Monday, September 6, 2010

3. Your pedigree counts.

Where you earn your degree matters. It isn’t fair. It probably shouldn’t be this way, but it is. You will find it very hard to find an American academic who does not openly champion egalitarian principles and a belief in equal opportunity, but academia is not an equal opportunity business. If you graduate from Harvard, you will have an easier time moving along the academic path into graduate programs—and into an academic job—than if you graduate from Cornell. If you graduate from Cornell, you will have an easier time than if you graduate from Notre Dame. If you graduate from Notre Dame, then you are better off than if you had graduated from UC Davis, etc. This applies whether you are earning a bachelor’s degree or any kind of advanced degree. The actual quality of graduate programs may or may not have anything to with the reputation of the university in question.

Pride gets in the way of seeing this clearly sometimes, but the academic hierarchy is absolute and unforgiving. The various magazine rankings are only a reflection of a reality that existed long before the rankings did. The consequences of this hierarchy are real. There are only so many jobs. By the time that the Harvard PhDs have found tenure-track jobs across the United States—largely at the state universities where most of the jobs are—there are only so many jobs left for the Yale PhDs, the Princeton PhDs, the Stanford PhDs, the Cornell PhDs, etc. It is a long way down the list before we get to the University of Kentucky PhDs or the Michigan State PhDs. Those schools at the lower end of the list are now hiring Ivy-League graduates for their faculties, because the Ivy League alone produces so many PhDs that the academic market is saturated.  Where do you suppose all of the PhDs churned out by humanities programs at state universities end up? Some of them are working the night shift.



119 comments:

  1. Egregious Cornell trolling.

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  2. Im not really sure if i agree with you. I mean, look at the evidence provided by the UoWashington's study about social science's graduates careers. They show very robustly that there's a positive mismatch between offer and demand for PhD in Sociology, Geography, Anthropology and PolSci.

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    1. Have you looked at where the UW faculty in those departments have graduated from? Yale, Stanford, Cornell,...very few schools like the UW itself! The guy writing this is absolutely correct!

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    2. Not definitive of course but one more bit of evidence: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/08/study-traces-relative-success-those-who-earn-phds-more-and-less-prestigious

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  3. This 2007 study ranked political science doctoral programs by job placement rate. It makes the institutional hierarchy painfully clear. (See Table 1 on pages 527-528.) [PDF]:
    polisci.fsu.edu/news/Placement_Rankings.pdf

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  4. Sorry, the study im talking about refers to all the jobs offered, academic and non academic kind of positions.
    http://depts.washington.edu/cirgeweb/c/research/phd-career-path-surveys/social-science-phdsfive-years-out/

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  5. hey, msu is number one in education! so harvard doesn't have everything.

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    1. Is there some kind of tacit assumption here that this blog is about, true, the humanities and social sciences, but the more rigorous and academic programs of the bunch i.e. economics or philosophy?

      I really don't think it matters that Michigan State has the number one (again, assuming) PhD program (?) in education nor do I think it means it's a strike against the prestige problem because doctoral programs in education are not taken seriously and are more often than not complete wastes of funding. There's a great article that outlines how the PhD program in edu. at UT-Austin includes camping trips and so called leadership exercises; it's a glorified camp counselor program that lets you be called "doctor" when you're done.

      A better example is that Rutgers has the no. 1 philosophy PhD program in America over the Ivy League; even though this post talks about pre-established ideas of prestige that "existed before the rankings" the issue still lives on as a result of the rankings - you'd be hard pressed to find a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Rutgers get denied a job even by the hands of other top programs that also belong to universities that have higher prestige overall like Stanford, UNC-CH, Notre Dame, etc.

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    2. Rusty - I would love to see that article. I know you wrote this comment many months ago, but if you ever creep back here, throw up a link!

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    3. Rusty
      1 rigorous branches of philosophy? Please. Rigor is more than self-indulgent formalism.
      2. NYU has a better grad program in Phil than Rutgers.

      The general point about pedigree is perfectly true in philosophy, though.

