The 2017-2018 Job Market: Which Were The Most Sought After Areas of Specialization?


One-third of the tenure-track positions in philosophy that colleges and universities were seeking to fill this past job market season were in value theory, according to an examination of job advertisements.

Marcus Arvan, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Tampa, has a detailed breakdown of the advertised jobs by type (tenure-track, non-tenure-track) and area of specialization (AOS) at The Philosophers’ Cocoon.

Here are his findings for the 228 tenure-track jobs that were advertised, from most sought after AOS to least:

  • Value theory (ethics, political): 79.2 jobs (34.7%)
  • Open: 40.5 jobs (17.8%)
  • Core (metaphysics, epistemology, mind, language, logic, etc.): 28.8 (12.6%)
  • History: 26.4 jobs (11.6%)
  • Science: 14.8 jobs (6.5%)
  • Social identity (race, gender, etc.): 11.7 jobs (5.1%)
  • Non-Western: (African, Asian, Islamic, Latin American, etc.): 9.8 (4.3%)
  • Continental: 9.2 jobs (4%)
  • Religion: 5.25 jobs (2.3%)
  • Aesthetics: 1 job (.04%)

For a more detailed breakdown of these figures as well as data for non-tenure-track jobs, see Professor Arvan’s post at TPC.

(Note: this post was edited slightly after some adjustments were made to the post at TPC.)

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Brian Kemple
3 years ago

Poor, poor aesthetes.

Though I can say being a non-analytic metaphysician isn’t a cakewalk, either.Report

Brian Weatherson
3 years ago

This is really good of Marcus to have collected all this data. It’s really helpful to see it all laid out like this. Thanks!

But I have a quibble about the categorisation. It seems very anachronistic to include metaphysics, epistemology, mind and language in one category, and have that category exclude ethics. Maybe that’s how the job ads are reading, but it’s certainly not how the journals are reading in the 2010s. There is a flood of really great work on ethics & epistemology, and at most a handful of papers on metaphysics & epistemology. At epistemology conferences, cutting edge work on ethics is discussed much more frequently than cutting edge work on metaphysics. A huge number of graduate students (at least at Michigan) conceptualise their research area as ethics & epistemology. I think it’s time for new divisions of the sub disciplines.Report

Elizabeth Harman
Elizabeth Harman
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 years ago

I think this is indeed a complaint about how jobs are advertised, not about how the job ads were categorized. Lots of jobs are advertised as in ethics or moral philosophy, without epistemology being mentioned in the ads.Report

Brian Weatherson
Reply to  Elizabeth Harman
3 years ago

Oh definitely. There certainly aren’t many jobs advertised in ethics & epistemology as such.

Having skimmed the PhilJobs ads (which I perhaps should have done before commenting), I’m actually a little surprised at how many jobs are advertised in “metaphysics and epistemology”. I think the jobs advertised in “metaphysics or epistemology” are more accurately labelled, because I don’t see that many thesis projects these days that make significant contributions to both M and E, and anyone hired in “M&E” will presumably have very strong leanings towards one of these two fields.Report

Concerned Epistemologist
Concerned Epistemologist
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 years ago

As a graduate epistemologist, with little interest or expertise in core metaphysics, I’m so glad to hear this said! I’ve been puzzling about job adds asking for ‘metaphysics and epistemology’ – does this meant they won’t consider epistemologists who don’t also do metaphysics?
FWIW, epistemologists that I know tend also to be more interested in mind and cog sci (as well as ethics) than in metaphysics.Report

PhilSciGrad
PhilSciGrad
3 years ago

As a budding philosopher of science, these numbers look ungreat.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  PhilSciGrad
3 years ago

But what fraction of grad student AOSs are in philosophy of science? I don’t know the answer to that, but without an answer it’s hard to assess. (Also, the philosophy of science/metaphysics boundary is vague in a lot of current hiring.)Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  David Wallace
3 years ago

In the next day or two, I’m hoping to get a new post up soliciting reports on applicant numbers. Many rejection letters (PFOs) report how many applicants there were for a given job. For jobs with a single AOS, this may give at least some rough (albeit imperfect) idea of how many candidates there are in different AOS.Report

WI
WI
Reply to  David Wallace
3 years ago

Wallace:

Agreed; and also, without a sense of how many of the job ads were targeted at philosophers of (e.g.) biology, physics, cognitive science, it’s also hard to know what the market is like for general philosophers of science. My sense is that the market is dwindling.

