The Pathetic Academic Job Market

As I was getting the kids ready for camp this morning, I was flipping through PS, a pol. sci. journal that publishes articles about the profession. They publish stuff on writing grant proposals and teaching Latin American politics and all that. This month they included a separate job supplement publication.

The job supplement was a sad, pathetic excuse for a journal. Only 18 pages long, it listed all the political science jobs in the country. There were five jobs in comparative politics; eleven in American politics. Those jobs included post-docs and lectureships. There will probably be more openings advertised later in the fall, but it ain't lookin' good.

I did like APSA's new job policies. They made a point of noting the importance of part-time positions.

Institutions employing political scientists should make more flexible use of part-time positions for fully qualified professional women and men… Part-time positions should carry full academic status, equivalent rank, promotion opportunities, equal rates of pay, commensurate departmental participation and commensurate fringe benefits, including access to research resources.

But then the meager job positions fallowed, and all I could think about was the army of adjuncts that would be abused this fall.

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16 thoughts on “The Pathetic Academic Job Market

  1. What about the community college initiative by Obama? I think there could be a lot of useful work done in teaching civics/political science to community college students, specifically teaching them how to navigate the political system.

  2. I don’t think there’s going to be money for “an army of adjuncts.” The big state systems are planning on 1) decreasing enrollment 2) increasing class sizes — which may impact adjuncts 3) canceling classes 4) making regular track faculty teach more.

  3. They’ll also be hiring less than 20% or so of their usual incoming classes — people are talking about 20 instead of 200 at Berkeley.

  4. “4) making regular track faculty teach more.”
    ‘I don’t see that happening broadly. At least not quickly.’
    No kidding. Tenure-track (and especially tenured) faculty have contracts with this sort of stuff spelled out.

  5. Actually, I sort of wonder what is going to give in the academic job market (speaking here largely of the humanities and social sciences). Schools seem to be able to get away with paying an average wage (including adjuncts and GTAs) that is below what it costs to live with the difference being made-up by borrowing or family or working side jobs.
    Presumably this has only continued as long as it did because of presumed higher future wages or because of some perceived pay-off in terms of status. I don’t see how either of those expectations can last much longer. It seems to me that the only long term solution is to restrict supply (i.e. fewer and smaller grad schools), but that would make the short-term demand even worse.

  6. Anyway, it worries me as I’d rather work at a university than elsewhere. But, I’m well aware that the only thing keeps my salary up is that I can find (and have found) employment on the outside.

  7. I think academic employment has largely turned into a winner take all tournament — like,other creative professions. People still enter tournaments, if the payoff is desirable enough (i.e. sports, acting, music, . . .). Right now, I think part of the model is that people don’t understand that it’s a tournament, and thus, some people take risks that they wouldn’t take, to, say, hop in a car and drive to California trying to break into the movie business.
    I don’t think supply restriction is going to come from above, if grad students are a profit center (i.e. as TAs, or as RAs, or if they pay tuition). In science, restrictions could come from restricting the funds that come from the government, but I’m not seeing a significant case for doing that anywhere.

  8. Part-time positions should carry full academic status, equivalent rank, promotion opportunities, equal rates of pay, commensurate departmental participation and commensurate fringe benefits, including access to research resources.
    Approximately 2/3 of all higher education teachers are neither tenured nor tenure-track. Equalizing pay rates, and giving commensurate benefits would crack the entire system in half. No school outside of maybe the top 20 or so could afford doubling salaries and tripling health care expenses. These “policies” are just pie in the sky if there’s no way to get from here to there.

  9. “I don’t think supply restriction is going to come from above…”
    I don’t think it is likely either. I’m guessing supply restriction will come from below. But, I also bet that supply restriction from above would have less or an impact on the quality of those who do go then restriction from below.
    If nothing else happens, eventually undergrads will be steered into other tracks by parents, underpaid junior faculty, peers, etc. I still remember the only consistent piece of advice I got from my profs (and family) when we discussed my future plans: If you don’t get funded, don’t go to graduate school.
    In the future, the talk me be along the lines of “If you don’t get funded at a top ten school, don’t go” or (the one that I would have liked to have gotten) “If you can’t figure out anything interesting enough for a whole dissertation by the end of year 2, drop-out.”

  10. “Approximately 2/3 of all higher education teachers are neither tenured nor tenure-track.”
    2/3rd of all teachers isn’t 2/3rds of the teaching load and I don’t think anybody is calling for ‘equalizing pay’ so much as boosting the bottom end. I don’t think it would cost as much as you think. But, I’m fairly certain that ‘commensurate fringe benefits’ is a not starter if you include health insurance.

  11. Ethically, universities cannot go on treating 2/3rd of its instructors like total crap. I don’t care if the system breaks. It’s just plain wrong to hire someone to teach four classes, pay him $12,000 and not give him health insurance.
    Steve just heard about one of guys who was in his cohort at C*NY grad school. The guy is still an adjunct in the system. This adjunct, who spent years and years getting his PhD because he had to adjunct, said that the only jobs in history are going to the seven Ivy league schools. The only people in Steve’s program that got jobs were women studying Latin American history. Thank God, Steve got out quickly.

  12. I’m not sure why teaching load (which is still approximately 50%) is a better measure than number of non-tenured instructors. If your solution is to improve the lot of half of the adjuncts, and fire the other half, you have improved the situation for a larger portion of the teaching load, but you’ve made a bunch of people worse off.

  13. Ragtime,
    Yes, I think that any solution that involves paying some adjuncts more (or, ideally, paying faculty to do what the adjuncts are doing) will necessarily boot-out a large portion of the existing adjuncts. However, given current pay and chances of advancement, I would not assume that made people worse off.

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