Posted by: clholoman | September 3, 2010

So you want to be a Political Scientist

This weekend is the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, one of the larger conventions in academia. As such it usually gets some pretty good coverage, including some live and taped C-SPAN broadcasts of some of the less academic panels. (Especially when, like this year, the meeting is in Washington, which is generally every other year.) (Here’s where you can view political scientists in their natural habitat.)

Anyhow, that was the proximate cause of a moderately interesting story on the job market for Ph.D.s here. The good news is that most of them are getting hired, but the bad news is that fewer and fewer of them are in traditional, tenure-track, jobs (and there are dramatically fewer of those this year):

Of departments reporting data on the nearly 1,000 new Ph.D.s on the market that year, all but 4 percent were employed, but only 48 percent were employed in permanent academic positions. Another 21 percent held adjunct jobs and 11 percent won postdocs.

One of the more dramatic differences in the pool was that 16 percent took positions outside academe, up from 10 percent in the last such survey, in 2002.

Not reported, but one thing I am interested in, and have had good conversations with my friends at UB about, is what proportion of those in “permanent academic positions” are at research universities versus liberal arts or other “teaching” colleges. There’s certainly a perception among some that working at the latter is somehow less worthy and I’m afraid (and have some anecdotal evidence to support the belief) that that attitude  is discouraging to graduate students who are pursuing their degrees precisely because they love teaching. Given the current job market, it seems to me that schools who are not among the very elite are doing their students a disservice if they do not prepare and encourage their students who will spend much or all of their careers as teachers first and researchers second. I speak from personal experience that it is a noble and rewarding career path.



  1. You raise a very good point. I remember very well that as a graduate student being directly warned not to let the students in the classes I was teaching take up too much of my time or attention because I would wind up as a teacher. Taking a position at a ‘teaching school’ was viewed as accepting that one would never really succeed in the profession. I am sure that a number of people who would have been superb instructors were discouraged from pursuing that route.

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