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Mandatory disclaimer that I don't work at an R1.

My comment here is to encourage the OP to think that plenty of things *besides* working at an R1 are the "best-case scenario"!

I work at an R2 with a grad program. I'm under *considerably* less pressure to publish in high volume than some of my colleagues at R1s. This makes me feel more like I can write on what I want to and less stressed about satisfying the higher-ups. I have small class sizes and talented students.

I was at a SLAC before coming to my current institution. Not an R1; but I was happier with my job there than quite a few people I've talked to at R1s.

Don't necessarily think "R1 or alt-ac!" There's plenty of great lives out there that are neither of those two and which won't lead to as much burnout (hopefully!).

Marcus Arvan

TT: As an aside, I entirely agree. Although I too desired an R1 job out of graduate school, I am increasingly convinced in retrospect that it was *not* a best-case scenario at all. I have a number of friends who were denied tenure at desirable R1s (despite fairly superlative publishing records), some of whom are now out of academia altogether. I also know some R1s that are infamous for basically never tenuring people, hiring TT faculty, denying them tenure, hiring new TT faculty, rinse-and-repeat. I'm glad that I never had to deal with any of that. The job-market was bad enough!


FWIW, grad school was a million times more stressful, anxiety-inducing, and awful than the TT was for me. My TT job wasn't at an R1 - it was at an R2 without a graduate program - but I moved to an R1 with a PhD program in my tenure year, so I guess my output was at least enough to get tenure at at least some R1s. (But I also agree with TT that lots of other kinds of really wonderful jobs.)


A hopeful fact: your capacity to work efficiently will only increase, probably dramatically. Writing and teaching well are much easier to me (3 yrs post PhD) than they ever were as a student. While before I would prepare for teaching for an entire day and still not do an amazing job, I now can prep a postgrad class in an hour and come away with great evals. Sometimes having a lot of time to work on one thing (e.g. a PhD thesis, prepping a class) can be a curse, because you have time to procrastinate and feel anxious. As an ex-serial-procrastinator, it is an amazing fact that I basically never do that anymore.

A less hopeful fact: your ambition (professional, financial, etc.) will increase as you surround yourself with other successful people, unless you have a very unique psychology that can resist this (most don't). It's easy to think that once you achieve such-and-such role, you'll be happy and willing to take it easy, go fishing, put your feet up. But the treadmill of achievement is real and (for example) in a very ambitious Department full of people doing impressive things, you need to work hard to keep up with them, else feel like you're a minor person surrounded by high-flyers. I was struck by the fact that many of my tenured colleagues seem less happy than I ever was as a grad student, where perhaps you could be a big fish in a small pond, and have more opportunity to party.

I think you have to really live for philosophy if you wanna go for the R1 life.


Prepping and teaching new courses is hard, as is finding your footing publication-wise. And it can feel overwhelming your first year.

But, honestly, none of that is as hard or as stressful as not having work lined up for the next year, not knowing where you'll live, and not having much money. Having a TT job makes all of those things a lot better. So yeah, it has its stresses, but IMO being on the market is way more stressful.

Just allow yourself a chance to adjust, and you'll be fine. Everything that's hard is better by year two, and ever better thereafter.

Tenured at R1

1. I agree with TT and Marcus - there are lots of jobs as good or better than R1 jobs that still give you time to publish, etc.
2. I found the TTrack less stressful for the reason Michel mentions - not wondering where I’ll work next year or whether I’ll have health care etc was very stressful as a graduate student.
3. Nowadays the job market is so competitive that if you’re lucky enough to get a job many people already have strong research profiles with pubs etc and so that aspect of getting tenure at an R1 is much less stressful.
4. Of course there are still a few elite universities that may make tenure difficult, but I suspect for the vast majority of philosophers at R1s they end up getting tenure these days. Would be interested to see some statistics on this, however. My sense is that the really hard (lucky) part is getting a TT job, not getting tenure once you’ve got one. So that should remove some stress if you get a TT job.
5. The TTrack also gets easier in some ways as the years pass - if you manage to teach the same courses repeatedly- and many R1s will allow or encourage this - your prep time goes down significantly. Teaching new classes in grad school was very time consuming.
6. Finally, I found life in general and my time in particular more structured on the TT than it was in graduate school. In many ways I wasted a lot of time in graduate school and worked very inefficiently - it took time to get better at research teaching and service - better work and life habits reduced stress. But YMMV.

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