The Philosophy Job Market in Today's Economy

ARLINGTON, VA – The search for a job in any field in the midst of an economic downturn can be harrowing; for those seeking jobs in a field like Philosophy where even in good economic times, the competition for jobs is stiff, the job search can be especially demoralizing.

Here I have gathered some resources for the graduate student who attended the Graduate Student Colloquium at the 2009 Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy (SPEP) where I spoke on a panel entitled “The Job Market in Today’s Economy.”

The Situation
There is no question that the job market in Philosophy and the Humanities is tightening.  Inside Higher Education emphasized in their article, The Tightening Humanities Job Market, published at the end of last year the particular difficulties in the discipline of Philosophy. Last spring, the New York Times was reporting that Doctoral Candidates Anticipate Hard Times, and it looks like we are seeing that play out in the list of job offerings in Philosophy this year.

On a more positive note, a number of institutions with which I am
familiar, particularly the large state universities, have received
substantive funds from the Stimulus Bill passed earlier this year. 
This will allow them to proceed with some hiring this year. However, we
might need to anticipate another downturn in job opportunities in two years
when the stimulus money dries up.

Of the 140 jobs listed in the October 2009 Jobs for Philosophers, only 4 explicitly mention an interest in continental philosophy.  So SPEP students will have to position themselves to compete for jobs in areas that are not explicitly announced as “continental.” This will not be difficult as the large majority of students at SPEP have a broad range of interests and expertise.

Good Preparation
There are a number of concrete ways to improve your chances on the job market:

  • Write a marketable dissertation.  Decisions about what to write your dissertation on are complicated.  Primary consideration needs to be given to your passion for and interest in the topic.  However, such decisions ought not be made in a vacuum and one important consideration will be the degree to which you will increase your opportunities for placement by writing such a dissertation.

    Specifically, it is advisable to write a dissertation that goes into some depth with regard to a specific thinker or theme that cuts across a broader spectrum of traditions and is able to speak to a wide range of approaches.  Even if you don’t orient your own work by those other approaches, be aware of them and able to articulate and position your work in relation to them.

  • Publish something in a well-respected journal.
  • Give a Paper at a Conference where they use blind review.
  • Develop Pedagogical Excellence: work on your teaching, teach as much as you can, write your one page teaching philosophy, develop a teaching portfolio.
  • Ask yourself: what distinguishes me from other candidates, what do I bring to a job that others don’t?

Cultivate an online, digital identity
As we experience the transformative possibilities new social media opens for education, it is important for students to begin to think intentionally about how this media can be use to further the pedagogical and intellectual ideals of philosophy. With regard to placement, the question as to one’s online, digital identity becomes critical.

  • Use Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc., to articulate a serious, academic and engaged voice of your own.
  • Participate in social media related to Academia generally and Philosophy in particular:
      • Academia.edu is a site where faculty, graduate students and institutions can establish profiles to highlight their work.
      • Philosophywiki.org is a site where you can set up a profile about yourself and your work.

Opening Other Options
Post-doctoral Fellowships
Below is a list of a few post-doctoral fellowships that might be relevant to graduate student and early PhD members of SPEP working in contemporary continental philosophy and related areas in the history of philosophy.

Fixed term positions at home university or local colleges
Despite the economic situation, teaching still goes on, students are applying to college and colleges are offering classes. Many colleges and universities are offering fixed term positions for their students or for students from other institutions.

  • Ask department chairs, directors of graduate studies if such opportunities exist at your institution.
  • Talk to faculty such possibilities at the institutions of their colleagues.

Some Resources

  • SPEP has introduced a jobs announcement section of the website, but this seems only to be as good as the institutions who submit. It does provide insight into which institutions are interested in the work being done by members of the society.
  • American Philosophical Association publishes, of course, the Jobs for Philosophers; they also have a Job Seekers Database, which seems to be under construction at the moment, but which students should use when it is up.
  • The Philosophy Jobs Wiki lists jobs offered by many institutions and is updated by the users.  It is only as accurate, of course, as the users are engaged and reliable. My experience, though, is that it is often very accurate, although it is important to recognize that it is not to be taken as the official mode of communication from colleges and universities.
  • Penn State Philosophy Department Best Placement Practices page was developed to help our students think about how to position themselves to success on the market.  The suggestions are available for all interested students.
  • Shortened URL for this post: http://tinyurl.com/spepjobpanel09

Contact Information

Christopher Long
longc@psu.edu

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