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I side with the reader. Things might be different in the U.S but at least in Europe job market in other fields is not much better. My spouse chose another path and she is the same age as me with no permanent job. It is as difficult for her to find a permanent job outside academia (with non-philosophy degree) than it is for me to find a permanent job inside academia (with philosophy degree).

In Europe (or at least in some countries), doing one's PhD is a job and one is getting paid to do it. Indeed it pays well, so it is not like "spending a number of prime years of one’s life (in grad school) not making any money." The academic culture here is a bit different, for instance, PhD students are not expected to teach at all, its a research job - although not tenure track.

Anyway, I agree with what the actor Jim Carrey said:
"You can fail at what you don't want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."

Spirit Crusher

This is a great exchange, and I don't have much to add. I do wonder whether the writer-in has tried to crack the job market yet, however. As the recent post/discussion here has well-demonstrated, there is a "phenomenology" of failure that has a way of taking you out of the high-minded, third-personal reflective mode-- "philosophers come from privileged backgrounds, everyone is smart, and after all, it's not coal-mining"-- into the anxiety, depression, and self-loathing that can come with getting rejected over and over and over and over and over again for jobs that you are well-prepared for and that you know you would excel at if given half a chance-- "what's WRONG with me? Why did I ever do this in the first place?" A major trigger for that feeling is precisely what Marcus has insightfully pointed out-- while other job markets are miserable, few are glutted with so many radically overqualified people who have spent the last decade in the sole pursuit of cultivating skills and earning qualifications that 99% of the population doesn't have.

Of course, maybe the writer has tried their hand at the market, and maybe they haven't failed, or the feeling of failure isn't as needling and disabling for them. All power and luck to them, either way.

A Philosopher

I'm in sympathies with Marcus and Spirit Crusher. I don't quite get what "catastrophizing" is suppose to be. It sounds like a pejorative term for the behavior of those failing on the job market and those trying to help them, with the implication that this behavior somehow loses perspective or doesn't fit the realities of the situation. But while keeping a proper perspective is good for your mental health, it only goes so far, right? If lots of other people are in spots different from, but equally bad as, those of early-career philosophers, that doesn't somehow wash away the badness --- it just means that a whole lot of people are in really bad spots. Of course, I say all that while recognizing that there are many, many low-skill workers without degrees in much worse socioeconomic positions than that of your average failing post-PhD philosopher.


Maybe I was a special kind of moron, but given my background for some reason or other I really didn't know or understand that philosophy was as competitive as it is. It's not like I went into philosophy thinking it would be easy. I knew it would take a lot of work to succeed, but no one ever equated it to trying to be a musician or an artist or a creative writer. For me doing philosophy was about getting a job as a professor, which struck me as a meaningful and realistic profession. Musician, artist, writer, and the like are professions I never took seriously, even though I had some talent for art, because I understood that they were not 'real' professions. So, I think maybe there are other people like me who get into philosophy without knowing how bad it really is, and that perhaps this is part of the reason that some are so upset and angry. If someone had told me that trying to be a professor in philosophy is like trying to make it as a artist, then I would have found something else to do.

Marcus Arvan

Postdoc: I was a similar case. I entered grad school genuinely naive about my chances. I had a decent excuse, I think. I started grad school way back in 1999 when there was comparatively little information available. These days, warnings and statistics about grad school and the job market are so readily available that I don’t think ignorance is a good excuse. Nevertheless, even having information available, youthful naïveté may still be an issue. I’ve met many young people who seem certain they will be the exception—which is of course statistically improbable. We need to impress it upon prospective students that they really can’t expect to be an exception, and that they *really* need to be cognizant of this.

almost phd

Is there any particular reason we're speaking as though the issues here are unique to the philosophy job market? My impression is that things are roughly similar across the humanities. I know things are a little different with the sciences and social sciences, but my sense is that things are at least as hard in English, for instance.

