Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Plan B?

In comments, we have a request for a thread on Plan Bs (plans B? what is the plural of 'plan B'?)

Could we maybe get an alternative plan/Plan B SUCCESS/ADVICE thread going? I'm not as interested in what current philosophers think people could do for work, but rather what people who left grad programs are ACTUALLY doing for work and how they found it, why they left, etc. I do realize that those people likely would not frequent the Smoker blog, but maybe people who still keep in touch with friends who left their program could chime in.
I feel like we run "Plan B" threads every so often, but none stood out to me as I was looking through the archives. It would be nice to be able to find them. Therefore, new tag: Plan B.

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

For many people, I don't think there is a plan B that's not already obvious to them. If you double majored in accounting and philosophy as an undergrad, then you probably already have a good idea of what your plan B is. But if you're sitting there wondering what non-academic jobs are searching high and low for philosophers, then you're going to be disappointed.

I'm still in grad school, but when the time for a plan B comes around I'm going to find out more about technical writing or teaching high school.

...I guess I'll also wait tables.

Anonymous said...

I know four people who earned a PhD in Philosophy and then went straight to law school and earned a JD. Two practice law in a firm, two made a "comeback" and got academic jobs in Philosophy, possibly on the strength of their extra credential.

I would love to hear from others who did the PhD followed by JD route. (a) I wonder whether law school is just as challenging for someone with a PhD in Philosophy as it is (or is claimed to be) for those who enter law school with only a BA or BSc. (b) I wonder whether the PhD in Philosophy on a resume is an advantage for future lawyers trying to get into a firm, or something for which people felt they had to apologize. (c) What are any Philosopher-Lawyers doing these days professionally?

Anonymous said...

I know somebody who joined his/her country's spy agency (having multiple languages was what prompted him/her to try), and another who became a civil servant.

So... in addition to those two, let's add "army" to the list. There's probably *some* use they can put us to.

Anonymous said...

I completed my PhD and I taught for a number of years in various temporary positions. A few years ago, I got into academic testing -- think LSAT, GRE, MCAT, GMAT, etc. There are a number of philosophers who do this full-time, and many times you can work part-time as a question writer for more money that a lot of adjunct gigs pay (and if can be a good in if a full-time position becomes available). I saw that LSAT, for instance, was hiring earlier this year.

The biggest barrier I had was crafting an actual resume from my CV and writing an over-the-top self-congratulatory cover letter.

For what its worth, I love my job and I think it's meaningful and challenging. For better or worse, these sorts of tests have a big impact on higher education in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

There is no plan B unless your undergraduate degree (or your other grad degree) is in business or a STEM discipline.

No one wants a philosopher. No one is hiring for philosophers. No one gives two shits about your supposed reasoning/research skills.

Seriously, if you're like me and you made the mistake of studying the humanities as both an undergrad and grad student, then you are a worthless failure and the business world wants nothing at all to do with you. For reals, there is literally nothing out there for you.

Anonymous said...

Did Debbie Downer (aka 11:29) really just use "for reals"?

Any way, don't believe the doom and gloom.

People I know who dropped out during or after a Ph.D. found success in technical writing, library science, publishing, and law. Two are law professors and two are one their way to being rich and successful lawyers. Library science is a hard market too, from what I understand, but I am no expert. The technical writing thing sounds good from what I hear. The person in publishing is an editor are a good university press.

So, no, your time need not have been wasted studying the humanities.

FYI I went to a low end Leiter program

Anonymous said...

For those of you considering teaching high school, keep in mind that this will likely mean more years of schooling, taking courses and doing work that will likely drive you insane.

I work at a university whose primary mission is to train K-12 teachers. (We have a full humanities curriculum, but by far our largest department is Education.) In my state, if you want to be hired as a high school teacher, you need the following:
1. A degree in Education
2. A degree in your area of specialization
(Here, students double major, but it is possible to major in one field and get an MA in the other field. In fact, at least one of your degrees must be an MA, and many students double major, then get an MA in a specialized field like Literacy or Special Education, to better their chances of finding work.)
3. One semester of student teaching (which is uncompensated)
4. Passing scores on the state field exams

What this means, 9:47, is that if you are in my state, none of your Philosophy degrees will help you, as Philosophy is not an area of K-12 specialization. You will be expected to complete 2 additional degrees (they can both be graduate degrees), then perform student teaching, and then pass the exams. You're looking at, minimally, 4 years of additional training in order to get a job teaching high school in my state. Now, not all states have the same requirements, but it's worth noting that if K-12 teaching is your Plan B, know what the requirements are in your state. Degrees in Philosophy will do you absolutely no good here.

As 11:29 notes, nobody is looking for Philosophy degrees. Yes, there are ways you can transfer some of your skills (for instance, copy editing for a press). But there is no secondary market for Philosophy degrees.

Anonymous said...

There are at least a few things a philosophy Ph.D. qualifies you to go. Logic and Phil Math folk are qualified to work at a variety of firms. There are university positions involving either teaching (Centers for Teaching, etc.) or testing/assessment where you can work.

In line with what 11:25 said, I just accepted full-time work in the academic/workforce testing industry. The job is in a very nice location. It pays just as well as an assistant professorship. It comes with a very nice vacation and benefit package.

Also, as 11:25 said, the challenge is crafting a resume. Spend some time on it. Think about all the skills you've gained from a philosophy Ph.D. Don't laugh. You do have skills.

zombie said...

Philosophy is my Plan B. My Plan A was even more hopeless.

Anonymous said...

11:42 here.

You should also take the rant about High school with a grain of salt. I know two people who finished the Ph.D and then zipped right into a nice job teaching in a swank private school. Both love the job, have amazingly interested students, and did not need to go get some additional training after grad school. Keep hope alive people!

Anonymous said...

Get a JD? Really? That's a plan B? Fork over two or three years of your life and another heap of money in order to *maybe* get a shot at a job in law (which by the way is almost as bad a job market these days as academia). Good technical writing jobs (i.e. the kind that pay well) often require one to have a degree in business, science, medicine, or military experience. You cannot just waltz into these jobs w/o specialized training due to your supposedly transferable skills.

Anonymous said...


I'm not quite what you asked for (did an MA followed by JD equivalent in the UK), but here's my take for what it's worth:

a) Law school certainly seems easier having done philosophy, which makes sense given that it involves reading lots of rather dry material and then constructing/dismantling arguments based on that material. With that said, I think your second question is much more important since in law, as in philosophy, the biggest hurdle is getting a job rather than getting the qualification.

b) The MA did help on balance, and I imagine the same could be true of the PhD, but only if you spin it well. Emphasizing teaching helps, as it shows you're comfortable with things like public speaking and dealing with confrontation (disruptive students, plagiarism). Firms don't care about what you studied for the most part. Above all, be ready with a compelling answer to why you're moving away from philosophy and towards law. I would guess that's even more crucial if you've done the PhD. Any kind of legal work experience also helps significantly.

c) I've got a job lined up at a firm in the UK. I'd be more hesitant about going down the law route in the US given the heavier debt burden and significantly worse job market, but it might still be a reasonable option if you're dedicated enough.

Best of luck to everyone figuring out Plan B.

Anonymous said...

If the APA wants to be useful for the profession, it might use it's clout to hold recruitment fairs at the meetings for Get some career counselors there and some headhunters there to talk to grad students about non- academic jobs. It would be good for the profession, since it would justify continued enrollments in grad programs, and good for students for obvious reasons. Maybe even do something for faculty salaries. Might actually justify the SPA's continued existence.

Anonymous said...

Here are some of the things my former fellow graduate students (mid ranked Leiter school) are doing that didn't find/seek academic jobs. Most of them got their PhD's, a few dropped out with an M.A.
- Teaching at a private high school
- computer/IT work (had undergraduate comp sci degree)
- Health care admin (manager) (works for an HMO)
- lawyer (non academic)
- Editor for a major academic press
- Farmer/married (enough) wealth
- air force
- works in intelligence for government
- ministry
- GRE/LSAT etc. Tutor
- another (non academic) lawyer

Anonymous said...

University administration. I currently work in administration and really enjoy it. I have found my training in philosophy to be useful, especially for writing policy documents.

It is also an area in which the Ph.D. works to your advantage.

The best resource to prepare for this career path is your current university. A couple of suggestions to help those considering this as their plan B:

1. Informational interviews. Set up a meeting with an individual who works in an area that you think may be of interest to you. People like to talk about their jobs.

2. Volunteer. The one thing that I wish I had done differently is to have volunteered and/or interned in an office on campus. It would have allowed me to gain skills and to network for free.

3. Take classes to improve your skills, e.g. PPT, Prezi, Excel, Word, or budgeting.

Best of luck smokers. As others have said, you have many skills that will be valuable in other lines of work.

Anonymous said...

