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Assistant Professor

I take it the OP is referring to things like certificates in women & gender studies, college teaching, health policy, law, etc.

My sense is that it would help in some cases to demonstrate an AOC in an area that is not otherwise obvious from your research or teaching experience. I don't think in most cases that a certificate would demonstrate competency to the level of an AOS unless you have other accomplishments to back them up (Marcus makes a similar point above).

In the case of a certificate in college teaching, it might be a boon if you are looking for a SLAC or otherwise teaching-focused position. But note that for some certificates they would require taking some number of courses outside of philosophy and you might weigh this against other goals like continued progress toward degree, getting out of coursework, and time devoted to focusing on your dissertation, especially if not all the courses are relevant to your goals, won't count toward overall degree progress, or would cost you money above and beyond the tuition remission you get as part of a PhD pay package. When I explored completing a certificate concurrent to my PhD I discovered, for example, that only one of the courses could also count toward my required philosophy credits, and my department would not pay for tuition for me to take courses above and beyond a certain # of credits. It would have cost me time and money that I decided wasn't worth it given I felt I sufficiently demonstrated my competency in the area of the certificate in other ways.

FWIW a "certificate" in clinical ethics would be most beneficial to someone with an existing clinical practice or significant clinical experience - for most philosophers a formal fellowship program in clinical ethics is the best route to that career path.


My PhD program had certificates in environmental studies, feminist theory, and (I think) bioethics. They were generally under-subscribed, because you had to apply for them when you entered the program, and the department made no effort to promote them (I'm not sure *anyone* ever took the environmental certificate, which is a shame). It involved taking extra courses (in other departments) during the coursework period, with a one-year timeline extension to do so. There was some extra funding attached to at least one such certificate program.

I regret not doing one. I think they're a fine way to give philosophers some interdisciplinary experience, and to develop a very robust AOC (or complement an AOS).

Shay Logan

Annoying answer: it depends on the certificate, its area and the job market. I got an MS in mathematics while doing the coursework part of my PhD (which, to be clear, was in philosophy). This degree probably did not directly help me to get a tenure track job in philosophy. But it did get me several temporary positions in mathematics departments, which I otherwise would not have gotten. These, in turn, let me continue to stay in academia. So indirectly, it helped me get a tenure track job.

It's worth emphasizing, however, that having the math degree did *massively* increase the number of temporary jobs I could reasonably apply for.

Tl;dr: my experience was that what helped was having an actual degree and that what it helped with (and helped a lot with) was getting temporary jobs outside philosophy, but still in the academy.

Douglas W. Portmore

I believe that Graduate Certificates will be increasingly popular as many universities (including my own) are moving toward a new model of academic inquiry in which familiarity with theories, methods, and research results in other disciplines and the ability to productively engage with them is the emerging norm. We're even seeing this more and more in philosophy as specializations such as bioethics and experimental philosophy grow more popular. As a result of this trend, Arizona State University's PhD program in philosophy now explicitly encourages many of our PhD students to pursue a Graduate Certificate. And, to make it easier for them to do so, we require that between 9 and 18 of the elective credit hours that are required for the degree come from other disciplines supporting the student's proposed dissertation area. Thus, they can pursue a Graduate Certificate without, as Assistant Professor worries, compromising progress toward their degree.

William Vanderburgh

If it is a subject-matter certificate, I guess that could be good in showing breadth but it is not likely to carry much weight in most any search. For new PhDs who may not have had many opportunities to teach their own classes, a certificate in college teaching could be quite valuable in a search. (Not to mention probably improving your teaching demonstration and your actual teaching.)

got it

I do not think that various certificates matter much. The ones that really matter only matter because you have actually acquired some real skill. A former colleague had an MA in computer science. But even the value of these can be exaggerated. I work with people in other disciplines, and I have to do some quantitative work at times. They do not care what formally I have. They are really concerned with whether I know what I am doing. The certificate fetish is part of a culture of credentialling. Really, what you want are skills. And you can get these without formal credentials.

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