Leiter on getting a job in the US with UK degree

There is a conversation going on right now on Leiter Reports regarding the success of students with a UK PhD applying for jobs in the states. As someone who plans to be doing just that in the next few years this is of some significance, as it is to many other students in my department; sadly though, the comments left so far have given the impression that the only reason to get a PhD is to get a good job. Now I obviously understand that we all have to make money one way or another, but if someone doesn’t have a passion for their field of study then they should just get a job in business and make a lot more money for much less effort. One comment literally gave the advice to make sure your adviser helped you develop a ‘marketable’ topic for your dissertation. As one who is planning on writing  PhD that will most definitely not be marketable in the states, I find it ridiculous that anyone would focus years of research around marketability.

The only advice that is really necessary for this situation is that one should study with the adviser and department that will best facilitate their field of interest and work their ass of for however many years they are there. Screw marketability. What is the point of spending years of your life in a department that doesn’t fit your academic interest for the sake of better chances in an unpredictable job market?  Eh.


4 thoughts on “Leiter on getting a job in the US with UK degree

  1. This is fundamentally correct in spirit; we are after all in the liberal arts.

    But I’m still going to go ahead and worry about employability, at least as a secondary concern. And I think Milbank has even used the language of marketability with me; if not the word itself (I can’t exactly remember) then at least the idea was much the same.

  2. I also agree with the spirit of the post, but you’re dissertation plan looks pretty marketable to me. So, don’t worry too much, even if you should worry just a little bit. The right amount to make sure you don’t slack off at least.

  3. Lisa Damian says:

    As someone with just under 15 years of experience in my career in higher education administration, I have two thoughts on this topic.

    First, a Ph.D. is referred to as “doctorate of philosophy” for a reason. You should study what you love in an effort to become an expert, a philosopher if you will, on the topic, pushing the subject matter in new directions. Thus, study what you love and what you wish to expand further beyond its current limits.

    Second, the job market is always unpreditable, but never underestimate Americans’ ability to be impressed by credentials. There are many Americans out there who may be more impressed with British credentials, and if you have a British accent and the dry sense of humor that we Americans assume all Brits have, it certainly can’t hurt your chances of getting hired in this country. 😉

    You’re absolutely correct. The job market is unpredictable, but on the up side of that, you never know what will be the next emerging field. By the time one finishes a Ph.D., the market may be flooded with qualified applicants in a venue that was hot seven years ago, and vice versa, new markets are always shifting and growing. Highly successful people tend to share some common traits — they are doing what they love, and believe in what they do.

    Unless your Ph.D. is in business marketing, worry about the marketing when the time comes to actually apply for jobs. In the mean time, enjoy this opportunity to research and practice what you love.

  4. augustinian says:

    Hey Merican!

    I guess a lot of this is down to why we want to know stuff. It really is fundamental: if you want to change the way people think, you’ll be interested in teaching and therefore preparing yourself to teach. I assume you are not simply uncritically following the urge to know (curiosity?), because you’re thinking about this question – and hey, knowledge puffs up, and love builds up: for evidence, see academic conferences ;-D

    If you’re researching to be a better person, then screw marketability. If you think excellent research changes thought more than teaching, the screw marketability (but maybe pander to publishers).

    But if you are researching as part of the long revolution to change yourself, culture, and world, then lay your research and its aims at the feet of those for whom you are doing it: the church, academy, and especially the poor. Do it for them and with them and let them set the agenda.

    And screw the market.


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