminating the bottom 25% of schools:

1. People from those schools do get jobs. This takes only a little bit of research to discover. They tend to get local jobs. For example the University of South Florida places pretty well at schools in Florida, it seems (including the University of South Florida, though I expect this is just a way to support grad students for longer. At top tier schools they just keep giving you TA-ships). But of course lots of people from outside Florida will be applying for those jobs so people from non Leiterific schools do get jobs that people from Leiterific schools apply for. So eliminating those programs would not be pointless with regards to correcting the ratio of applicants to jobs.

2. This is not a paternalistic policy. It is not designed primarily to help those who have not yet, but are considering, applying for graduate school. It is designed, I take it, to clear up the backlog of applicants.

3. There is no good reason that I can see, other than arrogance to think that these departments need to effectively give up their graduate programs. There are more ways to decrease the number of applicants. You could prevent the top tier schools from accepting as many people. I went to a top 20 school (there seems to be a convention of anonymity about our grad schools. Why? Fear of pissing off our placement director?) that accepted 7-9 people into the program each year for several years. That was absurd given the size of our school and major. But even if we could have accommodated them all, think about what would happen if all the top 20 schools had classes of this size. That is 140-180 applicants every year from the top 20 schools. That would be most of the TT jobs right there.

I see no reason why other schools should be asked to make things easier for the top tier schools. I know people will say that the people at the top tier schools are just better and so the profession has an interest in keeping them around more than students from lower level schools. That is really silly. Students are in top 20 programs because of predictions made by the faculty of those schools about the students usually during or just after their senior year of college. The thought that this method of selection is so reliable that these people must be kept in philosophy at all costs is just stupid. If you want to look at the output side of the question really take a look at the people from places like University of Missouri-Columbia and the average student from Brown or UNC Chapel Hill. Is the difference so great that the one should be guaranteed a job and the other prevented from getting one?

You might think that reducing the size of incoming classes will have the same effect, in the long run, of closing up some programs. People who would have gone to a top 20 program eventually go to a 50-30 program instead because there is no room for them in the top 20. The people who are getting those 50-30 spots now either get spots at unranked schools or do not go to grad school.

For one thing I think this sounds like an overly rationalized account of how the grad student market works. For another even if this were the case, there is still a difference. On the reduce class size system the range of faculty who have a role in producing the next set of academic philosophers is the same as now. On the reduce number of PhD programs the job of training future academic philosophers belongs to professors at elite institutions. I think this makes it easier for the profession to be caught by fads, and for charismatic faculty to exercise too great an influence on the profession. More voices heard in the training of the next generation seems better to me.

Or it would if I had a stake in the profession anymore. I anticipate joining the military soon so that we don't have to pay out of pocket for the birth of my second child.

Anonymous said...

There's a different option than altering supply and demand in the field: try to measure people's likelihood of getting a job based on their qualifications. I think the whole scenario would be different if every job seeker had a reasonable sense of their chance of success. If I had some reasonable guide to my chances, then I might just go straight for plan B, or at least start pursuing it before my prospects fell off a cliff in December. One thing I think the APA could do that would be immensely valuable and clarifying for the philosophy job market is collect some actual statistics about who gets hired and who doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Clearly what needs to happen is a) the fertility rate needs to jump, so that another demographic bulge of undergrads will be coming up two decades from now, and b) there need to be lots more Catholic schools that require 2 (or even 3) philosophy classes for all students.

So, basically, less contraception and more Catholic colleges. Can we invite a bishop to the APA to talk about solving the job market problem?

Anonymous said...

10:39 here, replying to 10:56 and 1:03.

Let's define a trait. Let's say:

A person X is game iff X is willing to pursue grad study in philosophy despite the knowledge that the odds of getting a job in philosophy are low.

The philosophy job market is dismal, and prospective grad students generally know that it is dismal. As a result, we are, as a profession, selecting for grad students who are game; and we are weeding out grad students who are not game.

10:56 is probably right that some people who are game are game because they are financially secure. 1:03 is also probably right that some people who are game are game because they are intensely interested in philosophy. And I think that I was right that some people who are game are game because they are egomaniacs (and thus think they'll be the exception to the rule) or risk-takers (and thus are willing to jump in despite the dismal prospects).

In fact, I would suggest that some combination of financial security, intense interest in philosophy, willingness to take risks, and egomania is probably extremely common among those who are game.

The question, however, is whether we want the population of professional philosophers to be disproportionately game. I just don't see why we would want that.

I imagine that there are many people who are very talented at philosophy yet risk-averse, and thus not game. Why would we want to weed these people out of the grad school applicant pool?

I imagine that there are many people who are very talented at philosophy yet not financially secure and thus unwilling to risk the chance of ending up without a job. Why would we want to weed these people out of the grad school applicant pool?

In general: Why would anyone think that gameness (rather than actual talent for philosophy) is a trait we want to be selecting for?

Anonymous said...

"Why would anyone think that gameness (rather than actual talent for philosophy) is a trait we want to be selecting for?"

It isn't; but then this isn't Brave New World were people a technocratically programmed for career paths. It's a market economy.

And I think you exaggerate how many grad students are aware that they have effectively zero chance of getting a TT job. They should be cognizant of this, but many live in the land of make believe until they're ready to go on the market.

Most PhD programs are happy to encourage this ignorance insofar as they get money and cheap labor from said students.

Finally, the professors in these programs then publish weighty tomes on "capitalist exploitation" and the like without any sense of irony.

Anonymous said...

Just as an aside, I'm always completely horrified by the students that decide to apply to graduate school after failing to get into law school. Is there this general impression outside of academia that becoming a professor is a good back-up plan?

50% of US law programs will likely disappear in the next 5 years, due to their inability to place graduates anywhere.

