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HAPPYDuck

Texas A&M PhD Job Prospect

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How difficult would it be to attain a job in academia with a PhD from Texas A&M in the field of history? How about outside of academia?

My specialization is Vietnam War/Southeast Asian history and foreign affairs.

I was just wondering if universities looking to hire would brush it off, especially if I want to look for jobs in California (where I'm from). I assume Ivy League and top California schools would look more appealing than a degree from TAMU.

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At the end of the day, I think it comes down to publications and connections. Yes, having a PhD from Texas A&M will put you at a disadvantage against the elite schools. That being said, if you make it to an interview you have just as much a chance as the others. Knock it out of the park, and best of luck to you! 

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I mean, where do you want to teach? Do you have a hope of teaching at an Ivy? Or would you be content getting tenure anywhere? Because you can get a job with a TAMU degree, it's just that their PhDs tend to teach inside Texas.

The silver lining is that TAMU is a very wealthy university. Having your endowment tied to Texas's oil industry would do that. So additional funding should be available for travel and expenses.

But archersline is absolutely correct: if you want to get a TT job, you have to hustle and be the best historian you can be. Overwhelm interviewers with your CV. Good luck! :)

Edited by _etruscan

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Depending upon how you frame your primary fields of interest, TAMU is highly regarded. Moreover, it  is only 3.5 hours' drive from University of North Texas , 8 hours' drive from Texas Tech, and but 95 minutes from the Forty Acres (and this resource). [HINT]

Also, the City of College Station is the focal point of an incredible amount of economic development which may lead to solid employment opportunities for individuals with a historian's skill set. (Because depending upon how you frame your primary fields of interest... #NOTBITTER)

#HTH

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7 hours ago, _etruscan said:

I mean, where do you want to teach? Do you have a hope of teaching at an Ivy? Or would you be content getting tenure anywhere? Because you can get a job with a TAMU degree, it's just that their PhDs tend to teach inside Texas.

The silver lining is that TAMU is a very wealthy university. Having your endowment tied to Texas's oil industry would do that. So additional funding should be available for travel and expenses.

But archersline is absolutely correct: if you want to get a TT job, you have to hustle and be the best historian you can be. Overwhelm interviewers with your CV. Good luck! :)

While I would agree that TAMU gives you a very reasonable shot in TX, I would suggest that if you want to speak to how TX schools are funded you read this:

https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/khp02

basically it explains that while oil and gas go into the 'permanent fund' the principle can't be spent, so the income revenue from that fund (more investment/interest driven) is what pays out.

Additionally, any revenue generated by oil and gas is a double edged sword (look at current gas prices) as any revenue that comes from that stream is price dependent, not some absolute value.

Edited by Quickmick

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As others have mentioned, Texas A&M is a highly regarded university within the state of Texas, and they have a prodigious and active alumni network within the state. There is a degree of nepotism within the state. I have lived in the area of Austin-to-College Station for six years and I can tell you from first hand experience that advanced degrees from UT or A&M will put you at some advantage over other job candidates who don't have that connection, and people talk. 

This is also true of other schools in Texas, and if you view Texas as "regions within a region", you can make a similar argument for schools in the Dallas-FW area or out west. It's a matter of how much you want to be here for the long term.

My view of the way A&M's program is structured though is they are very old world. Their application process is clunky and they have a conservative and traditional approach on how to lead you through their program. You might already know this (or potentially disagree if you've already applied?) but the amount of disjointed paper needed to complete the application and the disconnection between offices in the application process was, for me, a major red flag. I worried that this was a sign that navigating through the problem and the support I'd expect in finding success would also be similarly disjointed.

 That might be beneficial to you depending on your ultimate goals -- it's a large program and some people prefer not to stand out in that way, rather having the freedom to work on their particularly topic unmolested -- but I wanted a program with a more narrow body of students and more directly interested in my results. If you're considering going to a PhD program in the middle tier and aren't sure you'll want to stay in Texas long-term, I think you'll want to pick a program that is forward-looking in terms of how they prepare their students to enter the job market, and my experience with A&M is they are still developing historians like it is 1975. I don't know if that's good or bad in measuring their effectiveness relative to their prestige. 

