September 17, 2003

Wanted: Not One but Two Tenure-Track Jobs in the Same Department

We find ourselves in a most unsettling situation. We are a married couple, we work in the same academic discipline (zoology), and we are seeking two faculty jobs at the same time and in the same place. Although we have different research and teaching specialties, we would like to work within the same department...

...Our goal is to land two tenure-track jobs at a small liberal-arts college where we can pursue our separate research and teaching interests, although we are willing to compromise. Likewise, we would prefer to work in the Southeast, but are willing to consider other locales. Because we have no plans for children in the near future, we both can apply all of our time and energy to our work, without guilt. With a bit of luck and a lot of work, we hope to begin our dual academic careers by this time next year.

-- Tamatha Barbeau and Gregory Pryor, "Wanted: Two Tenure-Track Jobs in Zoology"

I can certainly understand why this couple want to find two jobs in the same city or region. But the same department? I don't know anything about the job market in zoology, but I have to assume it's much healthier than the job market in history: I can scarcely imagine a couple of historians daring to set their hopes this high.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at September 17, 2003 09:15 AM

As Austin Powers said, I want a solid-gold crapper, but it's just not in the cards, baby. Best of luck to them, though.

Posted by: Fontana Labs at September 17, 2003 09:51 AM

2 tenure-track posts in the same discipline and same field of that discipline at a liberal arts college.

Let's just say we're talking about more than "a little luck" here. We're talking about "Boston Red Sox win the World Series". We're talking about "If I have have to be that lucky, I'd rather win Powerball".

There's only one reasonable scenario here that comes close to their ambition and that's that one of them gets a tenure-track job at a small liberal arts college and is able to eventually wangle some kind of shared position or quasi-adjunct arrangement for the other. Small liberal arts colleges rarely hire two people in the same specialized field of a discipline to begin with, spouse or otherwise.

If they were less picky about the type of institution, their chances go up. Their chances also improve if they focus instead on one of the four or five locations in the country where there is a density of institutions of higher education of all kinds (Central New Jersey to New York City; Boston; 'Five Colleges' area of Massachusets; Philadelphia region; Baltimore-Washington metro area) and keep an eye on places where there are at least two to three institutions (Research Triangle). Then they might reasonably hope to both get tenure-track positions at institutions relatively near to each other.

Basically, these are two people for whom the brutal realities of the academic marketplace have not yet settled in--they're still in the "If we're smart and talented and have a little pluck, merit will yet carry the day for us" mode. I don't know if I salute or pity them for having not come up for air just yet. There's something especially melancholy in the innocent careerism of the chipper promise that they're not going to have kids in the near future so that they're a good bet for any department. Why not also offer to make coffee for the future department chair while they're at it?

Posted by: Timothy Burke at September 17, 2003 09:54 AM

I've known a fair few couples heading for this fix. I wonder what they end up doing?

I think I'm glad I'm going to be a librarian. If husband beats the odds (something I'm a *very* long way from assuming) and lands a position, I shouldn't have too much trouble finding something to do locally.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at September 17, 2003 09:57 AM

Don't they have anti-nepotism rules?

OTOH, I have seen this happen on Medical school and Law school faculties.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 17, 2003 10:07 AM

And since they want to stay in the Southeast, they should add Atlanta to the mix -- hellish driving, but lots of work.

Really, though, you'd think someone would have TOLD them about the job market before now!

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at September 17, 2003 10:19 AM

It's hard, but not as hard as you might think. My wife and I just did it (w/ same diss advisor). The other research campus of my state U also just hired a t-track couple in my field. My wife's former dept just hired two couples (one t-track, the other at the assoc. level). In my dept. there were already two couples here (one long tenured, the other both t-track). Another local dept. just hired a couple who were my former colleagues (one of whom was not t-track; now both are).

It does make what's already a challenging assignment even more challenging. But it is not absurdly unrealistic to hope for two t-track positions in the same dept.

Posted by: contrarian optimist at September 17, 2003 10:25 AM

I think it's the phrase "we are willing to compromise" in the last paragraph that makes me either want to weep or laugh. The rhetorical positioning there--that they are in the position of the one making the decision--really reflects a tragic distance from reality.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at September 17, 2003 10:28 AM


It is absurdly optimistic once you add "in the Southeast" and "small liberal arts college" into the mix, as they do. If they said, "Anywhere and anyplace", then it becomes only modestly unlikely.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at September 17, 2003 10:29 AM

I agree with Burke -- assuming that they really mean those two conditions. That's, what, ten schools? And I agree about the rhetorical posturing too.