My girlfriend is finishing up her JD as a fairly respectable law program. Virtually her entire class is graduating into unemployment. Most aren't even able to get jobs as paralegals.

It's so bad that the placement committee in her program is engaged in systematic fraud to conceal the fact that so few of their graduates get actual jobs. And it's like that pretty much everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to get a little pseudo-Marxist about all this.

This thread is full of complaints about the number of job seekers, the number of TAs.... And, sure, that's important. But more important is this: administrators aren't hiring us as much.

There are more NTT jobs that pay barely anything because administrators don't want to pay us more than barely anything. There are fewer TT jobs because administrators don't see the value of having philosophers around. Philosophy (along with a lot of humanities) are being squeezed out, because administrators don't appreciate us.

Our real enemy should be schools that have a ton of part-time NTT lines and only a bare minimum of TT lines, who cut our operating budgets, who expect class sizes to go up, who are doing everything short of just eradicating our departments. (And, we all know, some of them wish they could.)

We really should have something like a union. Someone who knows how to do things (unlike me) should get us organized somehow.

Anonymous said...

There is a myth about those of us in top departments here. I am at a top 5 program. The majority of us are not getting jobs. Many of us didn't get any interviews. Things such for everyone.

zombie said...

Remove the bottom 25% of grad schools, and there will still be more philosophy PhDs than there are jobs. Narrowing the field will achieve exactly the opposite of what the profession needs: a diversity of scholars.

I went to grad school because I love philosophy. I went to my local state U because I could commute there from home, which allowed me to work the three jobs I had and go to school without going into debt. I was largely oblivious to the job prospects in philosophy. I was oblivious to matters of pedigree. No one tried very hard to convince me that I would not be able to get a job in philosophy. And then I got my degree the year the economy went to hell and the job market crashed.

Remove every grad program that isn't a top-ranked program, and I never go to grad school, and I don't get a job that I love. I went to the school I could afford to go to, because I wanted to study philosophy. I'd do it again, even if there was no job for me in the end.

p.s. It's a myth that only grads from Leiter-ranked schools can get jobs in philosophy. Don't believe it.

Anonymous said...

I can't find the latest JFP on the APA website. I'm logged in and on the "resources" section of the page, but the link for the JFPs isn't there. Can someone post the URL for me?

Anonymous said...

I'm from a generation before zombie who came out in a market as bad as this one from a lackluster university as she describes. I'm heading into my last decade at my SLAC before retirement--for the last four decades luck and skill have been (in my estimation) the close cousins of success and the very removed relatives of failure. Most of us on this blog are skilled, and who we need as a grandfather is luck. And yes zombie--though I hung on to be part of the profession and might not have been--it was my passion and like Luther, I could have done no other. I was prepared to fail; I am grateful I didn't. My heart goes out to those now like us who are not so closely related to luck.

Anonymous said...

3:25 here, responding to 5:36.

You said: "It isn't; but then this isn't Brave New World were people a technocratically programmed for career paths. It's a market economy."

I think you may be missing my point. My point is as follows. Jobs in philosophy are really scarce. Consequently, many professors warn their undergrad students that jobs in philosophy are really scarce. Consequently, the students who apply to grad school are disproportionately game. Having a grad school population that is disproportionately game is bad for the profession. Thus, the scarcity of jobs in philosophy is bad for the profession.

That's it. Nowhere do I want to claim that we do or should engage in technocratic career-path programming. I'm just arguing that a bad jobs:job seeker ratio is bad for the philosophy profession. (So, it's bad for all of us--not just those who fail to get jobs.)

"I think you exaggerate how many grad students are aware that they have effectively zero chance of getting a TT job. They should be cognizant of this, but many live in the land of make believe until they're ready to go on the market."

Remember: My point is about selection and weeding out. The ones who go into philosophy are the game ones. I would be unsurprised if game people tend to be able and willing to live in the land of make believe. So you're not really disagreeing with me here, at all. Those who who are unwilling to live in the land of make believe are probably relatively less likely to go into philosophy in the first place.

Again, this is a cost. Do we want the next generation of philosophers to be drawn from a group of folks who are disproportionately skilled at self-deception? I'm guessing not.

Anonymous said...

"Our real enemy should be schools that have a ton of part-time NTT lines and only a bare minimum of TT lines, who cut our operating budgets, who expect class sizes to go up, who are doing everything short of just eradicating our departments."

They would be our "real enemy"...except we're all scraping along by working those NTT jobs.

Anonymous said...

We really should have something like a union.

Sigh...unions are great at protecting jobs that already exist. They are absolutely terrible at creating new jobs.

Don't believe me? Move to Detroit.

Anonymous said...

Gee...a "plan B" thread where (almost) no one is saying a damn thing about plan B.

Why not? Here's the truth. There is no plan B. never was. outside of academia a philosophy phd and 2.00USD will be you a cup of coffee. Might as well print the damn things on the backs of diner napkins.

My only comfort, as a soon to go on the job market phd student at an un-Leiter-ranked school is that at least I enjoyed the graduate school experience I've had. I love the work, and the people.

But I knew from day one there zero chance I would get a job in this business. The way i see it, if you are going to be poor your entire life anyway and die a alone, and broken, by the cruelties of inhuman system, you could do worse than spending a decade suckling at the teats of sweet mother academia.

Sure, she'll turn on you, and eat you alive, eventually, but hey...c'est la vie. I least you'll die an educated, decent, honorable human being.

Anonymous said...

"We really should have something like a union.

Sigh...unions are great at protecting jobs that already exist. They are absolutely terrible at creating new jobs.

Don't believe me? Move to Detroit."

Grading a bit while I saw this, so let me just say that I am all full up of stupid, go peddle this somewhere else.