Unrelated, but NB for any metaphysicians reading this: if your dissertation and research interests are entirely on the metaphysics of grounding, that does not make you a philosopher of science. It is not sufficient to count as a philosopher of science to use the words “explanation” (and perhaps even “essence”) a few times in your writing sample. So please, metaphysicians, be careful about whether you really can list philosophy of science as an AOS. It is very irritating to sift, as I have, through the torrent of unhinged a priori metaphysics applicants who think that their unoriginal intuitions about grounding count as novel contributions to the literature on scientific explanation.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  WI
3 years ago

From the APDA blog (http://placementdata.com/blog/):

36 areas of specialization had graduates listed for 2012 to 2016.

20 had a permanent placement rate below the overall value. I will call these the “low placement group.” The low placement group is listed below in order of placement rate (with the number of those with permanent placement in less than three years divided by the total number of graduates 2012 to 2016 in parentheses):

Philosophy of Math (2/16) 12.5%
Decision Theory (1/8) 12.5%
Value Theory (2/12) 16.7%
German Philosophy (2/10) 20.0%
Metaphilosophy (1/5) 20.0%
19th/20th Century Philosophy (9/44) 20.5%
Aesthetics (9/36) 25.0%
Philosophy of Technology (1/4) 25.0%
Modern Philosophy (52/197) 26.4%
Philosophy of Religion (18/65) 27.7%
Meta-Ethics (9/30) 30.0%
Philosophy of Action (8/26) 30.8%
Philosophy of Law (9/29) 31.0%
Philosophy of Mind (39/120) 32.5%
Metaphysics (39/120) 32.5%
Epistemology (56/170) 32.9%
Philosophy of Economics (1/3) 33.3%
History of Philosophy (3/9) 33.3%
Logic and Philosophy of Logic (15/44)34.1%
Philosophy of Science (39/113) 34.5%

16 had a permanent placement rate above the overall value. I will call these the “high placement group.” The high placement group is listed below in order of placement rate (with the number of those with permanent placement in less than three years divided by the total number of graduates 2012 to 2016 in parentheses):

Continental Philosophy (44/122) 36.1%
Philosophy of Language (33/91) 36.3%
Social and Political Philosophy (70/193) 36.3%
Applied Ethics (20/55) 36.4%
Ethics and Moral Philosophy (115/309) 37.2%
Comparative Philosophy (3/8) 37.5%
Philosophy of Biology (11/29) 37.9%
Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Linguistics (25/64) 39.1%
Philosophy of Education (10/24) 41.7%
Philosophy of Gender, Race, Sexuality, Disability (13/31) 41.9%
Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy (17/40) 42.5%
Analytic Philosophy (4/9) 44.4%
Ancient Philosophy (49/103) 47.6%
Asian Philosophy (9/18) 50.0%
Philosophy of Physics (15/26) 57.7%
Philosophy of the Americas (8/11) 72.7%

(see also the comment below, to Marcus)Report

Fritz
Fritz
Reply to  PhilSciGrad
3 years ago

You need to know the demoninator (applicants), nut just numerator (listings) to sort that out. If there’s only one listing but only one applicant, for example, coluld be a field to move into…Report

Fritz
Fritz
3 years ago

I’d also separate “listings” from “hires”. For example, many of the open searches will go to ethics, some of the history ones will, too, and so on. (Same argument for other subdisciplines.) Also, say some department listed “ethics or history”, but wasn’t really serious about history in the first place; the listing would “underweight” ethics. So once we know who all’s hired later in the cycle and crunch the AOS’s, we’ll have a better sense for what the areas look like; something like ethics could easily be 50-60%.Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  Fritz
3 years ago

