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Martin Shuster

If you think you have a claim for an AOS or an AOC, and have some reason that you can provide for having such a claim, then go ahead and list it.

The same is true for applying for jobs. People get hired for jobs in which they don't have the requisite AOS, or have a very "broad" reading of it.

Basically, in this market, I think you should apply for any job in which you feel like you are qualified, even if that qualification requires you to get creative (note: this is not the same as saying "apply for *any* job…you should be able to have some *reason* for why you think you're qualified, even if others, including the search committee, might disagree).

This strategy, imo, can only help you because search committees often do not know exactly what they want, or are divided, or end up wanting what you've got to offer even if they didn't first think they would.

Or sometimes, they don't.


I want to echo what Martin Shuster said. Here's an interesting observation by Karen Kelsky: for some reason, in her experience, "perfect fit" jobs rarely work out. On the other hand, it's not uncommon to see "stretch jobs", jobs where you can sort of make the case that you fit in, but it's a bit of a stretch, come through. She calls this "the unpredictability of the job market". Perhaps people just don't have a good idea about what their strengths are. Perhaps they unwittingly sabotage their chances by appearing a bit too eager ("I'm the perfect candidate!) Or perhaps search committees don't really know what they want (as Martin says). So, ceteris paribus, having several AOS places you at an advantage compared to people who have only one. It also seems unwise to tailor the AOS part of your CV to each job you apply to, if only because it would raise questions if this differed substantially from the CV on one's website.

But there is a cost. Suppose you have (as I do) a diverse portfolio with several interrelated research programs. If you were to list all those as AOS on the CV it may make you look self-aggrandizing and not altogether convincing. A laundry list of, say, 5 AOS and 4 AOS doesn't look attractive.

So how do I approach it? Some of my AOS interests my interests are narrower than others. For instance, in epistemology, my work has almost all been in evolutionary epistemology and in social epistemology. So what I do is I don't list epistemology as an AOS, even though I have several articles in it, and among my most-cited articles are epistemology articles. For AOS I just list things that are central to my work (e.g., philosophy of cognitive science), where I not only have published in, but also taught in, and have a broad range of interests in. Epistemology is listed as an AOC in my CV, but in the cover letter or research statement, I can signal that I have done work in epistemology and briefly say in what subfields.


If a position specifies an AOS and AOC, I have no idea how anyone could be hired outside of the job description. Doing so puts the university in serious danger of litigation from applicants who do fit the description. I can't think of a university hiring committee for which the office of EOS (or an EOS counterpart) does not make certain that short listed applicants are squarely in the advertised AOS and AOC exactly in order to preclude such litigation.
So, I'm reasonably sure that the claims of being hired outside of the advertised AOS and AOC are exaggerated. The alternative is to believe that hiring committees don't have university oversight to preclude litigation from applicants. The implication is that it is largely a waste of time to apply for jobs whose description your credentials do not reasonably satisfy. I do understand why people apply anyway but, in my experience, such applications do not make it past the first round.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Helen: Thanks for the insight!

I'm curious to hear what you would say about my own case. My primary AOS are clearly Ethics and Political Philosophy, as I have clear, broad, well-developed research and teaching interests in both areas.

At the same time, (1) two of my most cited articles are in Experimental Philosophy, and I could see myself developing those projects more in future years, and (2) I've published two articles that engage with a fairly variety of issues in philosophy of mind, science, and free will, and have more work in preparation and under review in these areas.

How would you tailor your AOS & AOC if you were me?


Hi Marcus: I would put as AOS ethics and political philosophy - those are a nice fit together as well. As AOC I would put two of the areas you mention next, such as philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. Teaching needs are plentiful in these areas.
I'm not sure experimental philosophy is a branch of philosophy rather than a style of philosophy - for purely practical reasons (the very small number of x-phi jobs), I wouldn't list it on the CV but I would flag the articles in cover letters given that these articles were cited a lot and X-phi is a growing field.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Helen: Thanks for the insight. That sounds entirely reasonable to me!

On experimental philosophy, I'm inclined to think that it is a real AOS, for a couple of reasons.