Unions aren't great at creating jobs? Well yeah, since they aren't the employers (they hire office personnel and such I suppose, but that is not what we mean). What unions are good at, besides protecting existing jobs, is preventing the next set of jobs from sucking. Unions are, or can be, great at making sure jobs in the future pay well, have good benefits and do not involve deep exploitation.

And unions aren't the reason the American auto industry is in trouble. The American auto industry is in trouble for lots of reasons:
1. They made a shitty product for around 20 years while foreign companies were not doing so.
2. They developed their business practices at a time when German and Japanese industries were either non-existent (from having been bombed out of existence) or more or less directly under the control of the US, British and French governments who were pushing them towards focusing on domestic sales not exports. When that situation changed the US auto companies failed to change their business practices with it.
3. The US government has been promoting anti-manufacturing fiscal and monetary policies for well over 30 years.
4. There have been two major economic contractions in the last decade caused by the bursting of a tech and real estate bubble. Unions didn't own Countrywide or AOL.

Would we be helped by a union? Maybe. We would be helped by any increase in workplace democracy. If a union is how that happens, cool. If lobbying state governments to focus cuts to education budgets on administrative positions and pay is how we do it, also cool (though I prefer the union. That could do some of the jobs the APA is unable to or unwilling to do.).

1:03 said...

@10:39/3:25

you write: A person X is game iff X is willing to pursue grad study in philosophy despite the knowledge that the odds of getting a job in philosophy are low.

I do not think a significant proportion of entering graduate students are "game." Why? Put in terms of your conditions above, most of these students do not understand that the odds of their getting jobs in philosophy is low. (5:36 made this point already. I'll say something about your reply below.)

Of course I don't really know whether this is true. I only know what I thought when I entered graduate school and what my fellow graduate students seemed to think. We all believed we were going to get jobs. Those who still haven't -- this was a while ago -- are still in shock. We all failed completely to appreciate how difficult -- and arbitrary! -- it was actually going to be.

When I tell undergraduate students how hard it is, some get the point. But many don't. They think they are the exception.

You seem to suggest, in your last comment, that this latter attitude makes them "game" -- that is, the act of willful self-deception on this point is part of being "game." I guess I just don't see it. There's a lot of evidence that ordinary people normally overestimate their own talents and abilities; we think we are above average and exceptions to the rule.

But perhaps you right. I don't know. We're all theorizing a priori about something that is very much an empirical question.

Anonymous said...

There are innumerable other alternatives to the job market. One could have gotten into philosophy simply to find the truth on some matter (that makes the job market a whole lot more promising). One might have gotten in simply to read an arbitrary number of books and technical articles so as to make one feel sufficiently more intelligent than some arbitrary class of people. One might have gotten in as an alternative to working at Wal-Mart e.g.—funded graduate school for 5-6 years surely beats that, unless you are masochistic in a way unfamiliar to us here. tant pis

Anonymous said...

Plans B, people! This is a plan B thread.

I've heard Norway will subsidize people to live way out in the countryside and raise goats or sheep. There are worse places to live, it's got good healthcare and social benefits, and goats are cute. Plan B. It was good enough for Wittgenstein.

Also: it's a load of defeatist crap that phil PhDs are worthless outside of academia. There are really interesting job at various nonprofit orgs who would love someone with the philosophy skillset, and maybe the added cred they get from having someone around with the title "Dr.". Nonprofits cluster in interesting cities. Pick the one you've always wanted to live in but can't land an academic gig in, and start sending out CVs with convincingly written cover letters.

Anonymous said...

to 1:03/8:20:

"There's a lot of evidence that ordinary people normally overestimate their own talents and abilities; we think we are above average and exceptions to the rule."

And there is actually lot of evidence that grad students systematically underestimate our own abilities. This gets accounted for in things like tests for certain kinds of civil service in the US.

When you get your head out of the academic fog for a minute, turns out we are, on average, a bizarrely intelligent and well-qualified group of people with neurotic levels of self-doubt. Rational self-doubt, given the state of the market; but it is no longer rational when applied to extra-academic settings.

1:03/8:20 said...

9:27 write: "... there is actually lot of evidence that grad students systematically underestimate our own abilities ... we are, on average, a bizarrely intelligent and well-qualified group of people with neurotic levels of self-doubt."

Yeah. That actually seems exactly right (about grad students). Pretty depressing.

Anonymous said...

"When you get your head out of the academic fog for a minute, turns out we are, on average, a bizarrely intelligent and well-qualified group of people with neurotic levels of self-doubt."

Well qualified to do what exactly?

Doctors and engineers and software designers aren't facing mass-unemployment.

But here, on this thread in a philosophy blog, people are offering plan B's along the lines of subsidized goat farming in Norway, "pseudo-Marxist" unionization which does something somehow, and working for "nonprofits".

I hate to break it to you all but grad school in the humanities is basically the ultimate non-profit.

Here, as far as I can tell, is the ultimate problem facing the field: Professors in the humanities demand large professional salaries and extreme job security, and yet produce little of real economic value.

I mean sure, we teach bac-core classes to bored 19 year-olds who are only going to college because it's a prolongation of adolescence; and we write papers that no one will ever read. But there is no market for the latter, and the market for the former is rapidly disappearing.

So either do something productive and become an X-ray technician or the like, or enjoy the future of academia, where all the classes are online, all the professors are NTT, and everyone has given up pretending to care about publications.

Anonymous said...

Sure, she'll turn on you, and eat you alive, eventually, but hey...c'est la vie. I least you'll die an educated, decent, honorable human being.

This is just false. As one piece of evidence:

http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/um/

https://skitch.com/kjhealy/8d7uk/vincent-hendricks-makes-an-ass-of-himself

This guy is already well known from the earlier synthese ID scandal but here he is again. A man with a PhD in philosophy, with lots of pubs, a great job, and who is the editor in chief of a major journal AND IS STILL A SEXIST ASSHOLE

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9:24

Send out "convincingly written CVs and cover letters to Non-profit orgs."(chosen apparently at random) That's your grand plan B?