I was just doing what I regard as my duty on the IA comments board -- pointing out that the job market isn't quite as bad as people tend to say here. Couples do get hired at the t-track level.

But if you think you can set geographical or other conditions, you're dead. I've personally never understood that move. When outsiders ask their irritating question of grad students -- 'So where would you like to teach?' -- the only reasonable answer is 'I (we'll) go wherever the profession sends me (us).'

Posted by: contrarian o. at September 17, 2003 12:21 PM

"It does make what's already a challenging assignment even more challenging. But it is not absurdly unrealistic to hope for two t-track positions in the same dept."

Maybe not in your discipline (philosophy, perhaps?), but in some disciplines (eg, history, English) it would be very unrealistic indeed. Again, I don't know anything about zoology. But I strongly suspect Tim Burke is dead-right in his analysis.

"I was just doing what I regard as my duty on the IA comments board -- pointing out that the job market isn't quite as bad as people tend to say here."

Duty to what or to whom? There isn't an academic job market or the academic job market (or job system). There are different markets for different disciplines and subdisciplines. Again, I focus on history and to a lesser extent English literature. I can and do back up my claims with the best available statistical evidence. In terms of history and English, vague assurances that things aren't that bad or that things are bound to get better are completely groundless.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 17, 2003 01:06 PM

Okay, I get it. After this comment I'll go away. (Have I come to be regarded as a troll here? Gee whiz, I haven't commented for months.)

Let me offer a brief explanation of that remark about my 'duty.' As interesting as the discussions here often are, IA, most of the comments come from people who have been disappointed by the academic job market (I simply mean the market they were in; I know there's not just one). I have a lot of sympathy for the struggles of people who haven't landed jobs, or jobs they can live with, and I completely agree with your warnings to potential grad students. One of the best ways to make such warnings vivid, of course, is to present them through the frank testimony of disappointed job seekers.

But if there's testimony from the thus-far disappointed, shouldn't there also be testimony from those who ran the same risks but were not in the end disappointed? I thought it relevant to your post that not only my wife and I but five other couples within our rather narrow circle of acquaintances managed to land t-track jobs in the same dept. this past year. That's not a "vague assurance." It's not an assurance at all. It's just some data.

I agree with you and Burke about the danger of unrealistic expectations. To make expectations realistic you have to put them in touch with reality -- but what exactly is that here? The stories with happy endings are just as real as the stories with sad endings.

I don't have statistics (are there stats about job seeking couples?) and wasn't giving anything like an assurance. (If I appeared to be, I apologize -- that really would have been irresponsible.) I was merely giving some testimony.

Okay, I've had my say and won't repeat it.

Posted by: contrarian o. at September 17, 2003 02:56 PM

I have seen couples hired in med school and med research positions. Sometimes the stronger candidate brings the spouse along by agreement (part of the deal). Sometimes the weaker candidate takes a considerably lesser job.

The incredible softness of the English / FL / History markets probably accounts for a lot of the disagreement here. (By my good luck, that's all of my interests except philosophy, and my kind of philosophy has been purged from the system).

Posted by: zizka at September 17, 2003 03:24 PM

I think that this article in the Chronicle just underlines how weird academic hiring is. How many other professions are there in which two people would assume that working in the same institution was likely and a good idea. (not even Hollywood--well, at least not since Bogart and Bacall).
Sure, one can look around and see lots of departments with couples on staff, more of them hired together than meeting after hiring, I would guess. But how often does the "trailing spouse" tag remain for years as a kind of stain?. Of course, sometimes the trailing spouse becomes the star and the original "main" hire doesn't pan out. Or maybe the two of them are both incredible and become a power nexus that affects departmental politics for 20 years... Or, there's the pre- or post-tenure divorce--nothing like having years of bitterness in the department. All far from exciting possiblities....
I suppose it's retro-feminist, but, frankly, I'd prefer that heterosexual and homosexual couples not ask for "special hiring rights"....

Posted by: sappho at September 17, 2003 03:53 PM

There is a couple in the philosophy dept. here who are both tenured. It seems likely they were hired together. Then there's the couple in the music dept: he's tenured and teaches some of the most important classes offered, she's not tenured and just teaches piano lessons. And not even to piano-performance majors. I have no idea how she feels about this arrangement, but it's not the sort of deal I'd go for.

