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Jobs after getting a PhD


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So I know there's a section for this in the main forum area, but I'd like to start a conversation about this specifically for anthropology, as the circumstances for this discipline are far different than others.

Lets talk frankly about this. There are SO MANY of us about to start programs, people in programs, and those currently in the job market, and not a whole lot of real academic jobs (by real I mean possibly tenure track and not adjuncting/struggling). My mentor was joking at the AAAs where one of their students had nine job interviews: this student was basically up for all of the jobs right now. A joke, but something not far from the truth that there's like 1 job for 1000 applicants. A tenure track position at a university that's desirable to ones preferences is basically like winning the lottery.

I've always dreamed of entering academia, but one thing I've been thinking about during this application process are my goals, realistic or otherwise, for what I want to do with my PhD. I somewhat unsure of my options beyond a career in academia. Are these things people are thinking about too?

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Certainly. I think for cultural anthro there are more possibilities than archaeology (my subfield), in my senior classes we constantly had guest speakers that were in private organizations ALL OVER THE PLACE doing things with their degrees. All cultural folks.

 

That being said. What is keeping me moving is the thought that while anthropology as a disciple is becoming SO MUCH more competitive and budgets are being decimated, I am hoping that in 6-9 years when we are graduating things will be turning around. Of course, that's all 6-9 years where people are graduating ahead of us. My advisor for my undergrad thesis graduated and got to move back to his home town in a tenure-track position right after graduation, and this was only 3 years ago. So it's possible. I guess all we can do is try out best in grad school to publish, publish, publish and network, network, network. It's a shame that it's like this but at least none of us don't know it. 

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I'm on a few listservs and what I've noticed is that not every subfield has a complete lack of job opportunities. I get 3 or 4 emails a month with jobs for gender or interdisciplinary backgrounds. Maybe 1 or 2 tenure-track and a couple longer term contract  lecturer positions. Other subfields get less but still some positions.

 

It'll be interesting to watch but I'm not too concerned, personally (I'm applying to geography programs because of match but my subfield is both anthro and geography.)

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Academics, anthropologists included, sell themselves short by considering a. that getting a job outside of academia is failing in life, b. that they have no marketable skills outside of a university.

 

I know lots of people who studied anthropology, from undergrad to PhD level, who are doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things outside of a university, whether that's in marketing, consulting, working for government agencies, NGOs, or the UN. Especially nowadays with online learning and constant budget cuts to traditional departments, the university is not the only game in town in terms of research and knowledge production. But professors and supervisors still tell their students to look for jobs inside the ivory tower, as if we don't have anything to offer the real world. I mean, as anthropologists we shouldn't be so dismissive of people outside of academia, but I still think the majority are. As a result, you still have a flood of recent doctorates who are convinced that they will only be happy when they fill exactly the same role their old supervisors held/hold, and will accept horrible working conditions/pay/precarious employment with no research opportunities just for a shot of that. And THAT'S why universities can get away with all their budget and funding cuts, horrible administration, etc. Because we still hold this elitist assumption that that is the only way we can be intellectually "free".

 

To me this is bs. We have to admit that the majority of us won't get there. But there are plenty of places anthropologists can work outside of the university as long as we can market our skills. And hopefully when we value our own academic labour instead of slavishly worshipping the outdated idea of the enlightened scholar spending their life pondering the big questions of Culture with a capital C, hopefully we'll be more valued by university admin as well.

 

I'm doing a PhD because it's the best chance I have to spend a few years researching something I'm passionate about, learning from other people and hopefully building on knowledge. If I can get a job inside the university afterwards, amazing. If I can get a job outside the university afterwards, also amazing.

 

- more than slightly pinched from here http://www.anthropologiesproject.org/2013/01/busting-apart-silos-of-knowledge.html

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I agree with platysaurus. I'm doing a PhD and hoping to get into academia when I'm done, but I'm not going to sweat thinking about it until I get further along. I'm in my 30s and I've had my share of jobs I've hated; I'm in anthropology just because I like it. So for me, when I'm done, if there are no jobs in academia I'm going to try seeing what's going on overseas in Europe, Australia, Asia in the academy there; and if there's nothing there then NGOs or the corporate sector. And if THAT fails then.. .hmmm... *gasp* the state dept. There'll always be something and really, I think once we've slogged through the poverty of grad school, we'll be just fine. 

