More on the Philosophy Job Market

In a previous post, I wrote some observations on the philosophy job market. I wish to thank the many people who posted insightful comments (some of them here) and questions. A few clarifications might help. As I said before, these are rough generalizations. Every department is different, every committee is different, and every philosopher is different. Also, keep in mind that I’m only talking about junior hires.

1. It might be useful to distinguish between three types of department. First, top research-oriented departments. They are likely to consider only candidates from other top departments. They will rely on letters and pedigree, but they will also read writing samples. They won’t require publications provided that letters and writing samples are outstanding. Next, other research-oriented departments and top teaching-oriented departments. They will pay attention mostly to candidates from highly ranked programs. They will be skeptical of candidates who have not published—they’ve heard enough stories of people who seemed brilliant but never published anything. By the time they interview candidates, someone has read the writing samples, but writing samples of candidates who were not selected for an interview may or may not have been read. Finally, other teaching-oriented departments, where the majority of jobs are. They will be skeptical of candidates who look too research-oriented (based on pedigree and publications), because they fear such candidates won’t fit well in their department or will leave soon anyway. They will pay relatively little attention to writing samples.

2. It was never my intention to criticize the way departments choose candidates. Although imperfect, I think it’s a pretty efficient way of allocating resources. Perhaps some searches overemphasize pedigree. But who has the time to read 100 to 300 writing samples? And who has the skills to evaluate them reliably in their respective areas? Pedigree, after all, is not a terrible measure of academic potential, especially when suitably supplemented by other information. And besides, there are plenty of good departments that try to exploit others’ biases to snatch better candidates than they could otherwise afford.

3. If you are committed to research and your CV shows it, you may have the unpleasant experience of slipping through the cracks. You were not lucky enough to be a top choice at any research-oriented department, but your two articles in, say, Phil. Studies scared off all the teaching-oriented departments. What should you do? There is no universal recipe, but I would certainly not drop my publications from my CV. Consider whether you would be happy at a teaching-oriented department. If so, make it very clear in your cover letter next time you go on the market. Emphasize your love of teaching as much as you can. Get a temporary job at a teaching institution and point out how much you love it. Meanwhile, if you are also interested in research jobs, work hard on those paper submissions and try to get some more papers accepted at good journals. If you get enough articles in the right places, there is likely to be a research job for you some day.

4. What are the good journals? As someone pointed out in the comments, there is a ranking of journals posted by Leiter. At the time it was posted, a lot of people added comments with useful additional information, but I don’t know what happened to them.

5. By and large, I think the same considerations apply to American postdoc positions. There are few postdoc positions in philosophy, so they are usually hard to get. Having published certainly makes you more competitive.

6. Someone asked how much fellowships (Javits, Fulbright, etc.) help on the job market. If they are very competitive, they might give you a tiny boost in the eyes of some. Otherwise, they probably make no difference. These days, most job candidates have quite a list of them, so I imagine most people pay little attention.

7. Candidates who don’t have a Ph.D. from English-speaking countries (primarily U.S., U.K., Canada, or Australia), and who don’t have extensive teaching experience in any of those countries, are considered high risk and are at a huge disadvantage in the U.S. job market. If there is interest, perhaps I will post separately on their specific case.


  1. Sphere


    I’m from Brazil, I have a PhD from Rio de Janeiro Federal University (on David’ Gauthier Contractualism) and 4 years of teaching experience. I recently moved to Walnut Creek, in the west cost (close to San Francisco) for two years, or more (my wife got transferred). I’m thinking of getting a teatching position, or a pos-doc around here. What are my chances? I’m pretty disheartend reading your post. Should I give up formal education/teaching? My english is pretty good, and I really think I could improve myself while staying here. Any suggestions?

  2. NoOne

    I don’t think that (1) is correct:

    (a) It’s not that departments of type 2 have heard stories about brilliant people that haven’t published, it’s that there are other criteria that they use to judge philosophical acumen and probability of publishing enough to get tenure, and they figure that people that meet those criteria are probably going to do so.

    (b) I have been teaching at a small teaching oriented department at a non-prestigious school, and it is clear that they would like someone who is a good researcher, and would not count someone out because of this. If the person leaves, they will find someone else; they won’t be happy, but they will have been happy that, while the person was there, he or she contributed. What they don’t want is someone who doesn’t care about teaching and doesn’t like the other members of the department because he or she thinks they are not very smart because of the school at which they teach! Furthermore, it seems that the trend is that many small teaching schools want to emphasize the prestige of their faculty. With a “buyer’s market” out there, they will do their best to get the most prestigious faculty possible.

  3. NoOne

    I just posted a comment about (1). In my hasty reading, I seem to have misinterpreted what the blog author intended regarding departments of type (2)’s attitudes toward those who have not published. I think (if I remember what I wrote) my comment still holds, however: the idea is that the departments do pay attention to those who haven’t published if they seem good for other reasons; they are not susceptible to “stories,” and judge the candidate on what they believe to be capacity for hard work and commitment as well as brilliance.

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