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Political Theory PhD question


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Hi all:

I recently graduated law school and have work lined up for the next 2 years. During my last year of law school I took a graduate political theory seminar that awakened me from the unstimulating environment of law school. Since then, I have been devouring works of political theory that I hadn't really thought about much since undergrad, and I have become very interested in the idea of research and writing in the field.

However, I have read so much about how difficult it is to land a tenure-track position, and, due to family circumstances, I am fairly limited geographically. Thus, while there are 3-4 very good programs w/in my local area, I don't really have the flexibility to move to pursue a position. I wouldn't mind teaching at a community college or a two-year college, or even just returning to a law practice or working in government. I desperately, however, want the intellectual experience and expertise in the field that I think grad school would provide. It doesn't really matter to me if I ultimately land a tenure-track position. In other words, my question is: Is it worth pursuing a PhD as an end in itself, or am I barking up the wrong tree? Should I instead just be content to read about the subject in my own time?

Thanks to everybody in advance.

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Well, if you are geographically limited and in theory, the probability of you getting a TT job in a university or college in that area really does approach 0. I know you say that this kind of TT job is not important to you, which is fine, just make sure that is really true. Don't make part of your decision "And maybe it will work out, which would be really sweet!" under these circumstances, because it is a pipe dream.

However, getting a TT job (yes, they do have TT) in a community college in your area is considerably more likely, although not guaranteed by any means. Have you spent time in a community college before? Those jobs are great for some people, not so much for others. If that's what you are thinking of doing, just make sure that you really know exactly what you are getting into - that you want to teach a lot, and teach that particular student population.

Ultimately, I wouldn't do it unless you are hoping to go into academia, whether the standard university/college route or the community college route. Your ability to jump back into the legal field or some other job will be greatly hampered by being effectively out of the real workforce for 6-7 years. The opportunity costs to take 6-7 years off work are also very high.

So, basically, figure out if you really, really want to be a community college professor. If you do, go for it. If not, don't.

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You generally do not have to write the dissertation to be a community college professor. Many students in my terminal MA program will not go on to get a PhD and will teach at a community college, and make a decent wage. My thought would be, if you're not going to wind up being a tenure track professor anyway, you might just save yourself a few years of dissertation writing and do an MA program in 2 years.

I don't know anything about you, so I can't assess the probability that you would get a tenure track position, but the theory market is bad, and only having 2 or 3 schools to apply to for these positions makes it pretty impossible even if you're quite good.

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