Posted by: Jane at September 17, 2003 05:33 PM

I'm a biologist (botanist, not zoologist), and I can say pretty confidently that the likelihood that they'll land two TT jobs in the same department are indistinguishable from zip. What's amazing is that they're both junior -- one is ABD! No department I know of even considers candidates without postdoc experience. Now, if one of them were famous or something, it'd be another story.

Posted by: Bob at September 17, 2003 06:24 PM

I know where the story of the naive zoologists is going. A number of my friends have been in the dual PhD predicament. One gets a job in Utah, the other in Toronto. Or one in Minnesota, the other in Boston. One in NY, the other in TX. They see each other on holidays. A baby happens and is raised by one parent. Real stories.

My husband and I were not willing to do that, so he gave up academic life. We survived.

Posted by: Laura at September 17, 2003 06:58 PM

I agree with the general feeling here that these two are engaging in wishful thinking and probably don't know yet that it is indeed wishful rather than realistic.

I suspect that part of their optimism may stem from observing what happened with previous generations of scholars who did manage to pull off such a feat, even in small liberal arts colleges. The last place I worked, I was friends with two such couples -- one pair was hired for a single job back in the seventies (which I can't imagine happening now) and over the years managed to parlay it into two tenured positions.

The other pair, only slightly older than myself, has been less fortunate -- one of them has just been tenured, but teaches 2/3 time so that the other can have some income teaching basic intro courses on a 1/3 time basis. Income and health insurance are shaky as a result -- but this is not something their students would be aware of, or even most of their colleagues at the college.

Also, given that many such jobs are in smaller communities with few -- if any -- alternatives for the trailing spouse, wanting to work for the same institution doesn't seem that odd to me.

(The disciplines here are history and philosophy, respectively.)

Posted by: Rana at September 17, 2003 06:58 PM

Two of the tenured professors in my own department are married to each other, were hired together, and are even in the same field. But these aren't their first jobs, and I think they already tried the "live in an area with a high college/university density" approach without success before they came here. So it does happen, but the fact that it happens doesn't mean that it happens often.

What got me about that article was the conclusion: "With a bit of luck and a lot of work, we hope to begin our dual academic careers by this time next year." Next year? In English, at least (I don't know about zoology), multi-year job searches have become the norm, even for the unattached and fancy-free. The dual-career grad student couples I know are not optimistic.

Posted by: Amanda at September 17, 2003 07:14 PM

#11: "(Have I come to be regarded as a troll here? Gee whiz, I haven't commented for months.)"

No Chun is the troll. See him over there under the bridge. Don't feed him.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 17, 2003 07:21 PM

"Have I come to be regarded as a troll here?"

Who said anything about trolls? If I thought you were a troll, I would say so. I don't share your perspective and disagree with some of your statements. Which means you have fulfilled your self-appointed role as contrarian :)

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 17, 2003 07:32 PM

OK. I'm done feeling sorry for these guys, and now I'm pissed off. During all those years of graduate school, why were they not told that their plans were unrealistic? I think graduate programs need to do a better job warning students about the realities of the job market.

Posted by: Laura at September 17, 2003 08:04 PM

In my undergrad department, there were two couples where the weaker was hired (in one case, after not making the shortlist) as a condition of getting the stronger.
Couple 1 broke up, and they're still hoping the weaker will go away (as is likely: this prof wants their current spouse hired, still in the same dept, and there is 0 chance).
Couple 2 just left for another school (which was looking for 2 people in the same subfield), with the same story: person 1 was hired (good research & conferences, medium publications, shoddy grad student supervision), spouse did not make the shortlist, spouse was last-minutely hired to fill that second spot and get person 1.
And I know that there are lots of people -- quite honestly, better than either of couple 2 -- jobless and hoping in my field.

Posted by: whatish at September 17, 2003 08:59 PM

IA: Thanks, and sorry I got huffy. I guess I have a short fuse when it comes to any aspect of the 2BP. It would of course be good to move beyond personal anecdotes and get a broader picture of how often things do work out for couples and what forms 'working out' tends to take.

Posted by: contrarian opt. at September 17, 2003 11:24 PM

If the couple's perspective seems so fanciful, why does the Chronicle publish it (and others of the same ilk)?

Are those of us who comment on IA's blog really so different than the Chronicle's readership?