Also, as others have mentioned, A&M probably more likely falls in the vast middle ground where you're going to need to focus on really grinding out personal results as opposed to relying on University prestige to get you a step ahead when it comes down to job-searching time. 

Compared to the concerted effort other Universities in the state are making to progress and adapt their programs to the way the field is changing, A&M looks like a bit of a dinosaur to me. I've looked at a lot of schools in this state extensively, and while the ranking is decent -- it is just a ranking -- and I am not sure A&M is really committed to growing its program in the way I'd be comfortable with over the next 4-6 years. I'd be worried they're going to get left behind. But it's all relative. 

Also keep in mind that while A&M and College Station are growing areas; College Station is essentially still a rural area in a rural part of the state; it's nearly two hours away from Austin and your options for employment in the Austin-College Station hub for historians are going to be limited to a handful of small schools and a smaller handful of museums. It's not quite like the Dallas area where there are over 35+ colleges. In other words, if you're considering relocating to College Station to go to A&M that is fine, but realize that you'll probably have to relocate twice in the next 5-6 years, because there are few opportunities in the field in this area. The area is really nice, but you've got to work, right?

Edited by sixgunguerilla

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It depends on what kind of job in California you want. Are you looking to be at a major UC, a Cal State, a community college, or a nonacademic position? Without this information, it's hard to say.

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19 hours ago, rising_star said:

It depends on what kind of job in California you want. Are you looking to be at a major UC, a Cal State, a community college, or a nonacademic position? Without this information, it's hard to say.

I'm looking to work at a UC or Cal State school. I went to UC for my undergrad and a CSU for my Master's. Texas A&M just doesn't seem respectable in California and I'm afraid that committing to the program might mean relocating to Texas for good. 

Although, my field of Southeast Asian history is rare and I'm not sure if that would hurt or help me. It could mean that there are hardly, if any, job openings or I would have to convince universities that they need to open up a field for Southeast Asia. How plausible is the second option?

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If A&M is a good fit for you, I wouldn't worry about the job market just yet. Don't worry about factors that you can't control yet. You might find that you like central Texas (although I wager you would quickly move away from College Station). I'm from Austin and am familiar with Bryan/College Station, feel free to PM me if you have any questions. 

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6 minutes ago, HAPPYDuck said:

I'm looking to work at a UC or Cal State school. I went to UC for my undergrad and a CSU for my Master's. Texas A&M just doesn't seem respectable in California and I'm afraid that committing to the program might mean relocating to Texas for good. 

Although, my field of Southeast Asian history is rare and I'm not sure if that would hurt or help me. It could mean that there are hardly, if any, job openings or I would have to convince universities that they need to open up a field for Southeast Asia. How plausible is the second option?

A few thoughts:

1) Convincing a school that they need to hire a Southeast Asian historian by creating a position to do so is very, very unlikely unless you are a true rockstar who they want to recruit. That is, they'd be coming after you, not you trying to convince them. I wouldn't count on this happening at all. Consequently, you'll want to develop other, marketable specialty areas if you want to be employed. Take a look at the AHA job listings and H-Net's Job Guide to get a sense of what kinds of jobs there are and the qualifications they are looking for.

2) It's not about how the general public sees your school. It's about how others in your discipline see your department and advisor. That's the currency that academics work in and it's what matters for getting an academic position. If your advisor is well regarded by those in your subfield and others in the field, then you should be fine, regardless of what the actual name on your diploma says.

3) Ultimately, your geographic restrictions are going to make it difficult to obtain full-time employment teaching college students. You may want to consider other pathways to get you to your ideal geographic area...

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34 minutes ago, rising_star said:

A few thoughts:

1) Convincing a school that they need to hire a Southeast Asian historian by creating a position to do so is very, very unlikely unless you are a true rockstar who they want to recruit. That is, they'd be coming after you, not you trying to convince them. I wouldn't count on this happening at all. Consequently, you'll want to develop other, marketable specialty areas if you want to be employed. Take a look at the AHA job listings and H-Net's Job Guide to get a sense of what kinds of jobs there are and the qualifications they are looking for.

2) It's not about how the general public sees your school. It's about how others in your discipline see your department and advisor. That's the currency that academics work in and it's what matters for getting an academic position. If your advisor is well regarded by those in your subfield and others in the field, then you should be fine, regardless of what the actual name on your diploma says.

