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I think that good publications are unlikely to offset a low-status subfield (e.g. in open/open searches).

It also seems like they're somewhat more likely to offset program rank when they're part of a consistent record of publishing across a swathe of outlets. (As Marcus suggested.)

Finally, my last impression--and it's just an impression, and may well be entirely wrong--is that it seems easier for people from low-ranked programs to move up later in their careers than it is for them to luck out straight off the bat. But to do so, they seem to need to have a consistent and impressive record of publishing across a swathe of outlets, including regular contributions in top outlets.

The advice I've seen given in other fields has been to publish at or above the levels expected of people in the kind of position you're targeting for all of the years it takes you to land such a position. (Obviously, that can be a pretty tall order when your teaching load is high, you've got kids to worry about, etc.) In that particular (non-philosophy) case, the advice was that for a job at a research institution, you should aim for at least two major publications (e.g. articles in good journals; not necessarily just top tier, but clearly quality outlets) and two minor publications (e.g. chapters, invited pieces, book reviews, etc.) a year, plus a book every four years. This wasn't for philosophy, and it was for a book field, but it sounds to me like advice that would translate well to philosophy, on the whole (though probably not the book timeline).

But I wouldn't count on it, especially in the market to come (to the extent it will be possible to even call it a market).

Publishing my way to nowhere

For what it's worth, here is my own personal experience pursuing the "low Leiter rank but lots of publications" strategy.
Year 1, ABD, 3 pubs in middle and top-tier journals: nada.
Year 2, PhD in hand, 5 pubs, even fancier journals: 2 postdoc interviews.
Year 3, doing a postdoc at a fancy place, 9 pubs in very good places, plus a lot of other research activity, better letters: 4 TT interviews at places with MA or PhD programs, 1 postdoc offer.
Did my job market success improve as I got more publications? Yes, but not by that much! And that was confounded by the fact that by the time I did get some decent interviews, I had a new, fancy affiliation, letters, etc. Maybe I wouldn't have gotten those without my publication record, who knows. I won't try to draw any general lessons from my experience, but I will say that getting lots of publications has not made my time on the job market any less frustrating.

Guy from a low-ranked program

Commenter Amanda has weighed in on this exact question many times in the past, and I believe the theory she has floated about this is correct. I hope she’ll stop by and maybe copy-paste an old post about it, but as I understand it, the gist is that there are two viable paths to getting jobs—

Path #1: Come from a top program
Path #2: Come from a lower-ranked program, and try to publish as much as possible in any real (non-predatory) journal, as Marcus suggests

The problem with publishing in top journals, as a grad student or very early in your career, from out of a low-ranked program is that you are caught in the middle. To small schools and big state schools without a PhD, you look like you’re either too big for your britches or preparing to jump ship to a better job. And the top jobs just ignore you because you aren’t from a top place and what they care about is pedigree, NOT publication quality.

Anyway, that’s my adaptation of what Amanda has said before, and it has proven true for most people I have seen.

Marcus Arvan

Guy: Sadly, I think that’s exactly right.

a success story

Just to chime in with another experience:

I earned my PhD in spring 2019 from a PGR 30's department. The program was highly regarded in my subarea, FWIW.

Going on the market in 2018-2019 as an ABD, I had 2 top-tier publications: 1 in a generalist top-4 journal, 1 in the most highly regarded specialist journal of a subarea. So, really stellar publications all things considered--much better than many folks from top PGR places that had 0 publications but still got placed at fancy jobs.

In that 2018-2019 cycle:

- I received one (1) TT Skype interview in the English-speaking world, and didn't make it past the first round.
- I received three (3) postdoc interviews, but no offers, in either the US, UK, or AUS.
- I received one (1) postdoc offer at a highly regarded university in a non-Anglophone country.
- I received three (3) TT offers, from *truly* excellent universities, in non-Anglophone countries.
- I received five (5) VAP or equivalent offers in the US. I accepted one of these positions over the non-Anglophone TT offers I received.

This year, 2019-2020, I increased my publication count by adding a third publication in a top-5 journal.