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    4. Nowadays you are often also competing for academic jobs with people from Oxford, Cambridge, UCL

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  6. For the love of EVERYTHING, people, this is a blog about graduate school. Would it KILL you to capitalize the first word in your sentences and properly punctuate the word "I'm"?

    THIS IS WHY you are struggling/not going to graduate school. Gah!

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    1. Lots of people probably trying to type on cell phones. Lighten up.

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    2. Plus it's often depressing so we need a few drinks.

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    3. A few drinks? I need an IV hookup during waking hours.

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    4. Proper capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and grammar, in my experience, impresses no one and won't even get you a paid job as a proofreader. Sad, but true.

      What's even worse - proper orthography, grammar, and punctuation *in another language* will not get you a paid job as a translator, editor, diplomat, proofreader, teacher, or marketing consultant.

      The idiots won, the rest of us who gave a sh*t about literacy can go push daisies.

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  7. If we are going to be pedants about grammar, then perhaps you could have caught this:

    "If you graduate from Notre Dame, then you are better off then [sic!!!!!] if you had graduated from UC Davis, etc."

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  8. Also, while the general point of hierarchy is well put, it is not at all true that a Harvard Phd is necessarily better than another from a perhaps lesser known school. Phds vary greatly in prestige according to the quality of a given department, and even more so for a given specialization in that department. So Notre Dame (and Cornell too!) actually do beat Harvard in, e.g., medieval philosophy. See: http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/breakdown/breakdown23.asp

    In fact, according to the Philosophical Gourmet, it is NYU that has the best overall philosophy graduate program in the English speaking world. Harvard "only" comes in at a tie with MIT for number 6! ; D

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  9. Graduate school rankings have become very popular of late. They sell a lot of magazines because they feed wishful thinking.

    It is hard to imagine Generic College hiring an NYU PhD if it has the opportunity to hire a Harvard PhD instead. The more Ivy League PhDs on a college's faculty, the better it looks to the outside world... and everyone knows this. It isn't fair, it may not reflect quality, but it is reality.

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    1. Any decent department of philosophy would prefer NYU in most areas a of philosophy. It's not a matter of what or someone else imagines. Harvard is good enough that it can compete well with NYU and Harvard's star of the year may do better than the runner at NYU. But the star at Michigan State or Iowa or Oklahoma will not. Virtually never.

      The point here is that rankings/pecking orders do differ from one field (or even subfield) to another. But within a field they are there and they have a VERY powerful affect on who gets jobs. This will probably be the most important of the 100 reasons.

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    2. Only virtually never. Lightening does strike, but very very rarely. You hear so much about the rare cases they can start to seem much more likely than they are. But if you took the odds involved to Vegas, you'd be broke much sooner than the average gambler. What you are contemplating are betting ten of the best years of your life on a very unlikely occurrence.

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  10. Harvard is absurdly overrated; that's for sure. But in religion, University of Chicago has beaten them (and everyone else) hands down for forty-plus years.

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    1. Yes. Each field will have its own ranking. Surely no one here is thing there is some single ranking that applies to all fields. In a given field there will likely be surprises for outsiders. People above noted philosophy where NYU and Rutgers and Pitt are in most top fives. Not a lot of surprises other than that. The rankings aren't arcane knowledge. Anyone contemplating grad school can ask a few professors (preferably not really old ones) in the relevant field or spend a half hour on google. You won't be far off. It's not rocket science

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  11. I believe Chomsky hypothesizes somewhere that you can gauge the seriousness of an academic discipline based on the extent to which pedigree isn't an issue. In science (according to him), a person's reputation is based on her research, and there are good objective standards for what counts as good research. Where she got her PhD is pretty much irrelevant. In philosophy, or English, it's a lot harder to say what counts as good research (I'm speaking as a philosophy student myself); pedigree suddenly becomes very convenient.

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    1. Except science doesn't happen in a vacuum, and maybe something Chomsky isn't accounting for is the amount of support the endowment at a top tier school can provide (unlike state schools where the Tea-Party is doing it's best to reduce all education to the level of plumber colleges for knuckle-draggers like themselves).

