On the Job Market in Philosophy

It’s apparently a tough job market out there in academia.  Philosopher Eric Silverman answers this question on the job prospects for teaching philosophy at Ask Philosophers.

Question: Imagine I have a phD in philosophy; nothing special, just your run-of-the-mill doctorate in philosophy from a University with a decent philosophy program. How difficult would I find it to land any lectureship at any University, even if I am willing to move to anywhere in North America or Europe?
I would like the same question with regard to community colleges and liberal arts colleges (whatever they are???) as well. For instance, is it a lot easier to get a professorship at a Community College than a University?

Response from: Eric Silverman

If you come out of an ‘average’ decent Ph.D. program, there is no guarantee that you would receive a professorship anywhere. Remember, your application will probably be in a stack of 100+ applications representing similarly qualified applicants. The critical step to getting a job (which many Ph.D. students fail to realize) is to distinguish yourself in some way during graduate school beyond simply getting a Ph.D. Graduating from a top program is one way to distinguish yourself… studying with a top professor within a specialty is another way (even if not at a top program)… producing a couple of articles for good journals is a third way…. impressing your professors in grad school so much that they say you are their best student in years is another way… getting good teaching credentials and experience might be another way… some combination of distinctions from this list is probably the ideal. Just remember that you need to focus on more than merely graduating from the Ph.D. program….you have to be able to provide search committees with a compelling reason to hire you rather than the other 100 applicants to the position.

Generally, the jobs at Community Colleges and liberal arts colleges are easier to get than research university jobs, but none of them are easy to get. If you distinguish yourself during graduate school (especially through publications and presentations at selective conferences) and position yourself wisely on the market (by writing your dissertation with the best professors you have access to, writing on an interesting topic, and getting a specialization that is less flooded than others) you will maximize your chances of landing a good (or any) job when you are on the market.

So, studying at an average Ph.D. program neither guarantees nor destroys your chances of landing any of those professorships (though you would have to be very successful at publishing to land a professorship at a research university).

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