Philosophers Do Better Than Physicists

I had no idea people who got PhDs in philosophy did this well in terms of job placement:

Since 2000, approximately 39% of graduates received a permanent or Tenure Track position in their initial placement.  Temporary positions comprise 34% of initial placements, post-docs comprise 13% of placements, and 8% of students do not go into academic philosophy (6% are Unknown).  This means that approximately 61% of philosophy graduates do not receive a Tenure Track or permanent position in academic philosophy their first time around.  However, it does mean that 73% of philosophy graduates are teaching philosophy, and at least 86% of graduates are involved in professional philosophy in some way.

I keep hearing that philosophy as a field is in dire straits but this research shows that 39% of people get a TT job right after they graduate. This is a better employment prospect than in the field of theoretical physics! Back in graduate school we used to snicker at people who were in philosophy but it seems like they are getting the last laugh.

I really like the person who wrote the linked piece because he says the following:

For some people, it is very important personally to attend a prestigious school or work with a certain professor in philosophy, so much so that they are less concerned about getting a profitable job in philosophy after they graduate.  However, for me, getting a job after I graduated was more important than whether or not the school I went to was well ranked or if I studied with a certain professor in the field.

I’m an immigrant, so for me getting a job (and not letting the PhD take more than 5 years) was the only thing that mattered.

One surprising (to me) thing in this report is that the majority of people with a declared field of interest in philosophy specialize in ethics. Is there anything more boring than that? My motto in graduate school was, “I’ll explore any course in any field as long as they have nothing to do with ethics or aesthetics.”

7 thoughts on “Philosophers Do Better Than Physicists”

  1. It would be interesting to know the absolute numbers. Maybe there are just fewer philosophy PhDs than physics PhDs. I wonder if ethicists have a higher employment rate than other philosophy graduates?


  2. A lot of people think they might like studying ethics because it has practical, real-world applications. It seems less technical and dry. Everyone is interested in ethics (in some shape or fashion) as a matter of course, whether they are interested in philosophical treatments or not. The same could not be said of epistemology or theory of language.


    1. There are many positions opening in sub fields like bioethics, medical ethics, reproductive ethics, environmental ethics, etc. It’s very easy to attract students to such courses.


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