This cycle, 2019-2020:

- I received nine (9) TT job interviews in the US.
- Four flyouts
- 3 offers, 2 of which were at places at graduate programs, and 1 of which was at a prestigious SLAC.

And that's with "only" 3 top publications.

It's certainly doable. I also had excellent teaching credentials as well as research letters from people outside of my PhD-granting department.


What’ do folks consider a prestigious Ph.D. program? Top 20, top 15, top 10 or top 5 Leiter ranking?

Prof L

Mercado—I would say what counts as a 'prestigious' program is linked to subdiscipline. ——A program might be great in political philosophy but bad in ancient, and if you come from that program but do ancient, that won't count for much.

I would consider 'prestigious' something like top ten in that subdiscipline, although in some subdisciplines (e.g., medieval) the talent is more concentrated, so it might be more like 'top 3 or 4'.

Guy from a low-ranked program

@Mercado—Maybe top 20, but not all in the top 20 (or even all in the top 10, I think).]

If you are outside the top 20, then your best chance at getting a job is path #2 that I talked about above.


I earned my PhD from an unranked continental department and was "lucky" to have a VAP position for a few years after defending. During that time, I published around 15 articles on LEMMA topics in mostly middle-tier journals. Given that my PhD dept was probably a serious liability on the market and that I'd drastically changed my AOS/AOC, I think that establishing a publication track record, in addition to a fairly diverse and innovative teaching record, is about the only way I landed a TT job.

El Gordo

In political science, it typically takes 3-4 top publications (APSR, AJPS) to get hired at a school ranked higher than where you got your PhD. If you only have one or two, skeptics will write it off as luck with referees. Because it is difficult and time consuming to get top hits, it's easier to "move up" after a few years than it is straight out of grad school.


@Mercado - I agree with the poster above that "prestigious" means top 20 or so in the Anglophone world, roughly the US top 15 plus Oxford, Toronto, Cambridge and ANU.


"Guy" got my theory mostly right. I would ad a few other notes:

1. AOS is very important. If you are in epistemology, metaphysics, language, it is incredibly hard for publications to overcome lack of prestige, and high tier publications are more likely to push you out of teaching jobs. Theoretical ethics and history are similar, but not quite as bad. If you work in a very "niche" area, this makes it more likely that you can "move up" through publishing.

2.I find that foreign non-anglophone prestigious degrees have a leg-up over anglophone non-prestigious degrees. I think this is because anglophone non-prestigious degrees have a negative reputation, where non-anglophone ones have "no" reputation (in anglophone countries, of course.)

3. Your odds of moving up are higher after you have spent several years at a low-ranked school as opposed to just out of grad school. The key is not simply high ranking publications, but being a known figure in your area. That is the best odds of moving up.



What do you consider "niche" areas?

And regarding note #3, by "low-ranking school," do you mean a low ranking R1 or does "low-rank" include, say, large-teaching-oriented state schools?



Re: 1:
Do you think this changes if one is coming from a lower-ranked school (say, top-30) but whose ranking in certain “core” areas are pretty good? I’m thinking specifically of places like UC Irvine’s DOP (#21) whose speciality ranking in epistemology falls under Group 3.


Mercado - I would include both teaching state schools and non-prestigious liberal arts schools I moved up from there, and I know a few others. (To be fair, my PhD is middle ranked. And I am talking about working at a state or liberal arts school as first job post PhD and then moving to an R1)

In some sense, niche areas are anything *other than* Metaphysics, Epistemology, Language, Philosophy of Science, History, Mind, Non-applied Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Law. However, your odds of moving up only increase if schools are actually hiring in your area. So if you do aesthetics or philosophy of math those are niche, but your odds of moving up are still low, because you are lucky if there is a single R1 job a year.

Kim - from what I've seen, speciality rankings are not very helpful in "core" areas, i.e. the areas I list in the first paragraph above. That is, they are not very helpful if the school is not otherwise "Leiterific". If the school is a top 10 or 15 and *also* highly specialty ranked then it does matter.

I think it is certainly better if a mid or lower ranked PhD program has a high speciality ranking, but I still think it is very rare for persons with those degrees, and who work in core areas, to get R1 jobs through publications.

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