To what extent does getting one’s PhD in philosophy from a program that does well in a reputational survey increase one’s chances of finding a permanent academic position?
That is the question that Spencer Hey (Research Scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Co-Director of Research Ethics at the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School) recently took up, and he has now presented the results of his inquiry in an interactive graph.
He plotted along one axis the rankings PhD programs received in the latest Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR), a controversial reputational survey of the faculty at the programs, and along the other axis data on the programs’ placing of their PhDs in permanent jobs from Academic Placement Data and Analysis (APDA).
Here’s a snapshot of the graph and its key:
On the interactive version of the graph, mousing over the nodes will reveal the names of the plotted programs as well as the relevant data.
Professor Hey observes:
Roughly speaking, for every 1 point increase in a program’s mean PGR score, there is a 10% increase in its placement rate for recent graduates. However, that trend is really only a small part of the story here…
For example, the 60-40% placement range is populated by programs from across the PGR-score spectrum. This shows that getting into a top-scoring program is by no means a slam dunk for a future job in academia. It also shows that many lower-scoring programs do just as well as higher-scoring programs at placing their graduates—and some even better. UC Riverside, Irvine, and University of Virginia really stand out as “overperforming” based on their PGR score. Notably, NYU, which has been the top-ranked PGR program for several years, is very middle-of-the-pack in terms of placement.
In general, I think the programs falling into the upper left and lower right quadrants raise the most interesting questions. What are some of these lower-scoring programs doing (or what areas do they specialize in) that helps them to place their graduates so well? And conversely: What aren’t some of these top-scoring programs doing? Obviously, getting your graduates jobs in academia isn’t the only measure of a program, but the PGR survey is ostensibly supposed to be tracking the ability of the program to train successful academic philosophers. So it seems to me that some of the “underperformers” here should raise an eyebrow—and students applying to graduate school would do well to probe the APDA data more closely (and ask their advisors lots of questions) before placing too much stock in a program’s PGR rank.
For an earlier look at the relation between PGR rank and placement, see this post.