Academic Job Market for Sociologists Has Rebounded, Association Reports

August 20, 2011

The job market for sociologists seeking positions on college faculties rebounded substantially last year, according to a report released here on Saturday by the American Sociological Association at its annual conference.

The report says the number of assistant-professor and open-rank faculty positions advertised in the group's job bank rose by 32 percent in 2010, while the number of academic departments advertising such jobs rose by 31 percent. Such gains were substantial enough to erase much of the sharp decline in both measures the year before.

"New Ph.D. sociologists can be somewhat more optimistic about the current job market for assistant professors," the report says. "Early indications suggest a continued improvement in the number of positions advertised in 2011."

The total number of positions in the association's job bank that are listed for assistant professors or are "open rank" (or open to candidates at any level) had plunged from 499 in 2008 to 324 in 2009, but climbed back up to 427 last year. The total number of academic departments posting such advertisements, which dropped from 378 in 2008 to 258 in 2009, rebounded to 338 last year, the report says.

The report says the recovery in the academic job market for sociologists is stronger than the recoveries charted by two other scholarly organizations that track such figures—the American Political Science Association, which saw a 15-percent increase in its job advertisements in 2010, and the American Historical Association, which reported a 21-percent increase for last year.

Nevertheless, the American Sociological Association's report, "Moving Toward Recovery: Findings From the 2010 Job Bank Survey," notes that clouds remain on the horizon. Because many recipients of doctorates in sociology remain without academic jobs or with jobs that do not meet their needs as a result of the job market's recent troubles, the report predicts that the market will remain "challenging for newly minted Ph.D.'s for several years to come."

Moreover, the report describes "several notable mismatches between the fields of interest of graduate students and the fields in which departmental searches are most common." For example, the sociology of culture and scholarship of race, class, and gender ranked much higher among Ph.D. candidates' listed areas of specialty than they did among the specialities most cited in job advertisements. Sociology departments were much more likely to say they sought specialists in social control, law, crime, and deviance than were Ph.D. candidates who belonged to the association likely to list those specialties on their membership forms.

Among its other key findings, the report says that nearly 54 percent of advertisements for assistant and open-rank faculty positions were placed by research and doctoral institutions.

The report's authors are Jerry A. Jacobs, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania; Janene Scelza, a research associate at the American Sociological Association; and Roberta Spalter-Roth, director of the association's department of research and development.