Posted by: Sam at September 18, 2003 05:07 AM

It's interesting to see this sort of discussion (I myself am unattached, but a spouse who is an academic would be nice -- similarity of schedules, undesrtanding of duties, etc can at least be hoped for). However, I think the situation is somewhat different for sciences than liberal arts, which may be why some people are optimists here and others not. Personally, I think these things are probably on a case-by-case basis.

As an example, the NSF gave out only 2 fellowships for nuclear physics last year, and a couple from my undergrad school got both of them (imagine the odds of that, impressive huh?) Short version, when they're done with grad school Russ will get tenure, better than even odds on Julie, likely in the same department. The question is not how well they'll do but how atypical couple they are. "Your mileage may vary" applies even more so to couples than to individuals.

Posted by: Aramis Martinez at September 18, 2003 05:19 AM

"Why does the Chronicle publish [these kind of articles]"
Well, the Chronicle is a trade publication, with a big chunk of their subscriptions coming from those who want quick access to the job listings--and who appreciate optimistic stories more, I imagine, than detailed discussion of the realities of the academic job market or the profession itself.
Yes, the Chronicle has published critical analysis at times, but, like a lot of tenured faculty, such analysis is not really part of its political position.

Posted by: sappho at September 18, 2003 09:39 AM

Of course happy endings exist. The thing of it is, in academia, they do not exist because of pluck and will, but serendipity. That's sort of true in life too, but two young married lawyers could rationally believe that they could find carry on professional life together in a city and law firm(s) of their *choosing*. That's what the two zoologists need a major wake-up call about : if they want the happy ending, they're going to have to be 100% non-picky about where it happens (institutionally and geographically) and when it happens (hint: not next year).

As for why the Chronicle publishes such things, it's so we can all feel superior in our weary wisdom as we read along. I don't know about you but my day isn't complete if I don't get to feel snarkily superior to some poor innocent. It's like getting my fiber or something.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at September 18, 2003 10:35 AM

Huh? The Chronicle, er, chronically publishes Thomas Hart Benton, who thinks the French Foreign Legion offers you a better life than any job in academia. And as for success in academia being purely a matter of serendipity... While I'm a reader of Burke's blog, and an admirer, I've got to part ways here. Pluck and intelligence and yes, optimism, play a huge part in life outcomes, including outcomes in the field of academia.

Posted by: isabel at September 18, 2003 01:28 PM

Sorry, isabel, I'm with Timothy Burke here. It's not that pluck and will etc. don't exist in academia -- it's just that they exist in equal measure among those who don't get lucky.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at September 18, 2003 02:53 PM

"Don't they have anti-nepotism rules?"

This is one of those cases where some amount of hypocrisy in hiring is a useful thing.

Our EEO/Personnel office loudly denies that there is any valid reason to hire someone other than their individual professional qualifications, and search committees here are forbidden to ask about marital status, or to continue discussions started by candidates about their spouses.

And yet somehow magically we have many couples working here - just happened to be exactly the two most qualified people out of the pool of 200 candidates, you know.

Posted by: hf at September 18, 2003 05:10 PM

I don't think pluck and optimism land you jobs in academia.

But I do think they do a lot to help you be happy whatever happens.

The latter is more important than the former.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at September 18, 2003 06:55 PM

The two-body problem is a problem for academic couples. And I think there often is serendipity involved when they manage to find jobs at the same institution, or even in the same city. In many fields, the odds are against it happening. We all know of cases like the ones cited by Laura: one of them gets a job in Texas, the other in Toronto. They're both wonderful candidates, but Texas simply doesn't have an opening for A, while Toronto doesn't need a specialist in B.

Given the crappy job prospects in so many fields, it's understandable that spousal hiring raises eyebrows. But some of the criticism strikes me as problematic: it seems to imply that the academic should be an unencumbered self, with no obligations, or no other life, beyond the academy. And it's not like being a lawyer or a chef: academic job possibilities are extremely limited, and people are often forced to choose between taking a job or having some semblance of a normal personal life. Then again, when there are too few jobs for too many candidates, is it fair that single candidate C loses out because the departments wants A and therefore also hires B?

I don't know the solution. I don't think anybody does. The smaller the pie, the bigger the fights over the pieces.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 18, 2003 07:25 PM

My list (see above) was pluck, INTELLIGENCE, and optimism. To believe that the job market in academia (or particularly in the humanities) is a pure lottery is silly.

