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alexanderhamilton

Unorthodox dissertations with shifting times

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Hi everyone,

I know this forum tends to cater more towards prospective students, but I have a question for those already in the thick of things. With the job market as lean as it is, more and more humanities PhDs are leaving academia for "alt-ac" positions or switching gears entirely. So my question is: does anyone have stories of successful "accommodations" to the traditional dissertation project (for those who do not intend to enter the academic job market) in order to just graduate and move on?

For example, I know two people (at different top institutions) who have gotten approval to write three articles and an intro instead of a monograph. I also know someone in a national literature PhD doing a translation project in lieu of a dissertation. Any stories on shortest dissertations successfully defended?

I once got one of my committee members to utter the magical words "90 pages" in response to "how long does a dissertation have to be if I have no intention of continuing in academia?", but I haven't followed up on that and was curious about others' experiences.

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In Spain it is perfectly acceptable to submit 3 articles in lieu of a thesis, whether you intend to stay or not, so long as your advisor is OK with it and the articles are submitted at a certain level of publication. Didn’t know it was a thing in the US since I assumed that all those who start a humanities PhD do so with the intention to go into academia, even if it doesn’t work out for everyone. What career paths take a PhD as desired training?

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Most humanities PhD start out with the intention of going into academia, but from my anecdotal experience, around 30% drop out entirely, and an additional 20% decide out of either pragmatism or conviction that they should begin pursuing other job leads. 

I have heard of PhDs going into higher education administration (at R1 universities, you supposedly need a PhD to get anywhere in administration, but the clincher is they don't care what it's in), non-profit work, or high school teaching (whether at private or public school). Some end up at community colleges. I've even seen evidence that management consulting companies such as BCG and McKinsey are actively recruiting humanities PhDs. That being said, it's safe to say that very few people enter a program with this in mind. For a lot of grad students, though, it makes more sense to finish the degree since they're so far along already and find a way to argue that the skills they have acquired are transferrable to other fields.

(I also should be clear: as far as I know, the three-article-dissertation does not require said articles to be published, but rather allows one to write three related essays that don't necessarily build on each other.)

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