One problem with attempting to collect data on new hires is I suspect a good number of hires are never reported on the philjobs appointments page (I’ve personally known hires who didn’t report there). I cannot help but wonder whether this may be a sad byproduct of the “CV vetting” of recent hires that goes on in some parts of cyberspace.Report

Fritz
Fritz
Reply to  Marcus Arvan
3 years ago

If we’re talking about 200 jobs and half are listed, that’s 100 emails to send to hiring departments and ask (fastest) or websites to look at in fall (slower). It’d take a minute, but could be really valuable—APA might fund it. Searches are canceled, too, so non-reporting partially reflects failure to hire—though wouldn’t know which is which.Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
3 years ago

One (understandable) limitation of this study, and others done previously at the Philosopher’s Cocoon is that it only covers listings from PhilJobs, raising the question of how representative this is of hiring in the discipline as a whole. My anecdotal experience (now a few years old) was that the number of additional (full-time, potentially permanent) hires at community colleges and similar schools underrepresented on PhilJobs was much smaller – even in a particularly good year for hiring at California’s community colleges, so that percentages wouldn’t be all that different for their inclusion. Is anyone actively tracking the percentage of (full-time, potentially permanent) faculty jobs not included in PhilJobs?Report

Ken
Ken
Reply to  Derek Bowman
3 years ago

How would one go about tracking those numbers, apart from looking at the very incomplete and self-reported Philjobs appointments page?

I’d love to see that data but have no idea how to go about getting it.Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  Ken
3 years ago

Looking at other higher ed job listings sites. But this would take some active tracking throughout the year, since those sites don’t seem to archive older listings in the way PhilJobs does.Report

M
M
Reply to  Derek Bowman
3 years ago

A nontrivial number of schools are banned from advertising their positions on PhilJobs due to the PhilJobs decision to follow the APA nondiscrimination policy. This is another cause for incompleteness of information.Report

Confused
Confused
Reply to  M
3 years ago

Why would someone have a problem with the APA policy? I’m just curious. I read it quickly and it seemed pretty standard for our time.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Confused
3 years ago

When this was discussed a few years ago, it seemed to be mainly religious schools that want to reserve the right to discriminate on homosexuality.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Derek Bowman
3 years ago

There are around 2000 unique permanent placements in the APDA database for 2012+, but only around 1000 permanent job ads on PhilJobs for that time period (see https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-O9nTuCYW8iRkZEbno2YzZHWGsySklkQnNTeWpKdWo1M2dZ/view and/or my comment to Marcus, below).Report

D
D
3 years ago

There are far more jobs posted on Higheredjobs.com than Philjobs.org-namely community college and teaching focused positions (e.g. lecturer positions). There are lots of CC tenure track jobs posted on Higheredjobs.com every year (that’s where my current tenure-track position was posted–never appeared on Philjobs). And most of those positions are listed as ‘open’. It is a mistake to not ‘count’ those listings as job positing–although the job market is very bad, Philjobs data alone misrepresents the market. Very few community colleges post FT positions on Philjobs. Almost all post to higheredjobs.com. If you didn’t do your dissertation at a top institution, my advice to you would be starting looking for a job on Higherjobs.com and the Chronicle (my teaching focused post-doc was posted on the Chronicle–not philjobs.org).Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  D
3 years ago

When you say “far more” are you including part-time adjunct gigs? Currently when I go to the site and look for philosophy jobs I see what looks like a big number: 175. Then I reduce that to Community College jobs, which still looks big: 64.

But when I filter for full-time community college jobs I get a whopping total of 6.

Restricting the list to full-time philosophy jobs in any sector I get 76, compared to 169 currently active ads at PhilJobs. But of course some jobs are cross-posted on both – how many I’m not sure.

One difficulty is that HigherEdJobs doesn’t seem to offer the same archive function as PhilJobs making it hard to do a proper annual comparison.

Based on anecdotal experience I find it hard to believe the claim that there are more (full-time, potentially permanent) community college and similar jobs than jobs at R1s, R2s, liberal arts colleges, etc. The reason is that community colleges and similar schools have been under serious budget constraints for a long time and have generally adapted by relying heavily on part-time adjuncts and other contingent faculty.