And why? Because they should be happy to have some with a philosophers "skill set" and because they like having token doctors around.

Really?

Any hard data on the number of humanities PHDs employed by non-profits? Any idea how the economic crash has effected hiring at such orgs? Is the pay commensurate with an entry-level academic position?

No offense, but it sound like bullshit to me that non-profits are waiting around to pay good money if only one can write a convincing cv.

cain said...

Most PhD programs are happy to encourage this ignorance insofar as they get money and cheap labor from said students.

Most PhD programs do not get money from said students.

Sorry to spoil your theory.

Anonymous said...

The long-term focus should not be on more fulltime TT jobs (which will never happen directly), but on pressuring--and here unions will help--schools to transform adjunct positions into higher waged positions with benefits and permanent contracts.

That's the only way to discourage the elimination of TT positions, by removing the economic incentive to replace them with adjuncts.

It is also a protective measure in the meantime, since in the current job market so many have to survive on adjunct work, and really need a decent income and health coverage.

In the very long run, we might hope to turn those positions into tenured ones, though I'm not optimistic about the future of tenure period, so I doubt that would happen.

It's true that administrators are the enemy, but to some degree the public are, too: they've been duped into believing that the outrageous costs and low rewards of college education are the fault of professor's tenure and salaries and of wasteful spending on luxuries like humanities and language departments. So, unions are one way of fighting administrators.

The other is to get the students on our side: to organize so that the adjuncts' cause joined with the students' worries about loan debt and educational quality. If we could organize tenured, adjuncts and student against administrators, there'd be a shot.

Alternately, here's a modest proposal I'm not sure if I'm serious about:

Convince departments to split all TT jobs and convert adjunct jobs into half-time jobs with low but living wages and full benefits. Results: double the number of positions, preserve the administrations' cost cutting advantage, ensure that all philosophers have a lousy but living wage and decent healthcare, make active research time available to all (courseloads cut in half), destroying the division of research vs teaching jobs, dissuade casual students from going to grad school with the lousy pay, ensure that those who go are there for the love of the field, reduce the overall number of grad students improving the market, perhaps change the character of the field for the better by undermining its departmental and institutional pedigree and research hierarchies and by selecting for those willing to make a lifelong sacrifice for their field--in effect, seeing philosophy as closer to, say, the priesthood or a monastery rather than a "star" system, as a sacrifice rather than a contest.

Of course, it would mean everybody gets lousy pay, but it would be lousy pay with great hours and a field you love, and the majority of philosophers are already getting lousy pay with lousy hours and no benefits and, in most cases, the necessity of quitting and finding a new field, so is that really a loss?

Anonymous said...

5:23,

One thing that often gets overlooked in the discussion between TT and adjunct jobs is the work that TT faculty do outside of teaching and research. In particular, I mean service and advising. Most (certainly not all, but most) service and advising is done by TT faculty. If only for that reason, we will always have a threshold requiring a certain number of TT faculty in order to run the business of a department. (This is why when most departments are eliminated, there are always at least a few TT faculty left. Departments aren't bled to the last TT person standing in a sea of adjuncts.)

That said, one of the most dangerous and insidious uses of adjuncts in recent years is the move of advising and service work to adjuncts. Often, this is done with what appear to be good intentions. (It's only appearance; every time this happens, it's a blatant abuse of labor.) In my department, for instance, the chair allows some adjuncts to serve on certain committees (not Tenure and Promotion, not Curriculum, but student-related committees and even search committees), and some adjuncts advise undergraduates. This is *absolutely dangerous*, and *will* lead to the elimination of TT positions.

First off, it's an abuse of cheap labor, as adjuncts perform this work without any compensation, though they are often told that they are getting "good experience," and are "helping the department," and that this work "will not go unnoticed." (No, they are being abused, plain and simple.) Some adjuncts *want* this work, because they think it helps them get a TT position (either in that department, for being a good worker, or elsewhere, because now they have more experience). However, it's all bullshit.

Second, it's a clear marker to administration that TT faculty are not needed to do the administrative business of a department. It means that there's no goof reason to hire TT faculty anymore, because they don't provide anything to the university that the university cannot find in the adjunct pool.

It's bad for the profession, bad for the university, and it's criminal treatment of an underpaid, overwork, under-appreciated labor force that has no recourse to change this slow creep of administrative work.

It's also the primary reason I want to be chair when I'm tenured. I have no doubt I will piss off some of my adjuncts when I take away their service work. (Honestly, the ones who do this work in my department are actually grateful, and thank the TT faculty for the chance to do unpaid, non-contractual labor.) But it has to be done.

zombie said...

This is really interesting and worth reading, re: the disappearance of Plans B, and the "lottery economy":

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/magazine/why-are-harvard-graduates-in-the-mailroom.html?_r=1&hp

An excerpt:

"Even professions that can’t offer as much in the way of riches operate as a lottery system. Academia, nonprofit groups, book publishers and public-radio production companies also put their new recruits through various forms of low-paid hazing, holding out the promise of, well, more low pay but in a job that provides, for some, something more important than money: satisfaction. In the language of economics, these people are consuming their potential wages in happiness. (Honestly, economists talk this way.)

This system is unfair and arbitrary and often takes advantage of many people who don’t really have a shot at the big prize. But it is far preferable to the parts of our economy where there are no big prizes waiting. That mailroom clerk at Warner Brothers may make less than a post office clerk (maybe even half as much), but the latter has less chance of a significant promotion. Workers in retail sales, clerical settings, low-skill manufacturing and other fields tend to have loose, uncommitted bonds to their industries, and their employers have even looser commitments to them. These jobs don’t offer a bright future precisely because they don’t require a huge amount of skill, and therefore there’s no need to do much merit-sorting."