FWIW, I was on the job market this year and asked many of the same questions the student in this exchange asked. It was my first year on the market, and I'm sure this might have changed if I were a couple years in, but early on I had the distinct sense that we are doing students a disservice by talking about the job market as this uniquely horrendous time. I think students would be much better served by being given an accurate understanding of what awaits them on the job market without editorializing on the terribleness, along with real resources for making decisions about when and how to consider leaving academia if they don't do well on the market, or if they decide they don't want to try! I think a big difference between the market that musicians and artists face and the academic market is that everyone in the arts assumes they'll have to make money in other ways, and they are happy to do so while pursuing art in their own time, whereas we generally are not encouraged to think about what other jobs might be satisfying, and we have essentially zero opportunity to pursue philosophy outside of academic philosophy. This makes the experience seem all the more high-stakes, which just isn't great for mental health!



I was certainly naive. But I think it's a good excuse. Even today people say insanely strange things. I had a professor tell me that everyone she knew got a job no problem. I think it takes more work to figure out how bad the market is than you realize, and many are still in denial about what the market is really like. Also, there is what you're told and how you interpret it. I don't think I could have dreamed that the market is so bad that someone can be very successful in their PhD and in publishing but be unable to get anywhere to speak of.

A Philosopher

To almost phd, the original original grad student to write in, and others with similar thoughts: it is amazing how much experience can change things. It sounds like you are PhD students graduating this month. Graduating and leaving a research-rich and supportive program; taking a teaching heavy job; being in a research desert; being on the market for a second, third, fourth time; living in a less cosmopolitan town; being away from the strong friendships of graduate school; these are all transformative experiences.

... Is being a failing early-career philosopher the worst thing in the world? No, of course not. But to call the stories of these people "editorializing" or "catastrophizing" strikes me as being insensitive to their very real lived experiences.

A final thought: I've yet to see someone a few years out from the PhD who fails to secure permanent employment say something to effect of: "you know, all those people writing academic quit-lit were really overselling it; *shrugs* it wasn't *that* bad to fail at this". Hell, even those who, like Marcus, finally secure good employment seem shell shocked and not quite sure whether the intervening years were worth it.


Here are some relevant differences:

1.) In philosophy, unlike in music, acting, writing, etc - you don't personally know the people who succeed at your expense. Philosophy is a small world. You see the person who got the job you wanted and they post it on facebook and everyone congratulates them. You see you have more publications - and you can't say anything, because you would look like an ass (you wouldn't merely look like one, to be clear, but that doesn't change the psychology...)

2.) In philosophy, there are people who hand pick the winners. Becoming a success in many other "dream job" type situations is something few can understand. While someone might offer you a record contract, that won't get you on the charts. But in philosophy, there are clear people to blame - those who made the hiring deciton, and they didn't hire you.

3.) Philosophers work directly with the people they want to be like - they are trained by them and can become friends with them. Few musicians are trained by the stars - they probably have never even meet. So when you 'fail' in philosophy, you not only fail yourself but those you might respect the most.

4.) All of the above makes failure in philosophy much more personal, and the more personal something is, the more emotional it is, and the more likely it is to lead to serious mental health problems.

5) - It is true that perhaps English and History and other humanities disciplines something similar goes on. I just don't know that culture well enough to say.

6.) I agree with Marcus that getting very close again and again is another important distinction. Most people in those other fields have never come close - but in philosophy it is possible to have almost made it for years on end.

