Okay, one more really basic piece of advice for prospective grad students. Maybe even more than with my first two pieces of advice, take this as one guy's opinion. Like I said in my last post, this is just something I wish someone had told me when I was thinking about grad school.
This one's a little more complicated than the first two.
3. If you do not get in to PhD programs in the top-35(ish), and if you want to teach less than a 4-4 or 5-5 load, do not go to grad school.* I've made this a little more nuanced than I used to put it, since people (rightly) criticized previous overly-blunt versions. But the basic idea is pretty simple. If you go to a program below (roughly) the top two-thirds of Leiter's list, you have no reasonable expectation of teaching at a school with a 3-3, 3-2, or 2-2 load.
(I know people are going jump on me for saying this. There's great stories floating around out there about people who went to programs in the 40s or lower and ended up working their way up into Leiterrific departments. And that's great. But it's also irrelevant, because no one's saying it's not possible to do that. I'm saying it's really, really unlikely. You've got no reasonable expectation of having that happen.)
Let me elaborate on this advice in way that might make it more meaningful for prospectives. If you're a prospective grad student, you're probably coming out of a university or a liberal arts college (either "small" or "selective"). That means your profs teach either 3-3, 3-2, or 2-2 loads--that is, six, five, or four courses a year. You see some of what they do the rest of the time. They're traveling for conferences, they're publishing stuff, etc. Here's the point: if you want to have a job anything like the one you see your profs have, you have to go to a top-35ish school.
If you go to a program ranked below (roughly) 35, you're much, much, much more likely to end up teaching eight, 10 or more courses a year at a (non-selective) small liberal arts college or community college. For most people, that ends up being a very different kind of job than the job your philosophy profs have. For most people in those jobs, their jobs tilt much, much more towards teaching and service to the school. They travel to conferences a lot less, and they write a lot less, if they write at all Their tenure requirements are much more about teaching, and much, much less about research.
Am I saying you shouldn't go to grad school if you don't get into a school in the top-35? Absolutely not. Teaching philosophy can be, and very often is, an unbelievably rewarding thing to do. Unlike when you're writing, the rewards are immediate and tangible. You see the light bulb go on on kids' faces, and it makes your morning. If that's what you want your job to be about, then you should absolutely go to grad school.
However. If that's what you want only half your job to be about, and if you want the other half to be publishing papers, then don't go to a program ranked much below 35 on Leiter's list. Coming out of a program below 35, you've got no reasonable expectation of getting the kind of job you want.
Why do I feel like I should duck and run for cover right about now?
*Two important caveats. First, I'm sort of pulling the number 35 out of my ass. I suspect some people are going to set that number higher, others are going to set it lower, and obviously it really is a gray area.
Second, this advice doesn't apply for continental programs or Catholic schools, neither of which I know anything about. Can anyone give decent advice about that stuff (besides "Go to SUNY Stony Brook")?