Jump to content

MA student worried about post-Phd job market


Recommended Posts

Hello all,

I was in conversation with a professor in the Faculty of Education at my (Canadian) university yesterday. They studied both education and anthropology and stated that though anthro was their first choice for teaching, since there were no jobs, they had to settle, they said sadly, for teaching in the Education faculty. Of course, I am well aware of the dire job situation for Phds in Anthropology and other social sciences and humanities fields. Now, I'm starting to hear more and more first-hand accounts from disgruntled adjuncts and sessionals at my school, and a prof recently told me, half-joking half-serious, "make sure you are confident about your decision [of grad school], because we [tenured/tenure track profs] don't intend to die anytime soon, we're gonna hang on to these positions as long as possible". She has a point.

My subfield is medical anthropology and I have been placating myself by telling myself that I can always work for hospitals/public health/NGOs/med faculties and research projects etc. but now I'm starting to worry that that is much easier said than done. So, I have started looking into MD/PhD programs (which...I don't wanna have to do). I've also started to double-up on my networking - something I'm already quite good at - and attending as many events, colloquiums, conferences etc. as possible and creating contacts. But, at the end of the day, I still worry, and hear my mom's voice in my head saying "I told you so". I just love medical anthropology and my dream job would be to teach and research in the field.

So, after that long rant I'm wondering: are there any strategies that you are implementing now, during your graduate training to safeguard from unemployment?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 months later...

  There might not be a university worth calling by that name in 20, 30, 40 years if where lucky; 10 or 15 if were not.      We should bank on societal collapse (or the rapture).  There wont be jobs for us.   

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't see any real disincentive to pursue a PhD so long as you go into it knowing you're unlikely to get a tenure-track faculty job and are willing to pursue other plans. NGOs are one option; the corporate world is another. There's a lot you can do with a PhD beyond teaching at a university, and universities themselves are starting to realize that they need to help their own students realize this. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 months later...

  There might not be a university worth calling by that name in 20, 30, 40 years if where lucky; 10 or 15 if were not.      We should bank on societal collapse (or the rapture).  There wont be jobs for us.   

 

Agreed. I think everyone who wants to do a PhD in a discipline like anthropology, philosophy, or pure mathematics has to worry about the same thing. But if we kept wondering about this issue, we might not even want to try in the first place.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll say this, my dad told me a while ago that a bachelors is the equivalent of a high school degree in today's world...and I feel like we're at the point where it's like that for a masters...I feel in this field a PhD is necessary to be taken seriously as far as research.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't see any real disincentive to pursue a PhD so long as you go into it knowing you're unlikely to get a tenure-track faculty job and are willing to pursue other plans. NGOs are one option; the corporate world is another. There's a lot you can do with a PhD beyond teaching at a university, and universities themselves are starting to realize that they need to help their own students realize this. 

perfect....great. :( what is a NGO? Sorry if it is a stupid q...i am not good with abbreviations. 

 

So, i was just thinking about making a post like this:up until now, i was always worried about getting IN a phd program, but never about 6 years later. Can you guys explain to me...why is it so hard to find a job in academia??? After all there are hundreds and hundreds of colleges/ universities. Cant we get in as assistant professors, before a tenure? cant we get teaching positions? 

Why is it so much more challenging than other jobs ? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

An NGO is a non-governmental organization.  Many of them work in on development, economic, or health projects around the world.

 

It's difficult to find jobs because there are just not enough tenure track positions open.  This is across the board for almost all academic disciplines, except for a few in-demand categories.  There are a lot of adjunct positions available, but those can be very low paying depending on the school and you may have to cobble together a schedule teaching courses at many schools with no job stability or benefits just to make a living wage.  Many schools are not replacing retiring profs with new tenure track positions because adjuncts are cheaper and there is an overload of Ph.Ds willing to teach those courses.

 

If you look at the academic jobs wikis for archaeology (which is just as addictive as grad cafe and just as nerve wracking), there is only 60 jobs openings in archaeology this year and most of those jobs are looking for archaeologists with certain area or theoretical specialties, so your research will narrow the field of jobs for you.  If you consider that last year there were 542 Ph.D.s granted in anthropology (along with another 72 in just archaeology) according to NSF, there's just not enough jobs for graduates.  You're not only completing against graduating students, but with all the people in years before you who are still on the market and have years of adjuncting and publications under their belt as well.

 

If you're the right applicant for a position with the right committee members and right focus at the right time, you can have a lot of luck.  But most jobs get 100 to 200 applications, so you need to start thinking now, ideally before you start, about how you can best position yourself for the job you want.  Except there's no real way of knowing if your research will still be what's wanted by the time you finish 6 or 7 years later.

