Our books

Become a Fan

« Recent work by Cocooners (October 2016) | Main | Reader query about career stability and children »



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


When is a job stable enough to start thinking about children?

No ideas and the ability to express them

Recently you had an interesting post with considerations about how best to place oneself on the teaching job market. I wonder if I might ask you and your readers for advice on a variation of this: moving from research to teaching. Let me explain. I went to graduate school with the hope of finding an obscure teaching job with little to no research expectations. I like learning philosophy and thinking, but I don't really have anything to say. I am not very creative or original. Moreover, I have found I loathe the culture of academic research, at least in philosophy. I did some teaching in graduate school and found it was the only part of the academic life that I really enjoyed. Nevertheless, taking the usual advice in graduate school about conferencing and publishing and the primacy of research etc., I focused on doing that. This landed me a research-oriented job, with light teaching duties and constant pressure to publish publish publish, conference, network, synergize, and then publish some more. This is not the job or the career I want, and I don't think I'm the right person for it. My question is, how can I present myself as a realistic candidate for non-research teaching jobs, given the prevailing norms of our discipline, and academia generally, which put such value on research? How might I overcome the suspicion generated by a desire for what is likely to be viewed as a serious "move down" in the world. But perhaps my perceptions are too tainted by the biases of my academic upbringing?

Got an idea

No ideas,
I would just be honest in your applications. Do not speak disparagingly about Research schools or your lack of creativity (which I doubt), but stress your interest and enthusiasm for teaching. I teach at a State School that values teaching but expects some research. We would jump at an applicant like you. We would be confident that you would meet the (rather low) research expectations, and it sounds like you genuinely care about teaching. That sounds like a colleague I would want! Indeed, other departments on campus have hired enthusiastic teachers who did not get tenure at Research schools.


Quick question: is negotiating still a thing? I've had a number of flyout interviews (no offers from those; still happy with my postdocs), and all of them were extremely straightforward about negotiating being essentially impossible.

Job applicants with disabilities

Thanks so much for asking this question again.

I am wondering whether applicants should disclose disabilities in job applications. There is usually a box to tick "yes" or "no," and sometimes "prefer not to disclose." What happens to this information, and who has access to it? How is this information used (if at all) in hiring decisions?


You can negotiate. In fact, this is your only chance to do it. It is especially important if you have multiple offers, because then you can really say no to an offer.
There are obvious limits as to what is reasonable. You can ask for (i) more salary; (ii) start up money for research; (iii) a reduction in teaching. You should get a sense of what others are being paid in the area. Markets are local. At smaller colleges you may be able to negotiated $2000 or $3000 more on starting salary (you may have to settle for less though). At rich schools you can get more.


I think you should disclose your disability. Human Resources offices review this information in order to ensure that persons with disabilities are not being passed over. They may even ask for a file to be re-assessed if they fear that the applicant is not given proper consideration. And there may be programs on campus to support the inclusion of more faculty with disabilities.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Tim: Yes, you are right, negotiation is still a thing--but different institutions are different, and it is important to exercise care. In one notorious recent case a person rather hamhandedly pressed for a ton of things from a teaching institution--including a teaching reduction--and the institution was so put off that they withdrew the offer. See http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2015/09/job-market-boot-camp-part-22-contract-negotiations.html for a link to the case. This seems to be a rare case, but I think it is worth being aware that things like this have occurred!


So, ok, I realize if I'm the hottest thing out there and manage to magically get several offers, then I can probably do some negotiating. But being frank, I'm not and I won't. So I'm actually curious if anyone here has recently gotten an offer at a non-R1 school recently and actually done some negotiating. Like I said, I've had several flyouts -- both at midsized regional state schools -- where it was made clear from the dean on down that there was precisely zero room for negotiating. None. Like there were comments along the lines of "Don't ask, because we can't give it and it's just awkward for everyone. Be glad there's a position to offer at all, we had to beg and plead for it in the first place." (It wasn't stated this bluntly, but that was the content being communicated.)

This could be either (a) a fluke, and I had a weird experience with a few weird schools, (b) a bluff on the part of the folks at these schools, or (c) a new fact of life. Marcus, Tim, where are you guys on this? Anyone else out there have further confirming or refuting evidence?

Marcus Arvan

Tom: how about I open a thread on this so we can get people to weigh in with their experiences on this in one place? I'll mention my experience in the post opening the thread. I'll try to open it up later tonight or tomorrow morning!

