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Able to get hired in US with a distance-learning degree from an overseas college?


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Hi there,

 As a US citizen, with an undergrad in Psychology wanting to transition into the philosophy field, I have been considering distance-learning grad programs at:

My question regarding this is whether anyone knows whether or not these degrees would enable me to be hired as a professor here in the US, upon completion?

My concern comes from something I've noticed about job ads for philosophy teaching positions here; most of them say something to the effect of:

"Minimum qualifications:  Master’s degree or higher in Philosophy prior to start date, from an accredited college or university"

and sometimes they even say "from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university"

Any thoughts, feedback, suggestions on this would be much appreciated!

(If you have comments that aren't related to the question, but more to my considerations, those are welcome too.) 


Edited by marjorie_emc2
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Short answer: No. 

Longer answer: It's very difficult even for graduates of top-ranked, in-person, American PhDs to find positions as philosophy professors at American universities. If you're interested in teaching at a community college, I don't know that those degrees would disqualify you; I haven't ever looked into your idea. But you would be much better served going to a PhD-granting institution that has good ties to the communities where you'd want to teach community college.

More generally, you'll want to ask any graduate program you're attending, anywhere, where they have placed recent PhDs (and if you want to get an online graduate degree, you need to ask where they have placed graduates of their online program). If they don't place good numbers in the type(s) of job you want, don't go.

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A Master's degree (especially one from a distance-learning program) is not sufficient for securing a professorship at a US university or college, including community colleges. You'll need a PhD for that. 

I would strongly advise against distance-learning programs in philosophy. The job market is bad, and having received your doctorate from such a program will hurt you. Online programs are not well-respected, and philosophy is (unfortunately) a prestige-sensitive discipline. Moreover, students from programs in the UK, I have heard, have a harder time on the market than do students coming from US programs. However, you needn't worry about UK programs not being "nationally" accredited; people from, say, Oxford often get hired in the US. 

Since you didn't major in philosophy, you will have a very hard time getting into PhD programs. So you should take a look at some funded M.A. programs in the US, many of which are tailored towards students who lack significant training in philosophy. Georgia State, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Northern Illinois are a few excellent places to start. Programs such as these will help you get into a good doctorate program. They will also give you some time to make sure that you want to spend 5+ years of your life studying philosophy. 

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For the master's degrees in particular, see if any of their graduates go on to PhD programs.  For someone making a transition, that might end up being a decent plan.  Whether that's a smart endgame is another question, as knp observes.

As for accreditation, I don't know why it would not have that if the university does.  And certainly Edinburgh in particular is a well-established place, internationally.  But people are snobby at weird times.  I'm doing a part-time (not distance/online) master's at Cambridge, and one of my classmates-- with very good grades, an important project, and massive support from his current thesis supervisor who happens to be an Oxford don-- got dinged by Oxford's DPhil program.  One guy on the committee had a bug up his butt about that particular master's degree, even though his information may have been a decade or two out of date.   So my friend will likely wind up full-time at Cambridge for a PhD, which wouldn't be a bad alternative.   

As for teaching posts, one of our instructors/supervisors did her own master's in the same program.  At that time Cambridge didn't have a part-time option for PhDs, which she needed for family reasons, I'd guess.  So she did that at a top-drawer plate-glass university and is now on the Cambridge faculty.  One of the heads of an important wing of the history department therestarted with a BA from the Open University.  His postgrads were at Oxford and Cambridge, which obviously helped, but still shows that many things can be overcome. :) 



Edited by Concordia
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knp and be. are exactly right. You need a PhD, not an MA. Even community colleges, which historically have needed only an MA, are migrating to the PhD requirement. That's just because there are so many PhDs on the market now that we're crowding out those who just have an MA. 

And by and large, you need a PhD from a bricks-and-mortar school and program. Someone might maybe succeed with an online degree, but the odds will be even more stacked against them than they normally are. And you have to realize that the odds are stacked against graduates of real, well-ranked programs to begin with. Most of us will not find full-time employment in philosophy. Most of us will try for a decade before giving up. With an online degree, you won't have the teaching experience to compete against other US and Canadian grads. You won't have the prestige to compete against other grads (online programs are looked down upon). You may well not have the letters to complete, or even the research experience. 

The most important thing to know, though, is that virtually nobody gets hired to a tenure-track job upon completion. Even full-time (but non-tenure-track) jobs are really, really hard to get. For some perspective, I applied to more than 100 jobs in 12 countries this year, and got one interview for a full time but non-tenure-track job. For most of those jobs, there were between 400 and 800 other applicants. Fewer than 200 full-time jobs were advertised this year. Total. And remember that most of those jobs are restricted to particular areas of specialization.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Knp, be. , Concordia, and maxhgn,

Thank you all for your responses, I found them all to be very useful. I also received some advice from a philosophy professor I had during my undergraduate studies.

I luckily live in Milwaukee, so I decided to apply as a non-degree seeking student to UWM for Fall of this year so that I can audit a few masters level philosophy classes, to see if this is really what I want to dedicate myself to for a long period of time, as many of you mentioned:

  1. a masters isn't enough
  2.  the competition for positions is fierce

I have seen these sorts of remarks on other websites/blogs, but it was helpful to get your direct feedback and sobering to hear maxhgns's application experience. 

UWM actually has a good placement record of getting people into PhD programs, so perhaps I will end up attending there as an actual degree-seeking student for Fall 2017.

Looking ahead, as far as the PhD goes, I found an interdisciplinary program at WashU in Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology (PNP). Is anyone familiar with this program?

Any further comments/suggestions are definitely welcome!

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When applying for MA programs for Fall 2017, don't just focus on UWM. There are about 5 or 6 other well respected philosophy MA programs that offer full funding (I think there's a list floating around on these forums somewhere). Apply to as many as you afford/that seem interesting. Given your psych background/interest, Georgia State might be a particularly good fit for you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

What is your background in philosophy? If you don't have significant philosophy coursework, at UWM, you should consider starting with an undergraduate/graduate mixed course such as PHILOS 430: History of Ancient Philosophy or something similar. If you start with a graduate course, and an inadequate background in the field, you might not be able to grasp the material and get frustrated.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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