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sometimes i feel like i'm the only one who wants to get a phd (eventually) but has absolutely no intention of going into academia right away.. i like pounding the ground too much and digging in the dirt. academia can wait until i throw out my back more than once a month.

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I think about alternative career paths a lot. I would love to stay in academia, and I plan on gearing my career as a graduate student toward that goal, but it's unrealistic to think that that's the only career path worth 'fighting' for. Before I decided to apply to PhD programs, I struggled a lot with whether or not I was doing it for the right reasons, and I came out of the introspection with the realization that I'm not trying to do it for job training--I'd be doing it because I want to make my mark on the field in some--even if very small--way.

 

I do have the added consolation, as someone trying to make my way in genetic anthropology, that there will likely be jobs for me in fields like bioinformatics in the private or government sectors, and maybe even a plethora of them depending on the timing of my degree conferral. Human genomics will likely explode in the coming years, and I'm hoping to ride that wave into a non-academic career if the market is still so dry in universities. I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the job openings that this will bring to fields like bioethics and ethnography and medical anthropology as well. They won't be plentiful, but companies and agencies will need people to do these things...

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 5 years later...
1 hour ago, MandarinOtter said:

Bump! For someone considering an anthropology PhD five years later, I don't think the market has improved at all. Current grad students on or near the job market have told me it's miserable, with 10 R1 positions opening up a year - not even all tenure-track. What to do...

Echoing what @rising_star said. If all that matters to you is getting a tenure-track position in your subfield, in anthropology, at an R1 school, you're going to have a very difficult time. However, if you're open to more interdisciplinary positions, or willing to try and find some sort of teaching position at other great schools, then you will have many options. The best you can do at this point, is to be open-minded about work in academia, or try to find work outside of academia.

Make sure to be active, publish, make connections with colleagues at conferences. Emphasis on the networking. Seriously. It's not your one-way ticket to a job, but it will at least get you more consideration for a position! 

For what it's worth, I just decided on what school I am attending for a PhD program. While I loved the other school, the program I will be attending happens to be housed within the biomedical sciences department, with a huge push to become a proficient anatomist. I chose the program because it offers a more marketable skill set. While it's not traditional anthropology, I would still have a fulfilling career doing the research I want to do. But, it all depends on what subfield you're in. I can only really speak to physical/biological anthropology.

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@rising_star @phyanthThanks for your replies! Although my ideal career would be a tenure-track position at an R1 university, and I'd like to still shoot for that, I know anthropology tenure-track positions are disappearing fast and are almost impossible to get in the current job market, regardless of pedigree, publications, presentations, etc (thanks, neoliberalism!). If I can't get an R1 tenure-track position a year or two out of graduate school, I plan to go into industry - definitely *do not* want to toil in terrible adjunct positions indefinitely. So if I did go to grad school I'd try to prepare my CV for both academia and industry work (probably doing "cultural competency" work for medical organizations, since my subfield is medical anthropology). The other industry fallback is to do corporate user experience (UX) research. But I don't know enough about the job markets for those either of those options to say whether it's a reliable enough backup...? And I also don't know what preparing my CV for academia/industry would entail...? I emailed my two potential faculty advisors four days ago asking what they know about non-academic work, and neither has responded...

If neither backup industry is promising, and if things look hopeless a year or two in to the PhD, I might just "master's out" and shoot for a T14 law school. ?

