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European in US

I have a phd from a european university, not fancy at all. I was very lucky to get a fancy postdoc in a wealthy private leiter-ok private American university. The postdoc became VAP. I published a lot and in very good journals, and built a significant teaching portfolio. Here is what I noticed. I did very well in r1 big public schools; got 5 flyouts throughout 3 years, and almost got a tt job which was then stopped by covid (search cancelled at the very last mile by a provost). I moved back to Europe for a long term position, which will eventually become permanent (or so I hope). This year I tried out of curiosity to apply back to the US and no interviews. I think that the wealthy private university I was before gave me some prestige, which now I have lost. Anothrr thing I noticed: I have never got a first round interviews for tt jobs in private universities. For those institutions, prestige matters a lot (yu know, donors, etc).

Bill Vanderburgh

The data is interesting. For us (and I guess most teaching departments) prestige is a proxy for quality, so it might get your file read, or read more closely. But in the end if the quality isn't there in the cv and writing sample--and especially in teaching--you aren't going to get through to the next level.

Fit is the most important thing. I'd say about half of the applications we get are from people who would be fully capable of doing the job (teaching well, earning tenure). The choices mostly come down to fit. Fit is not really about personality (though we do want to hire people we will want to be around for years). Mainly, fit has to do with whether the candidate's research and especially teaching areas mesh with and enhance what is already happening in the department. There is also an element of how well the candidate would relate to and connect with our kinds of students. (Occasionally candidates come off as completely oblivious to this as an important factor, usually I think a result of not having had enough teaching experience.)

By the time a job comes open, though, there is almost nothing a candidate can do to enhance their fit (except perhaps making sure to tailor the cover letter to highlight their fit for each job). It is either there or not. The only applicable advice is for *early* grad students to try to pick topics and secondary areas of emphasis that are broad enough that they will be plausible fits for many different kinds of jobs. Then all you can really do is make yourself as good as you can be in teaching, research, and service.

The way I think about job apps is that I am looking for evidence that the candidate will be a non-controversial tenure case. At our institution (and at most institutions, I think) that means there must be evidence of at-least-good teaching, at-least-good research, and some indication of willingness to participate helpfully in the life of the profession (service at the department, college, university and/or professional organization level). Also significant in this regard is a trajectory: Even if the early pubs and teaching aren't already excellent, the more recent cases should be improving, and there should be promise of more future growth. (I agree with Marcus that the difference between an article in a "top" journal and in any journal is pretty small in most hiring decisions.)

I'd point out to candidates that hires at the PGR top 20 make up less that 10% of the total hires in the table above. The vast majority of current PhDs are doing themselves a disservice if they prepare themselves for such a longshot in what is already a super-competitive market. Helen's paper confirms my intuition that even PhD students in those top-20 departments don't have a very good chance of getting a position in one of those top-20 departments (just 88 out of 461 (19%) over five years, counting only those who actually got permanent academic employment).

This comment was brought to you by BetterHelp.

Therapy. Therapy helps on the job market.


Marcus is spot-on that there's distinct job markets for distinct types of jobs.

Also worth noting: what actually makes a difference on the market(s) is also going to depend on which stage of the job search you're asking about.

For instance: some nice publications might get your foot in the door for an interview at both a SLAC and an R1 or R2. But talking a lot about your teaching will make a bigger difference at the interview stage for the SLAC than for the R1 or R2. Likewise I imagine some things that would make a helpful difference at 1 stage of the job market might make a bad difference at another. Like idk, if you work on super techy formal epistemology, that might help out initially in terms of convincing them to give you an interview for a logic AOC job; but they might then be a bit more skeptical at the interview stage about your ability to talk to undergrads about your research.

Sam Duncan

Experience teaching at community colleges is a huge leg up for community college jobs. I would wager that experience teaching at an institution like the one you are applying for is likewise helpful at many SLACs, especially non-elite ones, though that's a bit of conjecture on my part. So if you think that you might want to apply to CC jobs it's probably worth trying to adjunct a class or two at a CC while in grad school. (Most CCs will let you adjunct as long as you have an MA or credit hours equivalent to one). Back in the day experience teaching online was also a big help on the CC job market. But since practically everyone has that now it won't give you the competitive advantage it used to. It probably still helps though if you can do online teaching especially thoughtfully and well and have some evidence for that.

Original Poster

OP here! Wow, thank you so much Marcus and everyone else for this amazing advice and data (and thanks in advance to anyone else who offers their perspective). I am at a top-15 PGR program, and the advice I have received so far from professors has definitely been more in alignment with the R1 job market (which makes sense, that's the job they got!).

I, however, care a lot about geography (thank you Helen for your recent post on this!), which makes teaching-focused schools and/or CCs my only realistic option for staying within academia (though I still plan on having a solid alt-ac Plan B). So all of this advice is extraordinarily helpful, and something I will share with our placement director at some point.

I also LOL'ed at the therapy joke! My therapist and I already regularly talk about the job market, and I still have several years to go before I'm on it 🤣


Keep 4-8 papers under review, always, and develop your name/product/network.

Mike Titelbaum

Perhaps this is so obvious—or such an obvious background assumption in this discussion—that no one's mentioned it, but just to make it explicit for any graduate students reading this thread, one of the things that absolutely really, actually matters the most for getting a job is that you be *doing really good philosophy*!

I used to joke to our first-year students that doing good philosophy is neither necessary nor sufficient for getting a philosophy job. But I don't any more, because I found that some of our students were ignoring their philosophical development in order to devote all their time and energy to the other things that matter on the job market. (Not that my little joke was causing this behavior, but I didn't want to reinforce the wrong message!)

Even if you come from a prestigious place, have great recommendations, and have a long list of pubs in prominent venues, if we don't think your work is very good you're not going far in our search. That's coming from an R1. But Bill Vanderburgh above indicates that quality in things like the writing sample is also important at teaching departments. So, while I understand there are a million demands on graduate students that are impossible to fulfill all at once, and the sufficiency part of my joke is certainly true, don't forget to be improving as a philosopher as you go along!

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