Posted by: isabel at September 18, 2003 07:55 PM

One observation that no one has mentioned: It seems to be very rare for a couple to land jobs together fresh out of grad school.

The way it works in most of the case I'm familiar with (including my own) is that one or both parties land a good t-track job, then the solution to two-bodydom involves one or both of them taking a less good job. In our case, my wife landed a 'superstar' job right out of grad school and I got a less flashy but nonetheless a good job; then I moved laterally and she took a step down.

I do think any couple has to expect to spend several years separated and on the job market doing coordination searches after they land t-track jobs. If your first t-track job sticks you with a 3-3 load (never mind a 4-4) it'll be hard to maintain 'productivity' during those coordination searches.

And I haven't mentioned how hard it is to keep the relationship functional during the years of separation. This is where pluck, will, intelligence and optimism have a role. The market is just the market: cruel and wildly arbitrary. Give us credit for staying together long enough to land jobs that now finally allow us to live together, not for the jobs themselves.

The real question is whether the zoologists' marriage will survive what's in their future...

Posted by: contrarian optimist at September 18, 2003 08:23 PM

As far as pluck and optimism go -- the tendency is to look at the successes and find out that lo! they all had pluck and optimism. No one starts out with a group full of pluck and optimism and then follows them for 10-20 years. In my life I've seen a certain number of people lose their P&O. Some pick themselves up off the floor over an over again, some simply become more realistic, and some embittered. It would actually be a very interesting study to do.

There are some people who seem to be "can't-miss" -- if they have P&O too, that helps. Others who have a pretty good chance might as well have that P&O, though it won't guarantee anything. But long shots usually lose regardless of their attitude, and sometimes you can watch it like a train wreck.

This is a real crux of American society -- competition as the law of life. Any social problem can be understood as a collection of individual problems, none of which is anyone else's concern.

I've been doing a lifelong experiment with the opposite approach -- pessimism, stubbornness and bad attitude. It has its points; check back in in ten years.

Posted by: zizka at September 18, 2003 09:42 PM

"To believe that the job market in academia (or particularly in the humanities) is a pure lottery is silly."

I don't think anyone would argue that it's a pure lottery. But in any case, the issue here is the likelihood of a couple getting jobs at the same school. And here I maintain that luck has a lot to do with it.

To read nonacademic job search literature is to realize how peculiar the acaemic job market really is. Many of the recommended strategies simply do not apply to the academic job search. For example, you only have one shot a year: no amount of pounding the pavement or sending out CVs or doing informational interviews or working your connections or whatever will turn up job possibilities that you might otherwise have overlooked. The tenure-track job listings come out in the fall, and those are the possiblities for that year, and there are no other possibilities. So imagine a couple, one in early modern German history, say, and the other in colonial American history. Each compiles a list of tt job announcements and then they compare notes. Chances are, there is very little overlap in institutions, and possibly no overlap at all. Doesn't matter how smart they are, how plucky, how determined: the odds are against their finding jobs at the same school.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 18, 2003 09:46 PM

"I've been doing a lifelong experiment with the opposite approach -- pessimism, stubbornness and bad attitude. It has its points; check back in in ten years."

If I'm still running this weblog in ten years' time, I will have lost all remaining traces of P and O. :)

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 18, 2003 09:51 PM

About the Chronicle publishing this piece:

I seriously doubt that Forbes, Business Week,, Inc. magazine, or any other professional rag would publish the fantasy job aspirations of two MBAs.

This Chronicle contribution strikes me as voyeuristic. And like the "reality" TV shows, the entertainment is created by the participants' utter immaturity. Perhaps, like pornography, it is the viewer who is also degraded.

Posted by: Sam at September 19, 2003 10:17 AM

The comment about the secret satisfaction of feeling ‘snarkily superior to some poor innocent' is oh so true, and raises a question that has been nagging at me for some time: how is it even possible to adequately warn naive newcomers to the academic world what they have let themselves in for? As a senior doctoral student, on the verge of completing my thesis, I have had years of increasingly cynical experience in watching starry-eyed innocents come and, in so many cases, go, having crashed and burned. And not only that, but many of them never realize what hit them.