Anonymous this time

I must admit that I sympathise with the reader mentioned in the post. I was born at the end of the Seventies in Europe and among the people who went to high school with me, most have still no permanent positions. Three among us studied philosophy (and are either lecturing or within projects, perhaps in addition to teaching at school). Two became photographers (with very alternate fortunes), another became an art historian (same as above), one became a musician (works hard in all kinds of private schools to maintain herself), two became movie directors (one managed to have his first movie in movie-theaters just now!). One studied old Germanic philology (now works as an IT technician and tries to lecture at universities). One works at the UN (great, but she keeps on moving with her family throughout the world's poorest areas, which is not everyone's cup of tea). One became a biologist (teaches at school). One went to law schools and ended up as a civil servant, but after many years. Only one managed to have a permanent position at the university (law school).
In general, being in Europe means that I do not have a permanent position, but I can enjoy the fact of being able to be paid to do what I love. I was surprised to read of Marcus' speaking of hell years, as if the whole purpose of his philosophical journey were landing in a TT job, and he did not at all enjoy the journey itself. Again, I am sure that this has to do with the fact that studying is here cheap (i.e., no debt) and that health insurance is a given. Yet, I was surprised.


Anonymous this time: my intuition is it has more to do with the fact that there is an *expectation* that you get a permanent, TT, job here, and that if not, you failed and are surely miserable. There is a strong cultural norm in the US, amongst philosophers but I think outside as well, to assume that people in your and your friends positions (doing something you love but without job security, solid pay, and having to move a lot) must and should be miserable. I suppose healthcare might play into things, but I know people in these non-permanent positions that have good health insurance and there still seems to be the same assumption.


I would also add that it is the minority of philosophers who go into debt, especially serious debt. It happens but it is not the norm, from the studies I've seen.

A Philosopher

Thanks Amanda. I think those are great points which really bring out the gritty and personal nature of philosophical failure.

As to the point (made by others) about there being a similar situation in other humanities fields, so? I don't really see the point. No one claimed that philosophy was singularly bad among academic positions. Absolutely *nothing* about the crappyness of early-career life in philosophy depends on it being singular or unique in some way.


Thanks, a philosopher. I agree that the fact many people are in similarly bad positions doesn't do anything to change the horribleness. And it makes sense for philosophers to talk about philosophy, since we are in a better position to change our own field. But I think people were responding to Marcus and his original post which seemed to imply there is something unique about philosophy itself.

Another thing that occurred to me: I don't think it's true that philosophy is the only field with a glut of talent. If there is one thing that strikes me from watching random youtube music videos it is that there is far, far, more talent than there is room for music success. And in team sports, something similar goes on: the difference in talent at the top is paper-thin, and so many people who are probably just as good as someone who "made-it", didn't "make-it" themselves. However, with most sports you don't spend 10 years in the minor leagues; typically, you are done after undergrad if you aren't one of the very few who go pro.(what is nice about individual sports, like running and swimming, is it is far easier to make fine-tune distinctions and so there seems more justice in who wins and loses.).

3. In some sense I do think becoming a philosophy professor is a really, really, awesome job, in spite of the hardships and the fact that many who make it aren't happy. We get to do what we love with an incredible amount of freedom. Many philosophers do not separate their job and their private life because, in a sense, they don't need to. They "identify" as a philosopher and getting to do what you identify with is a wonderful thing. As far as happiness goes, I think a lot of that has to do with the type of people who pursue philosophy. We have more stringent conditions for happiness than the average person. If I had a 9 to 5 low-pressure job that I jumped into after under-grad, with respectable pay and great security....well, there are many hardships that I have faced as a philosopher that I would have never had to suffer through. But yet, I doubt I would be happy. Because there is something that drives me to only be happy if certain conditions are met, even if life is very pleasant otherwise.

Anonymous this time

@A philosopher, well Marcus started the conversation exactly with this claim, namely "Academic philosophy is pretty unique in that it requires spending a number of prime years of one’s life (in grad school) not making any money and not making transferable skills for a line of employment where only 37% of people get full-time, well-paying jobs and others (adjuncts) make salaries close to minimum wage with no benefits. I don’t know of another profession like this, aside from perhaps professional baseball, where minor leaguers make very little and have a tiny shot of making it to the big leagues."