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    2. @Anonymous 11/07/10 - The problem with Chomsky's hypothesis is that it's not borne out by actual fact. Reputation has very little to do with quality of research in the sciences and never really has. For a comparatively early case, consider Hooke vs. Newton. The conceit expressed here is a layman's idealization of what happens in the sciences - it is more myth than material - what happens 'behind the scenes' is a lot more like sausage manufacture.

      @Anonymous 03/26/2013 - Your political bullshit is showing.

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    3. 1. Pick the top five programs in physics , math, and biology (using any reasonable set of criteria). 2. Check where the faculty members got their PhDs. The claim about pedigree is perfectly empirical. If you don't believe, look and see.

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    4. Caltech physics faculty with PhDs
      http://www.pma.caltech.edu/GSR/facresearch.html

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    5. "...unlike state schools where the Tea-Party is doing it's best to reduce all education to the level of plumber colleges for knuckle-draggers like themselves)."

      What the Liberal Bureaucrat Party doesn't tell you is they have other items they want to spend all your money on. These include administrative enlargement, new offices for the new admins, "showcase" projects and tuition waivers for more and more non-citizens. Subsidizing these things costs lots and lots of money, and that money is coming out of what you care about. This is why nominal tuition is at all time highs while actual education is being cut back and replaced with Bureaucrat Party propaganda.

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    6. ...not to mention egregious instances where the state school buys a hot-air bl*w-job from a rich Democrat criminal for hundreds of thousands of dollars, that might have gone to actual scholarship or even a teaching position or two.

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  12. Oversimplified discussion. It's not only dependent on the school, but also the individual program. My medieval studies program at a Big Ten (not Ivy League) school places all of its graduates within two years, mostly in tenure track positions. Thus, I am quite comfortable about my chances of getting good employment after graduation.

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    1. Yes. This is the point but it's been obscured by overlooking that prestige rankings will be different from one field or even subfield to another

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    2. It sure would be nice to see some updates from these still in grad school people. After nearly 5 years, how did the degree in medieval studies work out?

      Prospective grad students should pay close attention to this blog, because every item is right on the mark.

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    3. Karen Bruce appears to have gained a position as a lecturer at Ohio State. Which usually implies non-tenure non-research post.

      Not something I'm aiming for...

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  13. Isn't that a good thing? I mean, the people with the best training get the best jobs? Not to mention that the people with the most talent probably get into the top schools to begin with.

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    1. "... the people with the best training get the best jobs?" Doesn't often happen in real life.
      "...the people with the most talent probably get into the top schools to begin with." This hasn't ever been the case.

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  14. Whether you necessarily get the "best training" at an elite institution is an open question. The preference for tony diplomas is so strong that it doesn't really matter. You could probably go to a grad program in the Ivy League and get next to zero attention from the faculty. You got in, so you're smart enough to pass your exams and write your thesis pretty independently, but you didn't get much "training." It's probably like everything else, the fact that you got in is what people care about in the end.

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  15. Pedigree matters, but working you were to the best possible name on a terminal degree without compromise is important also. I'm obtaining my masters from a decent university, with a fairly strong profile. The benefit of this school is I am receiving funding to attend. However, I intend to aim much higher for my phd institution, even if it means I have to pay my own way.

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    1. If you pay your own way they are not going to care a lot about how you do. People can sometimes secure funding once they are on site. If you can't after two years (max), get out At a really good program you will probably rack up huge debt and if they won't fund you they won't do much to place you. Some places won't even take you if they won't fund you.

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  16. "It is hard to imagine Generic College hiring an NYU PhD if it has the opportunity to hire a Harvard PhD instead. The more Ivy League PhDs on a college's faculty, the better it looks to the outside world... and everyone knows this. It isn't fair, it may not reflect quality, but it is reality."

    It appears that this whole discussion (both of this particular point and throughout your blog) is based solely on your own opinion. If you have solid statistics and studies to backup your claims, I might believe you. Otherwise, it comes off sounding like pedantry, sour grapes, or grandstanding for attention.