But it would be nice to have some clear evidence one way or the other.Report

D
D
Reply to  Derek Bowman
3 years ago

I am mean there are more full time jobs posted altogether in a given academic year of all kinds, based on my non-scientific impression. I can see how the post was a bit misleading,. Yes, there are lots of adjunct positions at any given time. Positions are not archived there. Further, most FT CC jobs are posted in spring and don’t follow the traditional hiring calendar and have shorter application windows. I think the best way to scientifically keep track of the posting would be to sign up for higheredjobs weekly job alerts. But I would estimate that 30-40 FT CC jobs are posted each year in total. Further, if philosophers really want to stretch their boundaries, a degree in philosophy counts as an eligible credential for CC humanities positions (teaching courses like mythology, western civilization, great books, etc).Report

D
D
Reply to  D
3 years ago

Hmm, I guess that second one was double-listed, but hopefully my point is still made!Report

Nick Z
Nick Z
Reply to  D
3 years ago

I kept track of all of the positions that I applied to (and some I forgot to apply for) during last year’s hiring season (September 2016- May 17). My record lists 34 community colleges. The only schools I did not apply to were the geographically appalling, so this probably brings the total somewhere within or near your 30-40 tally. A minority of these positions were tenure-track, and all of them were full-time and permanent positions.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Derek Bowman
3 years ago

Derek:

I looked at the APDA data as of August 28th, 2017 for another project (the APA Guidance Documents), and found that for the years 2012 onwards (the years for which we have the most complete data, which we secured in part by looking at ProQuest records for 124 of the 192 programs we track) the placement profile is as follows:

Total graduates: 3037
Graduates now in permanent academic positions: 1172 (39%)
Graduates now in temporary academic positions: 1224 (40%)
Graduates in nonacademic positions: 189 (6%)
Graduates with unknown or no position: 452 (15%)

For the 1172 in permanent academic positions, we have Carnegie Classification information for 727, as follows:
Placement is in an R1: 232 (32%)
Placement is in a doctoral institution (includes R1): 366 (50%)
Placement is in a community college: 63 (9%)
All other classifications: 298 (41%)

For the 1224 in temporary academic positions, we have Carnegie Classification information for 675, as follows:
Placement is in an R1: 295 (44%)
Placement is in a doctoral institution (includes R1): 424 (63%)
Placement is in a community college: 36 (5%)
All other classifications: 215 (32%)

For this reason, I think it is very unlikely that the majority of placements are in community colleges, at least for those placed with PhDs. 625 placements are in the United States but do not have a Carnegie Classification in our database (about half are permanent, about half are temporary). Even if these were all community colleges, this still would not be the majority (724/2027=36%). The only way to get a majority would be to assume that all of those with unknown/no placement are at community colleges (whereas I suspect most of them are in nonacademic positions) AND all unclassified U.S. institutions in our database are community colleges. I see no reason to assume this. However, it may be worth noting that most graduates from this time period are in temporary positions. And 545 of the 1224 are neither fellowship/postdoc nor visiting positions–adjuncts, lecturers, instructors, etc. (44% of the temporary positions, 18% of all graduates).Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
3 years ago

Thanks, that’s very helpful information.Report

Malcolm Keating
Malcolm Keating
3 years ago

I posted a longer version of this comment at the Cocoon as well. Latin American philosophy is not “non-Western.” Or if it is, I’m not sure what “Western” is intended to pick out (Europe and North America?). Islamic philosophy is arguably not, due to its influences from Greek philosophy, and influence in Western thought. Perhaps it should have its own category outside of this dichotomy. Further, the numbers as presented above include Ancient Chinese and Zhu Xi as part of history and not “non-Western.” Yet Chinese philosophy is categorized as non-Western. I would think these should all be grouped together.