@Amanda, thanks for the explanations. I forgot to mention the case of a dear friend who is a great philosopher (lectures at a good university and publishes a lot, beside having a family) while working from 6 to 12 every day as street cleaner (he is unique, but he exists). This makes me think that a change in attitude might help some people to survive the trauma and make the best of what they get.

A Philosopher

I read Marcus' exact framing as either a mental slip or a pragmatic choice to forgo complex and unnecessary clarifications acknowledging the similarities with some other academic fields. *shrugs*


Anonymous this time: wow that is a pretty exceptional friend you have. Does he do the street cleaning because he needs the money - or is it something else?

Daniel Groll

Sometime reader, first time commenter. I don't think I'm adding anything substantially new so much as reframing some of the points people have made about the differences between pursuing a career in the arts v a career in philosophy. I did undergraduate degrees in both jazz performance and philosophy. I would jokingly tell my parents that they didn't need to worry about the music degree because I always had philosophy to fall back on. Obviously, that's absurd...but it does reflect something true, not just about the two professions (jazz musician, philosopher) but, I think, about the kind of people that tend to pursue them.

I consider myself what I would call a "hoop jumper." Give me a goal or task, preferably one embedded in a fairly bourgeois conception of success, and damn it if I won't try to jump through it. My guess is that there are a lot more hoop jumpers in academia than jazz. The former has all kinds of formal structures that provide goals and concrete measures of success -- understood in a pretty conventional way -- over the course of many, many years: doing well as an undergrad, getting into a grad program (pay attention to program rank!), doing well in course work, getting things published (pay attention to journal rank!), and then getting a job (and, of course, it doesn't stop there: getting more published, getting tenure, getting new titles, getting a better job etc. etc.). So many hoops! So much structure! So many chances for external, institutionalized validation!

The music world* has, by comparison, very few hoops. Jazz musicians are not credentialed in the same way as academics. It is true that they are far more credentialed than they were back in the day, but it's just not the same. The line from getting a jazz performance degree to having a successful career is highly indeterminate...and that's true even if one ignores the fact that part of what makes it indeterminate is that what counts as a "successful career" is highly indeterminate. And what I'm saying here is all the more true for people that aim for popular music careers where a formal credential is very much not the norm.

My thought is that people that decide to pursue music careers* are far less likely to be hoop jumpers than those of us that went into academia. That doesn't mean that artists are not ambitious! But their ambition often comes, I suspect, with a very high tolerance for uncertainty as well as certain disregard or indifference to traditional measures of success. I never considered a career as a musician. That's partly because I knew I wasn't good enough. But it was also because it just does not suit my personality as a hoop jumper. Give me structure and institutionalized validation or give me death!

If that's right, then even if it's true that one's career prospects as a philosopher are no worse, perhaps even better, than one's career prospects as a musician, the people pursuing the former are more likely to experience the crappy prospects as insanely stressful. This is because they are less suited to living with uncertainty and more concerned with traditional conceptions of success than their artist counterparts. In some ways, the state of affairs in academia seems ideally suited to drive many-a-hoop-jumper mad: "Look at all the shiny hoops! So many! You must clear them in order to have a career. You can clear them brilliantly! But that is nowhere near enough to make you clear the biggest hoop of all, the one that is the dominant marker of success in our field, i.e. getting a TT job. Mwahaha."

I don't mean this to be an exhaustive explanation (let alone a justification). And obviously, many artists are hoop jumpers and many academics are not. But the explanation resonates with me. And being a philosopher, I have no compunction of generalizing wildly from there.

*I don't know enough about the world of classical music to know for sure, but it seems to me to be structured for hoop-jumpers in much the same way academia is: competitions, getting into a strong performance program, aiming for a spot in an orchestra (via an audition). I wonder if young classical musicians experience their job market more like we experience ours than like jazz musicians (or indie musicians) experience theirs.

Anonymous this time

@Amanda, yes, he is amazing. He works as a street cleaner because he needs the money and because in this way he is free at 12 and can do research and/or lecture in the afternoon.