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I wanted to share that jobs are out there. I graduated in 2014 with my phd and I am a professor at an R1 University. I have recently done research and found that 98% of all academia jobs go to people who got their phd from an R1 university

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Mandarin- I graduated in May and started my job in August but I was officially hired in March before I graduated. I did not have to do any post doc but in my Sub field I went and studied under the professor who literally wrote the book on what I do. When I was applying to phd programs and got accepted to my top two choices. One with funding one without. My top choice didn't offer funding however I really wanted to work with the POI so I went without funding. Turns out I didn't receive funding due to school politics and I was suppose to get funding so I started school in August and got funded by October. Looking back I was naive but got lucky. However after my second year I gave up my funding since I wrote grants and basically funded myself. This allowed me to be out of the country 13 months out of the 18 months doing research and making contacts and actually working in the field as an equal with professors at universities I would die to work at. This lead to one of my contacts contacting me and encouraging me to apply for a job she was chair of the hiring committee. So I applied and got it and could not be happier.

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@anthropologygeek that's incredible, congrats!!

@yzo damn, thanks for the link. Those Cultural Anthropology posts articulate exactly what I've been dreading, and I'm not even a graduate student yet. At this point I'm probably just gonna decline grad school, take another year off, take the LSAT, and shoot for a T14 law school, since at least then I'll have a decent shot at a stable career....the two prospective advisors at the school where I was admitted didn't answer my email about non-academic professionalization, and the director of grad admissions gave very uninspiring answers. Now I'm just trying to decide what the best way to spend the next year would be...

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@MandarinOtter, why is it R1 or corporate for you? Is there really nothing in between? Lots of people teach and do research at R2s and SLACs and have successful careers. Is there any particular reason why you've decided that isn't for you? Have you ever looked into what a career outside of a R1 would be like or talked to anyone in TT/tenured jobs in those places?

I wouldn't expect prospective faculty advisors to know much or anything about how to prepare for the nonacademic job market since that isn't there area of expertise. (It's the equivalent of walking into the supermarket and asking the first employee you see how to tile your kitchen floor.) Instead, look into the career center at those institutions and see what, if anything, they do to support graduate students seeking positions outside academia. See if they are institutional members of resources like VersatilePhD. Ask current graduate students if they have the ability to do things like a summer internship to gain work experience. Ask about taking courses outside the department (e.g., programming, statistics) which could help prepare you for additional career possibilities.

Finally, I would take a serious look at what's been going on with the legal job market for the past ten years. Even graduates of T14 law schools are having trouble finding jobs, which is especially troubling when you consider the student loan debt involved. The funding situation at law schools is far worse than it is for PhD programs so you could be looking at $100K+ in debt and still have dim job prospects.

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@rising_star Thanks for your advice! I do think I could be happy at a liberal arts school, but my understanding is that the market for that is only marginally better than R1s. honestly with the program I got in to liberal arts and R2 and industry would be the two most realistic options, though I'm not sure how the department regards pursuing non-academic work - the lack of prospective advisor response to my email is not encouraging. 

 

The institution does have Career Advising and Versatile Phd membership, and you are right that prepping my CV for liberal arts and industry would mostly need to be done on my own.  

 

And regarding law, I know the market is not great but to be honest the rate at which T14 law schools place people in full time jobs requiring a JD is a hell of a lot better than where ANY anthropology PhD program places people in full time jobs requiring a PhD. It's just a lot to think about. 

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@MandarinOtter, I would look again at placement if that's what you believe. Most people who want FT employment using their PhD find it. That may not be where you personally want to work, but it doesn't mean being unemployed by any means. It sounds to me like you've either been getting bad advice or haven't been taking full advantage of the resources out there. Think long and hard about doing the T14 law school route, especially about the debt. Are you prepared to be making $800-1000 a month student loan payments for 10 years in addition to likely being un(der)employed? Because that's the reality for law school grads these days. 

And, I don't mean to repeat myself, but asking your prospective advisor about industry isn't the right route. It isn't part of their job to know about this. If you want to get a sense of whether the program can prepare students for industry, talk to current students. But also be prepared to seek this out on your own.

From these posts, it sounds like you're having bigger/broader doubts about doing a PhD in anthropology, which is totally ok. You may want to defer and spend a year or more thinking about your options and what it is you really want to be doing.

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