Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Mama, Don't Let Your Kid Get PhDs in Poli Sci

 One could look at this figure and say things are getting back to normal.

Woot?  Well, maybe, but the old normal was awful.  The academic job market has been bad, really bad, for a long time, with a few bursts of good years.  We have been overproducing PhDs for a long time.  I wish that figure had included a line for number of PhDs produced as I am pretty sure it would exceed the line of jobs by quite a bit.  

Of course, folks will say: hey, that does not count the number of non-academic jobs that poli sci PhDs get, and that people should look there.  My responses to that are as follows:

  • Most of the folks going to academic PhD programs want academic jobs (and so too do a number of folks going to policy PhD programs).  
  • How much added value do folks get from academic PhD programs that help them get jobs in the non-academic sector?  Do the five or more extra years give them a leg up over those who just get MAs?  Is that leg up = or > the five+ years of opportunity costs?

I teach at a policy school where our aim is to train folks for the policy world, not the academic work.  In Canada, alas, there is not that much of a market for policy-oriented PhDs.  We don't have much in the way of think tanks, there are only a few govt jobs that either require PhDs or where the PhD gives one an advantage over an MA, and, the govt does not pay someone more if they have a PhD.  So, I have spent my time here wondering why we have a PhD program.  It may be a bit different in the US where there are more job opportunities for policy Phds--more think tanks, etc.

So, I have spent the last twenty plus years discouraging students who approach me about PhDs.  How many have I discouraged?  Pretty sure the answer is between zero and two.  They tend to think that what may be true for other folks is not true for them, that their interests are in demand and super-interesting.  Why am I posting this today?  Because I have a bevy of folks reaching out to talk to me about PhD programs this month.  It must be the season.

I haven't tracked what has happened to all those for whom I have written letters of recommendation.  I do know that a couple of the MA students I had at McGill got great PhDs and then great academic jobs.  I do know that all but one of my PhD students in my previous stops (McG but also TTU) have gotten tenure-track positions, and I am old enough now that all of them have gotten tenure and are either Full or Associate Professors (one is still in the tenure decision process). Oh wait, those are the PhD students who completed their PhDs.  Most did, but some did not.  One thing I have gotten better about is telling those working and flailing at their PhDs to move on.  

At Carleton, I have been asked by students: what happens if I get a policy job offer before I complete my dissertation?  I say, "TAKE IT!"  They say "but it might mean I don't finish my dissertation."  And I respond "Take the job!"  Jobs are not street cars.  So, the percentage of my PhD students who finish here is not as good as it was in the previous spot partly because these students are looking at the policy world and being done is not quite as crucial.  My ego here is not as invested in having students finish--I just want them to be happy and getting paid by someone who is not me.  

I will post this and then folks will ignore it and apply anyway.  Why bother posting it?  Because spewing is venting.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

l0l in Canada blogs still exist