Anonymous said...

Dear _____

I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy. This means I can help you with _everything_. Give me a call.

Enclosed please find my resume.

--signed

Anonymous said...

Can someone post the link to the JFP??

My dues are paid, but the apa.....

Anonymous said...

So, about that plan B.
Anybody can share any stories about philosophers they know who are looking for are have found jobs outside of the Ivory Tower? Which jobs? Which industries?

Anonymous said...

I often here people speak about how the chances of landing any form of TT job are basically zero. This is clearly untrue. My question is: how bad has it been for grads from your program? I don't know about the grads from last year, but two of five job-seeking 2010 grads from my (non-ranked) school received TT jobs. What are the numbers from your schools?

Anonymous said...

errr, that is I "hear" them.

Guy Montag said...

A few years ago I met a moral philosopher who worked as a VP in a socially responsible investment firm. His job, roughly, was to morally assess different investment opportunities. One of the firm's selling points was its expertise in social/moral matters. The philosopher had no particular knowledge of business when he started. Others in the firm handled that side of the operation.

Anonymous said...

1016

Two out of how many seekers? Last year my department also had two tt placements (it was the second year on the market for both) but that was out of 10 (10!) who were on the market.

The year before that it was 0 (zero) out of 8.

Anonymous said...

1034 here

As it stands it also looks like we'll be 0/7 this year as well.

Anonymous said...

Two fresh PhDs in philosophy I know went to Law School; then there is one philosopher who teaches social sciences at a private school; other folks I know are all low-paid, over-worked adjuncts with no alternative plans.

Anonymous said...

10:34, where does your department fall on the Lieter ranking? Approximately...

Anonymous said...

1052

You would recognize my department. It is well regarded (and rightly so).

If I throw in one year VAPs or post-docs or Law Schools or 'taking a year off' etc etc then the numbers get a little better. I was only talking about tt hires.

Anonymous said...

My dept. is on the tail end of the Leiter rankings.

Last year we had 1 land a TT job out of, I think roughly 6 or so on the market. (It was his second year on the market.)

The year before that we had 2 out of 6 or so.

This year, so far, we've had 1 person (me) land a TT job out of something in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 folks.

So that's something like (trying not to double count, but it's tricky due to people taking adjuncts, etc.), 4 out of 20 or so get TT over the past 3 years. Very roughly. We had several people lost to attrition who where deep ABDs, but just never defended, in part because of market considerations. Do I count them? If I do, it's more like 4 out of 28 or something in that ballpark.

We've also had a couple people land NTT, but essentially permanent jobs at smaller schools (better paying than adjuncting, and with benefits, etc.) and they seem happy.

So there are some numbers.

True: it's not a "zero percent chance" that one will land a TT job. But it's not great.

And, although many have left the profession, those who didn't who did not get TT generally found adjunct jobs or VAP jobs or some decent post-docs, etc.

Anonymous said...

10:34 - (10:16 here) 2 out of 5 newly minted seekers. I have no idea whether there were other seekers still on the market from earlier years.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that when discussing plan Bs we make them repeatable plans.

Come on Guy Montag,seriously. Do you really think anyone, at all, in this economy is going to land another...ethical investment guide post?

That is not a repeatable result. And it is no help anyone on this board for you to share that anecdote.

Guy Montag said...

Ouch, Anon. I deleted my angry reply and I'll just ask this. Does this sound difficult? Scary? Well, I'm not surprised.

Look, here is the hard-truth -- if you think that Plan B will be easy, after you just spent years working on Plan A, then I'm not the one being unrealistic, you are.

Well, let me qualify that. I've got no doubt about your ability to get a middle management position somewhere, should you want one. Corporate drone-ship is there for the taking, and won't tax you much at all. You may even learn to enjoy it.

But you need not settle for something like this. You've been trained to be creative, to think critically, to ... well, you know the line as well as I do.

As I see it, no Plan B that is worth a shit will be easy to get. But if you just want a job, all you need to do is open the classifieds in your local paper. But I've been assuming, based on what you tried to do, that you want something more than that.

Anonymous said...

That I know of, my unranked PhD program has placed maybe half a dozen (four that I know of for sure) graduates in TT jobs at other schools out of the somewhere-near-75 it has ever graduated. The last one would have been about five years ago, so it's on close to an 0-for-15 streak.

Anonymous said...

@Guy Montag,

Only an idiot would think that a philosphy PHD is any qualifies them to just open the classifieds andfind a "middle management" job in no time and without years of certification and re-training.

Have to read a private sector Job ad lately? pretty much any job that pays more than 50k will require the applicant to have an advanced degree in the field or its cognates, 5+ years experience on the job, or some sort of state/or private/certification.

I would bet less the 5% of academic philosophers have any of those requisites.

Anonymous said...

"That I know of, my unranked PhD program has placed maybe half a dozen (four that I know of for sure) graduates in TT jobs at other schools out of the somewhere-near-75 it has ever graduated. The last one would have been about five years ago, so it's on close to an 0-for-15 streak."

And you chose this program because...

Anonymous said...

Here's the question that's on everyone's mind: Will pro-life philosophers revisit their opposition to Plan B if the job market continues to be so bad?

Anonymous said...

@7:39:

Because it chose me. I don't regret it, even slightly, even years and years after finishing my PhD, with no prospect of stable academic employment.

Anonymous said...

What a douchey question 7:39.

People do choose programs (and jobs) for all sorts of reasons unrelated to matters of ranking and placement. Sometimes people are not at leisure to move anywhere they like.

Showing the tiniest bit of civility and tact here on this blog would not be entirely out of order.

Faber said...

