More about Ph.D. Career Outcomes

Re: The Atlantic on Ph.D. Professorial Outcomes

So, in 2011 it was 39% of humanities’ Ph.D.s getting immediate, full-time, tenure-track positions, was it?! That seems really high to me. The 1999 study that’s also discussed in the article has, for English and Political Science 10-14 years after Ph.D. completion: 60% tenured and 5-6% tenure-track (for a total of 65-66%). The article’s main point, though, is that the longer-term result is going to be somewhat worse for recent Ph.Ds into the future (i.e., from 2011 on).

MY point is that it’s always been much worse in musicology, but no-one (unbelievably) has ever actually tracked the relevant information. So, I’ve started on this issue as a bit of a side-project. As an example, the outcome for UCLA’s Department of Musicology is 32% tenure-track or tenured (probably around 38%, if one were to include full-time adjunct instructors)—but that is for 21 years’ worth of Ph.D.s (1991-2011). Fully a quarter of those degrees were completed in the four years from 2008 to 2011. Supply and demand, people!


3 thoughts on “More about Ph.D. Career Outcomes

  1. It’s not really “unbelievable” (unfortunately). Those employed in the system have had very strong incentives *not* to know the outcomes.

  2. What concerns me is the emphasis on “tenured or tenure track,” as if those rather antiquated (though stubborn) career categories should be the end of the story. Other questions might be asked: How many non-tenure track careers are pursued as a percentage? Are those intentional or a fall-back? What are the other options to university teaching, and how do those who pursue them feel about it? Are there institutions that are more successful than others at breaking down the antiquated “tenure track” model of employment distinctions, and how is that working? The percentages you cite only tell half the story (at best), regardless of how accurate they are or what trends they show. I hope I live to see the day when we can look back at the “tenure track” model of university employment and note quizzically what a weird system that was and how fortunate that it has finally been replaced. (Of course, I might feel differently if I actually had a tenure-track position to protect.)

    • Hi Larry. Good to hear from you. The tenure system is NEVER going to be seen as antiquated by the people with power who have such jobs and run things. Saying that 32% of us (i.e., UCLA Ph.D. grads, 1991-2011) have tenure-track or tenured positions is NOT only half the story. Only 18% further of us have adjunct-type positions, but most of those are part-time, so total eventual full-time employment in academia is still probably only around 38%. My recent research suggests that musicology and ethnomusicology have only a few hundred adjunct positions in total (full- and part-time). For example, for about 150 departments (in the US, Canada, UK, etc.) with at least one graduate program in musicology or ethnomusicology, there are only 149 part-time and full-time adjunct instructors in total–in the entire world.

      Many of us on the outside are REALLY outside. However, I’m working on trying to launch an innovative, collaborative website for music history & culture. The AMS, though: (1) wouldn’t give me a list of current student members (citing privacy reasons) and (2) couldn’t give me info about non-tenure-track folks, because it doesn’t actually know that, doesn’t track “career stages,” i.e., doesn’t care, and assumes that everyone who matters eventually ends up in a tenure-track position. Nonetheless, I was able to find just under 1500 names (usually with contact info) for 822 current musicology and ethnomusicology graduate students, 460 recent Ph.D.s (including a few, scattered postdocs), 149 adjuncts (full- and part-time), and 54 additional people I know personally. I was able to find this out through graduate department websites found via the AMS’s list of grad programs, the AMS directory, and the new AMS DDM database that I worked on in 2010–the society’s most popular section, apparently, but after which I could not find any other work.

      Most people apply for adjunct positions as temporary or fall-back situations, but there aren’t nearly as many in musicology as in other fields. The profession is pretty bad on preparing anyone for the eventuality that many of us do not ever land anywhere reasonably permanently–whether tenure-track or not and also whether in academia or not. Have you seen the pathetic couple of pages about non-academic careers in the recently-“new” AMS guide? I have considered many, many other aspects of this, but I haven’t had a big mother of a blowout about it in the Chronicle or anything quite yet.

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