Anonymous this time

@Daniel Groll, thank you. Your explanation, namely "even if it's true that one's career prospects as a philosopher are no worse, perhaps even better, than one's career prospects as a musician, the people pursuing the former are more likely to experience the crappy prospects as insanely stressful. This is because they are less suited to living with uncertainty and more concerned with traditional conceptions of success than their artist counterparts" seems to make sense of why I have many friends who are artists and are happy with uncertainty (and perhaps also why philosophers in different settings than NA might be happier?).


ATT: very cool. People like that impress me, and make me wonder about the things I complain about.

Blake Francis

There are a lot of highly competitive professions with narrow skill sets in which getting one’s desired job is highly unlikely. It is not obvious to me that job searches in these professions involve thoughts of doom and gloom to the extent I’ve witnessed in academic philosophy. Echoing several points made in this thread, I think one source of our catastrophic thinking about the job market in philosophy is the assumption that once you have a PhD in philosophy the only route to success is the tenure track. All other options represent a kind of failure. I’d wager that is a feature of our culture—including its affluence and elitism—and not entirely the competitiveness of the job market.

Before becoming a professional philosopher, I was a federal employee working in land management and conservation. I started out in a contract position similar to an adjunct position in academia with the attendant exploitation. I applied to 50-100 permanent federal jobs a year and received just as many of rejections a year for many years before I acquired a permanent position. Many of the people I worked with were contract or seasonal employees who also applied to 100s of jobs a year and received 100s of rejections a year. Many spent a decade working seasonal and contract positions prior to acquiring a permanent position. Many worked seasonal and contract positions up to retirement. Laborers in my former trade (wilderness trail construction) work for low wages for years to acquire skills that less than 1% of the population have. (Round log bridge and puncheon construction with traditional tools is probably more rare today than philosophy.) The market for these jobs is highly competitive, although I don't know the statistics.

When I was searching for permanent employment as a federal employee, I experienced some catastrophic thinking and noticed it in others. However, the doom and gloom was no where near the extent I’ve experienced and witnessed in philosophy. The main difference as far as I can tell is that giving up on finding a permanent federal position after years of building skills and applying was a perfectly acceptable option. Although I had built a very specific skill set over the course of many years, I could have transferred my trail construction skills to the second or third best option of log cabin building or stone masonry. Doing so would have involved a pay cut and a demotion as I learned the new trade. But no one—including me—would have thought I failed by seeking private sector employment that I liked a lot less than wilderness trail construction. I would have felt disappointed for sure, but I wouldn’t have felt a sense of doom or a loss of self worth. Those feelings I reserved for periods of complete unemployment, living in a country without a safety net.

On the philosophy job market, I was at times consumed with a sense of impending doom despite all indications that I would find some kind of employment. I had deeply internalized the message that I either get a TT position or I’m some kind of a failure. I am aware that this is a very distorted thought, but I had a hard time shaking it while on the job market. I had internalized the claim that TT position is necessary and sufficient for success for philosophy PhDs. But this claim is just not true. Given the state of the job market, it is also very dangerous. PhDs in philosophy badly want TT philosophy positions: TT is the dream job. However, it is not the only job available to us, and it is certainly not the only pathway to success. As we often tell our undergraduates, philosophical skills are highly transferable. There is no reason why PhDs in philosophy shouldn’t be encouraged to prepare for and pursue non-academic positions as a plan B, including high school teaching. Admittedly, it might be disappointing to give up on academia, and it might hurt the ego to learn some new ropes. However, jumping ship on academia is not a sign of abject failure and it is not career-ending. It is just very disappointing. No one is guaranteed their dream job. If getting your dream job was the standard for success, almost everyone would be a failure.

