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« Where the jobs were(n't) in 2016: by AOS | Main | Notes from both sides of the market, part 9: The elusiveness of "fit" »



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Recent hire

This is a great idea. It seems that how many people applied to a specific place also depends on a lot of other factors: e.g., Toronto and a small school in the middle of nowhere might attract a very different pool of applicants, even with the same AOS.
(I do have a friend who does ancient and does it really well, but based on our placement record he didn't even apply to Toronto and I can't blame him for it.)
So maybe it would be also informative to get some kind of comparative data of different schools with the same AOS ads.

Michel X.

Skimming through the Smoker thread:

Brandon - Metaphysics & Epistemology - 120.
McMaster - Mind & Language - 185
American U. - Ethics - nearly 300
Ryerson - Nonwestern or Metaphysics - 300

Most of the PFOs posted for open jobs report between 500 and 760 applicants, from what I can see.


I applied to ethics and applied ethics positions. The number of applications ranged from 150-400 for these slots. Applied had less, but the lowest I got was 150 (I think). The open positions I applied for had over 500 applicants, as far as I can remember. I didn't apply to many postdocs, but the ones I did usually had more applications than the TT jobs, which I thought was interesting. That might be because non-philosophers could apply to some of them.

Chris Stephens

Maybe this is obvious, but when I've been on hiring committees, there are a number of applications for jobs that already have tenure track positions elsewhere. So, to add to what Marcus says: there may be places hiring in X to which many people without permanent jobs who specialize X don't apply to, because (a) the job is in a place they wouldn't want to live or is too much of a stretch for their c.v. (e.g., Toronto), but there may ALSO be jobs to which people apply for even though they already have a tenure track job, because they'd prefer to live in that place or its a fancier school (e.g., Toronto).

I don't think we can assume these forces will balance to get an accurate picture. So this is important to keep in mind. There is likely to be a lot of variation in number of applications from place to place, and a lot of variation in who the applicants are, even when comparing jobs advertised in the same AOS.

Anon UK reader

I'm concerned for the reasons Chris gives (and for some other reasons - e.g. applicants applying to jobs outside their primary AOS) that the applicants-per-job figures are not going to be massively useful. I think what would be more useful, but much harder (or at least, much more time-consuming) to gather, is info. about the number of people graduating with a dissertation in each AOS per year.

I think in general schools should publish this info: 'In 2016 we graduated 7 PhDs: 3 in ethics, 2 in metaphysics, ... etc.'

This info. would be useful for lots of reasons, quite apart from the fact that it would be more accurate than the applicants-per-job figures. It may be, for example, that PGR top-10 schools graduate on average more people in metaphysics than other schools (this seems prima facie likely to me, but I might be wrong). If so, that might be an additional reason for someone at an institution outside the PGR top-10 to avoid doing a dissertation in metaphysics.

It would also be useful sociological information for philosophers who already have jobs. It would be easier to trace influences in the discipline (e.g. the dominance of such-and-such a strain of thought in philosophy of science can be explained by the fact that these 5 schools ... graduated many phil-of-science dissertations between 2006-12).

It could also act as a useful counterpoint to the PGR for students, in terms of showing them which schools are strong in which areas. E.g. it may be that, on paper, school X is really strong in epistemology, because they have hot-shot epistemologist Prof Doe. But maybe in the last 10 years they've only graduated 3 people in epistemology, since Prof Doe is a hopeless advisor who grad students learn to steer clear of. The PGR won't pick this up.


I am a bit confused by some of the suggestions here. Even if 50 of the 500 applicants are already TT assistant professors, everyone else is still competing against them for the job. And while it would be interesting to know how many people graduate each year in each area (yes, for many reasons), many people do not go on the market at all, but leave academia or choose to stay local and pick up non-TT teaching gigs. So I don't think that would give us a more accurate account of the competition. Either way, our numbers are going to be skewed. The best thing I guess is to get all the stats we can, wherever we can.


I was curious so I spent a couple hours going through the AOSs of recent graduates (2012-17) from NYU, Princeton, Rutgers and Michigan. Here are the results:

Total: 194
Ethics - 39 (20%)
Epistemology - 28 (14%)
Metaphysics - 27 (14%)
Mind (inc. Action) - 25 (13%)
Language - 15 (8%)
Science - 13 (7%)
Political/Law - 13 (7%)
Ancient - 11 (6%) (NB. These are ALL from Princeton, so this is misleading)
Math/Logic - 9 (5%)
History (excl. Ancient) - 8 (4%)
Aesthetics - 5 (2%)

I interpret this as pretty bad news for budding epistemologists and metaphysicians, given the job numbers. Obviously more departments would have to be gone through to really get useful numbers. Princeton has a unusually large number of dissertations in Ancient (same for Rutgers in epistemology and Michigan in Law).


Also, regarding those figures:

There was also one dissertation in Indian philosophy. But none in feminism or race (so far as I could see - perhaps some of the political philosophy ones were in feminism/race, though this wasn't obvious from the titles I could find). Kind of interesting that there's literally zero coverage of these relatively booming specialties in the top departments (assuming my quick scans of AOSs didn't miss anything).

Also Curious

Thanks Curious,
I suspect - suspect - that the "relatively booming specialties" that you identify are areas of growth in "lesser" departments, that is, departments outside the top 20 (perhaps top 40) on Leiter's rankings.
Two decades ago, there was very little interest and training in applied ethics at elite (and even below that) schools. Bowling Green, for example, was noted as one of the best in the USA. That again is an area where there are great teaching "needs" at non-elite schools.


This is good insight into why some of the non-ranked departments seem to be doing so well with placement. (Oregon,Vanderbilt,Emory) I have noticed that a lot of those who graduate from top departments seem to go on to prestigious research post docs for 4-5 years, before landing a job at a research school. At some point, it seems, the market will have such a back log of CORE area philosophers that even people from top departments will have a hard time landing jobs. As of now top departments still have very good placement records, with the exception of a few people who are having a hard time.

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