Guy, please forgive the rude reaction. We thought the world lay before us like a land of dreams, but we find ourselves here as on a darkling plain, where ignorant armies clash by night. I know you of all firemen will understand.

Anonymous said...

This assertion troubles me:

"Here, as far as I can tell, is the ultimate problem facing the field: Professors in the humanities demand large professional salaries and extreme job security, and yet produce little of real economic value."

I would say that this attitude is the ultimate problem facing the field, indeed, a number of fields.

Sure, tenure ends up producing dead wood once in a while, just like innocent until proven guilty lets some guilty people off the hook.

Tenure...what is it good for? Well, I think, correct me if I am wrong, that one justification for it is to encourage the production of knowledge. And, we might think that tenure, where I guess, sometimes the lazy get off the hook, is nevertheless a better way to ensure the production of knowledge than a non tenure system.

Historically, philosophers have a great track record of producing knowledge or at least aiding and abetting it. People forget that you can't just go dig that shit up out of the ground. It comes from somewhere.

Maybe you think knowledge for its own sake is pointless. Ok, I'll give you that. Even so, you can't always predict what lines of inquiry are going to be, let's say, useful -- whatever that means. In fact, it's not clear to me at least that it even makes sense to distinguish between knowledge that has purely practical consequences from that which has only theoretical consequences. What does that even mean?

I realize many of us here don't need any reason to think that philosophy is of some kind of value. We just want to know and we want to know about the big questions.

But I think it is worth discussing what value we do have even if we don't want to know purely for the sake of knowing. Clearly, I think it's a lot. Indeed, if we look at our intellectual track record of knowledge production, philosophy wins hands-down.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

YFNA,

I said "economic value" not "value" simpliciter.

I love the discipline and think it is of enormous value. That's why I've devoted my life to it.

However, if you think that academic philosophy produces things of economic value you are living in a dream world.

So my point is this: What we as philosophers produce is essentially the same economic value as that produced by poets, performance artists, etc...and our salary should be the same as well.

Historically it has not been because we've been lucky enough to be drafted into academia for the purposes of providing "culture" to teenagers.

But academia is now falling apart and so is the "professional" aspect of the discipline of philosophy...along with it's professional salary.

Anonymous said...

The 'too many candidates' problem is a real one. And, imo, the problem is not with the R1 schools admitting too many candidates, but with lower ranked programs. Although there is nothing wrong with these lower ranked programs offering graduate education in philosophy, they should not encourage their students to think that they are likely to find TT jobs in philosophy after graduate school.
Having said this, some of the previous comments exaggerate how few programs are able to turn out students with a good chance of a decent TT job. Some people have suggested, you have very little chance of a job if you don't attent a top 15 graduate program. It seems to me that the top 30-ish departments or so are turning out candidates who are quite likely to get a TT job. In this market, it sometimes takes a couple of years before this happens, but it does consistently happen.
In my department, which is ranked in the top 20 (but not the top 15), students consistently find tt jobs (quite often at very good schools, including schools ranked comparably to ours). Furthermore, consider programs like UT Austin, UC San Diego, Northwestern, U Chicago, U Toronto, Penn, Irvine, Notre Dame, etc., which are not top 15 on the leiter rankings, but have good placement records.
I would also like to add that most of the students from my department do not come out of graduate school with a long list of publications. They are, however, strong candidates with good work and strong teaching records who often compete with students from very highly ranked departments (that is, end up on short lists for jobs with these students, and are sometimes hired in preference to them) for positions.

Anonymous said...

Whether knowledge has any practical, including economic value, is what I was indeed questioning. To say it has none is a pretty strong statement that I doubt is true. I don't know what practical value, exactly, to put on knowledge, but I am pretty fucking sure that it is does have instrumental value, whatever you think of its intrinsic value.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

Oh and I mean to be including seemingly useless theoretical knowledge (of course, that's what's of issue) with no practical value, a claim I said earlier doesn't even make much sense to me.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that nobody considers leaving the country a possible plan B. I know of many academics who have found interesting and well-paid positions in foreign countries. We should take advantage of the fact that US universities still have a very good reputation in other places. Maybe the salaries would not be as good as here; but it is a new and interesting experience, it opens your mind a little more, and it could possibly be an exciting experience.

Anonymous said...

YFNA,

I did not say that our philosophical knowledge has no economic value. Clearly academic publishers exist and presumably make some small amount of money.

My point was that the actual economic value it holds in no way merits the professional salary its practitioners demand.

We've only become accustomed to this economic elevation due to the enormous post-war bubble in academia. This bubble is now popping and economic reality is setting in.

You may not like this, but that's not relevant. It's happening.

No one knows the future, but from the trends I see, the future of academia is NTT faculty and online everything.

Anonymous said...

I didn't deny it wasn't happening. I am just denying the premise that theoretical knowledge has no economic value. I don't know how you would even know this for a fact. I think we need to debunk that claim. That belief is part of the problem these days. You are aware that measures of economic value are contested right? It is infinitely more plausible, to my mind at least, that theoretical and practical knowledge are not differences in kind, but exist on a continuum and are likely to inform one another. I'm certainly not saying that you can measure directly the economic value of abstract inquiry. But I think the idea that abstract inquiry is of no economic value is a myth with not much content. Give me a definition of the difference between purely abstract knowledge and practical knowledge and I may consider your ungrounded (so far as I can tell) assertion that certain kinds of knowledge are of no economic value and I might agree with you. Tell me that it is quite clear that theoretical knowledge is known not to at least indirectly contribute to the economic system and that it isn't risky to eliminate purely "theoretical" knowledge and I'll agree. Tell me that practical knowledge can thrive perfectly well without any theoretical underpinnings and I'll give up. Until that happens, I will fight not only for the intrinsic, but for the instrumental value of theoretical inquiry.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

Sorry to have hi-jacked. I just believe that it's time for us to start fighting the tide, and teaching our students to do so as well. Call me an idealist, but I truly believe that if we give up on theoretical inquiry, we as a civilized society are lost. The way to save us is to reassert our importance. As a great leader once said: never, never, never give up.