Job searches in competitive job markets are stressful and risky. Thoughts of catastrophe are certainly common in these circumstances. The disturbing thing about the academic philosophy job market is how pervasive such thoughts are. Celebrating alternative career pathways for PhDs and decoupling status from the TT may be part of the solution. In my own experience, knowing that I could find work outside of academia made the risk of pursuing a PhD more manageable given how dim the job prospects are. But in my monomaniacal search for a TT position this year, I found it difficult to keep these alternatives in perspective. I had internalized the falsehood that it’s TT or worse than nothing.


"I’d wager that is a feature of our culture—including its affluence and elitism—and not entirely the competitiveness of the job market."

I don't think it's only an aspect of academic culture. I think it's an aspect of the upper middle class culture that many PhD's come from. We are expecting and are expected to obtain a career with a certain level of prestige and status in society. If we fail at the TT objective, then there aren't too many other jobs a PhD in philosophy (without a STEM background) can do that match the status of University Professor (if any).

Imagine this scenario. Your brother is now a lawyer, your dad is a medical doctor, your friends or most of them have high paying successful careers and associated perks. You spent 7 years in graduate school and now work as an adjunct making 30k a year.

Do you still want to go home for Christmas or would you rather not show your face? How do you answer the customary questions: "when are you buying a home", "where do you want to live?", "do you want kids?" Do you give honest answers: "probably no time soon if ever," "any f***ing place that'll give me a job," and "probably can't afford kids before my wife has already gone through menopause." Probably not. You'll just mumble something about the job market being competitive and hope the questions end soon, all the while thinking, "I hate my life."

So, sure philosophy ain't really that bad. If you have a PhD in philosophy, you can find work somewhere and you'll have a roof over your head and in the end maybe even a strong career, if you find something that interests you. However, it's all about comparison classes.

When everyone else you know is doing better than you that can be pretty hard to handle.


Postdoc: I agree with what you say to an extent. I don't think it is true that PhDs in philosophy without stem backgrounds can't get a decent job. This is a myth that is perpetuated in philosophy departments that is utterly false. Just because you can't get the job you want the most, doesn't mean you can't get a decent job. Granted, I think grad students need more well rounded training, and I'm glad that there is more discussion about academic alternatives in the philosophy community. As you suggest, PhDs have it a lot better than most people in late capitalism--even if they don't come from upper middle class backgrounds.

I find your example of the upper-class adjunct very sad and mildly offensive. Plenty of people from upper middle and middle class backgrounds choose non-elite low paying jobs without feeling shame before their families and while living perfectly good lives. Plenty of people have a life they don't hate making 30K a year. The issue with making 30K a year is that it is barely a living wage. That issue is problematic for anyone who makes that amount of money-- no matter what their field or level of education. Factory worker and skilled laborers ought to be paid more just as much as philosophy adjuncts should. A lot of human labor is undervalued, including academic labor.

On the flip side, if the adjunct were working class, her family might wonder why she wasted all that time on a PhD. If she'd become a welder or over-the-road truck driver, she could have double the income with far less training. This can also make for interesting family holidays.

However, you are right. Feeling shame before your high achieving family suggests the kind of entitlement and elitism I find problematic in academic culture. No doubt people from upper middle class backgrounds feel entitled and then ashamed when they don't get what they expect or make less money than their siblings. No doubt this can be hard to handle for those who care about such things. I find these attitudes to be particularly concentrated and harmful in academia, which leads to the catastrophic thinking expressed by the adjunct in your example. I've observed that even members of the minority of non-upper middle class academics feel doom and gloom about the job market despite being the "highest status" members of their families.

Maybe the problem with academic culture is that it magnifies and perpetuates the upper-class adjunct's mentality about status, job description, and salary. We should change our professional culture. This is one of the reasons why I think we ought to work hard to shift the demographics in academia to include a more diverse range of class experiences and backgrounds.


"I don't think it is true that PhDs in philosophy without stem backgrounds can't get a decent job. This is a myth that is perpetuated in philosophy departments that is utterly false."

