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Author Topic: What to tell would-be grad students  (Read 24059 times)
janewales
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« Reply #30 on: March 09, 2012, 2:05:37 AM »

And, of course, one of the main reasons why these societies are largely not collecting that specific data is they probably do not want to know.

Kay, mine is a smallish, highly specialized field. It's still not that easy to collect the data: we're international at both ends (production and positions), and we're interdisciplinary (so, no single professional association, no single department to which we direct our searches). The lack of solid placement statistics is not always the result of a grand conspiracy, or even of garden-variety ineptitude. Fact is, it's just hard to track this kind of thing.

Nevertheless, we can conclude that the job market sucks. It's the degree of suckitude that's difficult to quantify.
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fiona
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« Reply #31 on: March 09, 2012, 5:44:04 AM »

MLA does keep records, but there are unknowables such as years on the market. Watermarkup's stats seem true to my observations, especially the low last one. I read once, years ago, that only 7 per cent of the people who started grad school wound up with a Ph.D., but I don't know how that correlated with those who never wanted above a master's.

With the average time it takes to finish a dissertation in English (11 years), plus 3-5 years on the job market probably NOT getting a tenure-track job, some who's 22 at the start could be 38 before they give up. Or they could come up for a tenure vote in their early 40s, 20 years after they started grad school. And suppose they don't get tenure, and they're 45ish.

The opportunity cost is tremendous. One can't get those years back.

The Fiona
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The Fiona or Them FionŠ or Fiona the Sublime

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« Reply #32 on: March 09, 2012, 9:12:07 AM »

Hold up, eleven years is the average for English Ph.D.s? What's the source for that? In my field (history) I feel like other academic's eyes often pop out when I tell them that 7-8 years to degree is normal. Eleven years just sounds implausible. Especially because English Ph.D.s usually don't have to travel halfway around the world for months at a time just to track down some manuscript mouldering away in an archive somewhere!
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janewales
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« Reply #33 on: March 09, 2012, 12:07:35 PM »

Hold up, eleven years is the average for English Ph.D.s? What's the source for that? In my field (history) I feel like other academic's eyes often pop out when I tell them that 7-8 years to degree is normal. Eleven years just sounds implausible. Especially because English Ph.D.s usually don't have to travel halfway around the world for months at a time just to track down some manuscript mouldering away in an archive somewhere!

That average has always mystified me too. My (Canadian) university sets 6 years as the limit for all doctoral degrees, and my English department aims to get people through in 5-6 (and we do). One difference from the US might be that our students already have MAs: that accounts for another 1-2 years (programs vary), but we're still nowhere near 11 (and if 11 is an average, that means some people must be taking much longer, yes?)
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 12:08:04 PM by janewales » Logged
totoro
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« Reply #34 on: March 09, 2012, 6:43:52 PM »

I think the 11 years is average number of years post-BA to get the PhD, which also includes time outside academia.
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watermarkup
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« Reply #35 on: March 09, 2012, 8:04:36 PM »

Watermarkup's stats seem true to my observations, especially the low last one.

Yes, it will be a couple more years before we know for sure how the class of 2010 is doing. A couple more hiring cycles will probably bump up that number a bit. I may also be missing some 2005 grads who got jobs as early ABDs. And Janewales's observation is correct: It's hard to describe job placement statistically. The grad who lands a TT job might get booted out three years later, while someone might postdoc and teach in visiting positions for five years and then land a TT job. Which one demonstrates a department doing its job well, and which one means it's failing? There's not an obvious answer.

Still, my professional societies could do a lot more than they're currently doing. They could:
  • Publish a complete and accurate list of dissertations, like they used to.
  • Collect outcomes for the TT and VAP jobs listed in the central job lists, instead of reporting faculty positions as a social register that's often outdated the day it comes out, as they currently do.
  • Establish a standard format for ongoing reporting of admissions outcomes. For example: "In the last five years, our graduate program has admitted W MA students and X PhD students, while Y students have completed MA degrees and Z have completed PhDs. Of the V students who completed PhDs in the years 2005-2010, A are now in tenure-track positions, B are in visiting positions, C are in other academic positions in the U.S., D are in international academic positions, E are working in non-academic positions, and we have no idea what happened to F." This might not make sense in other disciplines, but it would introduce some much much-needed transparency to my own.
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genius_at_large
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« Reply #36 on: March 09, 2012, 8:47:58 PM »

I think the 11 years is average number of years post-BA to get the PhD, which also includes time outside academia.
16 years.
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fiona
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« Reply #37 on: March 09, 2012, 11:49:03 PM »

Yes, departments and programs and professional fields COULD keep records of placement, but I suspect they'd prefer not to.

If the truth really got out, only fools would apply to grad programs, and does every program wants its teaching assistants to be from the ranks of fools?