Anonymous said...

YNFA,

I not going to engage in a definitional dispute with you.

My point was that philosophy has had a nice captive market to sell its wares in for some time now. This market is now dying. If philosophy can find a new market for itself, we'll be fine. If it cannot, then we are all in for an abrupt standard of living adjustment.

So if you disagree with my assessment concerning the current economic value of the majority of the work done in academic philosophy, then prove me wrong. Quit trying for a professorial sinecure in Academia and join the private sector, or start you own company. Unfurl your theoretical and instrumental knowledge on the open market and see what kind of price it commands.

If you do work in the philosophy or artificial intelligence or some such, you might not be disappointed at all. If you do work in Marxist queer hermeneutics...well...that shit only exists in the Academy for a reason...

Anonymous said...

11:00, are you talking about academic positions at non-US schools?

Anonymous said...

"but I truly believe that if we give up on theoretical inquiry, we as a civilized society are lost."

Stop using "theoretical inquiry" as a blanket term. I never used it in my original remark for precisely that reason.

People make large amounts of money doing all kinds of "theoretical inquiry".

Other people make absolutely no money at all doing other sorts of "theoretical inquiry".

Theoretical work on protein structures = $$$

Theoretical work on the philosophy of AI or language = $$ (maybe)

Theoretical work on "oppression studies" or deconstruction or the free will debate = 0.000$

economical ecumenist said...

I'm probably going to regret entering this dispute, but what the hell.

There is no "captive market" for philosophy. We all work in a capitalist system. The market for what we produce is indeed in academia. Some of us get paid a lot, some get paid a little. There is no such thing as 'economic value' outside of the price of the good in a free market. So philosophers are paid their economic value now.

Obviously, you couldn't peddle your philosophy on the street and make a living. That fact is of no particular economic interest.

Anonymous said...

Point missed. Accepted.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

12.44: Yes, I was talking about academic positions at non-US Schools.

Anonymous said...

"Theoretical work on "oppression studies" or deconstruction or the free will debate = 0.000$"

Given Mele's recent $4.4 million free will bonanza, maybe we ought to have a moratorium on the use of "free will debate" as our example of a not-so-remunerative philosophical pursuit.

Anonymous said...

Only a very small minority of international universities seem to advertise in the APA or insidehighered (or the Chronicle).

Those of you with some knowledge, where are international jobs posted? Is there a country by country clearinghouse that you know of? Some analogue of the APA or CPA?

Or must we search each university separately? I honestly have no idea how it works and although I am fluent in another language I am not fluent in the 'academic use' of that language (what I mean to say is that I could exist in some countries speaking the native language without ever raising an eyebrow but I do not know how to say hermeneutics or supervenience, etc)

Anonymous said...

Many jobs in Europe can be found here: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/

Anonymous said...

To 4:14:

philjobs.org has many non-US job listings.

Anonymous said...

"I am surprised that nobody considers leaving the country a possible plan B. I know of many academics who have found interesting and well-paid positions in foreign countries. We should take advantage of the fact that US universities still have a very good reputation in other places. Maybe the salaries would not be as good as here; but it is a new and interesting experience, it opens your mind a little more, and it could possibly be an exciting experience."

Indeed! I now work at a foreign university. The pay is better than I received in the states, the teaching load is less, and the students are better. (There's more admin, but nothing is perfect.) In my experience, too few Americans are applying for jobs outside of the country. It's a shame, actually. I've seen a few searches now where it seems to me people have landed solid jobs where I knew a handful of Americans who were competitive for these positions and simply didn't apply. I also know a few Americans who have decent-ish jobs in nice places to live who aren't terribly talented. Emigrate!

Anonymous said...

To Americans wishing to emigrate:

Bear in mind that most European universities don't subscribe to the lame, lame American focus on Pedigree and Inflated Letters of Reference, thank goodness! The exceptions are Oxbridge in the UK and a minority of other universities such as Leeds - but their hiring practices are widely regarded to be morally suspect (to say the least). Further, the norm is for people to have held a variety of post-docs or temporary teaching posts before getting a permanent post, so you will be competing with people who are not fresh out of graduate school. So if you are an NYU graduate with merely one or two publication(s) in, say, Phil Studies, don't expect the same reception that you might expect from an American selection committee. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

7:38 - the private sector isn't great (although loads better than the academic job market), but my S.O. has a very good-paying job without 5 years of experience in his field. He got his job because he had 2 years of experience in part of his job and demonstrated that he was smart enough to pick up the part that he had zero experience with (and that part is pretty technical--something people usually get a degree in). The reason he's gotten the jobs he has is because he's really smart and a very hard worker, which are characteristics most philosophers have, too. Entry-level jobs will pay less, but probably about the same as a VAP, and there is usually a lot of opportunity for moving up, especially if you learn new stuff quickly. If I don't get a TT-job, something like that will be my Plan B.

Anonymous said...

I'm also very curious about people's plan B scenarios.

(I'm less interested in people claiming that there is no plan B or that all you can do with a PhD in philosophy is go work at McDonalds. I doubt that this is true. It doesn't follow from the claim that a PhD in philosophy does not specifically prepare you for a job in another field, to the claim that there is no other field in which one can get a (decent) job with a philosophy PhD using skills gained from grad school.)

More importantly, obviously there are PhDs who have left philosophy and have found ways to make ends meet. Maybe the jobs that they have found are so idiosyncratic to their skill set that it would be useless to try and generalize. But maybe not.

