Former Graduate Student Collects Placement Data He Wishes He'd Had

October 09, 2013

When Andrew Carson was a graduate student in philosophy at Northern Illinois University, his biggest concern about life after graduate school was whether he would land a tenure-track job.

He didn't have much concrete information to turn to when trying to determine what his chances might be. Although he eventually abandoned his aspirations for an academic career, he wanted to help graduate students, and prospective graduate students, who still had those ambitions by giving them something he didn't have: easy access to placement data in the field.

Mr. Carson, who chose to end his graduate studies after earning a master's degree in philosophy, in 2012, now works full time as a senior data scientist at a company in Washington State.

In his spare time, he began gathering placement data—copious amounts of it—from almost 60 graduate philosophy programs in the United States and Canada. It took him three or four months to comb through the Web pages of each of the programs to retrieve and format its publicly available data. Then he crunched the information to reveal some interesting trends about the job market since 2000.

"I wanted to know exactly what was going on in the academic-philosophy job market and what schools were really doing when it comes to placement," says Mr. Carson, who writes for Philosophy News, where the results of his data project were posted this month. "I wouldn't need to do this if schools would put their placement data in a form that's easy for graduate students to make comparisons."

Among other things, he found that:

  • ­Since 2000, only 39 percent of the 2,600 Ph.D. graduates in the data set have landed tenure-track or long-term positions right out of graduate school.
  • New York, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard Universities have the best track records when it comes to initial placements, with about 70 percent of their graduates landing tenure-track or long-term jobs right out of graduate school.
  • The top three institutions in terms of the proportion of graduates who hold tenured or tenure-track positions are Yale University (91 percent), the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (86 percent), and Northwestern University (79 percent).

Mr. Carson's data are from the institutions in the rankings compiled by Brian Leiter, of the philosophy blog Leiter Reports.

"Given the nature and number of the difficulties in creating this data set, I hope you will forgive me if I have sometimes substantially misrepresented any school's placement record," Mr. Carson writes in a note on his posting. "Please take my rankings with a grain of salt. This is a first attempt at a difficult problem."

He plans to update and improve his data. "This isn't a one-time thing," he says. "Ideally, this will be a long-term project."

Correction (10/9/2013, 12:45 p.m.): This article originally said that 39 percent of the Ph.D. graduates in the data set had found tenure-track or long-term positions. It should have said that 39 percent of those graduates had found such positions immediately after graduate school. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.