Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Got a New Complaint

As a quick post-script on my last post, here's another general principle of prospective-grad-student-advice-giving. Don't tell prospectives to "think very hard" about grad school, unless you tell them exactly what to think about.

This one really picks my ass. By most accounts, pure rational cogitation couldn't even get Descartes out of his own fucking head. It's sure as fuck not going to tell prospectives anything about grad school.


Anonymous said...

PGS said: Don't tell prospectives to "think very hard" about grad school, unless you tell them exactly what to think about.

If you take your own advice, let prospective advice-givers what areas of this mental calculation you'd like them to address specifically. I say this because, obviously, everyone's situation will be different: We all have different abilities, strengths, job prospects, tolerance for risk, etc. Should advice-givers address ALL such factors (and thus be a 20+ page treatise)?

Think about that.

Anonymous said...

yeah, i know "think very hard" sounds vacuous, but i think there are some pretty obvious implicatures that make "think very hard" a non-vacuous counsel, even without explicit directions about what to "think hard" about.

e.g. costs, opportunity costs, loss of years of life, likelihood of success, likelihood of failure, etc.

that these are the topics for the hard thinking more or less goes without saying, i'd think.

so in this rare case, pgs, i'm inclined to disagree with you.

Anonymous said...

I think the phrase is shorthand for "think very hard, as to whether or not to go", in other words, "maybe you shouldn't go", in other words, "don't go to grad school."

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anons 4:28 & 4:33 --

I agree 100% with everything both of you are saying. My point is, all that stuff that's implicit needs to said explicitly. After all, when prospectives ask for advice, a big part of why they're asking is that they don't know what to think about--they don't have the relevant info. If they ask us, it's our job to spell t out for them.

Deja screwed said...

So, this is a bit off topic, but I was just over at the APA website checking out the new JFP (it's not up, but just change the url and voila! Philsoophers are soooooooooo good with technology!!!) Anyways, is it just me or does it seem like a lot of the jobs are the VERY SAME FUCKING JOBS as in the last JFP???? Especially for the West my question is...should I re-apply to these places that already rejected me? I do have a couple of new lines on the CV...but will they just round file the ap because they've already seen it and said no?

Anonymous said...

It's true that advisors could give better advice. By the same token, the exceptionally smart prospective grad students could be smarter in making their own decisions. I know of a lot of grad students who didn't think too much about it before going in. I also know a lot of grad students who weren't naive to the grim job-prospects and all the other bullshit. I think part of what makes many philosophy students go into philosophy PhD programs as heedlessly as they do is not that they were given poor advice or not enough advice, but rather that qua philosophy students they don't give much thought to "practical" issues - issues that any smart person either is or can easily be aware of for her- or himself. It also doesn't help that most of them are young when they make the decision. It's a lot easier to face the dreadful job market when it's 5+ years down the road than when it's next October. Most or all of the "relevant" info is all around; a smart person can pretty easily find it whether or not anyone tells them about it.

Anonymous said...

Deja screwed,

It's because it IS the previous edition. Even though the url is different, the issue is still the old one. Either they are even more incompetent, or it's place holder for the new one when it comes online, or they're wise to our early-peeking ways

Anonymous said...

I just started browsing the new JFP, and I know for a fact at least two of the listings (same dept) have already been filled. I suppose the department in question could have chosen to publish the ads before they filled the position, but since these positions were filled based on campus visits that came out of APA interviews, it seems odd they would have taken out an ad in the February JFP.

Deja Screwed said...

Ahh! Those sneaky sum guns! I guess I should have noticed that some of the deadlines were november and december deadlines!

Ok, Ok, I'll wait 'till tomorrow then...

Anonymous said...

So a lot of people have been making comments to the effect of "don't go to grad school because you can't get a job *unless* you get into a top 10 (20) program"... so, if you do get into a top 10 program, how much does this worry disappear, or does it just lessen the worry?? I've been following this blog a bit, and the implicit assumption seems to be that top 10 grads usually don't have to face a lot of this job market crap (at least less of it). So let's say it is a top 10 program you're going to (fully funded of course), what else should you be thinking about? One thing I've heard, that I think will be useful, is to start thinking of grad school as a work, as a job, from day one (in other words, don't think it's undergrad the sequel). That's supposed to help you get crap done. Thoughts on that?

