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Good data on placement in top programs


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Huh! This is interesting, I'd never seen it before. This is really cool! A few things to note, in order from least to most important.

  1. Programs where a disproportionate number of star students do post-docs (quant-y, health-y programs probably) might have slightly lower numbers as the "since 2000" people might not capture people doing a post-doc in 2009. This probably has a minor affect, if it has a significant effect at all.
  2. Anecdotally, it seems likes qualitative people are more likely to land a job outside of top ten and move into it, while quantitative are more likely to start inside the top ten and fail to get tenure. This is absolutely based on my gut and not on "facts". Could be 110% wrong.
  3. The analysis doesn't deal with the people who dropped out of the programs without getting a PhD (I've heard in particular Wisconsin, #1 on the list, used to have a real problem with people burning out, not getting funding, and otherwise just dropping it).
  4. This just gives totals, not rates/probability. Some programs are much bigger than others. Madison (199 students listed on the webpage) is much bigger than Harvard (96 students listed), for example. Even arbitrarily assuming that Madison has a nine year to degree average and Harvard has a six year to degree average (private schools generally get kids through faster because there are fewer teaching responsibilities which means more free time for work), and assuming there are no drops out, you'd expect 16 Harvard Sociology (and Sociology/Social Policy) students per cohort vs. 22 Madison Sociology (and Rural Sociology) students per year, so even if they place the exact same number of placements in the top 26, every Harvard student is about 1/3 more likely to get a top spot. If you add in, say, say, three drop-outs per cohort from Madison, and one per cohort from Harvard, and the numbers get even more skewed. And so, considering all that, if they're more-or-less tied on this list, then in my book Harvard is ahead since, based on each students probability as an incoming first year PhD student, a student would have a better chance of getting a top academic job from Harvard than Madison even if Madison places slightly more total people in top jobs, if you see what I'm saying.
  5. Basically, rather than being based on a total placements in the top 26, I feel like it should be something like total placements divided by the size of the average incoming cohort (I believe cohort sizes often vary year to year, but tend to be stable over time. For example, I know here we're only allowed x number of kids at to be in the first three years at any one time, so like if we have a bad yield one year, the university lets us accept more kids the next).
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I had a sick day today and passed some of the time collecting data on the 19 sociology programs to which I'm applying (all top-25 schools). I scanned through the faculty lists checking for professors who received their PhDs in 2000 or later (consistent with the methodology in the study cited above). I restricted my search to regular faculty at only these 19 schools (see list of schools in signature). Don't worry about my mental health. This actually took very little time.

Here are the data on where these 119 profs got their doctoral training.

Princeton: 15

UCLA: 11

U Chicago: 10

Berkeley: 9

Northwestern: 8

Columbia: 8

UW-Madison: 8

Harvard: 8


UPenn: 5

NYU: 5

UMich-Ann Arbor: 4

Stanford: 4

Cornell: 3

Indiana-Bloomington: 3

Penn State: 2

UT-Austin: 2

Arizona: 2


U of Minn: 1

Rutgers: 1

Johns Hopkins: 1

U of Washington: 1

Duke: 1

SUNY-Binghamton: 1

Edited by mbrown0315
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Having just started at a top-10 program mentioned in the above lists, I'll add some words of caution in terms of "placement" to think about that I hadn't really considered a year ago when applying.

1. Cohort size and funding make a greater difference and will affect the lists above. I go to a program with a small cohort (private school where n=under 10) where we all get equal funding, as opposed to a top public school closer to n=20 where funding is really competitive. I've only been in the program 2 months, but can see how a large program like UCLA could both produce frequent superstars, but also a lot of people who don't get jobs and don't finish. Having just started my first year, I have already had moments of "wow, this is really hard." Luckily, my cohort mates are super supportive and I know my funding is guaranteed. Basically, I was told, "go to the program that you will have the highest chance of finishing," -- it does you no good if you drop out, and other classmates get placed into top schools adding to your program's prestige ranking. I'm glad I followed that advice instead of thinking "Oh, this other program has all these Ivy League placements"

2. Any program in the top 15-25 will give you good training and prepare you for the job market. A lot of other factors will come into play when you are on the job market that have little to do if you school's name is "Princeton", "Indiana" or "NYU" etc -- and these are your publications, area of interest, letters of rec, and just dumb luck in terms of that year's job cycle. Trying to think that just cause X school landed 15 people into top 25 programs, while Y school only landed 8, and hence I will go to X since my chances are greater, is really bad logic.

Final words of advice: do your best, apply broadly, visit every program, be prepared for surprises, listen to other grad students in this process and good luck!

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