How often have I listened to an enthusiastic newcomer confide that there seems to be a problem, knowing that it is a far more serious problem than the victim suspects. Then, as often as not, he/she will outline a plan to approach (let's say) Professor X, who, I am aware, is among the people least likely to help, for reasons stretching far back into past ages of departmental politics. In vain do I discreetly murmur that perhaps Professor Y would be a better choice. Ignoring me (I'm just a student, not a prof), the unsuspecting one forges ahead. Even after the catastrophe, he/ she may not realize why the problem grew worse instead of better, for Professor X has perfected the fine art of smiling into his victim's eyes even as the knife plunges in. A frank discussion of Professor X's character and methods would merely convince the newcomer that I am paranoid and bitter, and it might also be repeated to my detriment.

To be honest, I no longer hate Professor X as I once did. He has learned the laws of the academic jungle, and is a survivor. If I am to have a successful academic career, it is on Professor X that I must model myself. I am in short Becoming One of Them, and students who were warned but would not listen afford me much the same sardonic amusement as they probably afford him. They are not only innocent but often unbelievably, offensively arrogant, so utterly convinced that they cannot possibly be among the losers in any race.

There is not really any point at the end of all this, just the question of what might in practical terms be done to get through to the lambs as they eagerly line up for the slaughter. About the zoology couple, who says that no one warned them? Probably someone did, and it made no difference at all.

Posted by: abd at September 19, 2003 03:19 PM

Someone once remarked to me that the problem is not that there are no jobs; the problem is that there are some jobs. If there are some jobs, then optimism can still rule. (Sort of like Peter Berkowitz's optimism about suing Harvard over having his tenure denied. Some people do get tenured at Harvard, after all...)

Posted by: Miriam at September 19, 2003 04:57 PM

"(Sort of like Peter Berkowitz's optimism about suing Harvard over having his tenure denied. Some people do get tenured at Harvard, after all...)"

Well, optimisim is one word for it. I guess I could think of a few others. :)

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 19, 2003 08:43 PM

Perhaps it is time for me to admit to being a starry-eyed innocent and ask, honestly, is it that bad?

Posted by: Jane at September 19, 2003 11:26 PM

It really depends on the discipline. And probably also (depending on the discipline) on the subfield or subdiscipline.
I take it you're in philosophy? A couple of months ago there was some discussion here about the philosophy job market (can't remember where, will try to find it when I get a chance). I can't vouch for the claim, but some people claim the philosophy job market is not that bad (eg., not like English literature, which really is that bad).

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 20, 2003 02:28 PM

Jane asks: " [...] honestly, is it that bad?

Yes. YES. YES.

Posted by: Sam at September 20, 2003 02:30 PM

I'm not in philosophy, I'm in music.

Posted by: Jane at September 20, 2003 05:50 PM

It's all my fault. Wow, I really shouldn't write comments here, and not because I don't feel welcomed. I shouldn't comment because I seem to be single-handedly creating the impression that the job market in philosophy is better than the market in other fields.

I remember that previous thread. It's the only other thread to which I've contributed more than one comment. Among the things that I claimed in that thread was that there are some philosophy departments that have non-disastrous placement records. But I'm not at all sure that the philosophy market is better. You tell me.

It is true in philosophy that there are a handful of departments that place more than half of their PhDs in tenure-track jobs within three years of the first job search. You can tell this because you can go online and look at detailed, guts-and-all placement records (here are six programs that are clearly above 50%: Princeton, Pitt, Harvard, UCLA, Rutgers, and Michigan; I'm sure there are a few more). Of course, the records ignore students who dropped out ABD and students who never did a full academic job search.

Does the fact that there are between six and ten programs that place at least half (say, between 50% and 80%) of their graduates in t-track jobs mean that the job market is better in philosophy? Are the very 'top' departments in English and History really placing fewer than half their graduates?

Again, I'm only talking about students who get the degree and then do a full academic job search. And of course there are scores of philosophy PhD programs whose placement records are abysmal (you can't find these online, but I'd guess that the majority of programs place fewer than 20% of their graduates in t-track jobs, and that many programs place almost 0%).

If there really is this difference -- if even the very best programs in other fields place fewer than half their students -- then philosophers shouldn't be commenting about the job market here.

Posted by: contrarian opt. at September 20, 2003 08:28 PM

Crooked Timber had a discussion of the philosophy job market a couple of months ago. Apparently "the top 14 schools had placement rates of 70% or better." And yes, that is much better than history and English.

I don't know anything about the job market in music.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 21, 2003 09:17 AM

I feel terrible. I had no idea. (I wasn't going online in July and missed that CT post.)