    The core tenet of most graduate schools is intellectual rigor. In arguing a point, this means having evidence and a way of substantiating any truth claims. In the absence of them, this is all just "scare the grads away" coffee talk. Fluffy, not serious.

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    1. Yes. And it's not hard to get a pretty good fix on things. Here are tt-hires in phipphy this year. The same site has lists for other recent years and there are a couple of other places I think with similar lists (use google): http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2014/04/tenure-track-and-post-doc-hiring-of-philosophy-phds-2013-14.html

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    2. TP, the proof is in the pudding when you look at the humanities & social sciences faculty pages. Depending on the field, where you get your Phd matters. So cut the BS and get your head out of the sand.

      "If you have solid statistics and studies to backup your claims ..... The core tenet of most graduate schools is intellectual rigor. In arguing a point, this means having evidence and a way of substantiating any truth claims"

      Strange. You argued a point yet you don't follow your own advice. Gotta love "intellectuals."

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  17. TP, you mean like the third post in the thread?

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  18. The smaller the field, the more this matters, although as many posters have pointed out, depending on the program, the definition of "elite" varies; I am in a field in which the prestigious PhD programs are all big state schools. However, my field is small enough (fewer than 100 PhDs in the country in 2009, and this is for a field in which a PhD is mandatory) that we all know each other - and if you didn't go to one of the "big name" schools and work with someone who was a big name, you aren't going to be in the running for one of the high-profile jobs. Sure, you'll find a job, because there are more jobs than people in my field - for now. That might not always be the case.

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  19. When I used to advise undergrads wanting to go to school in ecology I told them to figure out which individual is the best in the sub-field they are interested in and try to get in their lab. Then go down the list from there because if you get in with a scientist that only publishes in regional journals and only gets grants from the Nature Conservancy then you are screwed. I found that most students have inflated opinions of their own abilities to start with an unknown scientist and then go out in the job market and climb the ladder. It just doesn't happen. Lastly, I told them to go with an Assistant Professor only as a last resort. They don't have the credibility in their field to help much with a letter of recommendation for a academic position. There is a hierarchy for your advisors reputation.

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  20. Haha, good thing I go to Harvard! Suckers

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  21. Sorry to burst all your idealistic little bubbles, but the reason pedigree counts is that smarter, more able people get into more highly-regarded programs. It's not some great mystery. Students aren't randomly distributed to graduate programs, they earn their places.

    Sure, it might not be fair -- after all, a so-so college student might turn out to be a game-changing scholar, but have a harder time getting a job than just another PhD who happened to pay more attention during application season. Like most institutional systems, academia is locally capricious, but globally rational. Yes, people at the top of a system tend to think they are "better" than those lower down, which is manifestly not always the case -- but if you think that Nowhereville State U offers the same level of training, and consistently produces PhDs of the same quality, as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Chicago,..., then you're crazy.

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    1. Not so. In my long academic career, I've met and worked with the privileged, and once on the job they are surprisingly not any better than my state-educated colleagues. Teaching is not necessarily prized at Harvard or any other top-rated institution (not that one can't have an excellent experience at Harvard - or anywhere, really). It's always been about the connections one makes, not the information one gleans or the IQ's/test scores of the attendees. Powerful people send their kids to schools with other powerful kids for prestige and even more power, and that's the bottom line. George W. Bush's admittance to Yale should prove this truth sufficiently.

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    2. Your political bullshit is showing. Why not cite John Kerry, who is an even more egregious and obvious case? We're talking elite private high school, worse grades than Bush in grad school, and married to big money in the form of Teresa Heinz, incidentally proving that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Or perhaps you see this as proof that Kerry can cut the mustard?

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    3. Lame retort, his exemplar is still functional. Your drawing lines to read between.

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    4. No, I think the basic argument has merit. But it's been clear for years that academia is all about the liberal bureaucrat class arrogating more and more goodies to itself, to further its agenda. In this context, Obama's a great example (will the public EVER get to see those elusive transcripts?), and Kerry's a better example than G.W. Bush of the victory of "connections" over ability.