3) Ultimately, your geographic restrictions are going to make it difficult to obtain full-time employment teaching college students. You may want to consider other pathways to get you to your ideal geographic area...

This is great advice. Thank you! I have some rethinking to do ...

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If you would like another opinion, feel free to send me a PM - one of my best friends is in the History grad program at A&M and I've visited BCS many times, along with all the bigger Texas cities, since I grew up and did my undergrad in Texas.

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Coming from Religous Studies and Religious History, I can tell you that the brand your degree is associated with matters. Now, your brand is two things. One, it is the name of the school on your degree, but it is also the names of the scholars you studied under. Almost naturally, the top tier schools and the ivy league has the best of both worlds, but there are plenty of schools that have amazing scholars. One of my teacher's, Kenneth P. Minkema is a good example of this. Minkema went to the University of Connecticut for his Ph.D. Not that Connecticut is a bad school, but being a New England school, this is the same part of the country that had Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, etc. But he went there because Harry S. Stout was there at the time. Stout got his Ph.D. from Kent State University of all places, but was becoming one of, if not, the best authority on New England Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, and the Great Awakening in the country. So Minkema went to study under Stout. Now they are both teaching at Yale University. While the brand can help, Minkema and Stout in my meetings with them have really emphasised the need to work with the best in the field. So if Texas A&M has a person or people you are dying to work with and are scholars people respect, that can go a long way. But I also agree that publishing and presenting quality work is really going to matter the most in the long run.

 

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8 hours ago, Marcion said:

 

Coming from Religous Studies and Religious History, I can tell you that the brand your degree is associated with matters. Now, your brand is two things. One, it is the name of the school on your degree, but it is also the names of the scholars you studied under. Almost naturally, the top tier schools and the ivy league has the best of both worlds, but there are plenty of schools that have amazing scholars. One of my teacher's, Kenneth P. Minkema is a good example of this. Minkema went to the University of Connecticut for his Ph.D. Not that Connecticut is a bad school, but being a New England school, this is the same part of the country that had Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, etc. But he went there because Harry S. Stout was there at the time. Stout got his Ph.D. from Kent State University of all places, but was becoming one of, if not, the best authority on New England Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, and the Great Awakening in the country. So Minkema went to study under Stout. Now they are both teaching at Yale University. While the brand can help, Minkema and Stout in my meetings with them have really emphasised the need to work with the best in the field. So if Texas A&M has a person or people you are dying to work with and are scholars people respect, that can go a long way. But I also agree that publishing and presenting quality work is really going to matter the most in the long run.

 

This is really great advice. Texas A&M has a great professor who is somewhat well-known in the field, but she is not the most famous and she is the only one I would be working with since Southeast Asian history is such a small field... I will take this into consideration when deciding. Thanks so much for your examples!

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I would look at where professors working in the UC and CSU systems got their degrees, just as a basic indicator. Then look at people in your field (at universities beyond the UC/CSU, since you said it's a small subfield) and see where they studied as well.

What's your A&M adviser's placement like? Are they offering you good funding? Do they also fund travel to conferences and for research? Do the students in the department have a good record of securing external fellowships (especially the prestigious ones like Fulbright, Ford, etc)? All of this stuff is gonna help you in the long run.

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38 minutes ago, ashiepoo72 said:

I would look at where professors working in the UC and CSU systems got their degrees, just as a basic indicator. Then look at people in your field (at universities beyond the UC/CSU, since you said it's a small subfield) and see where they studied as well.

That is a good piece of advice. I did this myself and sadly, in this new environment the common features are Harvard, Yale, UNC, Standford, Brown, UVA. There are exceptions but the market is just tough for everyone. I would also look at Community College teachers, and see what schools they have in common and such.

40 minutes ago, ashiepoo72 said:

What's your A&M adviser's placement like? Are they offering you good funding? Do they also fund travel to conferences and for research? Do the students in the department have a good record of securing external fellowships (especially the prestigious ones like Fulbright, Ford, etc)? All of this stuff is gonna help you in the long run.

More than anything, you want to find out what there placement and funding is like. Also, if you are married and have children, find out what they get as well. I have a horror story of a friend of mine's partner getting sick and the university did not cover her, so they were out of pocket for a lot of money.

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