~potential philosopher

Anonymous said...

Here's something I think hard about, as a prospective grad student:

How high is high enough? How low is too low? Last year, I applied only to top 10 schools, thinking that it "wasn't worth it" if I couldn't go to such a school and get the job prospects that go along with it.

I didn't get into any of those schools, and I got to thinking that maybe it would be worth it to go to a lower-ranked program, cuz I really like philosophy. So I applied more broadly this year, and thus far, I've gotten into some places below the top 20. Let's say in the 23-40 range, since Leiter's top 20 goes up to 22.

If I don't crack the top 22, am I just setting myself up for job market misery? Is it worth it? I assume that plenty of people who post here are not at top-22 schools. Was your decision to go to a "bottom half of Leiter" (or unranked) program wise, in hindsight? How should I think hard about this?

Anonymous said...

"they don't know what to think about" -- OK, I'll buy that. Good advice.

Anon 4:51: now you're ragging on fucking undergrads?

Deja screwed: the publication date for 177 is Feb 21, not Feb 20. You could at least wait until their self-imposed deadline to assume that other people have fucked up. (I pass over the fact that I got worried when it wasn't posted on Jan 21 -- to protect the innocent, in this case me.)

Anonymous said...

Regarding careers outside the ivory tower (and for folks whose grad student funding is running out): acc. to today's WSJ, D4, "employers are more cautious with hiring". Mercer estimates that "33% of US companies may implement hiring freezes or downsize staffs as a result of the changing economic environment." And acc. to Watson Wyatt, "employers are also waiting longer to make temporary hires [into] full-time employees." So if you might be desperate in June, it might be wise to get into the game before freezes hit.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is receiving her Ph.D. very soon from a Leiterably unranked institution, I can say the following, regarding prospective grad students who don't make it/don't want a place in the Leitersphere:

1) I could not be happier with my program than I am, period. Nearly everyone--professors and grad students--does excellent work and is very motivated, presenting papers at good conferences and publishing as much as possible. In addition, the grad students are completely engaged with the program at my school, and lots of collaboration happens among faculty and grad students, and sometimes undergrads as well. My school has a good reputation, while unranked, and people I meet at conferences have heard only good things about my school. (How many "top-tier" programs can say that?)

2) My numerous friends on the job market at this school, both ABD and Ph.D. in hand, are doing quite well on the job market. Offers, sometimes numerous, are being made to these candidates, at desirable schools, and all of them had good to enviable numbers of APA interviews, with multiple fly-outs. I couldn't be happier for them.

I think that if you love philosophy and you have some idea of what you're getting in to, then pursue your Ph.D., but know that a job might not be lined up on the other side, at least not immediately. I went to grad school because I simply wasn't finished studying philosophy in an academic setting--no other reason, except for the love. Some might say that this decision was unwise, but I would never, ever take it back: I've made wonderful friends, have had the opportunity to take classes from brilliant professors, and have taught lots of students while having the freedom to pursue my philosophical interests in a variety of ways. In these days, where commodification of everything is nearly assured, a decision to pursue philosophy nearly for its own sake is a bold decision, but channel the inner rebel in you and see what happens.

m.a. program faculty member said...

Hold on a second.

People need to go into grad school with their eyes open, but to say "don't bother going if you don't get into a top 10 (or top 20) program" is really over the top.

I bopped over to the Leiter Report, and here are some programs ranked below 20:

Duke University
University of California, Riverside
Washington University, St. Louis

Any of these are fine programs (not that the others are worse; I just randomly pulled a few I'm familiar with).

What you need to do is check out the placement records of the schools you're thinking of attending, to see what you can realistically expect to land. Check it out the year of graduation (how many people get TT jobs? VAPs? Bupkis?), and how how people do several years out (do most people eventually land some sort of TT job? And what sort of TT job?).

And contact current (and recently graduated) grad students to see what sort of job the faculty does in mentoring their students.

Remember, too, that you shouldn't worry just about the overall reputation of the department, but also the department's reputation (and placement record) in your area of interest. For example, UC-Riverside is excellent in issues of free will, determinism, agency, etc. SLU doesn't have a good ranking overall, but people from there who worked on Medieval Philosophy or Philosophy of Religion seem to do OK in getting a job. And so forth.

