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!

Ph.D. Job Outcomes in STEM vs. Humanities

Re: The Atlantic‘s article on recent STEM Ph.D.s

You think this—immediate Ph.D. outcomes (in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) of 37% getting jobs, 28% receiving postdoctoral fellowships, and 35% having nothing—is bad?! The outcomes for people right out of completing Ph.D.s in the humanities is around 10% getting jobs related to the field (including 3% non-tenure-track and 3% part-time), 5% on postdocs, 20% in other jobs (part- or full-time and unrelated to the field), and 65% having nothing. The science people are complaining about postdocs now being necessary for more than a year or two. They should try to imagine a bunch of fields where there almost aren’t any!

It takes a long time for things to sort themselves out in certain areas of academia—many years, in fact, for a group of humanities Ph.D.s to approach the immediate outcomes for a group of STEM Ph.D.s. For example, my research on one particular department of musicology shows that for two decades’ worth of Ph.D.s (1991-2011), in the 2012-13 school year 32% of them are in tenure-track or tenured positions, 18% are lecturers or adjunct instructors (many part-time) or visiting assistant professors, 11% are performers/studio-instructors/conductors, 4% work in libraries or as university admin people, 4% have post-docs, 3% work as IT folks in music software or instructional design, and 1% each work as a freelance political journalist, a visual artist (painter), a legal secretary, an airport retail manager, and a dog trainer. More tellingly (i.e., in our age of pervasive social networking), nearly one quarter (24%) of those Ph.D.s are pretty much “off the radar.”

Public Musicology – How to Get There

Yale University has a public humanities initiative. As one of its American Studies professors puts it: “Students have to invent their own jobs.” Similarly, a Yale historian says: “Historians have to get out and reach the broader public…the ultimate audience. … If academic historians don’t get involved, we have no right to complain about what we see at public historical sites.” A professor at another institution says: “I’m alarmed that there aren’t more people with strong history backgrounds actually doing public history.”

In a related vein, George Mason University has the Center for History and New Media, which has a Ph.D. program in digital history, dozens of IT professionals and developers, a number of original software tools, and over one hundred web-based projects with more than 16 million users annually.

“Public history” should certainly be expanded to include “public musicology” (public music history & culture, etc.). However, musicology presently exists almost exclusively within music departments, as one of a number of music sub-disciplines that focus mainly on “specialized knowledge” about classical music performance, music theory, and so on. Musicology thus almost never participates in such humanities’ contexts as Yale’s or even in what is arguably the ultimate public forum: the internet. However, it absolutely can and should!

The American Musicological Society’s brand-new professional development guide (188 pages) spends only two pages (i.e., that aren’t document samples) on the non-academic world, yet it exclusively seems to mean by that such contexts as museums. In addition, the document does not update the sample documents from the Harvard Arts & Sciences publication that it borrowed for this purpose. Those resumes and cover letter do not have anything to do with music or music graduate degrees, and they are also all nearly twenty years old.