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« Can good publications offset grad program rank? | Main | Summer sounds »

07/10/2020

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Michel

I agree, especially if you can manage to get some funding despite staying in the program. This is not going to be a good market year. And while the year after probably won't be good either, it'll be good to have some cushion.

But if that's what you do, use your year well. Go on the market anyway, so that you have some experience of it and have your materials mostly prepared. Work hard to crank out some pubs. Teach, if you can. And cultivate an exit strategy.

(By the by and FWIW, I took seven years, and I'm glad I didn't rush it. I don't think it's been held against me on the market, although it's hard to tell.)

Douglas W. Portmore

I agree too.

Trevor Hedberg

I think taking a longer time to obtain the PhD will usually only be a negative if there's no corresponding achievement or professional development that takes place during the "extra" time. If you take 8 years to get a PhD instead of 7 but tack on a couple extra publications and solo teaching semesters as a result, your dossier will probably be stronger overall than if you graduated in only 7 years. If you take an extra year but don't add much to your credentials, then it might be a negative overall. The bottom line is that if you stay in the program another year, make sure you use that time to continue trying to publish and gain valuable teaching experience (as Michel said above). Given the current situation, it would also be a good idea to spend some of the upcoming academic year formulating a Plan B in case academic employment proves unobtainable in the long run.

Sam Duncan

Another thing to think of here are health insurance benefits, which can be pretty substantial, especially if one is older. Also, many PhD granting institutions have an associated hospitals and medical centers which often give pretty massive discounts to employees. (I didn't think about this stuff until I had to have physical therapy a few years ago but trust me it is huge.) The other fringe benefits that come with being a grad student like access to the university library aren't insubstantial either. If one stays as a grad student one retains those, while if one goes on the market and doesn't land a full time position one almost certainly loses them. I know there are exceptions but adjuncts usually don't get health insurance and even though one usually gets library access at whatever institution(s) one adjuncts at the fact is that those libraries are likely to be nowhere near the level of the libraries at the sort of research university that has a PhD program.
What my program would do in cases like this-- precisely so people wouldn't be left high and dry without benefits-- was to schedule a defense at some pretty far out future point so that one could say they had a defense scheduled when they went on the market. But the understanding was that if the job search didn't work out that defense would be pushed back another year. If that's a possibility I don't see the cost of doing something like that and going on the market this year.

don't do it!

I was convinced by advisors who really did not have a realistic sense of the job market to get the degree early, both for minimizing time in grad school and for the thought that having the degree in hand will make you more competitive. I now deeply regret having done so -- while finishing early did open up some opportunities, I think staying put would have opened up more, both by preventing the 'staleness' mentioned above and by providing more a more familiar and stable position from which to pursue new opportunities. Especially in these times I'd strongly recommend against getting the PhD simply for considerations of length of degree.

That being said, it may still be worth pursuing new opportunities (say, teaching your own course as an adjunct at a local school if your grad school teaching is TAships) and new publications or other ventures that might justify something like a new AOC that will significantly add to your CV rather than sticking to the types of experiences already on there. In my case, getting the PhD earlier forced me to do some of these things (which were helpful!) but it wasn't actually necessary to have the PhD in hand yet to get those experiences.

Paul Carron

I basically agree with everyone else (wow, consensus is possible!). Stay in, but use your time wisely if you want any realistic shot at an academic job. Teach more, if not at your school then at a high school or a prison, perhaps volunteer in some meaningful way, and most of all, write write write...

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