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Seasoned Veteran

I spent five years on the market before landing a TT job. I considered three main factors when deciding to stay in year after year: (a) whether I was continuing to get interviews at places I wanted to work, (b) whether I could continue to financially support myself with decent NTT jobs, (c) whether my partner would continue to support me as I moved around the country to take VAP's. (By "support me", I mean basically stay with me even over long distances.) So my question is: are you getting at least one final round interview per year for TT jobs at places you want to work? I did, which is why I stayed in. If I did not, I probably would have jumped ship. [Of course, this past cycle might be different, since I'm guessing there were just far, far fewer jobs available.]


The chart tells us that a small number of people, say, 5 years out, got jobs. But has anyone tried to track how many people from each year are (still) trying to get a job in a given year?

It seems like it would be more meaningful to know things of the form: "Of all the people X years out from the PhD who were still on the market, Y% of them got jobs that year".


One thing I wonder about is how much prospective "fit" should play into this. I sometimes get the feeling that, at least outside of the elite institution part of the market, one needs to be a non- white male, fairly "woke"/liberal, or Christian to find a TT position. There just isn't much of a home for those who neither add to diversity nor fall into the major ideological paradigms in higher ed today. At least I sense that this is true in if one wants to work in an Anglophone country. What do you all think?

Times Change

I'd like to echo a point from Seasoned Veteran: this job market cannot be compared to the market before! I know this make's the OP's question even more difficult, but I'm just hungry for advice and data that reflects the current (i.e. post-pandemic) market reality of incredible scarcity. Maybe, 15 years ago, someone might stay on a dreadful job market for 10 years and find success. If 50% of schools maintain their hiring freezes, that might make absolutely no sense right now.

I know the current market is hard to predict, and I'm still just incredibly interested in what answers to these questions look like in an academic setting that, at least for the coming year, will be uniquely bleak. Also, if people for whatever reason think that we'll soon get back to pre-pandemic hiring levels, I'd like to hear 1) why they think that, and 2) what will happen to those who have waited around a couple years because there were simply no openings.

R1 Asst Prof

I started my current, very nice TT job 4 years after defending my dissertation. Three of the intervening four years were in postdocs. The final year, however, I was almost totally unemployed - no VAP, minimal adjuncting, etc. Which is to say, there's hope (if you can afford it)!

Three more points of encouragement. First, in looking at the graph I'd focus on the area under the curve to the right of the peak rather than the steep-seeming dropoff; lots of people who got jobs got them after the first couple of years. Second, to Times Change's point: I wouldn't take this last year (or next year) to be at all representative of future years; as things stands no other economic indicators are pointing at a long post-pandemic depression (quite the opposite). Third, pace JobMarketeer, I'd be careful about salience bias here: at the very least, I'd want to be going on something a bit more rigorous than my own sense (which I sometimes share, FWIW) that people not-like-me are taking all the jerbs.

elisa freschi

May I suggest that the caption "Time till success" is misleading and the this kind of attitude might be something to think about for the OP as well?
It suggests that whatever happens in between is an "unsuccess" and not worth living, whereas one might have had great years and wonderful research opportunities as a postdoc/principal investigator in a project/research assistant/non TT faculty member etc. It is not a binary world, in which there is either TT or lack of success…

p.s. I am aware of the fact that for many people the time until TT means unemployment and poverty, but this is a different topic and does not apply to all (as shown by the case of R1 Asst Prof).


Like others mentioned, I think the time to TT job is very misleading because many people quit trying. I tend to think times have changed a lot, and outside of R1's being stale isn't an issue. And I am not sure if it was every an issue at teaching schools. My former colleague got his job after 13 years as an adjunct.

My honest assessment is that I don't think your odds are going to go up or down much based on more teaching experience and more publications - given the point the OP is at. So I tend to think it is more of a personal choice - are they happy in their NTT job and do they want to keep going through the torment? Because I think it is very possible they do get a TT job, but also, just like every year, the odds are very against them.

A stale person

I think stale does matter. I was hired after five years on the market, as were two other colleagues. A "more senior" colleague who had got their BEFORE they even defended, just 6 years before I was hired, referred to us in a derogatory way, suggesting we had been on the market a long time (and were wasting away). When we were hired we all had more publications that our senior colleague when they went up for tenure, and when they retired. So people do label and treat others as stale.


anon, Amanda: I think another issue with this graph is not just that people quit and take themselves out of the running that way, but also that at t=1, t=2, t=3 you just have fewer candidates in the pool as people get hired (the huge spike ~t=1 in the graph is no longer in the candidate pool, at least not in terms of seeking a first job, by t=3, and so forth). So would this mean your chances might actually go *up* as time goes on, your record improves, you get more experience, and you're competing with fewer people with the same qualifications (just because they're all less experienced and have had less time to mature)? We need a way of capturing how these numbers relate to the size of the population going down over time as people get hired out of it.

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