The Fiona
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The Fiona or Them FionŠ or Fiona the Sublime

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« Reply #38 on: March 11, 2012, 8:50:08 AM »

Hold up, eleven years is the average for English Ph.D.s? What's the source for that? In my field (history) I feel like other academic's eyes often pop out when I tell them that 7-8 years to degree is normal. Eleven years just sounds implausible. Especially because English Ph.D.s usually don't have to travel halfway around the world for months at a time just to track down some manuscript mouldering away in an archive somewhere!

I've always seen 9 years as avg. time to degree in English.
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janewales
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« Reply #39 on: March 11, 2012, 10:47:19 AM »

Hold up, eleven years is the average for English Ph.D.s? What's the source for that? In my field (history) I feel like other academic's eyes often pop out when I tell them that 7-8 years to degree is normal. Eleven years just sounds implausible. Especially because English Ph.D.s usually don't have to travel halfway around the world for months at a time just to track down some manuscript mouldering away in an archive somewhere!

I've always seen 9 years as avg. time to degree in English.

I found the Canadian average for humanities PhDs: it's 6 years, 8 months, according to Statistics Canada.
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rebelgirl
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« Reply #40 on: March 11, 2012, 12:39:03 PM »

Hold up, eleven years is the average for English Ph.D.s? What's the source for that? In my field (history) I feel like other academic's eyes often pop out when I tell them that 7-8 years to degree is normal. Eleven years just sounds implausible. Especially because English Ph.D.s usually don't have to travel halfway around the world for months at a time just to track down some manuscript mouldering away in an archive somewhere!

That average has always mystified me too. My (Canadian) university sets 6 years as the limit for all doctoral degrees, and my English department aims to get people through in 5-6 (and we do). One difference from the US might be that our students already have MAs: that accounts for another 1-2 years (programs vary), but we're still nowhere near 11 (and if 11 is an average, that means some people must be taking much longer, yes?)


There's a difference between "time on the clock" (time actually enrolled) and years until the degree is in hand, and I'm not sure to which the quoted statistics refer.  My English doctoral program was constrained by the state legislature to kick grad students out if they didn't complete degrees within a specified number of years, and though it was one of the top in the country, very few students had fellowship support - almost all of us only had TAships for aid. As a result, many grad students "stopped out" for a year or two at a time, earning money in outside jobs while continuing to study for comps; we'd re-enroll to take the comps, then stop out to do research and write the dissertation, then re-enroll for a final year or two and TA while finishing it.  That way, we didn't run out the clock and incurred less debt than we would have by trying to scrape by as TAs the entire time.  My "official" time to degree was 5 years, but I walked away with my doctorate 9 real time years after starting the program.  Some did complete in 5 real-time years, but that was unusual; more did it the way I did. This was back in the 90s: but from what I've heard, not much has changed.

Re: Janewales' question about masters' degrees: my program offered direct admission to doctoral studies - most of us entered with just bachelors' degrees.  The masters' and Ph.D. coursework overlapped - a typical class had a mix of students from both programs - but the masters' was a separate admissions process.  Students who decided to leave the doctoral program could opt to sit the masters' exams and get that degree on the way out (many who opted for high school teaching instead did this - attrition in our program was over 50%).
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #41 on: March 12, 2012, 7:06:18 PM »

It turns out that NSF collects some interesting statistics in STEM fields and compares them to non-STEM fields.  http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf11306/theme5.cfm is a useful link for this discussion.

Notice that the humanities are definitely below STEM, but aren't at the 20% level.

Clicking around on that site is somewhat interesting since it does support a historical 11-years-to-a-humanities doctorate value (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf11306/theme3.cfm#6), but that's more like 9 years with current data.
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janewales
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« Reply #42 on: March 12, 2012, 7:44:27 PM »

It turns out that NSF collects some interesting statistics in STEM fields and compares them to non-STEM fields.  http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf11306/theme5.cfm is a useful link for this discussion.

Notice that the humanities are definitely below STEM, but aren't at the 20% level.

Clicking around on that site is somewhat interesting since it does support a historical 11-years-to-a-humanities doctorate value (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf11306/theme3.cfm#6), but that's more like 9 years with current data.


This is interesting, Polly, thanks. Do you know, though, what a "definite commitment" of employment means? I see that the Humanities rate is almost 63% in 2009, but that surely can't be for tenure-track employment, can it?
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lohai0
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« Reply #43 on: March 12, 2012, 7:57:13 PM »

It turns out that NSF collects some interesting statistics in STEM fields and compares them to non-STEM fields.  http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf11306/theme5.cfm is a useful link for this discussion.

Notice that the humanities are definitely below STEM, but aren't at the 20% level.

Clicking around on that site is somewhat interesting since it does support a historical 11-years-to-a-humanities doctorate value (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf11306/theme3.cfm#6), but that's more like 9 years with current data.


Thanks for the graphs...though I am never sure where they stick STEM ed.
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kaysixteen
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« Reply #44 on: March 12, 2012, 8:36:08 PM »

It probably counts all employment, VAPs and adjuncts as well, and, of course, some (probably very few) humanities disciplines are probably hot and vastly overrepresented here.
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