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I think this is basically right, and an interesting insight. I'm a grad student at UC Riverside and I commonly hear our high placement rate explained by the amount of energy faculty put into helping grad students do well, particularly on the job market. Though I doubt that is alone sufficient since I've seen other faculties that seem to put a lot of energy into helping grad students as well. Meanwhile Florida State also has a relatively high placement rate, and it takes a similar strategy of doing a small, less core domain very well.

There may also be a correlation between AOS hiring and the religiosity of the school. Christian schools and organizations seem more interested in metaphysics and epistemology than a more general audience is. Looking at CUA, for example, they have a lot of people doing metaphysics.


I agree with both Marcus and Nichi. I think the number one difference is area of specialty. I have been saying this for years. If you go to a low or mid ranked program (say below 25), focus in a core area (language, epistemology, metaphysics, or highly theoretical ethics, i.e. not normative or applied) then publish in top journals...you have basically shot yourself in the foot. This isn't necessarily the fault of the student, it is at least in large part the fault of the faculty and grad program. It is the grad program's job to be aware of these things, which many are not.

Most of the stories you see online of people struggling with the job market are people who meet this profile, and then their lack of job is so often assumed to be because this person is a man (even though 2 out of every 3 hires are men!) Would a woman with this profile get a job? Maybe, they would have an advantage, but the thing is very few women have this profile. Women tend not to focus in core areas, and the ones that do tend to be from top programs.

I do also think a significant secondary factor is the energy departments put into hiring their students. UC Riverside's placement record has significant help by John Fischer, who I have heard is uniquely amazing in dedication to his students. Of course, part of this is Fischer's prestige, but there are lots of prestigious faculty who do not place the way he does.

Religious schools have an advantage regardless of rank, for there are a lot of religious schools hiring that prefer candidates with PhDs from religious schools. I suspect the type of metaphysics done at religious schools are religion oriented metaphysics, but that is just a guess.

Lastly, how committed mid and low ranked programs are to their students getting teaching experience is also an important factor.


Amanda, a fan of your posts and helpful info here. I wonder what you think faculty owe. You say “It is the grad program's job to be aware of these things, which many are not.” First pass, my view is that faculty working in area X should happily take on students in that area whatever the job prospects but that departments should be crystal clear about placement record l and shouldn’t try to talk students into a dead end by sugar coating things. I don’t mean to put words in your mouth but do you have in mind that more is owed? Once aware, what’s called for? Genuinely interested because I work in a “core” area and at a school certainly not in the top 25. Luckily my department caters to students who are joining a phd later in life and more in it as a hobby but not always.


Hi Al,

What I had in mind was something like the following:

1. |The department should provide honest education to entering students about the job market, which should include information on what areas schools tend to hire in, and from what type of Leiter rank. For instance, telling students that placement in CORE areas outside of the top institutions is a very hard bet.

I think most departments fall short in that they don't keep up with job market trends themselves, and so they don't know what to tell the grad students. I would say anyone who is the supervisor for PhD student(s)and especially the placement director, has a duty to keep up on this.

2.Departments should continue to hold one or two meetings a year about the job market, where new information and trends are discussed. I think these meetings should also include some discussion about alt-ac opportunities.

3.I think departments, and perhaps individual supervisors, should encourage their students to get teaching experience (unless one is at a, say, top 10 school) and make some efforts to increase the odds of this happening, i.e. talk to someone you know at a nearby state school, talk to the admin about grads getting their own courses, etc. Of course, sometimes there might not be much that can be done, and in this case all that is owed is encouragement.

4.Depending on the student and the professor's connections, it might sometimes be apt to do things like talk to friends about opportunities that are a good fit for the student or something like that.

5. One member of the department should be responsible for keeping track of opportunities for grad students and sending them emails about these opportunities, i.e. fellowships, certifications, etc. Grad students should look on their own as well.

As far as job market responsibilities, this was what I had in mind. There are other supervisor responsibilities of course, as far as reading work and caring about students as persons, etc. But I was just talking bout the job market in this post.


Anecdotally, this fits my experience. I am a woman from a low-ranked top 50 Leiter school with an AOS in a core area. I don't have enough publications to be competitive for R1 schools or unranked PhD-granting schools (though probably more publications wouldn't help me to get a job at one of those schools anyway). I have lots of teaching experience (in areas outside of my AOS as well as in my AOS) and an excellent teaching record. I can't get a tenure-track job (FWIW most of my interviews for TT and non-TT positions over the years--approx. 12-15 of them-- have been at selective small liberal arts colleges or small universities).

Mike Titelbaum

Hi Marcus,
While I'm on board with your general hypothesis, I think you might be slightly exaggerating the cut-offs. I'll admit that people from top-10 schools probably fare *best* in "core" areas, but it's not a death sentence to focus on those areas if you're outside the top ten. Here at UW-Madison our graduates in "core" areas and the philosophy of science have tended to place well, despite the fact that the Gourmet ranks us in the low 20s. At some point in the rankings there's probably a drop-off in ability to place oneself with certain AOSs. But I don't think it comes after the top 10.


Thanks, Amanda. That’s helpful.


Hello Mike,

I've noticed Wisconsin for a while when analyzing placement, as you guys seem to have an unusual record of placing people at R1s, given your rank. And good for you! But from what I have seen your program is atypical. I will also add, however, that philosophy of science is something I would consider very different than typical CORE areas. Lots of schools want it because they want to attract science majors, while metaphysics or epistemology won't do that. I consider philosophy of science a niche area.

Mike Titelbaum

Hi Amanda,
I’ll grant that Madison may be atypical. As for phil sci not being “core”, I don’t really like or understand the “core” designation, but Marcus seemed to be counting it as such in his analysis of Maryland above. In any case, we’ve also done fairly well placing people in “core” areas that aren’t philosophy of science. So I just wanted to note that it is possible even outside the top ten!

Marcus Arvan

Hey Mike: Your point about the cut-off is very well-taken. As you note, I suspect the top-10 programs have the most competitive 'core' students, but other programs outside of the top-10 may still be pretty competitive.

As for philosophy of science, I didn't mean to classify it as a core area. As Amanda notes, it's surely more of a niche area. I only mentioned it because, in addition to core areas, I suspect it is an area that liberal-arts institutions may hire in less-often.

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