Friday, February 19, 2010

JFP Doom

New JFP is up (and was up yesterday).

Lowdown: Including the "web only" ads, we're looking at maybe 15 entry-level TT jobs in the US. And if you're not in ethics or political philosophy, you're pretty much shit out of luck.

Unsolicited advice: Go to law school.

Good days... good days....


Anonymous said...

I'm a PhD student in my first year, at a good but not great program. It's starting to seem clear that the market will not improve significantly. Those grad students who have no publications but have a year of funding left are already studying for the LSAT, considering getting other degrees, trying to convince rich members of the opposite sex to marry them, and so on.

Now I'm wondering: should I cut my losses, move somewhere I like, and find some other job? Life of the mind and all that BS, I get it, but put that aside. What say you, wise anonymous philosophers?

Anonymous said...

If you think you could be happy doing anything other than philosophy, then do that instead.

Seriously. I have three publications in top journals and I got zero offers.

Anonymous said...

If you are in your first year I wouldn't get too discouraged. By the time you go on the market people like me will have stale PhD's and won't be cluttering up the market with our awful non-employable selves.

As for going to a good but not great school, look who Harvard just hired for their ancient job.

Anonymous said...

Law school might not be a great choice either. Even at the top law schools hiring is still _way_ down. Schools that once nearly always had 95% or more people with jobs at graduation now have 50% or so, with the jobs often being much worse. The pay is getting worse and hours are not getting better. Law school isn't getting cheaper, either. If you really want to be a lawyer and can get into a very top school or have a full scholarship it might be okay, but otherwise going to law school isn't massively a better idea than doing a philosophy PhD.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious - someone earlier mentioned his (or her) PhD "going stale" - does anyone here think that this downturn in the market might cause a slight alteration in attitude toward PhDs that are a couple of years old? I mean, in the past, I guess the assumption was, "if he hasn't got anything by now, he must not be very good..." If that was the operative assumption, will this change anything? Or are people coming out now just hosed?

The Brooks Blog said...

This is seriously depressing reading...

Anonymous said...


That's a hope, but I think it's placing too much confidence in the common sense of people on search committees. In other words, I wouldn't bet on it.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 3:51 here. Prof Brooks- It's more than depressing. But one has only so much control.

This 'if you can do anything else' line is the advice one generally gets. But what can this mean? Who can't do anything else? Would you give this advice to a 6-1 power forward who wanted to play ball for a living, knowing that the best case scenario is he ends up on the bench for some team in Lebanon?

And as for the great Rusty Jones, one swallow does not a spring make. Although I do have a nice image of ABDs standing in circles in basements all across the country, in unison chanting 'I am Rusty Jones, I am Rusty Jones, I am . . .' (Fight Club reference)

Anonymous said...

To second 9:41,

If you think (as I do) that there's no rational reason for committees to treat those of us with "stale" degrees the way they do, I don't think you can count on these committees to become rational because of a bad market.

Verification word: flayed

Anonymous said...

Law school may not be the way to go. My wife is in a top 50 or so program, is number 3 in her class, and still had a very difficult time landing something good for next year (she ended up with a very nice federal clerkship). Most of her classmates in the top 20 have clerkships. Those who landed firm jobs got deferred for a year. While they were told that a job would be available for them in a year, who really knows if the firms won't rescind the offer between now and then.

To give you all another perspective on the philosophy job market. I got my PhD from a school towards the bottom of Leiter's list. I came out with 5 publications, 1 in a top journal and the rest in tier-2 journals. The search went okay for me (but I have AOS/AOC in ethics/political/history... where all the jobs seem to be). I had 7 APA/first-round interviews and 3 flyouts (I removed myself from 2 searches before a decision was made).

From what I can tell, if you can come out of graduate school with some good publications _and have AOS/AOC in hot areas_, you'll be okay.

