Thursday, November 15, 2007

Make 'Em be Doctors and Lawyers and Such, Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys

I've talked before about how hard it can be to explain the market to civilians. Here's a way that gets the job done. Leiter's done the math, and somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of Michigan's grads from the last decade didn't get tenure-track jobs. But Michigan's a top-10 department.

Now imagine a fifth of Yale's med school grads never got jobs as doctors. Imagine a quarter of Chicago's law school grads never got jobs as lawyers. How do you think people would talk about those job markets? How do you think med and law students outside the top-10 would think about that market? Even at good schools, say, Minnesota and North Carolina? Why, I bet those students would be losing their shit pretty much all the time, wouldn't they? I bet it'd take a couple of ounces of Ballantine's and an hour of Brian Eno every night to keep their hands from shaking and their eyes from losing focus.

But in philosophy we don't need to imagine. That's our job market for real.


Anonymous said...

First, North Carolina is a top ten program, at least if you're going by Leiter's rankings.

Second, North Carolina has done pretty well placing people in TT jobs. But, of course I don't know all of the stats.

This is not, of course, to take away from the point that even people at a lot of half-decent programs (e.g., people at Harvard, and MIT as well as people at Northwestern and the University of Missouri, Columbia) have plenty to feel uncomfortable about as regards the philosophy job market

Himself said...

The problem with Leiter's 1 in 5 figure is it assumes that those 1 in 5 wanted to work in academia. But maybe they wanted out. At least in some cases. Looking at Michigans placement info, it is true that a lot of these guys seem to vanish after VAP stints or whatever, but maybe they did self-select out.

Himself said...

I mena, not everyone who goes to law school does become a lawyer by any means. Are they considered failures? Is this considered a reason not to go to law school? Hardly.

low ranked guy said...

I'm at a (much) lower ranked university than U Michigan, but of the past twenty PhDs we've produced, only one isn't currently working as a philosopher. Of course none of our grads are employed in top ranked departments -- in fact, most are far, far off the Leiter chart. But at least they have jobs in philosophy.

I wonder if grads from top departments are more likely to get out of the business rather than take a position at Leiter-lowly departments?

Anonymous said...

I took it that the post referred to good _law_ schools such as NC and MN.

Anonymous said...

What low ranked guy said sounds right. I suspect that if I got a PhD at a top 5 or top 10 school, and yet didn't get a job at least a midddling or lower ranked research school, I'd probably do something else, too.

Anonymous said...

I have anecdotal evidence that almost everyone in my dept. who got their PhD, are working in a TT position. Now more than a handful of these are working at a community college. But they have a job!

Moreover, there are some who are ABD and have a TT job. However, almost all of these people are working at a CC.

By the way in some states you make far more at a CC than other public institutions. For example in Cali. you might start around 60,000 at a CSU at CC you might start around 65,000 sometimes around 70,000.

Anonymous said...

I wonder: if all you care is job security (let alone a good salary), should you go into philosophy? In other words: shouldn't you be prepared to have a tough time in the job market if you decide to enroll in a grad program in philosophy? That is: if you think that entering a grad program in philosophy will land you a good academic job for sure, aren't you being delusional? if you think it will, whose fault is it---your department's, society's or your own's? if you don't think you will, is it really all that productive to complain? (granted, there are many irrationalities in the philosophy job market)

fellow grad student said...

anon 9:33 - I'm going home for thanksgiving but I'm still going to gripe about gas prices and how long it takes to get there.

That said, thank goodness I'm in philosophy and not going into law or medicine.

I don't have to do the dance until next year, but it seems like everyone I know is applying everywhere they can. Though I don't know how many are looking into CCs (I'd be happy to for 65k), hopefully it will work out for most of them.

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in any TT job at any decent state or liberal arts college, I wouldn't worry that much. If you're interested in any old TT job, of course you should worry even less.

What I notice about Leiter's blog is that it's mostly about the ranked PhD programs, getting a job in one of those, etc. If that's your standard, of course things will appear hopeless--regardless of where you come from.

Having just gotten a TT job after four and a half years, and having many friends who took an even longer period of time getting one, what a lot of old timers have told me over the years strikes me as right. If you persist, you will eventually land something.

That may seem like cold comfort now, but keeping that in the back of your head somewhere should help.

Good luck to all of you!

Anonymous said...

My Leiter-lowly alma mater places a higher percentage of its students in tt (non-cc) jobs than Michigan, although, in fairness, our numbers are much smaller, and those jobs tend not to be in PhD granting departments.

At the average state uni where I now have tenure, we don't favor job candidates coming out of a big top 10 program, because our publication requirement for tenure -- one article a year in a good journal -- can be met by candidates coming out of pretty much any reputable grad school.

recent hire said...

Looking at Michigans placement info, it is true that a lot of these guys seem to vanish after VAP stints or whatever, but maybe they did self-select out.

Well, maybe some people vanished because of spousal situations or whatever, but I reckon that pretty much anyone who wound up in a VAP position would've taken a TT one if they'd been offered one. So, there really are a lot of people who are looking for jobs and not getting them.

The other commenters may be right that Leiterriffic candidates are restricting themselves to more prestigious schools -- though if you check the Michigan page it's not all PhD-granting schools, let alone Leiterriffic ones. Still, I think it's pretty sobering.

Himself said...

Yeah, well, who knows, because for all Leiter's Michigan-loving stuff about how great Michigan's placement info is, they don't do what many schools now do do and tell us where the ones not in academia end up. This is pretty dumb, as it kind of makes them look bad, and allows Leiter to talk as if people who left philosophy ceased to exist (which I presume only happened in a minority of cases in actuality).

Anonymous said...

Umm, I think you meant "...for reals."

Anonymous said...

I have first-hand knowledge of Michigan placement over those ten years, and I'd like to make two points.

First, only one of those job-seekers failed to get a job in part because of restrictions (in this case, geographical, owing to family) on the search. All the rest did a very full search, often two or three (and sometimes more), and simply failed to land a t-track job. So in every case but one the candidate was trying as hard as possible to get a t-track job -- any t-track job.

What explains their failure, then? Well, one crucial factor is that departments 'below' a certain line simply don't interview Michigan grads. I don't remember anyone ever getting an interview at a department 'below,' say, a Cal State, despite the fact that everyone applied to every job whose description they met. I myself applied to lots of jobs with 4-4 and even 5-5 loads, but aside from one Cal State interview I never made it anywhere at those schools. Nearly all my interviews were at schools with 2-2 or 3-2 loads. And that was everyone's fate: either get a 'good' job or go unemployed.

So there's your explanation of the data: a pleasantly high percentage of applicants got 'good' jobs, and a troublingly high percentage of applicants got no job. The explanation is that we simply weren't being considered for any but 'good' jobs.