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    5. >>Nowhereville State U

      The great irony to this is that the places Podunk U's are located aren't exactly "nowhereville" since it's technically on a map.

      College Station? Why that's Texas A&M. Columbus? That's Buckeye territory. Champaign-Urbana? State of Illinois and home to University of Illinois. Omaha? Tuscaloosa? Cornhuskers and Crimson Tide.

      Those that condescend aren't nearly as smart as they think they are.

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  22. sat on a humanities search committee in 2010. out of 75 applicants the list was narrowed to 15, all of whom were from ivy-league schools. i'd say 4 out of the 15 had human personalities. the rest were a mix of academic cutters, Rainman types, Lurch-es, and tweedies. another filtering criterion was the awarding of a nationally-competitive research grant. i'm thinking the imbalance will correct itself. if a lot of state school students are forced to interact with the above-mentioned types as undergrad professors, they will be less likely to go to grad school themselves...especially at an ivy-league school where they would most likely shape-shift into these personalities.
    p.s. call the grammar/capitalization police...EXCELSIOR!

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    1. What's a "human personality"?

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    2. This! *punches u in the face*

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  23. "Sorry to burst all your idealistic little bubbles, but the reason pedigree counts is that smarter, more able people get into more highly-regarded programs. It's not some great mystery. Students aren't randomly distributed to graduate programs, they earn their places."

    Wow--full of yourself much? There are a lot of reasons why this isn't strictly true--students get into the top ranked schools but accept more competitive packages as lower ranked schools (smart but not rich), dummies with legacies get into the Ivies all the time (rich but not smart), career changers with family commitments can't move across the country to attend the top ranked programs (smart but not mobile).

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    1. Your third point is valid; the first and second, for the most part, are not. In general, the top ranked schools are able to offer more competitive funding than the lower ranked schools, as they generally have larger endowments, larger budgets, and this larger amounts of funds available to the humanities and social science. It would be a rare case indeed to receive a better offer from Middling State School than from an Ivy or quasi-Ivy. Further, once again, this perception that legacy is even close to a factor in graduate school admissions is not true. When applying to graduate school (yes, I'm one of the dumb ones who read this site and decided to apply anyway), I don't recall seeing a space to put where my parents when to college - even for my Ivy applications. I'm not a legacy, so it didn't matter to me. To think, however, the a 'dummy with legacies get[s] into the Ivies all the time' is ludicrous. Once in a blue moon, perhaps. All the time, absolutely not.

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    2. apologies for the typos; should read 'thus' and 'went'.

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  24. Like all other decisions in life, going to grad school is personal. Pursuing a dream is what its about for some of us, not necessarily about money or a job. I count it a privilege to be able to go as I stopped short of doing so after my undergrad degree. After raising my children, I started working in a field in which I had no training (entreprenuer through word of mouth) and so decided on a grad school nearby which will give me the credentials I need. The balance is that whereever people find themselves, they will find a community of those they live and work with who will value their worth as individuals not limited to a good work ethic or kindness - not school, family or company name, job title, etc. In addition, those that count their privileges in humility will have more understanding than those who follow certain elite expectations just because it is in their 'world" to do so. Keep going if you have those opportunities, but don't lament that "world" as the only way to success. The many facets of success aren't necessarily in the material and ego-enhancing approaches others would lead you to believe, whether or not you are accepted at an Ivy grad school (or undergrad for that matter) or not.

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  25. I have to dissent from the thesis here, at least for the natural sciences. Although I landed low for wanting to keep the trajectory short (ten years total, including undergraduate), I never had the impression that it mattered where my degrees were from. Science is about what you've done, not where you've been.

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    1. @Ken Pidcock: Agreed. And that's truly the same with the humanities. Universities may like the have Ivy League faculty, but they also look for achievement. Innovation, creativity, and keeping up with what's 'popular' in the academic community count just as much for getting an academic position.