Henry Lara

It would be very helpful to hear from people that didn't go the traditional route into philosophy; people that got to philosophy later in life, after other careers, or just people that had a later start for whatever the reasons. I am about halfway through a masters (at a part-time pace), and I likely be on the older side of things should I manage to get a spot at a PHD program. I try to be realistic about my situation and chances, but it would be helpful to hear from somebody that's done it before.

anon job seeker

Two questions. First, should one use the letterhead from your institution if you have a position (for graduate students, I think the answer is yes)? Second, one piece of advice I have heard is to hit every part of the job ad in your cover letter. Does that include service? To what degree?

Potential PhD

I'm applying for a PhD, but now starting to wonder whether I really want to do it. To provide some background/context, I'm in the UK, so doing the PhD would mean writing the thesis without having any taught courses. I already have a master's, which I graduated from last year. The PhD would start next September, but if I want to apply for funding, I need to submit my PhD application, including research proposal, by January.

I love philosophy. I think there are lots of reasons why we need more philosophy in the world (or perhaps not more philosophy as such, but more public philosophy). I understand that academic jobs are incredibly difficult to get, and I don't have my heart set on going down that path. However, I do want to be a philosopher, i.e. devote a significant amount of my time to productive philosophical activity, even if that doesn't mean becoming an academic, or even doing something philosophy-related for a living. For that reason, and also for my own satisfaction, I want to become the best philosopher I can be, and a PhD seems like the obvious way to improve my skills.

On the other hand, I'm not sure if I want to spend three years focusing on one narrow topic, and if I don't really plan on becoming an academic, I'm wondering whether it's worth doing that. Though I'm not equally interested in all areas of philosophy, there are lots of issues I'd be interested in working on, and I don't want to become a narrow specialist if I don't need to. Or is spending that much time working through one problem the best way to improve my philosophy skills? The advice I've been given about the research proposal is that, although it's provisional and they understand that the project will evolve, it needs to be as specific as "I'm going to argue that P" with an explanation of how I will defend P that situates it in a significant body of literature.

Realistically, then, I need to do something related to my master's dissertation because that's where I know the literature the best. I'm also under the impression that that's what's expected. I'm still interested in my dissertation topic, and I've made contact with a potential supervisor who is keen to work with me on it.

However, I feel very ambivalent about the topic on a personal level, because it's about a demographic group that I belong to, and I don't want to fall in to the trap where people think that, because I belong to group x, I must work on issues pertaining to x. Some people (not academic philosophers specifically) have told me that x would be the particular thing I'd have interesting things to say about, and I do resent that a little because I don't want my life or identity to be reduced to it. I have other interests, too. I thought about steering it away from how the problem of y applies to group x and just focusing on the problem of y in general; I brought up this ambivalence with my potential supervisor, who said that writing about group x might help me to get funding.

Apart from issues with the topic, I'm not sure anymore whether it's worth the costs (not just financial) for someone who isn't necessarily aiming to become an academic. I might try to get into a non-academic role within a university, and I'd thought that becoming a student again might help me to get some more relevant work experience as it would open up opportunities for casual/part-time work that's only available to students. I did a little of that sort of work as an undergraduate, but during my master's I didn't have the time or energy for anything but my degree, so now I'm thinking a PhD might be the same way. Also, although I'm not in full-time employment, I have a few interesting projects on the horizon (not philosophy or university-related) and I don't know where they might lead, but if something good came of them I might have to turn them down if I wanted to do the PhD. I could do the PhD part-time, but I'd guess that dragging it out like that would make it very easy to become demotivated.

I know you can't make my decision for me, but any help with working through these issues would be very much appreciated.

Thanks for reading, and sorry for the extremely long comment.

Know the market

Potential PhD:
If you want to learn more philosophy, and how to do philosophy as a professional, then get the PhD. If the process works as it should, then you will learn a range of research skills, and hone your writing skills, which will help you achieve your goals, even if they are outside of the academy.
But you should also be warned that in the process of pursuing the PhD, you may come to really desire an academic job. I certainly did. Your desires may be transformed substantially in the course of the programme. And it may put you in a position where you will be far less happy not getting an academic job than you would be now (think "transformative experience").
But it is a wonderful life if you get such a job. I was 5 years on the market post-PhD. My partner was getting tired of moving and making sacrifices. But it has paid off.
One further consideration is money. Do not go to graduate school unless you are being funded. That was the norm when I was applying, and it should be the norm. The last thing you want is 5 years of lost income, no PhD (if it does not work out), and a large debt.

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.)

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Job ads crowdsourcing thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory