Odds of landing a faculty position with a Sociology PhD

What is the ratio of PhD graduates in sociology vs faculty positions teaching same?

This is a few years old, but it has a pretty good breakdown of how things were back in 2008.

When I first read the title, I thought it said “Scientology PhD,” and my response was: Um…, zero?

Heh. According to these guys, you’re right, they’re not hiring:

Note that the odds of a given individual landing a job will vary tremendously depending on their graduate work/publications, the prestige of their program, the quality/mindset of their adviser, their personal willingness/ability to relocate, their personal charisma, their professional network . . .luck plays a role, but it’s not a lottery.

Here’s the 2010 Update (PDF), which paints a slightly rosier picture, but still doesn’t suggest that candidates will find it easy to secure employment.

As Manda JO says, though, your chances of landing a job depend on a variety of factors that may, in some cases, make the overall stats almost meaningless one way or the other. In every discipline, for example, there are a few people whose work is so good, and who have such a strong record, that they are likely to land a job in any market. There are also others who, even in a good market, might struggle to get a decent job.

Possibly the most troubling trend, especially in the current economic environment, is the tighter budgets being faced by many colleges and universities, especially public institutions. One of the biggest concerns is that, while there will probably be plenty of academic retirements over the next ten years or so, in many cases those positions are not being replaced, or are being replaced with part-time and contingent faculty rather than with full-time, tenure-track scholars.

The department where i teach (part-time) recently lost its Chair, who accepted a Dean’s position in another state. We’ve now lost that position, as the university is going to essentially reclaim his salary and ask us to hire adjuncts to teach his courses, rather than hire a permanent replacement. I’m not in sociology, but this is happening throughout academia, especially in disciplines that do not attract large amounts of outside funding.

While i agree with Manda JO that it’s not just a lottery, the abundance of PhDs means that almost every advertised position attracts an abundance of excellent candidates from top schools. When our department, at a third-tier state university, advertised a couple of positions just over a year ago, each one attracted well over 100 applicants, and once the obvious non-starters were weeded out, there were probably still 20 or 30 who were solid candidates, and a good dozen or so who were eminently qualified for the position and probably would have done a great job.

When you get down to the best candidates, decisions are sometimes made on criteria like who would be the most agreeable colleague, or whose specific areas of interest happen to best complement the research and teaching areas of existing faculty. In that sense, it really can be a lottery, and a candidate who might appear on paper, and even in his or her teaching and presentation, to be the best, might not actually be the best fit for the hiring department.

The “troubling trend” thatmhendo cites has been going on for a long time and shows no signs of letting up.

It also extends down from large research institutions to colleges, who have to act more like a business in attracting students. So, for example, when a faculty member retires, that position may be lost all together or replaced with a position in another field that is more likely to attract students.

Actually, ultrafilter’s link already seemed pretty damn rosy to me; way better than I am accustomed to hearing for Ph.D.s in other fields.

Yeah. As academic fields go, this is about as good as it gets. I think it is important to break it down by subfield, though–it’s very likely a lot easier to get a job doing quantitative sociology than sociological aspects of gender studies, and the overall numbers can obscure that pretty badly.

Data point:
The prospective student I’m asking for is looking at specializing in sociology of music.

Really, we’re the wrong people to be asking about that. The student needs to talk to people who are in the sociology of music to get the inside scoop.

The prospective student has already emailed the leading figures in the field… looking for people who don’t have a vested interest in getting tuition money.

Really, in some fields - do you really think a white male has a hope in hell of getting hired?

Plus, as the saying goes, it’s not who you know…
if the hiring is internal, move up, then personal politics likely palys a bigger role. What’s the old joke about faculty politics, it’s so nasty because the stakes are so small…

And why should faculties be immune from the disease sweeping North America, where all positions are temporary, term, and low paid? (and likely part-time as well) As permanent employees disappear they are relapced by non-headcounts. I’m sure there’s a whole sociology PhD to be earned studying this trend.

Do you actually know what you’re talking about, or are you just parroting things you’ve heard?

Candidate is white female.

Good, she’s halfway there.

We like to think it’s about qualifications, but really, unless the candidate is outstandingly brilliant, it is likely as mentioned above, as much chance and luck as anything.

Good luck to her…

Are you usually this willing to demonstrate your ignorance, or is it only on matters related to academia?

Actually, the saying is “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” If you’re going to use substance-free cliches, at least learn what they actually are.

This demonstrates how little you know about academia right here.

Faculty hirings are very rarely “internal” in the way that internal hirings are done in business and in non-profit institutions. Faculty positions are generally advertised, usually in national publications and websites. These include blanket academic sites like HigherEdJobs.com, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and InsideHigherEd.com, as well as discipline-specific sites. For example, in sociology, the American Sociological Association has a Job Bank where departments can list both full-time and part-time or temporary positions. If it works anything like it does in my discipline, the ASA probably also runs a job center at its annual meeting, where search committees can conduct interviews.