I think about Plan B a lot. I'm in a low-ranked Leiter PhD program that has a reasonably strong placement record, mostly in small universities and liberal arts colleges.

Regardless, I find my self spending a lot of mental energy fighting against philosophy and 'the system' and wondering if there's something else I could do.

I recently came across trying to build a career in publishing, specifically in editing scholarly works in the humanities.

I'd ideally like to build a career so that I can freelance. But I realize I'd likely have to start in a publishing house cutting my teeth, making contacts, and learning the way of the biz.

This appeals to me because, hopefully, it satisfies a number of important criteria: a) I would (ideally, again) be using some of the skills I picked up in philosophy; b) I could continue to read widely and carefully as a big part of my job; c) as a freelancer, I'd get the satisfaction of earning my keep on my own and driving my own ship, which is becomingly increasingly important to me; d) I'd be involved in the publishing industry in such a way that perhaps I could publish some of my own work, which I hope to be able to write when I'm done this PhD.

Are (a)-(d) idealistic? Yeah, they are. But they're part of the life I want, and I'm willing to take the long view when working towards that, realizing that it might not be until I'm in my late 40s/50s that I've really built something for my self.

I might end up shooting for an academic job...because going out into the freelancing world on my own is scary, admittedly. But I can't help but at the same time feel excited by that, and I hope it'd bring rewards that I have to admit I don't feel I'm getting in academe.

Above all, I'm insisting that I'll build a life that is continuous with--i.e. uses, capitalizes on, and essentially monetizes--the skills I've developed in university. And yeah, I do believe I've developed some.

If anything, doing this PhD has given me some confidence that I can build my own life. I want to try to do that. I've got about 80 years, if I'm lucky, in this weird cosmic thing here. Might as well jump in and not spend so much time being (frankly) fearful.

CTS said...

My partner went from philosophy (after a two year postdoc, out of a super-Leitter school and top of his year) into software development. It's largely a matter of logic, after all. He quickly advanced to become a higher-up because he was able to speak with people of different perspectives and translate what they wanted or needed. This is an invaluable skill, and philosophy is a great way to develop it.

You can certainly move from phil into private school teaching, although your options will depend on what you have been doing in phil. Critical reasoning/logic is good; any area of history is likely to have given you some knowledge in the relevant periods/areas; your languages are useful (many private schools are reviving Latin and Greek); and so on. Ethics, by the way, is quite desired.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I am about to leave with an MA from a well known school (although not ranked). I have looked for jobs in teaching, editing, and technical writing, as well as a multitude of jobs as a glorified secretary. I've sent out over 150 applications, with no bite yet.

Jobs in editing and technical writing seem to be looking for 3-5 years worth of industry experience, and echoing 11:56, in my state I am unqualified to teach anything other than special education in K-12 because I don't have a degree in any high school subject (I majored in philosophy in undergrad as well).

Private school teaching jobs are possible, but they are usually looking for applicants with substantial teaching experience. This may be possible for people with PhDs, having taught undergrads, but I have not been able to get any TA positions during my time at my school, so am all out of luck there as well.

I'm just doing my best spinning what skills I have gained from philosophy, customizing my cover letters and resumes, hoping to get an administrative assistant job at a university where I can get some good benefits and possibly tuition remission for another degree or a professional certificate to give me some foothold in a different industry.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but some of these responses are burying the needle on my Bullshit-ometer (TM).

I mean farming, really? Does anyone think that is a success anyone reading this blog is likely to duplicate? Academics (outside of geology/agricultural science departments) are not, as a group, known for their great love of the soil. Not only that but do you have any idea the kind of start-up capital you need to get into farming?

Aside from farming folks have mentioned (i) Law, (ii) Ministry, (iii) Editing, (iv) Military Intelligence, (v) Healthcare Admin, (vi) High School teaching. Most of these options require years of further training at considerable personal expense and not all of them offer job markets much better than philosophy.

These are just not realistic options. most of us are going to have student loans to repay, and a bills to meet, and going through another four years of college to get yet another degree that might not do us much good is not going to be all that helpful.

Anonymous said...

People keep mentioning what kind of PhD program they're coming from, but it's probably not that relevant compared with what kind of undergrad program they're coming from. For the purposes of many of these plan Bs, that is.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the obvious Plan B for cash-strapped philosophers just any entry-level position you can get your hands on, plus some patience and ambition? Working in a call center, for example, might be a good start. That sounds like terrible work at first, but I wish that I had already done 2-3 years of it because that is the only concrete experience required for an awesome job that I've just heard about in my (non-US) country's federal government (the required skills being the ability to analyze information critically and conduct effective text-based research...just the skills Philosophy delivers). I think my Philosophy background would be perfect for this job, which is a very exciting and well-paid one, but I lack the call center experience (maybe they'll ignore this gap in my background, but maybe they won't...).

So Plan B for philosophers must begin humbly with odd jobs that develop new marketable skill sets, but Plan B can ultimately end up being very interesting. So in other words, philosophy is just like every other background (except, perhaps, engineering and computer science, which deliver immediate jobs in the field).

We have to stop looking for a Plan B that is immediately lucrative and generally rewarding. After all, Plan A didn't *guarantee* these things either...

Anonymous said...

I, too, am thinking about law school. But, what holds me back, is that, from what I understand, the legal market is very tight right now too.

Does anyone know people that, very recently within the current recession, had a PhD in philosophy and then went to law school and then ended up finding employment as a laywer?

Related, does anyone know if having a PhD in philosophy helps on the legal market?

Last, does anyone know about how age can affect one's employment in the legal job market? Were I do go to law school, I would be in my mid to late 30s by the time I am done, and I wonder if that would hurt me on the law market?

In the end, I am thinking that a lot of one's employability on the legal market depends on the strength of the law school you get into, and how well you do things like networking. So, in the end, I may just apply to law school, see where I can get in, and then make my decision from there.

One thing to add is that I am single and do not have a lot of debt, so it is easier for me to change careers than someone who has a family to support.

Anonymous said...

My best friend studied literature, and dropped out of her PhD program before finishing the dissertation. She and I were roughly on the same track. I finished my degree, spent 2 years adjuncting, and then secured a TT job. She started working at a supermarket.

I have a job I enjoy, She has a job she has learned to enjoy, having recently been promoted to a daytime management position. However, she makes $5,000 a year more than I do, and doesn't have to spend any of her free time fixated on some inane part of her job.

Anonymous said...

People keep talking about how bad the legal job market is, and how it's nearly as bad as the philosophy job market. That's not true. It's true that the legal market is far worse now than it was ten years ago, but it's still much, much better than philosophy. My partner went to a good but not top law school (20-30th ranked), graduated during the worst year of the market, and the majority of her classmates (65%?) got legal jobs straight out of school. Many of the rest (15% more?) have since found legal employment. Friends who dropped out of the Ph.D. program I was in had similar experiences.

That's not to say everything's great. Ten years ago 90% of my partner's class would have had jobs, and half of them would have had six-figure jobs with big law firms. (In my partner's year, less than a fifth got those high-paying jobs.) And of course there are other hurdles to entering the legal job market (3 yrs in school and $150k in debt). But to say that it's as bad as philosophy just isn't right.

For those frustrated by the apparent arbitrariness of the philosophy market, it's also nice to note that the legal market is much more predictable. Get into a good school, get good grades, get onto Law Review (or edit some other journal), don't fuck anything else up and you'll have a very good shot at a job.

P.S. Those who left my Ph.D. program (w/ or w/o degrees) ended up: teaching at a private high school, going to law school, going to med school, going into finance/banking, and teaching high school (in a foreign country).

Anonymous said...

I worked as a journalist in between my m.a. and PhD. During that time it was not unusual for me to meet fellow journalists who had some form of graduate humanities training, either as ABDs or PhDs. Many of them had jobs that allowed them to use their analytic skills and which they found rewarding.

When I worked as a newspaper editor I would often commission articles from people with PhDs, both those who were working as academics and those who were not. In my eyes, having a PhD was definitely a plus. You just got a deeper analysis from someone with extensive intellectual training. So I think some people in this thread are exaggerating the downside of being post-academic in the non-academic world.

Post-academics I knew who were trying to transition into journalism would sometimes send me their CVs. Often their CVs were still very academic oriented, listing grants, scholarships etc. I always gave the same advice: downplay or eliminate that stuff on your CV so it looks like your life-long dream has been to go into journalism, and the PhD was just a detour. Things that help in that regard include publishing one or two journalistic articles on a freelance basis, even if it's only in a local or online publication. That gives you some clips to start showing other editors, and you can start working your way up from there.

Among other benefits of journalism, it doesn't require another degree. And whatever you're interested in, there's some media that covers it or story to be done on it.

Anonymous said...

