Philosophy Sees Decrease in PhDs Conferred In Recent Years

After a slow and steady increase from 1998 through 2011, the number of PhDs conferred in philosophy in the United States has been decreasing, according to a report from Humanities Indicators.

According to the report,

In recent years, the number of PhDs awarded declined among all the large disciplines except communication (where it rose by 5% from 2012 to 2020)… Programs in history and philosophy experienced the largest declines from 2012 to 2020 (falling 12% and 10% respectively). 

The full report, which has data on various aspects of graduate education in the humanities in the U.S., is here: State of the Humanities 2022: From Graduate Education to the Workforce.

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sad to hear
28 days ago

On the one hand, many disgruntled un- and under-employed philosophers have been asking for this. On the other hand, it will inevitably lead philosophy to become a field closed to all but the most privileged. I think this is a shame, especially since it works against all efforts to make the field more diverse.Report

Reply to  sad to hear
27 days ago

I’m not really seeing why this is a problem for diversity in philosophy. If anything, a better balance between the number of jobs and the number of PhD graduates would make pursuing a PhD in philosophy less of a financial risk. Right now it is irrational for anyone who is not independently wealthy (or who doesn’t have a wealthy support network) to pursue a career in philosophy because it constitutes such massive risk.Report

Kenny Easwaran
28 days ago

It’s interesting that Communication was singled out as the only field with increase since 2012, and Philosophy was one of the two fields with the largest decrease since 2012. It looks from the chart like Communication and Philosophy had almost exactly the same number of PhDs nearly every year since 2005 – the only exception being that Philosophy had a blip in 2011 and 2012.

If you look since 2014, Philosophy and Communication seem to be the only disciplines holding steady. If you look since the mid-90’s, Communication has significant increase, while Philosophy and “All Other Humanities” are the only others with moderate sustained increase.

English, History, and maybe Non-English Language and Literature, all seem to have a bubble in the mid-90’s, and a smaller bubble in the early 2010’s, that Philosophy, Communication, Study of the Arts, and “All Other Humanities” seemed to avoid. (Unless that “blip” in 2011-2012 was Philosophy’s sharper version of the early 2010’s bubble in the others.)Report

Last edited 28 days ago by Kenny Easwaran
Dr Anne Newstead
27 days ago

Good. There are not enough secure academic jobs for philosophy PhDs. It is irresponsible to train so much more than we can use and take up the best most productive years of their young lives with training that they cannot then put to work in research. The disillusionment that follows being trained as a philosophy PhD with academic aspirations is severe when the labour market cannot support these aspirations.Report

student z
student z
Reply to  Dr Anne Newstead
23 days ago

Omg I was just citing you in my undegrad paper that argues for a feminist interpretation of Spinoza’s epistemology and then I see you in these comments! crazy!!!!Report