Okay, I see why my comments above were so irritating. My apologies to all!

Posted by: contrarian opt. at September 21, 2003 09:50 AM

The _Chronicle_ first-person accounts seem to range dizzingly from shockingly naive optimism to thorough-going bitterness. In neither case do I feel good about reading them -- and that's _after_ I landed my TT job. I still know too many people Out There, and I'm still part of a system turning out grad students, after all.

Once again, I find myself envious of the philosophers with their placement stats. I'd guess that the top five programs in the field of religious studies eventually place about 70% of those students who complete their Ph.D.s and perform a full, unlimited, multi-year academic job search -- but that leaves out a lot of people, and it's no more than an educated guess on my part. Most of the horror stories I've been hearing recently among my circle of acquaintances come from art history, but I think that may just be coincidence.

Posted by: Naomi Chana at September 23, 2003 07:26 AM

Too bad this couple missed out on the opportunities at Laurentian University in Canada. Of cours this is not the Southeast, but this university has just hired a person to teach chordate morphology and they are still looking for a person to teach vertebrate zoology.

By the way, anyone have an opportunity for just one post tenure-track or other

Posted by: Andrea Bullock at February 6, 2004 04:57 AM

Reply to IA #36

This is true about junior tenure track jobs - there is no comparison with non-academic job markets - all jobs are advertised. Still networking helps and is very important. I got all my jobs so far from people I already knew, knew my advisers etc. I got interviews at other places but not the job. I don't know if this is true in other fields.

A problem I see is that grad students don't ask for enough advice on job searching from junior faculty (like me) who have recently been through the process.

On the other hand post-docs, research opportunities, adjuncting etc. may to some extent be more like the "what color is your parachute" job model. I have a feeling that senior jobs are too in some cases - in others the job is just advertised in the regular way.


Posted by: moom at February 6, 2004 10:30 AM

One odd thing about this story is that they are in biology and expect a TT job right away. I couldn't get the economist I wanted in an interdisciplinary research center because the biologists said he didn't have post-doc experience.

I think the chances of them both getting TT jobs straight off in the same place are very low. This is common for more senior people. But even then one may just get "lecturer". There is a possibility to get one a TT job and the other a postdoc (created from existing research funds) at the same institution. This is actually a pretty likely scenario I would think. Another is they manage to land jobs in the same region. They should also look at the new UC Merced :) They say in the ad they welcome dual career couples. Not yet hiring biologists though I think.

Biology is booming - our uni is building a massive biotech center and the number of people doing PhDs is actually going down!


Posted by: moom at February 6, 2004 10:47 AM

"As for why the Chronicle publishes such things, it's so we can all feel superior in our weary wisdom as we read along. I don't know about you but my day isn't complete if I don't get to feel snarkily superior to some poor innocent. It's like getting my fiber or something." - Timothy Burke.

Timothy, thank you for the biggest laugh I've had this week. I think you've just described 90% of the first-person column readership (I include myself). Perfect.

Posted by: at February 6, 2004 11:01 AM

"I couldn't get the economist I wanted in an interdisciplinary research center because the biologists said he didn't have post-doc experience." -- moom.

That's hysterical. There are very few post-doctoral positions in economics - I hope you've explained that to them. I was once not interviewed at a research center because a friend of mine couldn't convince her supervisor to interview in the winter for a position for the following fall, she kept telling him, "all the economists will have already accepted jobs for next year by March", but he didn't believe her.

Posted by: Matilde at February 6, 2004 11:08 AM

"As for why the Chronicle publishes such things, it's so we can all feel superior in our weary wisdom as we read along. I don't know about you but my day isn't complete if I don't get to feel snarkily superior to some poor innocent. It's like getting my fiber or something." - Timothy Burke.

Yep. This couple have since published an update on their job search, which is not going as well as they had hoped. Tim Burke's comment pretty much sums up the reason why I decided against writing a new entry that would call attention to the new column (of course I'm now mentioning it in a comment, which does call attention to it...but I'm not linking to it and I'm guessing most readers won't bother to check this older thread).

I now regret at least one blog entry on one of these first person columns. Sure, they put it out there when they agree to publish their accounts, and have to be prepared for reader response. And it's not that I launched a vicious personal attack. But when I read some of the comments that my criticism invited/elicited/encouraged, I just feel shitty. Life is hard enough. It looks like kicking people when they're down.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 6, 2004 11:45 AM