I think until Marcus updates his categories, preferably to include merely “history/traditions” rather than an ambiguous “non-Western,” but minimally to carve out “Western” in a more recognizable manner, these aren’t yet accurate.Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  Malcolm Keating
3 years ago

Fair points, Malcolm – I’ll make the relevant changes ASAP.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
3 years ago

Thanks for this, Marcus! I did this quick analysis for a friend, which seems somewhat relevant to this conversation. See some notes on this below. Note also that the APDA blog has a post on AOS and placement that looks at this from another angle: http://placementdata.com/blog/

1) The number of job ads in PhilJobs for each first listed AOS category and year for permanent academic positions, with duplicates removed: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-O9nTuCYW8iRkZEbno2YzZHWGsySklkQnNTeWpKdWo1M2dZ/view

2) The 6 “upward trending” keywords on PhilJobs. That is, the highest overall slopes between 2013 and 2017 for the number of times each keyword shows up in the AOS field for the 8/1-2/1 job ads on PhilJobs (junior, permanent, academic only) divided by how many total keyword counts there were, for keywords with at least two mentions, excluding “open” and all non-informative keywords: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-O9nTuCYW8ibTFEdGdyN0JGa0Z4eU5Vd3ZLODdvcFRxcVFN/view

3) The 6 “downward trending” keywords on PhilJobs, using the same method: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-O9nTuCYW8iUDZsZGdtVDRsRkMyVEc1UC11T3o3ZGJEUzVJ/view

4) To compare open and non-open job ads, I matched job ads to placements as well as I could in a “quick” analysis (i.e. limiting myself to one day of work), and I was able to match around half of these job ads to individuals in the APDA database. For those job ads, 500 were in a specific AOS, and 148 were “open”, as I categorized this. Removing those with unknown AOS, the overall category of Science, Logic, and Math seem to do the best here, and the overall categories of Value Theory and History/Traditions seem to do the worst, with LEMM coming out about the same:

LEMM Value Hist Sci Total
Open 23% 35% 27% 15% 124
Non-Open 23% 36% 28% 13% 392

Drilling down to specific AOS (the first listed AOS of those in the APDA database), open jobs are going less often to those in philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, modern philosophy, epistemology, ancient philosophy, continental philosophy, and social/political philosophy (relative to the non-open jobs) and more often to applied ethics, philosophy of language, metaphysics, philosophy of science, and ethics…excluding any AOS with fewer than 10 total people in this pool. I did not test any of this for significance, but women were better represented for the non-open ads (39%) than the open ads (37%).Report

M
M
3 years ago

Thanks for this very interesting and informative breakdown!
I can’t understand how one could have one job in aesthetics while at the same time so many in ethics. Both subfields deal with value issues, and aestheticians/philosophers of art are often competent in other subfields too (which ones exactly might depend on what precisely they are working on.)
I think that we have to understand that 1) this sort of hiring policy is soon going to turn full-time philosophers of art into an endangered species. And, to my knowledge, the most prominent philosophers of art publish almost uniquely in that subfield, so it’s not clear that we can get rid of “full-time” philosophers of art without dropping the standard of scholarship in the subfield; 2) this situation will force a number of young scholars out of academia because, regardless of how good they are (i.e. what sort of publications, letters of reference, etc. they may get), there simply is no specific enough employment for them. (True, there’s open jobs, though one wonder how an AOS in aesthetics will look to someone in the committee of an open position, given the numbers above.)Report

Anna
Anna
3 years ago

Dear M,

I think you need to understand that your well thought out argument means nothing to administrators who make these kind of decisions. You see, administrators could not care less about the standard of scholarship dropping in the sub-field of aesthetics. TBH, most philosophers don’t care too much about this either. Anyway, most administrators want an ethicist because it is immediately obvious that an ethicist can teach a wide variety of classes as well as do work that can engage the public. Ethics also easily crosses disciplines. Now you can argue that aesthetics can do these things too, but it is simply far less obvious and admins don’t want to take the time to understand that. .Report

Michel (not M)
Michel (not M)
Reply to  Anna
3 years ago

The same is true of most other subfields, though. No admincritter is going to have much in the way of preconceptions about the utility or interdisciplinary appeal of metaphysics, language, epistemology, phil. of religion, phi. of science, etc. And presumably what happens there is that philosophers take the time to make the case to the administration.Report