If you look where most of the jobs have been in the past couple of years, the vast majority have been in social philosophy, political philosophy, ethics, and history (ancient/early modern). If you're able to pick up some of these areas (or other areas where people are hiring) and can get some pubs before you finish, the job market really isn't that bad.

My main piece of advice: start graduate school like the beginning of your job search process. Start to build your CV. Then, a year before you really want to search for a job, do a semi-full job search. You should get at least 1 interview... but, more importantly, you'll be familiar with the process. You'll screw up a lot the first time you do it, so having a practice run is helpful.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:51 PM

In 3 words: cut your loses. If you can get out of your program with an MA after a year or so, that might be worth waiting a little longer.
But don't stay around for too long. Employers don't like quitters. There's a difference between - 'a smart guy who cut his loses after a year', and 'a confused underachiever who struggled for 4 years, then quit with nothing'

Anonymous said...

Wait, so having studied the history of philosophy might actually *help* me? Sweet. Take that Gil Harman!

Anonymous said...

Depressing reading? For someone who's 80% sure she's gonna leave and cut her losses, stuff like this makes it easier. There is less room for regret now.

Anonymous said...

There is one other "stale degree" worry. While there is a general impression that philosophy is a slow moving field, in fact change happens pretty rapidly these days. Theories that are considered "cutting edge" are so for a fairly brief period of time. I'm a full professor at a state teaching institution. Most of my colleagues who have been out for more than say five years are beginning to feel out of touch with the current scholarship. They find it very difficult to remain current in their field. When we look to hire someone who's been out for a few years already, we need special convincing that they are not getting close to the "out of touch" point. So it's not just a matter of "why couldn't they get a job."

Anonymous said...

5:37, I don't understand your post. If people at your college get out of touch with the cutting edge in a couple of years, why do you care if it will happen in a year or if it happened last year. I can't see how it could matter.

Either way, why can't you stay in touch? Why does being a grad student make you more current than doing post-dissertation research?

I'm not convinced that philosophy does move that fast. When you are playing chmess, perhaps, but not in any major area.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of "cutting edge research," as if philosophy made the same sort of progress as science. Riddle me this: How exactly do we better understand the idea of human freedom?

Anonymous said...

anon 7:37,

That's probably the worst example you could have chosen.... There's been a ton of important work done on free will in the past decade or so. And lots of stuff on political freedom too!

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:25,
I'm 5:37. It's not inevitable that professors at my University will become out of touch (in fact, I'm not), but it is a genuine concern. We have a 4-4 teaching load, with serious service expectations, so it's not surprising that it happens with some degree of regularity. I suspect this is the case at most "teaching" schools.

You state, "why do you care if it will happen in a year or if it happened last year. I can't see how it could matter." I consider having out of touch faculty to be a bad thing for our students (especially those that want to go to grad. school). So having someone who MAY be beginning to fall out of touch in several years as opposed to in a year or two matters a lot. Simply, bad things that happen later and for a shorter duration are preferable to bad things that happen now and for a longer duration.

One might think that one can guard against this type of thing in interviews and campus visits, but it's harder than it appears. At that stage, everyone appears motivated to write 40 books in their careers, etc.

You write, "Why does being a grad student make you more current than doing post-dissertation research?" Because when you are in grad school you are constantly exposed to top researchers doing cutting edge research. In fact, largely what constitutes cutting edge is determined by the activities of one's professors and dissertation advisors. I'd wager that when I was in grad school the sheer volume of interesting philosophical ideas I was exposed to just in water cooler conversations exceeds what most philosophers at "teaching" institutions are exposed to by reading journal articles in any given time period.

To anon 7:37. Don't confuse cutting edge research with philosophical progress.

Euthyphronics said...