I only have an MA in Philosophy but are several years out. I miss philosophy terribly and try to keep up with it (mostly via blogs which is how I got here.) I fall into the category of people who probably would have been a very good philosophy teacher, but never a great philosopher. Subsequently, if I had continued I would have likely spent many more years studying for no return.

Anyway, in my working life of 8 years and counting one of the things I have done is recruiting. I have recruited for a marketing analyst firm and a large professional organization and we hired people with MA's and BA's from any and all disciplines. (Philosophy majors I should add had a 100% success record)

The thing that I often struggled with was always trying to find a job that was at least peripherally related to academia ie. publishing, writing, research,teaching, working in universities etc. this is not always a good strategy because what you end up doing is trying to explain how philosophy is related to what the job entails. Simply presenting yourself as smart and skilled is generally a better strategy.

What it boils down to is this-experience counts. People WILL be impressed that you studied philosophy (unfortunately they may also be intimidated) but that doesn't put you ahead of someone who has 1-2 years experience if you've been in school since you were 5. My advice is to be realistic about what you have been doing-studying and teaching, and if you want to move away from that you are essentially starting at the beginning. This is depressing to hear I'm sure as an entry level publishing job may only pay 30k or so but it's the truth. If you can do an internship or something while finishing a thesis do it-everything helps.

The difficult thing to do is to stop thinking of yourself as an academic-the sooner you can do this the better off you'll be.

Anonymous said...

Original grad student who posted the Plan B request here.

One thing I want to clarify, which some of the comments indicate, is that I don't think many of us are under the illusion that ANY non-academic job "calls" for philosophy majors. That is why these are Plan B's.

Ideally, Plan B will let you use your advanced degree to either get an edge over other applicants or make you a more interesting hire. Again, no illusions that they care a lick about your academic accolades. Some of these suggestions sound really good. The one that strikes me as the most interesting is working in a publishing house. Does anyone have any experience at entry-level jobs in this area? What is the work like? Can someone get an entry-level job in the publishing field without years of prior experience?

Anonymous said...

It takes about 4 years to go from zero to being a licensed electrician. Eventually, journeyman electricians can earn very good (90K+) money, live wherever they want, and set themselves decent hours.

This is going to sound a bit harsh, but the class markers associated with academic training will be a huge advantage if you enter traditionally working-class professions. You'll be thought of as the genius electrician and middle-class white people will feel great about hiring you.

Anonymous said...

6:35 here to original plan B.

My first job after my MA was in journals production at Wiley-Blackwell in Malden, MA. It really was an entry level job and paid $31,500. I ended up leaving Boston but there was/are opportunities to move around the company to get somewhere a little more challenging than production.

For all those thinking about publishing though I will point out that it's not exactly a growth industry and salaries are low. If you put in some time though it could lead to an interesting role.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 7:40

I wouldn't get your hopes up about jobs in publishing. All of the ads I've seen require at least 3-5 years experience in the field. Not to mention, publishing is a dying/rapidly changing business model due to to encroach from the internet and alternative media.

@Anon 7:51

I ran a Google search on "electrician 90000 a year" and all the results I got indicated that such jobs require a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Most out of work philosophers do not have the money (or time) for yet another 4 years of going back to being an undergraduate.

So far, I don't think anyone has produced a single, viable, plan B that doesn't entail either an enormous expenditure of time and money, or an enormous amount of plain dumb unreproducible luck (or a BA in a STEM field). This is not surprising since no one in the business world gives a shit about your philosophy degree.

The fact is philosophy degrees only prepare for one occupation, academic philosophy, and most do not even prepare you for that very well. As someone mentioned above it would be nice if the APA recognized that a portion (certainly a majority) of its members will never get TT work in philosophy, and got off its ass to help raise the profile of philosophy graduate students in the business world. But I am not holding my breath.

There is no plan B, never has been, never will be. It's sink or swim.

Anonymous said...

Work at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in Washington, DC. Steven Rieber (Princeton PhD, formerly tenured at Georgia State) works there training CIA analysts how to think critically. Seriously. Steve told me that he would like to hire philosophy PhDs to do what he does. No additional credentials or education is needed; all on-the-job training. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Plan B is that it's something you have to start planning for long before you you to use it. Philosophy departments, for the most part, aren't designed to train you in anything but an academic career. Perhaps there are some undergraduate programs with an eye toward something other than the academic path, but I have never heard of a graduate program that was training anything other than future academics.

Yes, one can spin one's education in certain ways, depending on the education and the spin. Yes, there are transferrable skills. However, there isn't a market for PhDs in Philosophy other than the academic market. The Plan B discussion is often some version of, "help me figure out what else I might be able to do," and that's simply not helpful.

Here's my advice to anyone wanting to major in Philosophy: double-major in Computer Science. When you go to grad school, keep up your programming skills. If possible, keep a part-time job while in grad school that gives you programming experience. I know lots of grad students who adjunct for extra money. Don't bother. It has a marginal impact on your chances in the academic market, and no impact on any Plan B path. Instead, hold a side job in the computer/tech industry. That's your Plan B.

Anonymous said...

The two Plan B options I have seriously considered pursuing are teaching at the high school level (and here I mean like teaching at a private school, so I wouldn't have to go back to school) and management consulting. I don't know anyone who has done either one after getting a PhD in philosophy, but I'm wondering what other people know about getting into those fields. Several people have mentioned the private high school teaching thing, but how did the people you know who got those jobs find those jobs? What were they looking for?

As far as the consulting thing goes, the PhD could be a serious asset; management consulting firms actually do recruit PhDs who lack technical skills but are assumed to be quite good at problem-solving and thinking deeply about a problem. Although I know this is a viable option (or at least this is what I've been told by friends who work in consulting), I don't actually know any philosophy PhDs who have done it. Anyone else out there know anything about this possibility?

Anonymous said...

I'm the person who gave the list of where my fellow graduate students went. The farming thing was not supposed to be a realistic option, I'm just stating what people did in fact do.

I realize my brief list didn't make this clear before, but the farming thing was in the same line as "married (enough) wealth" - I was trying to imply that farming was a great option, indeed, farming is not especially a realistic option, and that this person was able to do it only because they married (enough) wealth. Just stating what people did. Some do marry enough wealth and raise kids. It happens.

Of course those who became lawyers needed law degrees.

I thought the point was to come up with plan Bs - not necessarily "plan Bs that will require no further schooling or no undergraduate degrees in things other than philosophy".

There are often one or two year comp science or IT programs for those who already have a degree in something else.

Statisticians are also very employable, and if you have a semi-formal background, you can probably pick up an additional degree or certification in a year or two.

Now, some of the people in my list did have humanities only degrees - one with a history/philosophy MA went to wall street to work as a day trader. Have no idea how it worked out. Obviously, not a plan B that is going to be especially philosophical. But he didn't have to get an MBA or a Business degree to find that job.

As far as the person who went into publishing, I've not asked him recently how easy/hard it was to get his job. He did apply right after he got his PhD and he's been working there for a number of years and seems reasonably happy. Just had philosophy degrees.

Still gets to go to the APAs because he's one of those guys at the publishers bookstands.

Of course, many in the business world don't give a shit about your philosophy degree. But some do care whether you can read/write or think, and some jobs do hire humanities students. It happens. It may not be the kind of work you want if you've always dreamed of teaching and researching, but you can find a job.

My friend in health admin also had no other degrees than undergraduate and MA philosophy degrees. People do get jobs. She now likes her job and makes good money, since she's moved her way up the corporate ladder.

Let's face it, for many business jobs, a business degree doesn't prepare you much, either. Much of what happens is on the job training.

As far as the undergraduate degrees of all the people I mentioned in my list on Jan. 16 at 2:59, none of them had fancy ivy league degrees. Mostly state schools from all over.

The one who got the job teaching at a private high school had already been teaching before; when he couldn't find an academic job, he went back to that.

- Anon Jan 16 2:59

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot about my own MA student here who couldn't get admitted into a strong PhD program in philosophy, so took a couple of years working part time and taking additional science class, and applied to (and got accepted) by a decent medical school. So medicine is an option as well. He only had an undergraduate degree in philosophy, but if you're sufficiently motivated and smart and don't mind a the debt, a good, high paying job awaits.

Consider being a nurse or a doctor.

Anonymous said...

"There is no plan B, never has been, never will be. It's sink or swim."

Perhaps it is this sort of attitude that (a) keeps dejected philosophers in a field where opportunities are evaporating and (b) keeps such philosophers from getting non-academic jobs they might otherwise be qualified for.

Anonymous said...

I thought the point was to come up with plan Bs - not necessarily "plan Bs that will require no further schooling or no undergraduate degrees in things other than philosophy".

A plan b that involves going tens of thousands of dollars further in debt to get another degree, or one that involves spending 3-5 more years in college getting yet another degree is not likely to appeal to most out of work philosophers nor is it frankly realistic. Most of us have not got the time or the money for new professional degrees at this stage in the game.

