“Over the last 35 years, less than half of graduated Ph.D. students have gotten tenure-track academic jobs upon graduation. The result is a large pool of residual job seekers, which places even more pressure on the job market for existing students.”…
“The data are pretty straightforward,” the paper says. “While students in top-10 programs might have a reasonable chance of getting tenure-track jobs at a national research university or national research liberal arts colleges, the chances for such placements are essentially nil for students graduating from lower ranked programs. If students from lower ranked programs do get tenure-track jobs, they will most likely be at schools where the primary focus is on undergraduate teaching to students with weak academic backgrounds.”…
“The actual situation facing Ph.D. candidates may be considerably worse than the available data suggest. Specifically, these data do not provide information about attrition, especially how many students started the program and might have completed their Ph.D. but chose not to because there were no jobs,” the paper says.
Those are excerpts from a piece at Inside Higher Ed about new economic research by Dave Colander and Daisy Zhou (Middlebury) about the job market for English Ph.D.s. The job market situation in English does not seem all that different in these respects from that in philosophy. The authors make some suggestions as to how the English profession should respond to their findings. Perhaps they are applicable to philosophy, as well:
First, let students know about what happens to all of those who start doctoral programs:
In defense of departments, as long as they provide accurate information about job placement, the paper cites economic theory. “[F]rom an economist’s ‘free choice’ perspective, as long as students going into graduate study of English know the job market situation, graduate programs have no reason to be concerned about these results,” the paper says. “Students can be seen as choosing to study English not to prepare for a job but as a lifestyle choice. From their behavior (that is, their continuing to enroll), an economist would argue that the gain that they get from studying English is so great that they do so while fully accepting that it will not lead them to a tenure-track job.”
Second, orient programs towards the jobs the students are likely to get:
But even if departments are more transparent about job data, the paper says, there is something wrong with offering programs that ostensibly prepare people for careers when (based on the prestige of the program) one has no chance of getting that job. And the preparation may be minimal for the jobs new doctorates could get. The paper argues for recognizing the “vocational” reasons for pursuing a Ph.D. and adjusting doctoral programs accordingly.