I worry though that, because there is a stigma behind leaving philosophy, that those who have left are embarrassed or whatever to share. Or maybe they're just sane, and don't read this board.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4:00pm

this thread has been up about a week, and not a single commenter has been able to offer anything bearing even a strained family resemblance to a generalizable plan B.

My thinking is, especially in this fucked up economy, there simply is no profession other than academia that academic philosophy prepares a person for. The best general strategy would seem to be an undergraduate degree in business, law, or the sciences. Holding a PhD in philosophy AND an undergrad degree in the humanities is a economic death-sentence these days.

I blame this largely on the ineptitude of the APA. They should have a well-paid, professional, media arm with which to actively promote the benefits of hiring philosophers in the private sector. But that would require a level of competency, and concern for the non TT in our profession that they seem utterly incapable of.

The public perception of philosophy in the United States is 100% divorced from fact. They see us as lazy, unintelligent, spoiled, elites who couldn't hack it in math and the sciences, and contribute nothing to society and have no transferable skills to offer. They believe we spend 37 hours a day in dimly lit, smoke-filled, coffee shops discussing Heidegger and Sartre, whilst plotting the overthrow of their blessed theocracy.

In short, they've a false picture of the profession, and sadly, our professional body has not done all that much to disabuse them of it.

machine for brains said...

This whole Plan B question got me to thinking. How hard would it really be to go scouting for information? After all, I remember the names of practically everyone I went to graduate school with and I remain connected, in some way or another, with a good chunk of these people. Obviously not all of them ended up in academia. But I don't know of any of them that ended up homeless or working at Burger King. So in that spirit, I started making some very unscientific lists and did a little digging. Here's the results. Remember, they are not precise.

Of all the students I could remember from about a six-year span, it seems that about 20-30% did not end up in academia. This includes people who left the program before finishing their doctorate.

The subsequent non-academic careers include (this is not an exhaustive list because I don't know what happened to everybody): Technology (2 people), Corporate Business (3), Small Business (1), Law (5), Journalism (2), Nonprofit (2).

There was one person on that list I could imagine struggling professionally. Turns out, he isn't.

In fact, the only people I know who might be thought of as "struggling" are working as adjunct faculty. Most everybody else is doing fine. The non-academics seem relatively happy and well adjusted; they are certainly not struggling either professionally or financially.

In case it is interesting to anybody -- it was interesting to me -- just over 50% of the people on the original long list ended up with tenure-track/tenured positions. (Again, take into account that the list included people who left our graduate program before finishing.) This is higher than I expected but my list is probably skewed since I am probably having an easier time remembering the names of those who ended up in philosophy, as I did.

Anonymous said...

6:06, your inability to remember the other names is mainly the fault of the APA.

Anonymous said...

I left a tt-job because it was in an undesirable location, my department had bad morale, my S.O. couldn't continue his own training in the area (we had to live two hours apart) and, I think most importantly, because philosophy--the kind I specialized in, anyway--didn't seem to me to be making enough of a contribution to justify these significant sacrifices.

As for my plan B: I have trained to become a mental health counselor. This is a big drop in prestige (though about the same amount of money as what I was receiving as an Assistant professor at a [weak] R1). The loss of prestige is hard, as is knowing that I spent many years preparing for something I won't be making much use of.

Counseling is a plan B for others I know in philosophy as well. It makes use of some analytical skills, certainly, and when working with groups, draws on classroom experience in managing a discussion. If some of the posters on this thread are right, we as philosophers often have a dose of some sort of neurosis, which may help us relate better to those who would seek out a mental health specialist! I used to say that philosophy was a way of making a vocation out of mental illness (obviously just a joke and not true of most in the profession).

Having a PhD and experience in academia has helped me land a job doing counseling in higher education, where I deal with clients who I am, demographically, very familiar with and whose struggles (i.e. graduate students worrying about their dissertations and career options) I think I have a particular expertise in... My philosophy PhD also gives me the opportunity to teach occasional classes in the philosophy department.

Other philosophy "dropouts"--including a friend who had a tt-job--are going to law school or are already lawyers.

So there are a couple of plan B's, anyway, which have turned out pretty well. For everyone I know, though, the process of leaving the field is extremely hard for many reasons.

Accidental Philosopher

Anonymous said...

I, for one, started my own copywriting (and editing, marketing) firm. Without any advertising, just work of mouth, I've made (part time) almost as much as my second-best year as a lecturer, all within nine months. (Looking forward to what I can do over twelve months, full time, with marketing and networking).

For those still struggling: you would be surprised how much clear writing and clear thinking is prized in the business world, simply because there is such a dearth of it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the people with stories about Plan B's. I was probably most disheartened to here Zombie's story because a government job seemed like something that might both be interesting and ethically unproblematic.

This may be incredibly naive, but I can't help thinking that people who know how to understand and clearly present arguments, navigate challenging texts, master complex theories, should be higherable. Not to mention those of us that work in ethics, or even maybe cog sci have work that could be directly relevant to any number of industries.

Anonymous said...

Here are some ideas for Plan B.

http://www.mckinsey.com/Careers/Your_background/Advanced_professional_degrees

http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/careers

http://www.monitor.com/JoinMonitor/tabid/60/L/en-US/Default.aspx

Among these three firms, McKinsey seems to make the greatest effort to recruit people with PhD's: "McKinsey was one of the first consulting firms to actively recruit candidates with advanced professional degrees (APDs). Today, more than half of our consultants have a doctorate (PhD), law (JD), medical (MD), or non-business master’s degree." A friend of mine got his PhD from a decent program around 1997, and spent two or three years looking for a TT job. He eventually gave that up and applied for a job with one of the three companies linked above: the fact that he was willing to move to Singapore was a huge plus, and he got the job (in Singapore). I've lost touch with him, but friends who've stayed in touch with him tell me that he now earns close to seven figures.