Anonymous said...

Here are a few ideas for plan B:
1) philosophical counseling or happiness coaches. A lot of people are unhappy or depressed, or dot know what to do with their lives, and philosophers can help them to their prolems clearly. There is even a philosophical counseling association, led by a guy called Marinoff
2) go to a thirld word country and teach philosophy in small colleges or high schools over there. Salaries are lower than in the US but people who do it seem happy.
3) porn actor/ actress. Philosophers tend to be well endowed, right?

Anonymous said...

"Most of us have not got the time or the money for new professional degrees at this stage in the game."

Then perhaps you should be looking outside the professional ranks. My neighbor drives a truck for UPS. He worked overnight part-time for about 5 years before securing the full-time job driving. Even as a part-timer, he had full benefits, even though he had to work a second part-time job until he made full-time.

The reality is, whatever your "plan B" is, you are going to have to start entry level, or secure new credentials. That is, unless you have already been working in that field already, or have other credentials, in which case you now know what your "plan B" is. I suspect there are several people who want a "plan B' option, but don't want to start entry level or secure additional credentials.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is this sort of attitude that (a) keeps dejected philosophers in a field where opportunities are evaporating and (b) keeps such philosophers from getting non-academic jobs they might otherwise be qualified for.

Exactly what non-academic job does a philosophy degree (or two or three) qualify a person for? Can you name one? I for one haven't seen any specific mention on this thread of a single non-academic job that a philosophy degree qualifies a person for. I've seen a lot of jobs that you have to go and get another degree for (law, medicine, technical writing, engineering, business, computer science etc...) but I have yet to see anyone mention any plan B job where a philosophy degree would be considered an adequate qualification.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who have mentioned private school teaching as an option, how can a Philosophy PhD market oneself for such a position? I understand that one ought to emphasize one's teaching experience, but more specifically, I'm wondering about what a Philosophy PhD may be qualified to teach. English? Social Studies? Or do private high schools tend to offer Philosophy? - I would think this is the exception rather than the rule.

Anonymous said...


What are you talking about? I'm 11:58 above. I've already given you an example of a non-academic job for which you're qualified with a philosophy Ph.D.: the testing industry. I just took a position developing tests for an assessment company.

You've also been given a number of other examples: entry-level publishing work, for instance.

Here's the deal, 1:56. You've got to stop thinking of your philosophy Ph.D. as "qualifying" you for jobs. Nobody gives a shit about your Ph.D. What companies are interested in are your skills. I didn't get a job by sending in my CV and pointing to my Ph.D. I got one by selling the skills that went along with my Ph.D.

It's the skills that matter, not the credential.

Anonymous said...

Hey, 4:42: I said "military," not "military intelligence". What's implausible about that? Undesirable, perhaps, but perfectly plausible.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4:43

Here are the job requirements for an "entry level" testing/assessment position with ETS:

5 to 6 years of increasingly responsible professional experience (including educational measurement, applied statistics or teaching), 2 of which must be in test development and educational measurement or applied statistics, are required. Other requirements include a mastery of a field of speciality in order to develop tests in a subject area and to serve as a resource person for peers, committees and clients, and a growing knowledge of testing and measurement.

2 years experience in "applied statistics, test development, or educational measurement."

How many philosophers are going meet that requirement? Plenty won't even meet the 5-6 years teaching requirement, though some of us will.

Not only that, but how many jobs in testing can there be? is there any other company besides ETS that even hire for such things. It has to be tougher competition that the philosophy job market. Seems to me like your success aside this is not likely to be a repeatable result.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the 'standard' (whatever that means) private schools typically offer philosophy classes, but classical schools typically do.

Now, most classical schools (or maybe it's all of them; I don't know) are religiously affiliated. So, there's that to think about. In any event, philosophy PhDs can teach at classical schools. That's a nice plan B, I think.

Robert said...

These posts are alternately amusing and depressing, particularly in what they reveal about what at least some PhD students are demanding.

As should be clear to anyone with any sort of reasoning ability, there is no other profession that philosophy PhD's will fit into without any work on their part. If that is what you are demanding as a plan B, well, head for the soup kitchen.

Further, there is no plan B which, with a bit of work, the unemployed philosophy PhD's around could all use to find jobs. So, any possibilities that can be listed are going to be subject to the "but how many jobs are there in that area?" worry. If this is what you are demanding, well, again, head for the soup kitchen.

If you are interested in finding some way to support yourself, as opposed to simply mindlessly venting your anger at the fact that you won't get a philosophy job by tearing down those who are offering up ideas, you need to take them in the spirit they are given.

No one is telling you to go be a farmer or test specialist. Rather, they are letting you know what others have done. It is up to you to combine this information with a realistic assessment of your own skills and potential, along with a bit of imagination and see whether you can come up with any ideas that you had not previously thought of.

It's your future - you can waste your time attacking others for offering up "ridiculous" options, or you can use the ideas here as springboards.

Anonymous said...

I know it's hard for you to think that you can make a decent living in a trade without a college degree.

You can see what jobs the IBEW (electrician's union) is listing here:
Inside journeyman lineman in Seattle listed at $41 per hour more in so. California No BS necessary. That's mid-80K a year.

Anonymous said...

Any plan B is going to require you to be able to SELL yourself as a professional person with professional skills. Part of the problem is that so many philosophy graduate students don't come off (notice I didn't say are NOT), as professionally oriented. This is part of the problem.

If you, the philosophy student, can't explain how you might fit for a job, then how do you expect others who don't know what philosophy is to do that for you.

Part of the game of getting a job is being willing to try to get a job. If you produce professional documents, dress professionally, and have excellent interpersonal skills, then you have a shot at a job.

I will give you an example of a kind of job that most of you could get. Corporate training. Major companies hire people to build, teach, and manage online trainings and to actually train their people to do all kinds of things. Especially if there is some kind of professional compliance involved -- like sexual harassment trainings.

In reality, no one in any field, is given a job. If you don't get an academic job, then you have to work really hard to find something you can do. But getting that job is work. It isn't a simple APA cycle like now. People in the real world don't run on the semester clock. They get to work early. The work the day after Thanksgiving, and the day after Christmas.

All those complaints that professors don't work seem real when you know someone who has the kind of job you all will get. My brother-in-law left a history program ABD. He now has a corporate gig. I am still amazed at how much he works every time we are visiting for the holidays.

The point is, you have to be willing to sell yourself. You have to overcome the lazy professor stereotype. You have to explain what you can do for people. And part of that is knowing what other companies do.

Who ever said the APA should have a career fair at the APA is right on! My only worry would be that it might be seen by some as a betrayal. In any event, if you are going to go plan B, use your university Alumni group and career center and every contact you can to help. That's what they are for.

Anonymous said...

Why should the APA be concerned with Plan B jobs? The APA is concerned with the academic market, the market that most Philosophy PhDs are interested in when they go to graduate school. There are many problems with the APA, but planning for non-academic options isn't one of them.

To those who think the APA should do something about non-academic jobs, let me ask you this: what have *you* done to help secure a non-academic job? If you are only concerned with Plan B careers at the *end* of your PhD, then you are the one to blame for your lack of options. You allowed yourself to be unprepared. May as well also start blaming every professor you ever studied with who didn't include private-sector applications in every class you took, so that you'd have sufficient Plan B options.

The sad truth is, if you can't even conceive of a secondary career choice, that's on you. You put all your eggs in one basket, and now you're stuck. Does it suck? Yes. But don't for a second think there is anyone to blame but yourself.

Anonymous said...


The reason the APA should have a corporate job fair as well is NOT just for the graduate students who can't secure academic jobs. It is for the profession as a whole.

With the increased demand for "Job training" education in college, making it clear to the rest of the corporate world that trained philosophy students have skills that are very useful to the world is important.

There is a whole bunch of fucking talent in philosophy graduate programs. Sometimes tapping that talent is difficult. Why? Because graduate programs focus on training academics. They aren't good at thinking past that.

The APA needs to be bigger than the sum of the grad programs. The more happy, productive philosophy student in the work force, the better for the APA and the better for our profession. It's that simple.

The APA needs to do a better job promoting philosophy. What better way of doing that than showing off the talent it has?

Anonymous said...

If the APA is ONLY concerned with the academic market, then why does the JFP accept adds that aren't for academic jobs? Rare I agree, but they happen.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:37 PM

The APA should be concerned about non-academic jobs for philosophers. First, as philosophy currently enjoys a low public image (and is the target of attack at some institutions), having philosophy grads 'out in the world' is at least a small step towards helping to promote the utility of studying philosophy. The previous posters' examples of 'where there are now' (e.g. farmer, supermarket, etc) may each be rewarding to the individuals, but the general Plan B problem for many (I think) is finding alternatives that are rewarding in light of one's philosophical training. The suggestion that the APA should remain entirely insulated within academic circles is, I would have thought, precisely one of the issues facing the APA.