'Can't' is a strong term. But I said there aren't too many jobs that one can do which match the status of university professor. In fact, most of the jobs don't require a graduate degree at all. So, almost by definition, they are lower status or lower prestige.

"I find your example of the upper-class adjunct very sad and mildly offensive. Plenty of people from upper middle and middle class backgrounds choose non-elite low paying jobs without feeling shame before their families and while living perfectly good lives."

Plenty of them do? What does 'plenty' mean here? What's your evidence?

Maybe you're offended because you think I'm implying that less prestigious jobs make you less special or important or good or valuable. I don't believe that at all. In fact, I think people are way too career focussed, competitive, and materialistic, especially in the USA. It makes it difficult to make friends or relate to people. However, I suspect that many people who pursue PhDs in philosophy have been indoctrinated into thinking that less prestigious jobs, in societies eyes, make you less valuable or special. I suspect most after a TT job are after prestige and respect, in part.

"However, you are right. Feeling shame before your high achieving family suggests the kind of entitlement and elitism I find problematic in academic culture. No doubt people from upper middle class backgrounds feel entitled and then ashamed when they don't get what they expect or make less money than their siblings."

People are propagandized to feel entitled. They are told that they should work hard and they'll get what they deserve, and people who don't do well deserved it.

"Maybe the problem with academic culture is that it magnifies and perpetuates the upper-class adjunct's mentality about status, job description, and salary. We should change our professional culture."

I don't think it's academic culture as much as it's just the kind of people who go into academia. That's just my impression though. People who want to be academics are after respect and prestige, in part. When they learn they'll get no such thing, that can be pretty traumatizing.

Anonymous this time

@postdoc, I am sorry for anyone who has been in the awkward position you describe at Christmas.

However, I wonder:
1. you tell the tale of a *man* who has just suddenly discovered that he will not be as wealthy as his affluent father, brother and friends. As a philosopher (i.e., someone who is able to think critically), should not he have known about it beforehand? Is not it clear that if money is an important criterion (and this is completely legitimate!), one should not undertake a career in philosophy and rather read or write philosophy in their free time?

2. I, like many, have several friends who are lawyers and/or earn plenty of money. Several of them constantly hate their lives, some of them hate their lives just frequently. I earn way less, but my feeling of significance is much higher. Should not a philosopher (i.e., someone who thinks critically) be able to distinguish among the various sources of high esteem and see which ones are important for them?


I do worry about people’s reading comprehension sometimes. I am talking about status not money. A TT job is a high status job, equal to lawyer. Income and status aren’t perfectly correlated in our society. What’s hard is being around people who have successful high status careers while you have neither status nor a career. One’s backups aren’t easy. Most aren’t going to just jump into a similarly high status career after giving up on philosophy. All this stuff is easy to understand.


I should say I’m not only talking about money but also status, to be more precise. And no, people don’t think they’ll be making only 30k a year as an adjunct when doing a PhD in philosophy. It’s hard to even live on that.

Anonymous this time

@Postdoc: I was also not just speaking of money. I think that one can feel much more significant while doing philosophy (or teaching in primary school or painting, or fighting for the environment, etc.) although one does not have a "high status job" judged from an external point of view. I thought that by choosing philosophy one was choosing significance and passion over money and high status. Was this not the case when you chose to study philosophy?


@Marcus: you stated that academic philosophy is "a line of employment where only 37% of people get full-time, well-paying jobs". I'm curious about the origin of this statistic.

Marcus Arvan

Curious: the ADPA report indicates that only 34.7% of philosophy PhDs obtain full time academic employment during the three years after graduation. http://dailynous.com/2017/06/21/area-specialization-gender-placement-close-look-data-guest-post-carolyn-dicey-jennings/

It is of course possible that a significant proportion of people are hired into full time posts after 3 years, but the ADPA appears to be the best data available and my sense is that the number of people hired full time after 3 years drops precipitously. But I could be wrong.

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