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I'm interested to see how people answer as the sample size gets bigger. I wanted to note, though, that I'd answer this question very, very differently based on what kind of information I'm allowed to consider when deciding. I found grad school extremely emotionally and psychologically difficult, but I'd without question do it again if I knew I was going to come out of it and end up with the job I have and love. If I had to decide again knowing only how bad the market is, and how bad my chances of getting my job - or even any job at all - are, then I would almost certainly not do it. I'd be very curious to hear from others whether their answer depends on them having a good outcome as things turned out.

Marcus Arvan

Rosa: Thanks for your comment and for taking part in the poll! I agree. In fact, I briefly considered a second poll question on that issue, and might pursue the question further in a subsequent post and/or poll.


I answered as someone who has a job. The job did not come easy, and it certainly took its toll on me and my family as we had to move. But I am in a very good space in my life now, and my academic job is quite rewarding.

I would have answered this way from the beginning of my time in a TT job. I was very happy getting one, and have remained happy, even with disappointments along the way.


I answered "Probably" but if I were going to do it again, I would not do it where I did it and would pursue a joint degree (e.g. JD, certificate in cognitive science, MS in ecology,...).


I answered "probably not". This is in large part because I have a family, and my oldest kid is close to starting grade school. I don't want to be bouncing around once he starts, but it looks like I should expect to bounce around for a few years at best.


I answered definitely not. I was naive going into it. I knew the job market was competitive but could not have imagined how bad it really is. I don't love philosophy enough to subject myself to the abuse, and it's been very hard on me. I regret it more than anything In my entire life.

recent grad

I am on the tenure track and I voted 'definitely not'. The risk was much greater than I realized and I got lucky.


One of the reasons I find this question difficult to answer is that I suffer from a particularly strong case of grass-is-greener syndrome, in which I perpetually covet a set of careers that I am not pursuing. So if I could pursue something else but maintain my sense of having already experienced graduate school in philosophy, I probably would do it - but that isn't because of anything wrong with graduate school in philosophy!


I answered "probably not"--and I'm one of the lucky ones with an excellent job! But it's a shitty community, with many depressed and otherwise unhealthy people.


Given the intended audience of this blog, I’m guessing most people participating here would be professional philosophers, i.e. people who ‘made it’ in terms of acquiring a job. This likely skewes the result as these will probably think more positively about their former choice of pursuing a ph.d. in philosophy than those who made the same choice but subsequently failed to obtain a position.

Marcus Arvan

PDWNPPIS: I expect you may be right that the audience may skew in that direction (though it is hard to know how much). In any case, those are good reasons to take the poll results with a grain of salt.


Absolutely. But, forewarned and forearmed, I would have done a few things a little differently, just for my own peace of mind.


I voted 'unsure'. I would definitely not re-go to grad school at the time in my life that I did begin grad school. What I would do instead is give a different career that I was interested in the shot I never really gave it (supermodel, in case you're curious). But if after a couple years down the supermodel road things didn't pan out, I would then go for a PhD in philosophy and be very glad that I did. Thus I am unsure what I would end up doing, but not because I'm less than happy as a philosophy PhD.

senior post doc

I voted "unsure" because I am now 40 and still don't have any permanent position in sight (I am paid decently and I love my work, but I do not know what will happen to me in the future). Still, my colleagues in the humanities are in a similar situation (and I would not have wanted to study economics).

Recent PhD

Academia sucks. I started worrying about philosophical problems back in high school before I even knew people studied this stuff professionally. Philosophy is in my bones, but the Academy is a disaster. The pay sucks for the hours you work, despite being a scholar you're treated with little respect, and publishing in academic journals (even if you're pretty good at it like me) is a horrendous, I repeat, HORRENDOUS, experience.

Journals are overrun with submissions, and editors are overworked and underpaid. The outcome is that most journals are horribly run and look for any excuse to reject instead of fairly evaluating work. Sometimes you'll submit into voids, where submission isn't even acknowledged. Other times you'll simply get a form rejection letter months later with no explanation. R&R's can be rejected because of one unreasonable referee even if the majority of referees say to accept. It can take years to get something you really like published, while something you think is just okay is published right away. The entire process seems random, unfair, and irrational. And when you do get accepted? Well, don't even get me started about dealing with the morons at Springer who can hardly speak English!

If you're a conservative or a libertarian like I am, you'll be discriminated against. If you're a white male, you'll be discriminated against. You are not allowed to express conservative views or libertarian views. People will just disrespect you and be a-holes. You might lose your job, or that's my fear. So I stay in the closet. Mostly. You'll be told you can't say 'he' or 'guys' and constantly have your language policed. It's all falling apart in my opinion. Students are no longer treated like adults there to learn but as glorified children who we have to teach. And the worst part, perhaps, is the moral anguish. There is so much pressure to be positive about academia, about doing a PhD, but I feel moral pressure to tell my students to switch majors. It's not a pleasant experience being a salesman for a product that you think is a total rip off. Honestly, it's hard to think of a single positive thing to say about academic philosophy.

Do I regret the PhD? I don't regret the skills and philosophical ability that I have now as a result of the degree. I am proud of my publications. I suppose they'll still be around long after I'm gone. I've advanced human knowledge, and I value that greatly. I hope that my work benefits humanity in some way or another. All this said, I certainly regret pursuing the job market. I should have left immediately after finishing the PhD. The problem is that once you start that academic path it's hard to leave. You end up identifying as an intellectual on one end, and on the other, you lack most of the experience and skills that the private sector is looking for. So, I ended up just feeling stuck and hopeless. I am now trying to leave.

I guess for some, they love being an academic. For me, I don't. I love philosophy, not academia. I had a fairy tale in my mind of what academia was like. I hate what it is.

Number Three

Probably not. I had so many interests and so much energy as a twenty-something. I could have done so many things. Now three years on the job market have reduced me to something grotesque. If I had a permanent job already, I might feel differently.


I voted 'definitely' but only because I was lucky enough to actually land a tenure-track position, which I am now reasonably happy in. The few years I spend on the 'job market' were so disappointing that I can very much understand the 'probably not' and 'definitely not' votes. In fact, for my last year on the 'market', I was right there with them. I had completely given up before receiving an unexpected and fateful email invitation to a phone interview, months after I had stopped applying.


I think number three's comment is important to notice.

'Now three years on the job market have reduced me to something grotesque.'

This is a problem I have too. I am so exhausted, psychologically, from philosophy that the idea of attempting now a entire new career is difficult mentally. The mental aspect is something that often goes unmentioned, but shouldn't be. Now, some may have stronger constitutions that others, but I think the philosophy job market could put a crack even in the strongest.


I answered definitely, but I had similar doubts as Rosa as to what I was supposed to assume. I enjoyed grad school, and am now in a job I like. My answer of "definitely" involved interpreting the question as: "if you knew how things would turn out, would you do it again?" And so given that knowledge, I say yes.

Of course, if I don't get tenure, maybe I'll feel differently...

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