Our books

Become a Fan

« Would not a better God have endowed us with free will, but with certain limitations? | Main | New Contributor: Mark Zelcer »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Thanks for sharing, Marcus (if I may).

One thing that I'd really like to hear more about, though, is how a typical post-graduate school work week _feels_ relative to a typical work week in graduate school. I'm interested because the one thing that I was sure would be different after graduate school is that there would no longer be a pervasive sense of _pressure_ and a corresponding sense of anxiety, because there would no longer be any reason to worry about job stuff.

But after reading a few descriptions of the first six years of post-graduate school life from threads over at the smoker, I'm getting the impression that things might actually get worse in this regard after graduate school, because the bar for tenure is usually set exceedingly high, if tenure is even in the cards at all.

My time spent in the so-called real world before graduate school didn't come with a deep and omnipresent sense of dread. If my impression is right that things do indeed get worse as a junior faculty member in this way, I find it shocking that anyone is willing to be vexed with so much anxiety for a good 10-15 year chunk of their lives.


I have things really cushy right now because I deferred the start of my TT job to take up a postdoc for the year.

I'm only teaching one course this year (this term), an undergrad-grad split course on my AOS (in fact, most of the readings are chapters from my book manuscript). So there's *maybe* 1-2hrs of prep each week, in addition to the 3hrs of class time.

I don't work weekends, usually, nor nights.

Most days I'm in the office from 10am-4pm. I work on research Mon, Wed, Thurs. Usually from 10am-noon, a 1hr lunch with colleagues, then 1pm-4pm more research. Fridays without colloquia it's the same thing; with colloquia, I may go to lunch with the speaker if they're a friend, and I won't do any research.

I've done some service work in my time here (all voluntary, mostly having to do with diversity issues). I've put in about 20hrs or more of service work. But there are no service expectations or requirements for me.

This will certainly change in the Fall when I start my 2-3 TT job. I'll have 1-2 preps per semester, but all of my teaching is in my various AOS, which reduces prep loads. I'll be protected from service work until closer to my tenure evaluation, even though I know that I'll be in demand for some service requirements given what I partially work on. I may have a couple students to advise or do a directed studies with (since I'm the department's epistemologist).

I really believe in the 'work smarter' not 'work harder' model. I doubt I'll work >35hrs/week, on average.

On a MWF teaching schedule, I'll do some research on non-teaching days in the morning (10-noon), then prep (1pm-4pm); on teaching days I'll do a bit of research after teaching. That's the plan. We'll see how things actually work out.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Eugene: thanks for your comment and excellent question. I can't speak for everyone, but my experience -- and the experiences of others I've talked to -- is that the anxieties post grad school are *far* worse than in grad school.

Indeed, this is -- again in my experience -- one of the biggest misconceptions grad students have: that things somehow get easier once you get the PhD. Nope! Now you are completely on your own. You have to publish several articles a year in good journals while teaching anywhere from 2-5 courses a term while needing high student reviews in all of them while doing countless other things (advising, etc.). It is HARD. Look, I didn't have an easy time in grad school -- but after grad school? That is when the real anxiety set in. You're on your own, doing 10x as many things as you did before, and you hav to do them all at a very high level.

Sound like a miserable experience? Truth be told, many times it has been. But I still love what I do. It's a lot like marriage in fact. Marriage is far more difficult that merely dating -- but it is so much more worthwhile. As hard as being a professional is, I would never want to go back to grad school. :)

Marcus Arvan

A quick addendum: I learned several years that there is a choice I had to make. I could approach all of the difficulties and anxieties with dread, or approach them optimistically, as opportunities to be seized and to never give up. It, and my love for philosophy, are what keep me going.

Marcus Arvan

Rachel: I prefer the work smarter *and* harder approach. But to each their own! ;)

Anthony Carreras

I'm in a permanent position at a community college. (I can't call my position tenure-track, because we technically do not have "tenure" as it is known in four year colleges and universities. But I have the kind of position that would be the equivalent of that in my school.) I teach a 5/5/2. Here's what my week looks like:

MWF: Get to office at 8:30, read or write until 9:30. Go over notes for class. Teach Intro to Philosophy at 10, 11, and 12. I eat lunch, and then from roughly 2-4 I'm taking care of teaching related stuff - grading assignments, meeting with students, returning emails, prepping for the next day, etc. Then I go home and hang out with my wife and daughter. Sometimes on MWF afternoons I will have committee meetings.