Second, the tight job market will most likely have some long term impact on the profession. With the increased risk of not getting a job associated with doing a PhD there is an even greater disincentive for promising undergrads to attend graduate school. At the same time, however, nobody is expecting that grad programs will reduce their admissions (and indeed the trends in higher education are towards a greater reliance on graduate student and underemployed labour). While the consequences of the recent job market situation are unknown, based on my own experience advising undergraduates, the ones who are best suited for philosophy PhDs are also the ones who are the most realistic about the risks and the most likely to have more promising alternative plans. The net effect is, plausibly, that more of the students entering philosophy PhDs are the ones along for the ride because they don't have anything better going on – perhaps they’ll turn out to be really dedicated superstars, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the APA-E should organize a management consulting job fair running next to the book fair. But something like an annual panel discussion with non-academic philosophy PhDs would be a good way to help raise awareness of non-academic options, as well as encouraging some degree of networking – both of which are currently lacking and certainly a tangible way in which the APA can contribute to the plan B discussion. The claim that those who are unable to secure TT employment in the current market have only themselves to blame is not only false, but terribly short-sighted.

Anonymous said...

I'm Anon. Jan. 16th, 3:13pm.

Interesting thread here. An important point of contention seems to be whether a philosophy PhD can reasonably expect to leave academia and enter the job market in a more specialized, high-level capacity; or whether, upon leaving, he has to start entry level and build up.

Either are possible; the latter is more likely.

That's resulted in some groaning, but consider this, as idealistic as it sounds: I won't assume that this applies to all phil. PhDs--and that it doesn't is fine--but my education--and yeah, I actually would argue that my education studying philosophy in particular--has taught me at least to think creatively, be imaginative, connect dots that aren't obviously connected, and so on.

In other words, I'd like to think it's given me the tools to literally construct my life in a unique way. Maybe I took my second year undergraduate existentialism course a bit too seriously, but whatever. To make it you gotta build it.

With debt, families, jadedness, and so on that can be less than enticing. But it can also be incredibly exciting. Most of the time I feel the former way, but on a good day the latter.

After all--and perhaps this is 'bad'--but, though yeah yeah I'd like to work in academia, I'm realizing more and more that, though I do really love philosophy, I was also pretty into the professor status thing. And the more I'm around, the less impressed I am by it.

I'm more impressed these days by people who build their own lives. Academia has been a convenient shell for me to use as I grow up. I can admit that. Hopefully once I'm out I'll have the emotional bedrock/confidence to stick my neck out and go for it.

So 'Plan B' is probably more like 'New Plan A' once you look at what's required to do it, since a phil. PhD won't parlay directly into it. But it's up to you how to use that degree. The cynicism about whether anyone really cares about your PhD in philosophy is therefore, if true, shallow; and, if false, interestingly so: people don't care about your papers, but they can certainly be made to care about your skills. Or at least, you need to care about your skills in order to capitalize on them. Otherwise you're your own worst enemy when it comes to your philosophically-relevant suitability to the non-academic job market.

Anonymous said...

9:37 here:

"The claim that those who are unable to secure TT employment in the current market have only themselves to blame is not only false, but terribly short-sighted."

That was not my claim. My claim was that those who spent their education not considering a backup plan have only themselves to blame for their lack of Plan B options.

How many people here started considering a Plan B option when they began their graduate training? I'll raise my hand because I did. And anyone else who did, good on you. Because that was smart planning, given the sad state of the academic market. For everyone who did not consider a Plan B during their graduate study - and now find themselves facing a predictably tight market with few non-academic options - yeah, that's on you. Now, a few posters here have given some options, or at least some ways to think about marketing one's skills. But in reality, this was something you should have been preparing for.

Sure, we can blame our advisors for pushing us toward the academic market with little to no consideration of non-academic jobs. We can blame the APA for not trying to more widely market the skills learned in philosophy. We can blame the sad state of the academic market and the rise of adjuncts for the decreasing number of tenure track jobs. But we also need to take responsibility for not having thought about this sooner.

We are not entitled to jobs, in the academy or otherwise. And if we want jobs, it's on us to prepare ourselves for them. Our lack of preparation is not someone else's fault. We had opportunities to prepare; we ignored them.

cogitated said...

"Don't get me wrong, I don't think the APA-E should organize a management consulting job fair running next to the book fair."

So, what would be so wrong w/ this? Some might have concerns about going into this sort of work at all, but then again no one's really doing much in philosophy about our reliance on adjuncts.

zombie said...

"5 to 6 years of increasingly responsible professional experience (including educational measurement, applied statistics or teaching), 2 of which must be in test development and educational measurement or applied statistics, are required. Other requirements include a mastery of a field of speciality in order to develop tests in a subject area and to serve as a resource person for peers, committees and clients, and a growing knowledge of testing and measurement.

2 years experience in "applied statistics, test development, or educational measurement."

How many philosophers are going meet that requirement? Plenty won't even meet the 5-6 years teaching requirement, though some of us will."

In the current job market, plenty of philosophers will have 5-6 years of teaching under their belts, when you include grad teaching, adjuncting, VAPs, etc. The second requirement is redundant to the first, so really, you're just looking at 5-6 years of teaching experience, where you have written and graded tests/papers. Seems like that's a good description of a philosophy grad who goes in as a TA, and moves on to adjunct teaching.

Anonymous said...

I got my first MA from Northern Illinois and my second/ABD from Indiana, both apparently somewhat liked by Brian Leiter, which is apparently supposed to mean something important. (We philosophy grads are like ancient Greeks -- before I kill you I must sing my lineage). I quit this shit around the time of the financial collapse for various reasons -- job market, bitter end of a long relationship, not wanting to spend my life with boring douchebags who think conversation = argument, etc. I had the advantage that I took two years off between high school and college, working in factories, warehouses. Then I took time off between college and grad schools and worked in various gov't and corporate offices. Aside from the 3 years after Indiana that I spent either maximally stoned or suicidally depressed, I have always been able to find not only work but good work that doesn't totally suck. My advice is to learn the following things (many of which have free versions you can download and work on): Microsoft Excel (spreadsheets - free version in Open Office), SPSS (stats - free version PSPP), MySQL (databases), and Adobe InDesign (publishing - there are free versions but none I've seen hold a candle). None of these require a CS degree or classes to become very good at them, and if you do, people will happily pay you well to join their team. Will they want to have a conversation about "your project" or "your commitments"? Will they want to hear what you think about possible worlds or the dogmas of empiricism? No, save that shit for your bartender. But if your ego can get over they idea that you are entitled to be paid to tell people what you believe, then at least you won't starve or be homeless.

In my experience, for people who are so convinced of their own wisdom and wit, philosophy majors are not very bright when it comes to how the world actually works. You don't need another degree to get a good job and you don't have to serve coffee. Just learn how businesses work and get a few skills that they reward (like those I listed).

Anonymous said...


The suggestion that the APA aid in finding non-academic jobs is (obviously!) distinct from the claim that the APA's not having such a service is entirely (or even partly) to blame for philosophers being unprepared for the non-academic job market. Stop construing what is a constructive suggestion as whining. Maybe each individual person is partly (or fully) to blame. That doesn't make the idea of the APA offering this sort of help a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

There's always professional football...

Anonymous said...

There are entire "Plan B" blogs (not philosophy-focused, but still very relevant). I recommend reading the FAQ's on the "Worst Prof Ever" blog:

Anonymous said...

No one has mentioned whether the Ph.D. will count against your candidacy for a non-academic job. If so, is it ethical to exclude it from your résumé?

Anonymous said...

Here is one suggestion for using the degree. You could try looking for work in college administration (at a community college, university, wherever). I'm a faculty at a university and there are numerous administrators here. Some of them also teach classes, because the university is always looking to cover sections. So, e.g., the dean of undergraduate enrollment and the director of the libraries both teach a few classes each year on the side. The pay is much better than what I earn, you get to work on campus, and can teach a little. This would be a nice way to use your skills. So I would maybe look for entry level administrative jobs, or just try to get in somewhere and work your way up.

Anonymous said...

"No one has mentioned whether the Ph.D. will count against your candidacy for a non-academic job. If so, is it ethical to exclude it from your résumé?"

I suspect it often does count against us. Why worry that leaving it off a resume would be unethical?

Anonymous said...

You should not leave your phd off your resume. What will you say when you're being interviewed and they ask you what you were doing for 5-10 years? Interviewers do go over your work history; they tend to not like gaping holes in said history.

Even if you do get through the interview without raising any suspicions, if they find out later you lied on a job application, you'll be fired.

Anonymous said...

