Next Year’s “Extra Brutal” Philosophy Job Market: Alternatives & Short-Term Opportunities?

Between August 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019, there were approximately 180 junior jobs, 70 postdocs, and 60 open-rank positions in academic philosophy in the United States advertised.

data and image by Charles Lassiter

That data was compiled by Charles Lassiter, associate professor of philosophy at Gonzaga University, and is from a post at his blog. He takes a closer look at the junior positions and notes that about a third of them are not tenure-track:


data and image by Charles Lassiter

Dr. Lassiter then looks at where there jobs are:

Academic philosophy jobs (junior, post-doc, open rank) in the U.S. during the 2018-19 job market (data collected and image created by Charles Lassiter)

There are likely going to be much fewer dots on the 2020-2021 version of that map, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a map, last updated earlier today and published in The Guardian, showing the distribution of COVID-19 cases in the United States:

And here is a crowdsourced list, collected by Karen Kelsky (of the academic career consultancy The Professor Is In), of schools that have announced hiring freezes or pauses (here’s a Google spreadsheet of that list). Given how it is being created, I am not sure how reliable it is. But there is no doubt that, given the turmoil caused by the pandemic to universities, not to mention the costs (89% of university presidents surveyed about COVID19 are somewhat or very concerned about the “overall financial stability” of their schools, according to Inside Higher Ed), there will be susbstantially less hiring going on in the near future.

At the same time, while the pandemic has (and will continue to) delay some academic work and deter some moves, dissertation defenses are proceeding (virtually) and there is not likely to be much of a reduction in the number of job candidates. If the financial troubles of some universities lead them to cancel current searches or let go of faculty (non tenure-track faculty are especially vulnerable here), that could add to the number of job candidates.

What to do?

One reader (a tenure-track professor at a liberal arts college), concerned about “how extra-brutal the market is going to be”, suggested a post which solicits

(a) suggestions for short-term alternatives to the academic job market for fresh philosophy Ph.D.’s. and
(b) ways by which more institutions and senior philosophers might create such short-term options.

As an example of the former, there’s the Presidential Management Fellows Program, first brought to my attention by Shane Wilkins, and which several philosophers have taken part in.

As an example of the latter, the professor who wrote in recently learned that their school has a fund for its alumni to create post-doc positions, including in philosophy. Universities and their associated foundations may have other little-known options like this—maybe yours does—but it may require some investigative work to find out. It would be helpful, though, to hear about the various types of such opportunities so those who are asking around have a better sense of what to ask around for. So please share what you know.


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