First, some AOS are defined not so much in terms of problems/subject-matter but in terms of style/methods. Consider analytical vs. continental philosophy. Although both deal with issues that the other doesn't, there is a whole lot of overlap (continentalists do social and political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, etc.).

Second, I don't think that X-Phi is just a method. It very much has its own sets of problems, questions, etc.

That being said, I do see the practical point of not listing it as an AOS -- for, as you note, there aren't many jobs in the area (though there are some! What would you say in terms of applying for those jobs?).


I have heard the following *general* rule for graduate students: X is an AOC if either (i) you've taught a course in X or (ii) you've taken--for a grade--at least three courses in X.


Here are some remarks from someone who has a job, and has served on search committees at a state university/college.
As noted already, it is (almost) impossible for a state school to hire someone who is outside the listed Area of Specialization. Human Resources departments review who is on the long list, who is on the short list, etc.
So the ads are written very carefully, and the positions need to be approved in advance by the administration. There may have been a time and place where the ads did not mean much, but that time has passed. The job market is more transparent than people realize.
From my own experience, I noticed that I was more inclined to list more AOSs earlier in my career. As you mature as a scholar, you realize that an AOS is an area in which you have expertise. Ideally, early in your career, this is demonstrated by the fact that you have published in the area (and written a dissertation on a topic in the area).
Generally, do not list narrow areas as AOSs. For some "areas" there are almost no jobs advertised. There are, for example, few jobs each year for philosophy of the social sciences. If that is your area, then you had better list your area as philosophy of science, and you had better try to publish something in the broader area. (the exception is for those coming out of the VERY best graduate programs in the area, like LSE).
So for entry level tenure track jobs one should list one area of specialization (or at most two).
When a candidate lists areas for which there is no real evidence, it counts against them. They look deceitful, and the safe thing to do is to take them out of the pool.
You can list more areas as areas of competence, but even here you risk losing credibility if you list too many, or list some where they are merely ares of interest (with no expertise).


Mike and b-

Some fields are have sub-fields. For example, philosophy of science breaks down to phil of psychology, biology, social science..etc. I work in philosophy of psychology. Are universities/SCs really going to get up in arms if I apply for a phil sci job without changing my AOS to say 'phil of sci'? It seems odd to 'tailor' CVs to different jobs, as most of us put our CVs online. Furthermore, think of how any phil sci job would have to be listed if they are willing to consider all kinds of philosophers of science 'AOS: Phil of Sci OR Phil of Biology OR Phil of Chem...'. That seems crazy, but hey, I'll make that change on my CV if that is really what I am expect to do!


J. Mugg:
I will assume we are talking about the job market in USA.
If you are applying to schools that support graduate programs, then list your AOS as philosophy of psychology. But then you should only apply for jobs that are advertised as AOS philosophy of psychology or philosophy of science broadly construed (not ones that lists philosophy of biology or physics as the AOS).
If you are applying to schools that are principally concerned with teaching (4 year liberal arts colleges and many state schools, the source of MOST jobs in USA), then you will notice (almost) no one advertises for an AOS in philosophy of psychology.
You will probably be applying for jobs with AOS in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. You had better have one of these listed on your c.v. as your AOS for such jobs. Why? Because the search committee may be composed of people who do not work in the area, and they need to know you can cover the teaching needs of the department in that area. You may be the only person who teaches philosophy of science of philosophy of mind in the department if you are hired.
Further, if 40 (or 80) other applicants list philosophy of science as their AOS, they will be considered over you, if you are listing AOS philosophy of psychology. You will never make it on to the long list in such a situation.
Importantly realize that the people working at such programs are often active researchers in addition to being committed teachers. In my small department at a state school, people have published numerous articles in very good journals, and books with Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press.
The main point is: You do need to customize your cv to some extent. If you are just doing a mass mailing of applications then you have to realize that the search committees will respond in kind. They will be overwhelmed with applicants who have no obvious fit, and will shove them aside.

Michel X.

Wouldn't a potential solution to J.Mugg's problem (so to speak) be to simply say "AOS: Philosophy of Science (esp. Psychology)," and thereby streamline J.Mugg's applications and CV? If Mind is another AOS/target, then it can be appended pretty neatly.

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