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QuestioningTheQuestion

Job Market Options for Communication Studies Positions with a Humanities-focused Media Studies PhD

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Hello,

I'm not sure how normal it is for new PhD students to feel sudden anxiety/uncertainty/self-doubt starting their first year (I suspect it is), but I thought I'd ask about my particular situation. I really am so excited and grateful for this opportunity, but looking ahead to job market prospects I can't help but have some questions (about research strategy).

I received 3 program offers to distinct yet related programs (Communication Studies, Film/Media/Visual Studies, and American Studies). I have a Master's Degree in English, and ultimately chose to purse the Visual Media PhD based on the advice of a former advisor who knows me and my work quite well. It's definitely the best fit based on the number of people in the department I could work with (there are about 4 as opposed to 1-2 in the Comm program offer I decided not to take). It's also probably the right fit based on my strengths/interests which are more humanities based.

I'm committed to my decision, but I can't help but wonder if it's possible to still pursue jobs in the Communication Studies field, considering there is greater program breadth/methods and training in straight-up Comm programs (in social sciences & humanities, rather than primarily just humanities/cultural studies, as I'm pursuing). I keep telling myself I'm not interested in teaching Organizational/Strategic/Health Communications (more quantitative sub-fields) anyways , and that perhaps I can still pursue jobs in Communications/Media Studies departments down the road, provided I tailor my interests appropriately to extend beyond just film to also look at digital studies, global media, etc.

Would it help at all for me to take a Comm elective in quantitative methods, or would this be super random and out of place? Or, should I just go hard on the humanities focus on and not worry about the path not taken?

Also, does anyone know if those trained in primarily the humanities tradition & cultural studies have a realistic chance of competing for a Communications job that seeks candidates with a focus on critical media studies and qualitative methods? I've seen a few postings that indicate interest in applicants from closely related fields (which I believe film/visual media studies is), but I'm just not sure. I'm basically wondering about the strengths and challenges of pursuing a more interdisciplinary degree program, and about how broad my interests can (or should) be to give me the most breadth possible later when going on the job market.

Perhaps it is a strength that I could theoretically apply to Film/Media/English departments as well as Comm departments, but I'm not sure if I'm being naive or idealistic, or overextending myself to try to tailor my research in a way that could fit job prospects in both fields (Comm and Film/English). I'd also really like to talk to my department about this, but I'm not sure how welcome said questioning would be from a new student (I don't want to reveal how insecure I am on my first day lol).

Any thoughts/advice/suggestions would be most appreciated! 

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I have a PhD in media and cultural studies from the UW-Madison and I'm tenured in a communication department with a strong social science orientation. So yes, that's certainly possible, although the job market is in fact pretty terrible.

In answer to some of your specific questions:

On 8/22/2019 at 1:31 PM, QuestioningTheQuestion said:

I'm committed to my decision, but I can't help but wonder if it's possible to still pursue jobs in the Communication Studies field, considering there is greater program breadth/methods and training in straight-up Comm programs (in social sciences & humanities, rather than primarily just humanities/cultural studies, as I'm pursuing). I keep telling myself I'm not interested in teaching Organizational/Strategic/Health Communications (more quantitative sub-fields) anyways , and that perhaps I can still pursue jobs in Communications/Media Studies departments down the road, provided I tailor my interests appropriately to extend beyond just film to also look at digital studies, global media, etc.

To be strategic, the key is to be conversant with other comm scholars. You won't compete with folks trained in org or strat comm simply because that's their training -- they'll be better at it. But that's not what search committees are necessarily looking for, either -- what they want to see (from my experience serving on them) is that you can address their theoretical or methodological concerns intelligently. In my department, we have a tremendous strength in health comm, which isn't my field at all. But perhaps the best MA thesis I have supervised was in health comm. It also dealt with public sphere theory, which is much more my forte, but the two examiners were some of our health comm specialists. The reason that could work was that we all speak each other's language well enough, so to speak, to help my student succeed.

Another useful strategy is to focus on a range of potential courses you can eventually teach. My specialty is theory, but I can also teach production. (Well, could, not so much any more.) I got my first on-campus interview because I had those skills, even if my theory is much better than my production. I know that in our past searches, we've been looking for people with quantitative method chops, in addition to specific areas of focus. Candidates with the area of focus and the ability to teach methods are rare, so a quantitative course could help you there.

(Beyond that, I have colleagues in digital humanities who use their amazing quant skills to develop their humanities research. Their work is frequently groundbreaking, so a quant class might be something you find a way to use in your own research, too.)

On 8/22/2019 at 1:31 PM, QuestioningTheQuestion said:

Also, does anyone know if those trained in primarily the humanities tradition & cultural studies have a realistic chance of competing for a Communications job that seeks candidates with a focus on critical media studies and qualitative methods? I've seen a few postings that indicate interest in applicants from closely related fields (which I believe film/visual media studies is), but I'm just not sure. I'm basically wondering about the strengths and challenges of pursuing a more interdisciplinary degree program, and about how broad my interests can (or should) be to give me the most breadth possible later when going on the job market

Definitely. That's how I got my current job. But be sure you're really good at your primary focus (film, I'm assuming) -- the challenge of some interdisciplinary work is that it has no center. If you're really good at film (or whatever it happens to be), but also pretty good at methods and, say, globalization, you'll have a strong case to make.

 

On 8/22/2019 at 1:31 PM, QuestioningTheQuestion said:

Perhaps it is a strength that I could theoretically apply to Film/Media/English departments as well as Comm departments, but I'm not sure if I'm being naive or idealistic, or overextending myself to try to tailor my research in a way that could fit job prospects in both fields (Comm and Film/English). I'd also really like to talk to my department about this, but I'm not sure how welcome said questioning would be from a new student (I don't want to reveal how insecure I am on my first day lol).

The competition in English departments is beyond fierce. I'd pair up your topics differently -- Comm/Film and English. As for talking to your department, that depends on departmental culture, but when I was DGS, I would have welcomed your questions. They're exactly the ones PhD students should be posing as soon as they show up, if not before.

Good luck!

Kyle

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