Not only are these national (and, in fact, international) fora the main places where faculty jobs are advertised, but in many public university and college systems, state law requires that any open job be listed on some sort of nationally-accessible website, in order to attract as many good candidates as possible and to eliminate (or at least reduce) the chance of personal friendships and nepotism determining who gets hired.

To the extent that “moving up” internally happens among faculty in academia, the process is generally long, and is attended by very specific performance requirements in areas of research and publication, teaching, and service. How these areas are balanced in the tenure and promotion criteria varies from one institution to another; a top-tier research university might place more weight on research and publications, while a liberal arts college or a second-tier state school might place more emphasis on teaching and service.

And, despite your simplistic and ignorant assertion, personal politics doesn’t actually play a huge role here. I’m not arguing that it’s absent, but the guidelines and procedures are designed to minimize it. To receive tenure or promotion, you generally have to compile a hefty file that lists your contributions in all areas, with supporting documentations (publication list, book reviews, teaching evaluations, etc., etc.). Your overall performance is evaluated not only by your own department, but by your institution’s Tenure and Promotion Committee, which contains people from all different disciplines, some (or many, in a big college) of whom who probably won’t even know.

And again, in state universities and in many private institutions, the requirements for tenure and promotion are carefully laid out, and the multi-layered system makes it quite difficult for someone with a grudge or a personal agenda to advance an unqualified candidate or sink a qualified one. Again, i’m not saying it can’t happen, or that it never happens, but your (apparent) notion of academia as a place where advancement is largely a matter of personal politics demonstrates little except ignorance on your part.

You’ve certainly demonstrated your ability to use cliches when reasoned argument escapes you. Kudos!

Well, first, it seems rather an exaggeration to say that “all positions are temporary, term, and low paid.” But you’ve made quite clear that accuracy and knowing-what-the-hell-you’re-talking-about isn’t your forte.

Second, i’m not sure that academics should be spared the sort of insecurity that everyone else faces. I don’t think they should be a protected species, and i think that there are reasonable arguments that, in an era of budget cuts, faculty must bear some of the costs. I also think that there are some reasonable arguments to be made in favor of changing or refining the system of tenure that has characterized American universities for much of the last century.

But rather than gloat that everyone is suffering, and that faculty should be prepared to suffer too, i’d prefer that we fix things so that everyone, whether in academia or elsewhere, can find a satisfying and reasonably-paid job with some security of employment. Call me crazy! I also think that, if Americans are going to keep yammering on about how important education is to them, they should maybe think about finding ways to ensure that the educational system, from kindergarten through to post-doctoral levels, retains some semblance of quality and intellectual integrity.

Why do I always encounter the interesting threads when I only have my iPhone handy?

Really, mhendo has this well covered in the previous post. There are so many variables at work that “odds” is far too simplistic in gauging one’s competitiveness in an academic specialty.

For instance, where does the candidate aspire to work? At a small liberal arts college, or a research intensive flagship university? Or someplace in between? The best thing this person can likely do is look at the faculty profiles at institutions that are of interest to her. Where did the faculty earn their PhDs? Just as importantly, what types of schools are represented? It’s not impossible to land a position if one hasn’t attended the “best” or most familiar schools, but the more a candidate looks like her potential peers on paper, the easier the road to the goal (generally).

Next, the advisor’s reputation matters. If the advisor is forging, or already has a reputation for research as well as having successful graduates, that’s another plus.

Moreover, what the candidate does in her program matters. Earning competitive grants, presenting at peer-reviewed conferences, publishing both with the advisor and independently (or as a primary author) also helps.

Depending on how these challenges are handled, one can greatly improve (or diminish) opportunities for employment. I’ll probably have more to contribute later when I’m at a computer…

In general, competitive graduate programs that move students towards a career in academia are able to offer their students TA/RA slots, which usually cover at least tuition and usually some living expenses. If a program does not, that could be a serious red flag.

Hmmm… my mother went to one university straight after graduation. She worked her way up while there to tenured professor. My father left that university after a few years, went to another one, and stayed there his whole career eventually becoming head of the department.

If mobility, hiring and promotion practices are improved nowadays, it can only be for the good.

By the time I left university, the Arts side was well on the way to becoming the font of all ideas of extreme political correctness that are ridiculed in the rest of society.

Or, it demostrates how little you know of the real world. Seriously??? Ask a dozen people what the completing of the cliche is… “It’s not who you know…” If you honestly didn’t know the answer, congratulations to you.