11:23: My MA counted against me when I sought entry-level employment between my MA and PhD. Even the fast food joints didn't want me; they'd interview me, and then tell me I was a flight risk (imagine that! They didn't think I was planning a career flipping burgers!) So... unless it's clear it would be a net benefit for the job, I'd be wary about including my education history. For entry-level positions, I've learned my lesson: pretend I've just got highschool, and *maybe* university for some jobs.

The difficulty lies in explaining what I've been doing all these years since. I'm toying with out-and-out lying (again, for entry-level/menial work) just so that I can have a bloody chance and gain some of that much-vaunted "experience".

Anonymous said...

I don't think that it would be unethical to remove your PhD (or your MA) from your resume, but I do think that it would be imprudent.

How would you explain the 5- or 6-year gap on your resume (assuming that you did not work outside the university during your PhD years)? Will you leave your TAships or teaching on your resume? How did you get those gigs with only a BA or MA, though you were not enrolled in a PhD program? Or will you omit the PhD from your resume, but not the fact that you were enrolled in a PhD program? But that's the dumbest idea of all.

If you have employment or something else interesting to fill the vacuum left by your omitted PhD years, then I would definitely omit the PhD from your resume for most non-academic job applications.

zombie said...

Academic jobs care about your degree. Non-academic jobs don't care about your degree. They care about your skills. So an academic CV is not going to get you a job outside academe. But some of the skills you develop on the way to your PhD might be an asset, if properly marketed. If you look at non-academic job ads, the requirements listed will often be a degree OR equivalent work experience. Nobody is looking for philosophy PhDs, so it's your equivalent work experience that you need market here. Those might be:
Using databases for research purposes
Reading and analysis of detailed texts
Teaching/training large or small groups
Leading discussions with large or small groups
Supervising others (TAs)
Word processing (hopefully you've gotten fast at typing)
Evaluation and assessment (writing tests, grading tests, etc.)
Competence/experience with various software applications (your university might offer workshops or training that you could get for free)

Really, if you are considering a Plan B, you should consult with a career counselor of some kind who can help you write a resume that spotlights your useful skills.

The government lists many thousands of jobs at various levels of experience/pay etc. Some require a PhD. They have very specific requirements for how you write your resume, and layers of bureaucracy (forms, forms, forms) you have to dig through. I applied for a number of these jobs a few years ago, and the process was time consuming. (I got nuttin', but YMMV)

Anonymous said...


Most of the "entry level" (i.e. non-manual labor 30k a year) jobs I've looked into require both a degree in a specified area of specialization AND 3-5 years work experience in the field. This has been a huge problem for me. Even if I could sell them on what skills I have, it seems to me that they do care about whether your degree is in the right field or not. Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

I nearly walked a couple of years ago, and I found this site helpful in getting my bearings:

Anonymous said...

One further thought about applying for non-academic jobs: if you're at a university currently (especially if you're a graduate student), take advantage of whatever career resources are available. You might be surprised at how helpful they can be, and at the very least, they can look over your resume and give you some interview pointers.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people mentioning Ministry. And Jougensen said there'd never be a reunion...

Anonymous said...

Earlier someone said:

"People keep talking about how bad the legal job market is, and how it's nearly as bad as the philosophy job market. That's not true. It's true that the legal market is far worse now than it was ten years ago, but it's still much, much better than philosophy. My partner went to a good but not top law school (20-30th ranked), graduated during the worst year of the market, and the majority of her classmates (65%?) got legal jobs straight out of school. Many of the rest (15% more?) have since found legal employment. Friends who dropped out of the Ph.D. program I was in had similar experiences."

I am wondering if others have found this to be true as well?

Anonymous said...

Sure, the APA might be able what, exactly? Post some resources online? Hold workshops at conferences? There's really very little they can do to have a direct impact, at least the way many people might want them to.

If we're calling for changes, they should come from individual departments. And it should be part of a major change in how departments operate.

Sadly, many departments see themselves as units unto themselves, and many students find the study of philosophy somewhat foreign and not terribly useful; in other words, philosophy departments often (though certainly not always) do a poor job of demonstrating their relevance to other fields of study. Departments that start here will find the rewards not just in increased student enrollments (a key metric in justifying tenure track lines), but down the line as well, as students with BAs, MAs, and PhDs in philosophy increasingly look for work outside of professional philosophy.

Philosophy programs that use their areas of specialty as means of connecting to specific departments can increase enrollments through double-majoring, can do a better job of demonstrating the study of philosophy to the rest of the university (and, perhaps, the non academic world), and provide a background for students that may assist them down the line when looking for non-academic employment.

Getting the old guard to change will be difficult, if not downright impossible. So it's up to the new generation. It's up to those of us getting job now. When you are lucky enough to land your tenure track job (should you be so lucky), what will you do to make changes? Will you encourage a greater presence of philosophy in the general education program, or will you focus more only on your department majors? Will you pursue publishing opportunities that reach beyond professional philosophers, or will you continue the sad trend of defining increasingly smaller circles of readership? Will you help foster professional development for students beyond training for graduate study, or will you spend your time passing on the tradition of guiding students through cover letters designed to be read by other academics?

My prediction, sad to say, is that little will change. Those who are in the best position to make the necessary changes are those who feel the least pressure to change. (This, coincidentally, is why there's a great deal of talk regarding the abuse of adjuncts, but little real pressure to change the system.)

Anonymous said...

A couple of people have mentioned University administration and that can be a good idea for Plan B. I now have a fairly high up position in administration at a regional state university. But, keep in mind that university administration is professionalized and most (other than those tenured profs that moved up into administration) have at least an MA in Higher Ed Administration or a similar degree. Walking in with a PhD in Philosophy and saying make me a director or assistant dean isn't very likely.

It took me about 4 years at entry level university jobs (making about 35-40K a year) before I was able to move up. But, I never got an additional degree nor were any of my jobs at a university I attended or was otherwise affiliated with.

How did I do this? (1) I picked a very specialized area within administration that fit my background. A lot fewer jobs than in, say, admissions or advising, but it fit me. (2) My PhD is from a fancy university and that really, really helped. People very much liked that I had a fancy PhD rather than one from some random state university. It was a trophy for them and probably helped justify hiring me rather than some 25 year old with an MA in student affairs. (Keep in mind if you've finished your PhD you are probably 30ish and are now old. Age discrimination is real people.) (3) I took these entry-level jobs in a very undesirable (but cheap) location.

I did my time and now make quite a bit of money in a very nice place. I have a position that wanted someone with an academic PhD plus several years of work in administration who would be unlikely to leave in a year or two to a tenure-track position. I was a perfect fit for them, but I wouldn't have been if I hadn't put in my time and worked my way up.

Anonymous said...

I can offer some anecdotal evidence and a little perspective about the philosophy-to-law transition. I did a philosophy Ph.D. at a "Leiteriffic" program and then went straight into a J.D. at a top law school. (I'm in my third year of the J.D. now.)

I should note that this was my "Plan A" -- I wanted to earn both degrees even before I started the Ph.D., and I probably would've gone to law school even if the philosophy market had not been a disaster when I finished the Ph.D. But there are a few things worth noting about trying to go to law school with a philosophy Ph.D.

First, it definitely seems to help in law school admissions. I was able not just to get in at top schools, but also to get a scholarship at a top school at least partly, I think, because of the Ph.D. (Also, the analytic skills you'll pick up in the Ph.D. program may also help by giving you the ability to do well on the LSAT.)

Second, law school can be miserable for someone who is used to having a flexible schedule, research independence, and something approaching a peer relationship with faculty. In law school, you will have a much more rigid schedule. You will probably be put into reasonably large classes, which you will have little latitude in selecting (at least initially). You are likely to be "cold-called" by professors, some of whom will not be interested even in learning your name. Many of them will be indifferent to your Ph.D. It can be infantilizing and frustrating, even though it's possible to learn a great deal at the same time.

Third, whether your Ph.D. helps you with your job search during and after law school will depend radically on what exactly you're trying to do and, potentially, whether the people doing the hiring are independently impressed with the Ph.D. For example, I've found the Ph.D. gave me an enormous advantage in trying to get hired as a research assistant in law school. (That's a rather depressing role to play, but it can be an important position to get because it lets you get a recommendation from a law professor.) Other legal research positions are likely to take you seriously as well. Positions where you would do applied legal work will care less about the Ph.D.; as others on this board have observed, you might have to sell your skills there more than your credential.

Fourth, the skills you picked up while earning a Ph.D. may help you substantially in certain coursework (especially seminars), but they are less likely to help you in larger lectures. And all of your core classes (contracts, torts, criminal law, civil procedure, and so on) will probably be large lectures. Be prepared to take stressful, aggressively-curved exams that do not put a premium on your research and writing ability.

Anonymous said...

Cont'd from above:

Fifth, there's a good chance that you'll be substantially more mature than many of your classmates, a number of whom will have only recently left college. Many are quite smart, but are in a different phase of life, or at least have a different attitude toward it. It can get a little lonely.