Also to 7:25: don't under-estimate the difference between graduate school and a job, even at a top research institution. Even if your first job's teaching load is equivalent to the load you had as a grad student, the amount of mind-numbing crap you suddenly have to do probably cuts your available research time by half. (Mileage varies, of course.) In my limited experience, everyone coming out of grad school into a good TT job starts out convinced it will be just like grad school but with better pay, and after a year wonders what the hell happened. It suddenly gets way more difficult to keep on top of the research in those conditions.

Anonymous said...

"Don't confuse cutting edge research with philosophical progress."

Non-rhetorical question: what the hell is it then? Hopefully it's more than just what's popular at the moment.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Anon 1:45 writes: From what I can tell, if you can come out of graduate school with some good publications _and have AOS/AOC in hot areas_, you'll be okay.

With all due respect, this seems wrong. Contrary to Anon 1:45, it is not the case that "the job market really isn't all that bad". It is bad; and one can do everything right within one's power and still come out the other end without respectable employment.

I suspect that those of us who land on our feet professionally want to attribute it primarily to hard work, smarts, and merit. But there remains much that is out of our control: fit, charisma, and plain luck.

This isn't sour grapes. I ended up with tenure, a light(ish) teaching load, and in a good location. But I was very lucky. And I know many more qualified candidates who didn't fare as well.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 5:11,

From Anon. 3:51 - this seems right. This is in part the cause of my doubts. I know people who have done well, and people who haven't, and merit has very little to do with it. In short, they all have their merit, and the ones who succeed do so by luck. Thus, those who hang around hoping for a good outcome are in actuality rolling the dice, while telling themselves stories about merit. Hell, I've seen it happen in microcosm at the seminar level: one philosopher thinks student X is brilliant, while student Y is mediocre, and another philosopher has it the other way around. Why would it be any different at the job-market level?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1.45 did fine coming out of grad school with 5 publications, 1 in a top tier journal (Philosophical Review, Mind, Journal of Philosophy?) and 4 in 2nd tier journals; all in a popular subject area. But that's exceptional isn't it?

How many publications would someone working in a popular area need to have a good chance of a job in the current climate? What about someone in an less popular area?

(Well, as to the latter, I guess if there are no jobs in such areas, it does not matter how many publications you have got - though if you have loads of publications they may be more inclined to believe you when you swear you can teach ethics... ;-)).

Anonymous said...

Before you go assuming that law school will land you a paycheck, please confirm your hypothesis first. Lawyers are in bad shape too.

"This fall, law students are competing for half as many openings at big firms as they were last year in what is shaping up to be the most wrenching job search season in over 50 years."

With a philosopher's strong skills in critical thinking, i'd explore creating a new company in health care. I know it's a whole new field, but buying training at universities thinking it leads to skills in demand is a big assumption nowdays.

Anonymous said...

Following up on my post with two NYTimes articles on the law profession...

I've been following the economy and jobs for 10 years.
MBA's are pretty worthless, just like law.
The only guaranteed jobs both now and in the future are in health care. Nursing, pharmacist, geriatric, etc.

You may not be able to find a job in philosophy or in fields that allow you to use words to solve problems. You can chase the dream though, and hope/pray/feel intense emotion towards the future bringing you the reward you feel you deserve. And that the capitalist philosophy is a meritocracy, rewarding those who plan and work hard.
But you'll need to be emotionally prepared for a lot of uncertainty, because unless things change, it's hard to prove why more lawyers or business people are needed. There is an oversupply in those fields, and you'll need to figure out what will change in the future bring equilibrium to the law labor market.

Of course, you can polish your rhetorical skills and start a radio program. I know you're smarter than glenn beck, and he's pulling $12million a year creating and tearing down strawmen. Nice work if you can get it.

Anonymous said...

The law-school game is not unlike the grad-school game in that pedigree still matters. If you can't go to a top-50 ranked law school, then better to do something else (unless you want to be a solo attorney busting ass on personal injury cases).

To get a job that pays money (i.e., large law firm) or a clerkship, you need to have a history of going to the right schools, as an (imperfect) measure of one's ability or willingness to work hard and aptitude or intelligence. And then it's not over: You're still busting ass for many years to make partner or some such.

