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Trevor Hedberg

Thanks for sharing, Marcus. This is a useful resource, even if the reader does not share Ernst's perspective on academia. I think most of us (myself included) want to make an academic career work, but with the way the job market is, it's definitely worth making a Plan B.


A word of caution. While Ernst's case is an interesting one, I think there several features that people should keep in mind when considering it as indicative of the possibilities of a move away from academia. Ernst has an extensive background in logic, game theory, and decision theory, and prior to leaving his tenured position, according to his LinkedIn profile, he had half a decade of experience in computer science and artificial reasoning at Argonne National Laboratory, and defense intelligence analysis as a research professor at the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies. In other words, he had significantly more *directly* marketable skills/contacts than the average philosophy PhD is likely to have.

I think it is important that people keep in mind that many of us who do not specialize logic, or game theory, and do not have directly applicable degrees/backgrounds in STEM fields, or extensive additional experience in private/public sector work, are not going to be able to transition as smoothly as Ernst has. Also I think there is good reason to be skeptical of the applicability of the information we can glean from a small sampling of people with unique backgrounds. For every Zachary Ernst there are many more people who count themselves lucky if they can find any old low-paying entry level job.

Pendaran Roberts

Zachary seems to have a STEM background. We all know that people with these backgrounds have had successes leaving academic philosophy. But what about the majority of us who do not--those of us with lib. arts backgrounds?

Helen De Cruz

Following up on this, I am making a website on philosophers outside of academia, many of whom have no STEM, game theory or logic background. More details will follow this summer. I'll have testimonials about how their philosophical skills were useful for them in transitioning to careers outside of academia.

Zachary Ernst

I'm very gratified that some people have found my site useful. One quick note regarding my STEM-like experience. I think it's a mistake to think that my case doesn't apply to people without that sort of background. Quite the opposite -- a lot of my advice is concerned with how to leverage a non-STEM academic background into some relevant experience within academia that will be attractive to employers. Many employers couldn't care less about my academic background -- but expertise in various philosophical areas can be leveraged into experience that employers DO care about. I leveraged my logic background to create an opportunity to co-teach a course in computer science in natural language processing, even though I wasn't an expert. And there are plenty of employers who like to see that on my resume. This is a strategy that takes time, but there are many, many paths to obtaining STEM-like experience within academia.

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