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I left the profession after a postdoc. FWIW, I am happier than I was in philosophy. I work with smarter people now, make much more money than I ever could as a philosopher, and I deal with far fewer toxic/insecure people.


It might be a good idea to do this, but I would like it to become standard for programs to anonymize student names (for example '02 graduate student 5') unless they have explicit permission from the grad to post their information. There is already more than enough stress about success in the field and many grads might not want their name posted on a website about how they didn't obtain a permanent job in 5 years, about how they left the profession etc. Another issue, of course, is it will take some time before we will know if a certain person ends up leaving. It also won't account for those who stay in the profession and are miserable.

Anyway Marcus, if you are in favor of this, you must assume that leaving the profession has something to do with one's grad school experience? Because it is not obvious at least, that if a grad student got a nice TT job, stayed in 3 years, and then left, that this has anything to do with the grad program. And I think the point of posting this information is to let potential students have information about the grad program, not the personal lives of the former students.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: Thanks for weighing in. I don't think automatically anonymizing is a good idea, as it precludes third-party accountability (i.e. anyone outside of the program verifying whether the information is accurate). I think accountability is important, as I heard rumors in the past that some programs did not have accurate information on their placement pages.

That being said, I think your point about privacy is important. I would suggest programs either make it clear up front that anyone entering the program may have their placement information listed, or alternatively secure the consent of graduates whose names and information they post online.

I don't think this sort of information assumes anything about why people may leave academia. What I do think is that it can be relevant to prospective students in gauging relevant likelihoods about outcomes they care about heading into grad school (e.g. a permanent, tenured job in academia). Further, clearer and more up to date information on the kinds of non-academic/industry jobs graduates leave academia for can be equally relevant to prospective students (as a program whose students leave academia for good, well-paying industry jobs is very different than a program whose students leave for poorly-paying or less stable non-academic jobs).


Well I guess I value the privacy thing more than you. Sure you could ask a 22 year old who is sure he will get a job whether he is okay with having his information posted. 10 years later he might not be okay with it. And I get third party ability to verify...however I know grad programs still post if not false, very misleading, information about their grad students (suggest a student has a TT when it is really temporary) Most people don't check. So I guess I am not sure the reward of being able to verify is worth the intrusion on privacy. This would have to be empirically verified, but I suspect there would be only a slightly higher false information rate with anonymized data.

Marcus Arvan

In that case, simply asking graduates for consent seems to me the way to go. My own sense is that people who leave the profession out of frustration may be all too willing to have their info shared to better inform future students of the reality of the job market.


Doesn't this information show up as long as departments make their placement information complete rather than incomplete? What I mean by "complete" is, say, listing all the graduates for a given year, and then listing the jobs that they got (academic, non-academic, or not at all), and including more jobs than their first jobs as time goes on (e.g., at least "initial" and "current"). I can think of at least one placement record that does all this, although I wouldn't be surprised if others were less complete.

And to echo FormerPhil, post-PhD attrition need not be a disconcerting thing. Some of the people I know who got one job and then stopped doing academic work didn't want that to happen, and were unhappy with the outcome. But others I know left because they found jobs with better pay and stability, and were happy about it.


I agree Marcus. Asking is a good idea.


You really can't even trust placement data. I know for a fact that departments leave off people they fail to place and/or don't update properly.

As someone who's struggling to figure out a career path post philosophy PhD, I'd love to know what FormerPhil actually does if he cares to respond.


Yes the data is often misleading to the point of often being more hurtful than helpful. It also doesn't include all the people who dropped out of grad school. So I guess I am conflicted about whether it is best to post anything. But if something is posted, permission to use names should be asked. Maybe it would be best if there was a third party group that did the work of collecting al the data and publishing it on a website not associated with any university.


I’m with Amanda here on the privacy issue—I got a TT job, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have wanted to be identified by name on a website. There is enough emotional turmoil with the job market that publicly identifying those that failed to get jobs really doesn’t seem necessary. (With that said, I might have been happy to speak frankly on an individual basis with potential students about my experience.)

On the attrition issue: there are all sorts of reasons people leave the profession, both during and after the program, and particularly in smaller programs, one or two students might have a big impact on how the results look. One of my friends, for instance, decided to concurrently pursue a professional degree because he and his wife had a two-body problem, and after finishing that, he received a job offer that would pay much more than any philosophy job while also being fairly flexible. In his case, I don’t think there’s really anything the department could have done differently. Overall, he doesn’t regret his decision, so I don’t think attrition like that is necessarily bad or even reflective of the department at all.

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