TTH. I get to the office at 8:30 and read or write until 10:30. Then I look over my notes for class. Then I teach Intro to Ethics from 11-12:20. I get an hour for lunch and then teach Intro to Ethics again from 1:30-2:50. Then from 3-4 I'm taking care of teaching related stuff - grading assignments, meeting with students, returning emails, prepping for the next day, etc. Then I go home and hang out with my wife and daughter. Sometimes on TTH I will have committee meetings or other service related duties during the lunch hour.

I bring a fair amount of work home, usually prep work, that I'll do for an hour or two at night. Also - when I am grading not just any assignment but *papers*, the whole schedule becomes devoted to that. The mornings, the afternoons, my evenings - all of it is taken up by grading papers. This takes up about 5 weeks of the semester. I don't make my students write as much as I would like, but I don't think I could grade papers around the clock all semester and keep my sanity.

My summer schedule is different. I teach Summer I, which is roughly 5 and a half weeks long, Monday - Thursday, four hours per day in the classroom. Having Friday's off is a plus, and I hope to be able to use that time this summer for more reading and writing. (This is my second year in this job.)

It is a grind, but the fact that I am not required to publish makes things a lot less stressful. The heavy teaching load has taken getting used to, though I was able to make the transition from graduate school fairly smoothly I think.

One thing I've been struck by as of late: Academic life as a faculty member (unless you have some super cushy position) requires you to deal with certain practical realities (like enrollments, administration, service, etc) that graduate school may never have required you to deal with. Speaking for myself anyway, my life in graduate school pretty much revolved around ideas. I don't think I realized how awesome that was and how privileged I was for that time. I realize it now. If you're still in graduate school, enjoy it.


I am a third-year graduate student, and what strikes me about all the replies here is how much work-life balance is being stressed. This is something I've talked about with my fellow students, since our observation of our professors at our university is how little work-balance many of them have, whether they are are pre- or post-tenure and whether they have partners and/or children or not (e.g., never taking weekends off, feeling like they don't have enough time for daily tasks like cooking and cleaning, etc.). Perhaps this is a generational phenomenon (although some of them are pre-tenure, so not too much further along the the posters here), or part of being at a research school? Either way, it's encouraging to hear stories from people who are getting a lot of research work done and still spend time with family, friends, and things outside philosophy.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Carrie: Thanks for your comment! I suspect it may have to do with working at an R1. If one must publish several articles a year in top-20 journals in order to get tenure (as one must do at an R1), then I can imagine that fear of failure might drive one to sacrifice any semblance of work-life balance. Then I imagine that if one gets tenure, one might be so accustomed to lacking work-life -- internalizing a single-minded devotion to work -- that one might just continue doing the same. This is of course just speculation on my part, but my feeling (having been a grad student at an R1) is that there may be some truth to it.

Elisa Freschi

Marcus, I have a lateral question, namely: why do you exclude blog-hours from your working hours? Don't you understand your blog posts (especially the most research-oriented ones, like the one on P2P) as part of your work? Or at least as part of your "service to the profession"?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Elisa: thanks for the question. I don't consider blogging "work" for a couple of reasons.

First, I don't think it counts as that in the eyes of people who judge my "work" (i.e. getting a job, getting tenure, etc.).

Second, as I've explained on the blog before, I find it psychologically important to define work *very* narrowly: in terms of teaching, research, and mandatory university and professional service. I find this important because my past experience is that it is easy to "make excuses" for unproductive behavior by calling it "work." As a grad student, I comforted myself not writing because I was reading, and I considered reading "work." That was very bad. I set myself back philosophically and professionally. So, I define work narrowly, and ensure that I dedicate a specific amount of time to *that* each day and each week.


I kinda want to snarkily note that a "typical" week for me may now include being publicly defamed by the most prominent blogger in philosophy.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Subscribe to the Cocoon

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory


Subscribe to the Cocoon