Anonymous said...

For prospective students, among things to think very hard about, specifically, is the kind of institution you want to be appealing to down the road. If your goal is to get a job at a smaller, teaching-oriented school, then the kind of grad program you need is one that will emphasize teaching opportunities and some breadth of coursework -- and will look different from the kind of program that might have a shot at landing you at a research-oriented school. (Along with this is the importance of finding out where recent grads of the program have ended up, and figuring out whether that type of place appeals to you.)

It's also true (as was pointed out in an earlier thread, but might be worth repeating here) that there are networks of Continental-oriented schools and networks of Catholic (esp. Jesuit) universities -- these networks often hire their own and Leiter-ranks don't really come into the picture so much. If you love doing history of philosophy, for instance, Catholic universities can be really great places to teach.

Being in a top-20 grad program or trying to get hired at a top-50 Leiter school is not the be-all and end-all of academic philosophy. It's important to be realistic about the job market, but it's also important to realize that not everyone wants the same kind of job.

will philosophize for food said...

The new JFP is up on the APA website. I've already looked through it, and I'm fucked. Good luck ethics specialists--you're the only ones getting the goddamn jobs this year.

Anonymous said...

That's one crappy JFP issue. May as well have just published the remaining ones online and left it at that. It's a good year for applied ethics, including some bizarre (from where I stand, anyway) postdocs.

Anonymous said...

Well, JFP 177 blows.

Regarding apps to grad schools. Take the top-20 or bust view with a grain of salt. A PhD from Michigan, or Princeton, doesn't guarantee a job. It increases substantially your odds of landing in a good PhD institution straight out of school, and it probably increases your odds of getting something. But particularly if you went to a selective college as an undergrad, a top program at a well-respected school might make it more difficult to get the 4-4 jobs that are a staple in the field.

For getting a lot of jobs, a lower-ranked school might actually position you better -- if it's the right one. As this blog has illustrated, they may work harder to get you publishing in grad school, go out on a limb for you when you hit the market, etc. As of a couple of years ago, Louisville had a 100% placement record; I doubt any school in the top 10 can match that. Admittedly, everyone out of Louisville gets a job at small, southern schools. But those are jobs. (I didn't go there. They have a good football team . . .) Even Leiter, who's good on advice in general, was a golden boy himself and has a prejudice for jobs at "good" schools, so it's really hard to get good advice on how to balance reputation v. other factors.

I'd be inclined to say don't think too much about reputation when it comes to choosing between schools. You probably thought about rankings when you applied, so you've self-selected yourself into options that are fairly optimized for your preferences. Better to do the following:

(1) get your list of acceptances together, and

(2) cut out any school that doesn't guarantee at least 3 years of funding. Put a start by the ones that guarantee 5.

(3) Get together a list of the faculty at each school in your intended AOS, and

(4) a list of other AOSs that you are interested in and might switch to, and make a list of faculty at each school in each of those.

(5) Hit Philosophers Index and look up everyone on lists (3) and (4), focusing just on publications in the last 10 years. Download pdfs to your hard drive so you can read them at your leisure. Skim as much as you can, devoting 70% of whatever time you can manage to (3) and 30% to (4).

(6) Parallel to (5), try contacting some recent graduates of these programs, or any grad students from your alma mater who went to the schools on your short list, and see what you can find out.

(7) In mid-March, email select faculty who you're particularly interested in, say you've been accepted to their program and a couple others, that you've read some of their work (list it) and ask what their current research interests are that might not be reflected in published work.

two headed boy pt. 2 said...

Wow, that JFP sucks. Did I see a job that had a 5-4 teaching load? That's innovative. What is the thinking here: "a 5-5 load is a little too much, so we'll lower it to a 5-4 load. See...we don't exploit people."

Something I wish someone had told me before I went to grad school: 75% of the jobs are in bioethics or feminism or critical race theory. (Note, I am not putting these subjects down; I freely admit that they are all more important than what I work on.)

Philosophy Whoa said...

I just wanted to add an 'Amen' to Anons. 7:07 and 7:24. I think Leitermania offers a pretty good glimpse into one (perhaps dominant), but only one stream of academic philosophy


Anonymous said...

Good call. The University of West Georgia has a 5-4 load. I missed that the first time because I stopped when they said you have to be able to teach philosophy of law.

