Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Canadian Poli Sci and Job Markets

I posted this at the Political Science Rumor Blogs:

As a producer (or whatever) of Canadian PhD students, I have been trying to figure out how to respond to this thread. I cannot speak to the results of other PhD programs, and McGill has not done a great job of tracking where our students end up. Most are not receiving unemployment checks, however :)

I have placed all (well, all three) of my students who have finished since I have arrived at McGill--UTexas Arlington, Laval University, and the World Bank. My colleagues in IR have placed their students around the world (a goodly number of our IR and Comparative students are from Turkey, India, Egypt, etc) in their home countries, including the US.

While pedigree does matter, in recent markets, the hottest candidates were from schools that had no history of dominating the market (Colorado, Emory, etc) but had produced students who were well-trained, had interesting projects and were, most importantly, well-published. And journals/presses do not discriminate against Canadian graduate students. So, if you are an anxious Canadian grad student, try, try, try to get an article or two or three in the very best journals--that will get you farther than your school's repuation--it will change your school's reputation.

Of course, people are likely to read much into this. I would admit that McGill did not have a history of encouraging grad students to publish and little consensus of how to train graduate students. But that has changed in the past several years. I do expect my current students to do quite well in the next few years if they manage to follow my instructions and if the market picks up a bit. They have interesting projects with ambitious research designs, so if they get the pubs, they will do well.

I would never argue that McGill, Toronto or UBC is equal to Stanford or UCSD [ahem--a bit of self-interest there in promoting UCSD] in status/stature/placement record. But we do have some terrific students doing interesting work. And I have seen students come out of big name schools who only have their pedigree and nothing else flop at job talks.

Job committee decisions are far more complex and less predictable than folks think. Just focus on what you can control and know that you did the best you could. It is like poker--if you put your chips in with the best hand and the other person catches a very lucky card, then you just have to take solace in making good decisions and you will profit in the long run

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