Sixth, the legal job market (i.e., working for firms, working in government, working for Legal Aid) is probably better than the philosophy job market; but getting a job as a law professor is difficult -- probably about as tough as getting a job as a philosophy professor. (There are way more spots, but also way more applicants.) I can imagine a philosophy Ph.D. being a valuable credential on the legal academic market, but I haven't personally explored that market so I won't speculate too much.

Seventh, if you think you'll remain interested in publishing -- and I personally found it hard not to be interested, after spending several years being trained to publish in a philosophy program -- but want to consider publishing in law, be prepared for a completely different process. Most journals in law are not double-blind; the reviewers will know who you are. Most are student-run rather than peer-reviewed. Most are much faster than the journals in philosophy. Most accept papers in seasons (roughly twice a year). And for most you can submit to as many competitors simultaneously as you wish.

Eighth, and finally: it's true that law school is usually expensive. But a lot of schools have partial or full loan forgiveness programs for people who go into public interest work. And if you go into corporate work, you will probably be able to pay back your loans pretty quickly. Don't necessarily write off law school for cost reasons without looking into these possibilities.

Persephone said...

A person upthread asked whether anyone with a Ph.D in Philosophy now teaches high school. I do. I absolutely loved teaching Philosophy, and did so for several years. However, I made the switch this year for a variety of reasons and now teach English at a private college-prep single-gender high school that draws from both suburban and urban areas in the city in which I live. The schedule is quite an adjustment (*quite*), but I can honestly say that the faculty at my school are extremely bright, passionate about their fields, and devoted to education. I have yet to encounter a fragile ego among them.

Though I'm teaching English there now, if I stay in this job, I am going to see if I can offer a Philosophy class, or get a slightly reduced teaching load to do research and publishing in Education (which I think just might be possible at a/my private school--we'll see), or some such thing. Since I'm so new there, I'm not sure. But I will say that the students by and large are wonderful; I have a ton of autonomy in my classes; the school is glad to have me--and encourages professional development, so helps fund (and give time off for) conferences (even in Philosophy proper--I went to one in October). I will, of course, be starting a Philosophy Club as well. Moreover, the school requires no extra degrees or certification--a Ph.D. suffices. But the school would lend support, even monetary, for me to pursue a Master's in English, should I want to do so.

If anyone is interested in asking questions about this, please feel free--I'm glad to offer any insight I can.

Anonymous said...


How did you market yourself for such a position?

I'm a bit unsure as to how I could transform my CV into a resume for private high school teaching.

Anonymous said...

There are other types of consulting you can do apart from management consulting (which was mentioned a couple of times) with a PhD in philosophy, probably more closely tied to your research. Here are two examples of people I know personally:
- A philosopher who worked in practical ethics, with a focus on medical ethics, went on to become an advisor on the ethical board of a medical centre specializing in assisted fertility. They ask her to examine whether the procedure would meet ethical standards, and so are happy to have someone who actually specialized in that field. The pay is better than the average asst professor wage, and the workload is significantly lower
- A philosopher with a specialization in philosophy of religion (he has a PhD in that field) teaches as an adjunct, but next to that offers private consulting sessions for people who thinking about religious matters (e.g., should I believe, what are grounds for belief, is it rational etc). Don't know how much he makes with that. A good website, well-thought of publicity and word of mouth help a lot in this case
- A philosopher of economics learned to do stats in evening classes and started working for a marketing firm. The pay was not as good as that of an assistant professor, but better than most adjunct positions, and various benefits (healthcare, retirement).
- Several people with philosophy PhDs (mostly with specialization in ethics) who work for nonprofit organizations (e.g. environmental). As far as I know, you need a hell of a network to get into those.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 5:06 am

Are you teaching at a private High School in the United States? If so, what state? Did you already have contacts with the school?

Frankly, give the standards necessary for accreditation even in private schools, I find very hard to believe any reputable private school in the USA is allowing someone w/o a valid teaching credential or license to teach in an area/subject for which they have no degree. Unless of course someone in the administration knew them personally and could vouch for them until they obtained a credential.

I mean, with all respect, how many apps from credentialed specialists in teaching English did they shitcan on their way to hiring you for the job w/o a credential?

Persephone said...


From what I've been able to observe, there are a few key things that can help with the CV:

1.) TEACHING. Definitely teaching evaluations--qualitative, quantitative, all of it. That is, include a little bit of everything, but not too much in total. First and foremost, the school wants to know that you are, in fact, dedicated to teaching. From what I understand, lots of academics (would-be or otherwise) apply for these kinds of jobs and don't get interviews. Why? Because they stress the AOS/AOC bit over teaching. And mission. Which leads me to...

2.) Know the school's mission and speak to it directly in a cover letter. Don't short-change this part. I know that high schools can be prejudiced against academics for thinking that the academics are "too good" for them. So acknowledge that you know what the school's about, and say why you want to work there. (That is, what is it about the mission of the school that attracts you? How can you contribute to it?)

3.) If you're considering a subject in the humanities, play up the critical thinking and analysis bits. If you've taught logic or critical reasoning and you're applying for a college-prep high school, talk up those aspects a lot. Emphasize reasoning, sound argumentation, how you would teach writing (and how you have, really, in Philosophy), and so on.

4.) Have an actual teaching philosophy that brings #1-3 together. Include it. 1-page.

I would start with those things. It's so, so interesting to me that I've had two publications accepted for Philosophy since starting at my high school (and I had others before), and the school doesn't care about them in the academic way (journal rank, etc.), but the school is certainly glad to have me on board and doing things that help fulfill me. Also, now that I think about it, I left off all my publications from my CV--peer-reviewed and otherwise--but kept my talks on and about teaching and education on there--the kind of stuff, in fact, that I might have omitted for a CV in Philosophy. I also left all my awards on, especially the teaching and student-generated ones, and a sample list of several of the classes I taught. I then brought evaluations and syllabi with me to the interview.

Persephone said...

1:11: Well, you don't have to be a jerk about it.

1.) I do have an undergrad degree in the field I'm teaching. In fact, it was my primary major, and I had enough credits in it to receive two majors in it. I got my MA and PhD in Philosophy, however.

2.) I also taught classes at the college level in Education that people take to *get* certification. So it'd be like me taking my own classes to get certified. I explained that at the interview.

3.) I also taught the subject I'm currently teaching at the college level, in two different departments. So...

The school I teach at is, in fact, very highly regarded. But think what you want.

Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting thread over at Leiter, with relevance to job wanters like us. I wonder about institutional bias in publishing, and I might be in position soon to do my own sample-size-of-1 experiment. Will one have better luck with top journals (with the exact same papers) if one is at a much better institution?

zombie said...

Teaching certs are not required for teaching in private schools:

Anonymous said...

6:58 here,

Many thanks, Persephone. The information you provided is very helpful. I'm afraid my background is not ideal - although I have taught quite a bit, my BA is in Philosophy, in addition to my PhD. I don't suppose you would be able to gauge the difficultly of someone in my position in obtaining a private high school job? Or what I could do to improve my chances?

WorstCaseScenario said...

I have a Masters degree ih Philosophy, and at one point i decided to take up my "Plan B" which was University administration, and at that time, I had no idea that I would end up working as a CC professor, which is what I do now. I applied for my current job on the recommendation of a friend from grad school who was also teaching at the same institution, and let me know there was an opening -- she was convinced I was very well-suited for it, and though I did not think I was a competitive candidate, I applied anyway. I came to discover later that the search committee recommended me primarily BECAUSE OF my work experience outside philosophy. So, in my situation, my "Plan B" actually was an important step in achieving my "Plan A", which I had sincerely stopped believing would ever happen.

I had experience working in University administration previous, as an hourly worker (both as a student and during my first, unfunded semester as a graduate student). I also had lots of other job experience in retail, customer service, call center work, banking (worked as a teller), professional writing/editing (writing content for an IT firm developing travel websites). In this sense, I think those people who have never worked at all are at a serious disadvantage. I've more or less always had to have a part-time job -the only exception were the three semesters during my Master's.

My University admin job actually came to me because of the fact that I had a graduate degree combined with various other job experiences -- particularly my part-time Unviersity admin work -- from my work study gig as an undergrad. The position really needed someone with an understanding how academic research works, and although the official description mandated by HR required only a HS Diploma, the job itself required much more than that. It was a fabulous job, and I was in line to move from Program Manager to Assistant Director of our program, as the AD who had hired me was preparing to retire shortly. In the one year I worked at this job, I was able to secure the mentorship of two very important people at the university, and the attention of the vice-chancellor on how my work excelled. It was decently paid, excellent benefits -- one of which was tuition reimbursement for grad classes in philosophy I was interested in taking! When I got offered the CC job, it was actually quite a tough decision to leave my admin job or stay in it. (con't in next comment)

WorstCaseScenario said...