 

The job market is bleak, yes, but there are things you can do to make you marketable, including having a plan B if you don't get a tenure track position at first.

Link to post
Share on other sites

wow....super. I feell soooo encouraged right now. But, you know...i love this field of archaeology so much, that i am willing to take a huge chance. Thank you for putting it into perspective for me. 

 

I would love to hear from graduate students near completion right now... what are your plans right now? for the future? what other things are you looking into other than jobs in academia? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Most people need to either do a visiting professorship or a post doc. From there it leads to tenure track. If out of phd you don't land one of those your behind the curve. I got extremely lucky due to contacts I have and landed a tenure track job out of getting my phd. Very very unique and unlikely scenario happened for this to occur.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A post-doc can help, in that you have more time to develop your research and your application materials.  Some of the better post docs are multi year and might allow you to start the process of turning your book into a dissertation (if you're cultural or linguistic) or apply for major research funding; either of those accomplishments can make you attractive to a job search committee.  But there's also some departments that are looking for someone who have not taken two or more postdocs, because academia has weird stereotypes about those who take too long to find a permanent position.  Though multiple postdocs have a better reputation than someone with multiple adjunct positions.

 

A post doc can also help because it will increase your network.  One of the most important skills to learn is how to effectively network.  Networking doesn't come easily to most people but the more people you meet in your discipline and beyond, the more of a chance that someone will remember your name, which just might get your application off the tall pile and under serious consideration. Meet as many people as you can at annual meetings.  Introduce yourself and ask questions to any guest speakers in your department.  Look for summer school opportunities or internships in your early years or when you're writing up. Take advantage of your advisor's networks as well.  That's one of the reasons having a well-known advisor, at least in their particular field, is so helpful.  If they are on top of things, they should know how you are positioned for your career and be making introductions to important people in your field.  This is why it's useful to have an advisor that has some interests in common with you, be that area, theoretical, or topic.

 

Another thing you can do to prepare is think about the type of school you'd ultimately like to land.  If you're primarily interested in teaching and advising, work on developing those skills and getting as much experience as you can (without interrupting your progress to degree).  Having a well polished teaching statement and a really thoughtful cover letter that emphasizes your desire to teach for undergrad centered schools could give you an edge.  If you want to end up at a R1 university, your research is the most important part of your package.  It's often difficult to think beyond the dissertation when you're in the thick of it, but schools will want to know where you're going to go next and what your next research project will add to their department.

 

Finally, don't be hesitant to look beyond anthro departments.  There are opportunities in research centers, hospitals, overseas, etc., if you're willing to look and put in the work to make your application applicable.  If you're interested in community colleges, sometimes having taught courses outside of anthro can be very attractive.  Can you teach freshman composition or a geology course?  At a smaller community college, that can be a big plus.

 

I'm in my fifth year and will be looking for jobs next year, but I've got many friends on the market right now.  I spend a lot of time thinking about my next step, but doing what I can to get the experience I need and do high quality research.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This chart explains the issue rather succinctly:

 

http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v31/n10/fig_tab/nbt.2706_F1.html

 

The basic problem is that the number of PhDs awarded every year has been steadily climbing since the 1980s, while the number of new academic positions created has been mostly stagnant, albeit with some year-to-year fluctuations.

 

But one important thing to bear in mind is that all of the talk about "the job market" for PhDs is specifically related to academic jobs. There are a ton of other things you can do with a PhD, including many positions that will allow you to continue doing research (even fieldwork). It's just that there is a diminishing number of tenure-track faculty jobs and similar well-paying university-based positions. As smg says, the university system as we know it is under a lot of pressure and may undergo some dramatic transformations over the next few decades.

 

Since you're an archaeologist, bear in mind that there's a whole world of CRM work out there, and that archaeologists regularly find work with the Park Service and conservation organizations. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Another thing to think about if you are committed to being an academic is working outside of the United States especially as more and more universities around the world are switching to or incorporating English as the language of instruction.  An American PhD from a good school has weight around the world.  Ultimately, we don't know what the future of higher education looks like I think it's going to get a lot uglier before it gets any better but I could be wrong.  My backup plan if I cannot find Academic employment by 2025-ish is to raise hogs and make moonshine out in the bush and wait for the impending planetary meltdown. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

A post-doc helps because it allows you to do more research, get more publishcations apply and e ive more grants. And the most important thing you must have your OWN site and you must prove this. A school looks at an application with a site as one who can include their students at their site, hey can do field schools there, you have continued research there, and grant money should come in for it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 My backup plan if I cannot find Academic employment by 2025-ish is to raise hogs and make moonshine out in the bush and wait for the impending planetary meltdown. 

 

Can I join? I'll start the organic garden...I promise to pull my weight!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey i know how to make "rakia" the bulgarian version of moonshine, so HA. perfect

 now i know what i will do when i graduate. 

