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How are PhDs in "Interdisciplinary Studies" or "Individual Studies" (i.e. create-your-own PhD major/combination of two fields) viewed on the job market as compared to standard disciplinary PhDs? I've heard it's not as good, but is it significantly worse? Specifically for the humanities/social sciences, not hard STEM.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was originally considering some interdisciplinary PhD programs, and honestly might still be, so I can give you the advice I was given by my undergrad professors, since I asked three different professors a bunch of these questions... The gist that I got was that it really depends on the prestige of the school, and how you can spin your dissertation into something that helps you fit into a specific humanities department. But, the name of the degree does carry some weight (ex. having an English PhD looks better to English departments than having an interdisciplinary PhD in which you used skills that you would use in an English PhD). I've also heard from them that sometimes these departments are less cohesive-- if we consider universities as the neoliberal institutions that they are, these sorts of departments are often a money-saving measure. Professors within them might not know each other or communicate with each other as well as professors in a traditional humanities department.

I would also argue that many humanities programs tend to be fairly interdisciplinary at this point anyway-- you can usually take courses in other humanities departments, and your dissertation can certainly include elements from multiple fields, so long as, say for example, your English PhD dissertation is at least reasonably focused around literary analysis/theory. I was advised into the recent dissertations coming out of different humanities programs as well as Professor interests to see if there are programs where you feel you could explore your interdisciplinary interests while also having a degree that might look more attractive to departments during the hiring process. For me personally, I have been looking into English programs that have strong faculty in using a continental philosophy lens for literary analysis. But of course don't check specifically interdisciplinary programs off your list if it really is where you think you would fit in best and have the most fruitful experience! Hope some of this was helpful :)

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  • 7 months later...
On 8/27/2020 at 2:09 PM, Doc Sportello said:

these sorts of departments are often a money-saving measure.

Could you explain this? Just for my general curiosity. How do interdisciplinary departments save money? Do universities form interdisciplinary studies departments as an alternative to having stand-alone departments? 

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On 4/19/2021 at 3:58 PM, ajak568 said:

Could you explain this? Just for my general curiosity. How do interdisciplinary departments save money? Do universities form interdisciplinary studies departments as an alternative to having stand-alone departments? 

Probably they meant the degree was created as a stop-gap to avoid expanding or 'renovating' an existing, traditional degree programme. For example, a shrinking (or not) Anthropology department gets axed by budget cuts. In response to the outcry from students, faculty, and alum, the University announces the creation of an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. that allows students access to the faculty who have been shuffled around from their homes in Anthropology department. Where an in incoming student for this new programme would have fit into the now-axed Anthro department, it is arguable whether their experience will come close to what the full department used to offer.

 

The second way I can make sense of this is if the funding breakdown is objectively different than those offered to traditional Anthro/History/English Ph.D. Then you are looking at a manipulation of sources and uses of funds. Possibly even by asking for a separate application the University could be making money off of fees, etc.

 

Lastly -- and may god forbid this case -- it could be that the new interdisciplinary Ph.D programme is designed to keep those students away from the GSAS fellowships and perhaps even charge them tuition or alike. These cash-cow degrees are more commonly found as terminal MAs, though I wouldn't put it past at least one US school in 2021 to try this last option out.

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