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Job Prospects for Ph.Ds

tenisghstenisghs Registered User Posts: 3,955 Senior Member
edited January 2005 in Graduate School
Which has better job prospects?

History Ph.D. vs. Sociology Ph.D. vs. PoliSci Ph.D.
Post edited by tenisghs on

Replies to: Job Prospects for Ph.Ds

  • ericmengericmeng Registered User Posts: 443 Member
    I'd say it's a total crap-shoot. Read the websites of American Historical Association, etc to check, but you can see how the number of undergrads for each discipline fluctuates from time to time. Higher for faculty is based on this.

    But really - if you are doing it for job prospects, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

    I just did asked around at my school, Princeton (which has maybe THE top history program), and all its graduates got jobs, many of them tenure-track, right out of PhD. However, unlike in other careers, you cannot choose where you live, and you get paid ~!@# compared to what you could be making doing almost anything else.

    And that is at maybe THE top program. And even then there is no guarantee you will get tenure track. You might get years of adjunct instructorships - even if they are at good universities, they will lead nowhere.

    So do it because you love it, not for job prospects. They are dim for all three fields.
  • tenisghstenisghs Registered User Posts: 3,955 Senior Member
    Yes, in academe. Sorry for not elaborating. I'm just curious.
  • newmassdadnewmassdad Registered User Posts: 3,848 Senior Member
    Which has better job prospects? In academe? None of them. In ten years or so, there will be a retirement wave and prospects may be a smidgen better, but maybe not.

    Why are the job prospects so bad? Because each of those disciplines are what are called hard money areas, where there is no outside funding available, unlike the sciences, to support faculty.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,909 Senior Member
    You are just wrong. I am in one of those disciplines and have had "hard money" for research every year since 1980 -- NSF, NIH, NEH, private foundations, etc. Of course, my case isn't typical, but your statement was far too categorical.

    Moreover, the professorate is aging rather faster than you imply. At most universities these days 35-40 or so percent of the professors are going to reach retirement age within the next 8-10 years. Within the time horizon of anyone considering entering a PhD program, there will be plenty of jobs coming open. Indeed the job market right now is pretty good.

    This cycle has nothing to do with the availability of hard money. It has to do with the aging of the large upsurge of new professors to fill faculty positions in the 1960's to serve the needs of the boomers who were entering college. That new cohort of profs, say those who were in their late 20's in 1965-75 or so, is now in their late 50's to mid-60's.

    What is more likely to speed the retirement of this cohort is the status of their pensions, which in turn depends on the performance of the overall stock market. Those who've been contributing to TIAA-CREF over the years generally suffered quite a setback in the "crash" of 2001, but as the market has worked out of that situation, and assuming that it continues to grow at ca. 10% the next few years (always an iffy proposition), many faculty will be able to make more money by retiring than by continuing to work. Or at least they will be in reach of their "working" income (say 80% or more). If so, they will retire in droves. If not, they may defer for 2-3 years more.
  • newmassdadnewmassdad Registered User Posts: 3,848 Senior Member
    Mackinaw, if you re-read my post, you will see that we do not disagree. I said "In ten years or so.." and you said "within the next 8-10 years..". This is a difference? Then heaven help the academy. No wonder there's so many irrelevant publications, if this is the kind of hairsplitting that goes on.

    Now, you hard money folks may have a hard time with reading interpretation to understand that my two paragraphs are talking about different things. So, allow me to amplify.

    My first paragraph introduces the concept you eloquently expand. In many disciplines, especially those outside the sciences, department size is static or shrinking. Hence most recruitment is to replace departees due to moves or retirement.

    Muy second paragraph refers to the observation that, in in fields where faculty can essentially pay their way through grants and foundation support, in some institutions new departments are forming and new faculty are being hired. I personally know of several, and work at one of them.

    Maybe we disagree w/r/t the definition of hard money? In my neck of the woods, SOFT money is foundation and grant money - the funds you say you got. Hard money is institutional funds. Maybe your salary was hard money and your lab operations soft?
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,909 Senior Member
    You've done a nice job of splitting hairs here and shifting your definitions. I was addressing the larger question of whether students should be discouraged from entering any of these social sciences, and why. The answer is: no, they should not be, and certainly not on the basis of your there is "no hard money" argument; given that you agree that there is every reason to expect substantial opportunities for academic positions to open up (and that some 35-40% will have opened by the end of the 8-10 years), nobody should assume their prospects are bad. However, they might still face the kind of glut in some fields that has persisted over many years. There can be no _guarantees_ of good positions in any field.
  • newmassdadnewmassdad Registered User Posts: 3,848 Senior Member
    "nobody should assume their prospects are bad. However, they might still face the kind of glut in some fields that has persisted over many years."

    I split hairs, others wander...

    The job prospects in the social sciences and humanities have been so bad for so long that MOST sane folks do not think the pending retirements will make much practical difference. The odds are still long.

    This petty arguing is actually rather sad, as we are both missing a broader point. There are many other reasons for going to grad school and completing a Ph.D. than just getting a faculty job. While you may think it is good counsel to tell prospective students to not sweat the job market (or whatever you are trying to accomplish in your verbal barrages) I think you could do prospective students a disservice by painting too rosy a job picture, while neglecting the other benefits.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,909 Senior Member
    Again your generalizations about the social sciences are just wrong. The job market in the past few years has been quite GOOD in some of them.
  • newmassdadnewmassdad Registered User Posts: 3,848 Senior Member
    Interesting. I just had lunch with a recent econ Ph.D. from Harvard. He had a diffferent view.

    Oh well. At least I recongize the difference between two different views and painting something right or wrong.
This discussion has been closed.