As someone who did both law school and philosophy grad school, and who has a regular academic position, my advice is to do what you love, be an expert at it, and hope that things work out.

Anonymous said...

If you love philosophy then doing a philosophy PhD is not a waste of time.

But imagine doing years of law training and then not getting a job!

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:48 said
"If you love philosophy then doing a philosophy PhD is not a waste of time."

but is it a good use of money?

Does philosophy have to be studied in classrooms in front of professors? The books are at Harvard's bookstore?
The classes are available free, online, through MITs Open Courseware

Why do you need to pay someone to read the books available to you?
Do you want the PhD, which signifies social status, or do you want the knowledge?

Chairephon said...


I don't think anybody here would recommend going to graduate school without tuition remission and stipend. To be frank, your assumption that students seeking a philosophy Ph.D. are paying for the privilege strongly suggests that you don't know what you're talking about (when it comes to graduate education).

As for why it might be preferable to seek graduate education rather than studying informally: the two big ones are the amount of time you can put in and the amount of time you can get from others who will help make you a better philosopher.

Anonymous said...


I'm not 9:55, but many graduate students whom I know end up burning through their meager sub-poverty-level stipends and then take out more loans or attempt to work second jobs to cover the expense. Often this can mean adjuncting at another local college, which does give experience but also limits research time.

As for the two advantages, I don't deny that more time available is good time. However, having your entire schedule cleared may just make it *easy* for graduate students to spend time on philosophy, even/especially mediocre students. Many of these students will be wasting valuable time maturing in their 20s or 30s in a very odd context often barren of any pressing need to build experience outside of academe, often resulting in the "where did all the time go?" fallout when job market time comes -- and the bizarre over/under-qualified space for non-academic jobs many will find themselves in after no offers come in.

With regards to both points, studying philosophy in the context of working a "real-world" job may give would-be grad students a better grip on reality. We know the philosophical canon, it's easy enough to Google. However, many philosophers, even "famous" and well-respected ones, won't see the light of day in any such canon. Much of their popularity results from working the philosophical community, garnering devotees, and creating a lot of noise. Many times that noise is merely clouding a debate. It's as much sophistry as it ever was in Athens. The question is, are students attending grad school to participate in the three-ring circus, or to study works and methods of philosophy (for their own sake and for the practical benefit of the reader)?

A good case can be made that the former students ought to attend grad school, the latter would-be students ought not to, and that grad programs ought to be a bit clearer on what students are actually being trained to become. The latter student would even almost certainly benefit from taking graduate classes on a piecemeal basis, as an undeclared graduate student, but would almost certainly not benefit from being part of a full-time program, no matter the compensation.

Unfortunately, the PhD marker in Anglophone philosophy has become not a marker of qualification via knowledge, but a signifier of having successfully gamed the philosophical community. It's a necessary adaptation in a mercilessly bureaucratic capitalist tertiary education system. I don't deny elements of sophistry are always present in the current debates, no matter when the time. (Check out my sweeping generalizations of "many" and "much" and "almost certainly" throughout. They are based in experience, but anonymity hampers that sort of anecdotal support. Chimes for or against would be appreciated.) But, current events seem to make clear that, ironically, the most sincere devotees of wisdom may find themselves best suited avoiding this particular set of flaming hoops.

If blind refereeing is still worth its salt, the casual philosopher can research, attend conferences, and publish at their own pace. Finding the resources is not so difficult, college towns are everywhere. And, they wouldn't have to resort to publishing crap papers they don't really care for just to scrounge up a few more lines for the CV. Keeping up with the curve could present its own difficulties, but these topics all seem to come as much as they do go.

And if blind refereeing is gone to hell and idea exchange is reduced to glad-handing and passing around unpublished pieces of mental masturbation splitting split hairs?

Fuck 'em.