University administration is quite great and, especially if you have a Ph.D., the earning potential (if you end up as a Dean or other highly ranked academic manager) is quite good. It does require that you have some basic interpersonal skills, a sense for bureacracy, the ability to work on deadlines (set based on needs other than yours) and manage one's time, and the ability to communicate complex ideas civilly and clearly with non-philosophers. It is often lack of these skills -- rather than academic overqualification -- that prevent philosophers, rather than other academics, from getting such jobs (or perhaps any job outside of our discipline). I say this having served on search committees at my present institution for such positions and seen "what comes through". Although I think the problem of insularity within the discipline is a problem for lots of academic areas, I think it significantly worse in philosophy. The culture of our discipline does not merely insulate graduate students from the "rest" of the working world; it disparages and condescends it. Thus, graduate students in philosophy are are usually discouraged from participating in anything external to their departments, thus preventing them from gaining any skills or resume building experiences that might help them execute a Plan B.

Though I am a CC Phil Prof now, I do consider myself to be something of an outsider from our discipline. My primary work is not really philosophy, though that is the subject I teach. My primary work is education/teaching, something that (frankly) my graduate education did not really do much to qualify me for. Although the familiarity with the subject I possess is a consequence of my formal academic training, my teaching ability is largely something I took it upon myself to develop (lots of reading books on pedagogy and many workshops here and there).

So, what can current graduate students do? You need to have something that demonstrates your skills beyond philosophy -- taking teacher ceritifcations (easier in some states than others, in my state it is so easy it hurts to become a certified K-12 teacher), looking into professional development workshops (often offered at your university/college, though you may not know about it) in various areas, asking your department chair if you can do a semester of your TAship working in the administrative area instead of teaching so you learn the ropes of a university system of your department (this might be met with derision, but is really a very useful thing to do), taking a part-time or summer job in basically anything (especially if its something you can get through your university/college). Serve on the Graduate Student Senate or Association if possible, as that's a good resume builder. Offer to plan an event or volunteer to help with major department events. These are things you can do to help yourself get a university admin job.

Lots of people will probably snark at these suggestions or say something like "But I don't have time because of my dissertation!" And to them I say, get over it and make time. Because the truth is you really only have two options:

A) Devote 100% of your time and energy to your academic work, and then hope that the odds are in your favor on the philosophy job market ... and submit yourself to adjunct slavery if it doesn't, in the highly like worst-case scenario you should be planning for.

B) Split your time 80/20 between your academic work and the stuff you will need for "Plan B" in University admin. This may hurt your chances on the Philosophy market a litte, but the fact is they were never that good anyway, and it significantly increase your chances of having a decent job with lots of advancement opportunities should you fail -- which at this point any philosophy graduate student should reasonably expect to do -- on the market.

Most people go for (A), but doesn't (B) really seem the more reasonable option? Seems odd to me given how good we are all supposed to be at reasoning.

Mr. Reticent said...

I dropped out of a PhD program about 10 years ago (albeit not in philosophy) and floundered in temp jobs for awhile (which had more to do with lack of ambition, to be honest) before landing a job as a legal marketing editor at a publishing company. Now I work for the same company in a different capacity.

My wife just got her PhD last year and now works for a university publishing house. There are jobs out there for PhDs and ABDs.

Warning: Be ready to have a boss that has a 4-year English degree and is 5-10 years younger than you. Suck it up and walk it off.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read through all the comments, so forgive me if this is in duplication of someone else but I wanted to share my experience in case it helps others.

About 3 years into my PhD I left when I got a job in public affairs research and program evaluation. I now work for one of the largest research firms in the world, conducting research for municipal, provincial, federal governments, government agencies, not-for-profits and sometimes private companies/organizations.

I was specializing in philosophy of mind and psychology, but was getting training in social science research methods so I could be an active part of the "Experimental Philosophy" world. I also had some experience in health policy/bioethics.

I spun my high level critical thinking, presentation skills along with my quantitative research ability and background in health/bioethics to get myself into this position. I've been here for about 2 years now and have learned enough that I've become a marketable candidate.

Now if only I could find the time to finish my thesis.

Anonymous said...

I think some good Plans B are getting dismissed for the wrong reason, namely they involve markets as bad as philosophy: eg. academic law or polisci.

Overlooked is that those fields have MUCH more reliable routes to success, however rarely they’re followed to the end.

In academic law, it's basically: ace a good law school, get on law review, clerk, write at least two law review articles. That's it!Granted you may not get Yale or UVA, but with your added PhD, you’ll probably get a job somewhere, with twice the pay and 10 times the job security as philosophy. If not, definite Plan C: legal work.

These steps aren’t easy, but they’re quite manageable for philosophers. Law review articles don’t have to be nearly as insightful or brilliant as philosophy, in part because legal scholarship has no agreed or shared methodology.

That’s not true for polisci, but there you just have to make sure your findings are interesting (even if not earth shattering) and there’s no obvious endogeneity, or that you have instruments to correct for it if it’s there.

So if your interests overlap with other academic fields, they may be a good option – if only because, unlike philosophy, if you jump through the” on-paper” hoops (eg. pubs), you’re likely to get the job.

David Storey said...


Some of the sentiments expressed here about the possibility of PhDs finding alternative employment demonstrate...just why it is hard for PhDs to find alternative employment: because of their narrow attitude and Manichean mindset, which are supremely ironic given the provenance of philosophy. This poster, responding to Debbie Downer, has it right:

["There is no plan B, never has been, never will be. It's sink or swim."

Perhaps it is this sort of attitude that (a) keeps dejected philosophers in a field where opportunities are evaporating and (b) keeps such philosophers from getting non-academic jobs they might otherwise be qualified for.]

The notion that Phds in philosophy have not or cannot transition to other careers is simply, demonstrably false. For anyone who is interested in solutions, rather than just griping and boosting their ego by swatting others down, I have collected the extant resources on the web devoted to non-academic careers and related issues at my website,

Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss any of this material, or if you have recommendations for ways the site could be enhanced. I think we need to be in the business of not just coming up with Plan B, but of thinking about Plan Bs and Plan As--as just as intellectually stimulating, socially valuable, and philosophically interesting as our default Plan A.

Anonymous said...

I find myself suddenly inspired to become a life coach as my Plan B. But I will call it something academic, like Philosophy Coach. I will charge people pretty good money to let me throw philosophy at them and see if it sticks. But I'll be sure to make it clear that I'm not a medical doctor, and I'm not treating any illnesses. If you have no illness, you can't be cured. And if you can't be cured, I can treat you forever!

Anonymous said...

" But I'll be sure to make it clear that I'm not a medical doctor, and I'm not treating any illnesses."

Clearly, you are not a Wittgensteinian. :)

Anonymous said...

@ David Storey

Curious. I had a look at your website and other than your laughable business model of selling people boilerplate Existentialism for $125/hr, and some articles about how business should value philosophy majors more. I didn't see anything particularly useful for the philosopher w/little income and few resources who needs to find work NOW outside academia. By the way, your shameless self-promotion on this blog is really repugnant.

WV: Notobe "or Not to be" lol.

Anonymous said...

The software and IT field is a good option. There is little or no credentialism, people generally hire based on skills and experience, and there is a widespread shortage of skilled labor.

For programming, you need experience. One way to do this is to work on open source projects and/or post the code you write in public repositories like github, until you can get some paid gigs.

For technical writing, you need to know the domain you will be writing about, and you must be familiar with the tools and technology (eg Adobe TCS, DITA standard, etc).

If you know DITA and can write documentation for complex business software, I might be willing to hire you. (Tell me how to contact you.)

(Bona fides: I used to be an academic computer scientist; now I work in the software industry.)

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to report - plan B worked out very well for me. I was hired last week as a technical writer for a start-up company in a great location. The salary is about 40% more than I would get as a tenure track assistant professor, plus health and a fairly generous share in equity. The work will be about 40-50 hours per week, but flexible, with the option to telecommute some, and four weeks paid vacation. They key elements that gave me an edge were: 1) a personal connection - the CEO and I have a mutual friend; 2) the CEO is very impressed by philosophers, willing to hire them for raw intelligence and analytical skill over someone with more experience; 3) I have knowledge requisite for the position that is rare (not related to philosophy, but something that I picked up out of personal interest two years ago, and have been studying pretty intensively in my spare time - I had no idea that it might lead to a job though). Compared to academia, the hiring process was fast, informal, and very pleasant. I have some regrets about leaving academia, of course, but I think this path will be just as good, if not better. The work will be varied, interesting, and challenging. From my experience, there are some in the private sector who value philosophical training very highly. They may be somewhat uncommon, but they are out there.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to look for a mid size beach front community that has no bowling alley and open a bowling alley in that beach front community.