 

Thank you all for explaining the rosy situation to me! I feel so optimistic already ;)

Ajtz'ihb

, you mentioned that there are other positions one can hold that would potentially allow them to do research/ fieldwork that are not academic. Can you elaborate on that a bit more? Like what? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The most obvious choice is CRM (Cultural Resource Management), which goes by various other names in various countries ("applied archaeology" in the UK, "private sector archaeology" in some circles in the US, etc.). Given the nature of the work it's also sometimes referred to as "salvage archaeology." CRM firms are the ones who do contract work for large companies and (usually) local governments to document and recover archaeological material, usually prior to construction or something similar. 

 

Other non-academic jobs for archaeologists--many of which also loosely qualify as CRM--include various branches of the federal government (National Park Service, BLM, Forest Service, etc.), tribal governments, museums, non-profit research centers (like Crow Canyon in Colorado), and the like.

 

I also know people who live in parts of the world that are particularly rich in archaeological remains, like the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Some of them are project bums, who are well-known as skilled field hands and work on just about any project that appeals to them for 3-6 months per year, and get by on odd jobs for the rest of the time. It's not the life I would chose for myself, but for those who love the field above all else it seems to work just fine.

 

Are you familiar with Shovel Bums? If not, you might want to check it out. It's basically a clearing house for people who love archaeological work and are trying to make a living at it.

 

http://www.shovelbums.org/

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for the explanation!

I am familiar with shovelbums, and have applied to many positions there....i have never ever gotten called even for an interview :( i think the fact that i have worked in the near east and Europe mostly, REALLY does not appeal to N. American archaeologists. But, i am still somewhat perplexed because i have extensive experience with CA populations in terms of bioarchaeology, and still...no cigar. Just today, i got an email from an osteological position i applied to that told me that my application will no longer be considered, i am not the right applicant. Mind you, i was supper qualified for the position in terms of experience and skills they were looking for. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Along the lines we were discussing, here is a new article on the topic, though it concentrates more on the other, hard-er  Sciences 

http://blog.cosmosmagazine.com/blog/2015/2/19/are-there-too-many-science-phds-or-too-few-jobs

Edited by Daisy123
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll say this, my dad told me a while ago that a bachelors is the equivalent of a high school degree in today's world...and I feel like we're at the point where it's like that for a masters...I feel in this field a PhD is necessary to be taken seriously as far as research.

 

I'm in archaeology and this is absolutely true.  With so many unemployed PhDs floating around former jobs (like community college instructors) that used to pay decent for someone with an MA/MS education, many potential employers look at the applicant pool and say "why hire this candidate with a Master's when we could hire someone with more education at the same rate?"  It's like a BA is the new high school diploma, the MA is the new BA and the PhD helps boost your application.

 

If we all sit around hemming and hawing, the situation won't change, it will get worse.  We have to find ways to make our field more relevant to broader audiences.  When groups and lawmakers (Eric Cantor, Scott Walker, etc.) attack social sciences as "soft sciences" or as "out of touch" we have to fight back or we'll lose entirely.  We can't just be grateful for scraps, anthropology (all subfields) are extremely important and have the potential to change society in profound ways for the better.  We have to start asserting ourselves as such.  

 

Why is education settling?  Education would be a great place for anthropologists to engage with the public, to make themselves more available, relatable, and share our valuable skill set of understanding people combined with critical thinking.  Are you interested in education?  

 

Ways to boost your employment potential, look into Teach For America for starters, it's a great way to add community involvement to your CV/resume with practical work experience.  Are your grades good?  You might also want to consider applying for a Fulbright to be an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) abroad, or if there is a particular aspect of medical anthropology you want to look into further you could apply to Fulbright as a research student.  Every person I know who has Teach for America or Fulbright on their resume and CV is employed.  

 

Alternatively, you could always look into local hospitals in human resources, public representation, or counseling.  One of the great things about anthropology is that you can make an argument that you have writing skills, critical thinking skills, and the ability to relate to diverse groups of people, things that can translate into a variety of long-term careers.  Every now and then on usjobs.gov the CDC has decent jobs for people with backgrounds in public health, or paid internships to get your foot in the door.

 

You don't have to get a PhD, and frankly I wouldn't if it's not something you are totally committed to, not because of the academic job market, but because it's almost a decade of your life becoming an expert on something very specific.  Not exactly "back-up plan" material.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

  There might not be a university worth calling by that name in 20, 30, 40 years if where lucky; 10 or 15 if were not.      We should bank on societal collapse (or the rapture).  There wont be jobs for us.   

 

This made my night. To hell with the academy! Open Access and rapture for all!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.