Over the past couple of years, I've been increasingly approached by current or previous undergraduate students interested in pursuing graduate degrees in philosophy. I give them the usual warnings, pointing them to data on the philosophy job-market as well as to the APA Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy, enjoining them to look very carefully at the placement and attrition rates of programs they are thinking of applying to (a quick aside here: in perusing the Guide myself, I came across some PhD programs that report placing none of their recent graduates into full-time academic jobs and/or incredibly high attrition rates, their students leaving without finishing the program in droves! I could not help but wonder: how do these programs survive?).
Still, although I give my students the usual warnings, direct them to data relevant to making an informed decisions, encourage them to look at that data very carefully, and discuss with their options with them, there are still several things I am increasingly uncertain about:
- What are our duties to students here? Do we have more than a duty to warn, provide information, etc.? If so, what?
- What should we say to students who are interested in pursuing graduate work in areas of philosophy (SPEP programs, Marxism, hermeneutics, etc.) that are outside of our own area of expertise/understanding and "mainstream rankings"?
- What should we advise students vis-a-vis MA programs, including again, MA programs in ?
I realize these are very broad questions, but I am really just hoping to start a good, open discussion here. Although, as I have said before, I have long found something a bit off and off-putting about professors (people who have been successful in the field) telling students, "Don't go, don't follow your dreams--it's too big of a risk!", the longer I am in this game, the more I understand this perspective. Attempting a career in academic philosophy is an incredible risk, one the consequences of which are hard (if not impossible) to truly appreciate in advance (I know I was more than a bit naive heading into graduate school). And yet, at the same time, what would this world be if we simply encouraged people to give up risky dreams? Again, I find myself at a bit of a loss.
In any case, I would be very appreciate to hear any and all thoughts people have here. I suspect we would all--and, by extension, our students--benefit from a good discussion!