I'm not convinced that "bioethics or feminism or critical race theory" are particularly important fields of philosophical study; I do think race and gender are important topics in society, but since I don't work on the normative side of things I don't know how much philosophy can add to the conversation. I'm not sure the one follows from the other.

But I would like to propose a question along these lines. Let's assume your intuition, Two Headed Boy, and mine are correct that there are a predominance of positions in those areas (it's also possible we focused on those because neither of us can apply for them). What does that mean? Remember, early complaints were that the fall JFP was good for M&E, bad for ethics. Now the tables have turned, when most jobs are one-year jobs. Does this mean that schools want to teach courses in those areas, because they think they'll get enrollments, but they don't want to commit real (TT) positions to them, or that schools already have a lot of faculty teaching those courses and these are largely sabbatical replacements for those faculty?

Do we advise all the undergrads now going to grad school to specialize in those areas because there will be a lot of jobs, or do we tell them that these specializations are a good way to end up in the VAP-for-life contingent? There's very little connection between the Leiterrific specialties (core analytic) and the jobs that are actually becoming available, so choice of specialty is probably an important component of advising the young.

Anonymous said...

There is lots of talk about checking placement records, and I assume that plenty of people have, but has anyone produced or posted a consolidated list of Ph.D. programs which includes the percentage of their recent graduates that have ended up with tenure track positions? That would, to say the least, be a big time saver for many of us.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the just having a number like the percentage of graduates who have been placed can be misleading. Is it placed immediately after graduating? Is it placed in a TT position w/n 1,2,3,4, or 4+ years after graduating? Is it placed anywhere or just PhD granting programs. Do we include placement in places in which the graduate was so miserable they left the profession after teaching there for 2 years?

Anonymous said...

"The problem is that the just having a number like the percentage of graduates who have been placed can be misleading. Is it placed immediately after graduating? Is it placed in a TT position w/n 1,2,3,4, or 4+ years after graduating? Is it placed anywhere or just PhD granting programs. Do we include placement in places in which the graduate was so miserable they left the profession after teaching there for 2 years?"

This just sounds like making the perfect the enemy of the good. As long as it was applied consistently to all of the departments, I'd be happy to see how they do by any of the above criteria.

Anonymous said...

Two Headed Boy,

I'm not sure why you think there are that many jobs in critical race theory. My dissertation is in philosophy of race, and I applied for all the race jobs in the JFP for the fall. It amounted to about five jobs. Only one of them showed any interest in me, and that's because it was such a particularized job that hardly anyone qualified for it. It was a stretch for them to interview me in the first place. It's a good thing I have other interests and can apply more broadly. Almost nothing I'm applying for is in the area of my dissertation.

Now maybe you're noticing that jobs will often list critical race theory as an AOC. But that's not the same thing. That doesn't count as a job in critical race theory. There really are extremely few jobs in critical race theory. Pretty much any core analytic area has at least three times as many jobs as critical race theory.

Advice Monkey said...

Placement records can be very deceiving.

In the last post on advice, I recommended students look to unranked or low-ranked programs who might have a superstar in a particular specialization. If you know you are going to specialize in the field of said superstar and that said superstar is the only well-known philosophy in the faculty, the departments overall placement record means fuck-all. What you should be interested in is the placement of those who studied with Dr. Superstar.

In my own program, we have one such superstar (my adviser). While the department as a whole has a less-than-stellar placement record, Dr. Superstar's students have all landed TT jobs right out of school.

Knowing your AOS before entering grad school allows you to find less competitive programs with a stellar faculty member under whom you can study. This can translate into you sitting under an excellent adviser in a less competitive program with good job prospects on your way out.

two headed boy said...

"Two Headed Boy,

I'm not sure why you think there are that many jobs in critical race theory....Now maybe you're noticing that jobs will often list critical race theory as an AOC."

I probably was just looking at the AOCs.'s probably annoying to hear people complain that there are too many criticial race theory jobs when you're having a tough time finding one.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the advice that you're screwed unless you go to a top-20 school is nuts. I'm at a school that's barely top-40, and over the past five years 100% of our PhD's who did full searches got tenure track jobs. This Leiter top-ten or top-twenty business has got to be one of the biggest myths on this subject.