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What after the PhD?


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Dear Fellow Strugglers,
 
I know that we are all on pins and needles waiting for the admissions results (I so am), but I would like to take time and ask you about your hopes and expectations for after the PhD. I've recently talked to a couple of guys fresh out of PhD school, and their outlook on the academic job market was very grim. They told me there are 500 candidates to a post-doc spot worldwide, and the only way to beat the system is if you've done your PhD at a TOP20 program. The guys did theirs at LOGOS (Barcelona Uni - #45 faculty in the QS), both are top talents with scholarships and first publications in respected journals.
 
They also had a lot to say about how the modern philosophy academia turned into its own caricature, with rigid, arcane rules about what to research (and what not), how to write papers (and how not to) and with the most minute of differences in your SoP or LoR (like the sequence of the sentences) making or breaking your chances of being admitted.
 
All this has made me think again about my academic future, as hellbent on making it happen as I am. I know that many of us feel the same way about much of what I've written above, and I thought that we could share our thoughts and strategies of coping. Is what you've heard in line with what I have? How do you go about your plans knowing what you know?
 
Thanks for all the reactions! We're in this together 🙂
 
 
 

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Edited by funnelheart
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The job market in academic philosophy is a nightmare; but then again, so is the job market in academia in general (and at least for the time being, the job market in many other fields as well). It's not strictly true that you have to be at a top 20 PhD program to get a job, but it certainly helps, and many well-respected PhD programs have shockingly bad placement rates (including several in the top 20). So without overstating it or catastrophizing, I think that "grim" is a pretty accurate descriptor for current job prospects in philosophy.

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I wouldn't recommend a Philosophy PhD to anyone unless they're comfortable with the likelihood that they won't get a good academic job afterward. All this is consistent with giving the academic job market a shot, but one should have an open mind to other possibilities too, and to some extent prepare for them.

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1 hour ago, Marcus_Aurelius said:

I wouldn't recommend a Philosophy PhD to anyone unless they're comfortable with the likelihood that they won't get a good academic job afterward. All this is consistent with giving the academic job market a shot, but one should have an open mind to other possibilities too, and to some extent prepare for them.

I’m here for this. I actually think you should only do a PhD in philosophy if you plan to work outside academia afterward, because otherwise you’re just getting a degree in financial instability on the adjunct circuit. If an academic job happens to pan out and you want it, great. If not, you didn’t plan on it anyway, so nothing lost. 

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44 minutes ago, UndergradDad said:

My thought is: Every year of your PhD ask yourself “do I want to keep doing this rather than something else even if I won’t end up in academia?” and decide if you want to keep at it, keeping in mind that even in grad school there are ups and downs. 

I’m also here for this advice, which has helped me keep a better mindset in the grad school marathon. 

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I'm nearing the end of my philosophy PhD career (finally!) and I am not pursuing any academic jobs whatsoever. I wrote several very gloomy paragraphs about how bad the market is, which has always been true, because graduate programs are incentivized to overproduce PhDs. And I think the OP's friend is straight up wrong that going to a top 20 (or top x) program ensures (or honestly, substantially increases) success on the market. 

But I will limit my commentary on the academic market and instead focus on what I think grad students can do to be competitive for non academic jobs. I agree with above that you should expect to look outside academia, and perhaps be pleasantly surprised if you get an academic job. 

My biggest tip: look for experiences that aren't teaching or research that build skills that other jobs care about. If your department has any roles that aren't traditional TA or RA jobs, apply for those. Join the committee for your grad conference, or assist a professor with planning a workshop. Seek out roles in professional organizations; the APA has a graduate council, but more specialized organizations in your subfield have other ways to get involved, too. Get a twitter, do some public philosophy, or write an op ed. Use your tuition waiver to take a language class or a class outside your field. 

If you have no idea what skills might be relevant outside of academia, use your university's career center. They will have workshops all the time, and you don't need to go to all of them. But I can almost guarantee they have one that involves how to identify academic skills that transfer to non-academic jobs. If you go to one of these early in your career, it will also help you identify experiences you can seek out in the meantime to build skills. There are also lots of good resources online for people transitioning out of academia; I recommend The Professor is Out facebook group. 

Also: networking is stupid important to any job search, academic or not. Many academics are bad at it, to say the least (I include myself in this category). But maintain a LinkedIn, don't forget you do know people outside of academia, and when you update your CV, update your resume, too. 

Be realistic about what you can do to prepare. You can't do all of these things and write 19 publications while in grad school. But you can get a variety of experiences and publish a few papers, too. 

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