      I've been lucky enough to be innovative already and I'm only an undergrad at the 3rd best Canadian university... which goes down to 51st in world rankings. Yet, I've already been assured by my grad-advisors (who have Ivy League Degrees) that I will end up with a tenure track position at a university after I graduate with a PhD in seven years or so, if I continue down the path of research that I've created. Now, my grades are truly average at 70%, and my university isn't the best in the field that I work with (it's 21st in the world), but because I've figured out a new way to look at an aspect of my field, and have already put in so much research this early in my academic career, I've created enough momentum to bring myself up higher than my grades alone. So - as you said Mr. Pidcock, "it's what you've done."

      Note that my original innovation was a fluke - based upon asking the right questions, learning the right language, and connecting with the right people.

      Anyone can do it, if they're lucky.

      I sure am lucky... O__O"

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    2. (And I don't mean to put myself up on any pedestal. I've certainly failed my share of courses, and some very important people in my field don't like my guts because I have trouble communicating orally to people who emit the essence of authority... I get a horrible stutter. It really is just luck that I'm in the situation I'm in.)

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    3. "I sure am lucky", please....
      too much self-praise for my taste

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  26. I'm not really sure how your argument is against graduate school in particular, rather than the unjust situation of vicious cycles of deprivation/privilege in education and life paths, a situation that I would certainly join you in arguing against, though you could probably put it better. Are you seriously saying that prestige and educational history does not figure in job candidates' chances?? Many graduate programmes in the private sector are exclusively aimed at graduates of the top institutions. Same goes for various careers in law, medicine, government, institutions...

    If anything, this endemic problem is arguably less within academia, because:

    1. If you're passionate and bright enough about a particular topic to be willing and able to undertake a PhD in it, this should shine eloquently through and may itself be enough to impress people later on.

    2. You also have the chance to mingle and network with specialists in your area from all types of universities through conferences, collaborations etc, and therefore getting your degree from one university does not preclude links and contacts with other more famous names.

    3. Athough clearly there the big, famous and generally prestigious universities, outside of this you would be surprised how dispersed the 'top' departments and professors are in niche areas of research - e.g. a world-famous Foucault professor or a top-notch calcium imaging lab - and therefore the quality of your specialism would still be recognised for an otherwise perhaps unremarkable university.

    Anyway, everything is relative: I'd rather have a Uni of Kentucky PhD than drop out of high school!

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    1. Ok. But you very likely won't get a tt-job in most fields in the Humanities or Social Sciences with a Kentucky PhD. may not matter to you. If so , this point doesn't apply to you. But it matters greatly to the hoards of PhDs on the market each year.

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    2. That's "hordes" (sigh).

      However, at Univ. of Kentucky, you might get to party with the multi-million dollar cocaine-snorting Japanese quail. Who cares if you get tenure-track - this is as close to John deLorean as you're going to get!

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    3. University of KY geography is ranked in the top 10 programs in the world.

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  27. It's sometimes true that at smaller liberal arts colleges there can be a bias in hiring against candidates with Ivy League credentials -- a "jealousy trip," to be sure -- but, by the same token, some Ivy Leaguers often come across as arrogant when being interviewed at liberal arts colleges by those with degrees from Michigan State or Ohio State. The solution? In terms of hiring, look for quality of mind and spirit, respect young scholars who have been mentored by notables in their fields, and, in terms of the job search, be genuine in your demeanor and interested in what a liberal arts college can do for you and what you can contribute to its success.

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  28. btw, Ivy Leagues are full of legacy students - rather than a meritocracy, people get in because one of their parents ( and usually grandparents) are alums.

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    1. For undergrad, certainly. But this patently is not the case at the MA/PhD level. I don't know how it would work if a prospective student's family had donated a library or something like that, but simply having a family member who attended that institution will not at all help. I understand where this idea comes from, but it is incorrect to try to apply an undergraduate admissions phenomenon to graduate school admissions.

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    2. Well, where do top ranked graduate programs look for students? They are pulling from those same schools. So those same legacy and rich kids get more opportunities at better grad programs. It is a pipeline problem. Read Degrees of Inequality by Ann Mullen to find out more.

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  29. I agree that prestige matters a bit too much, but the reality is that all PhDs are not created equal. There is quite a difference in the training and professional development available to a student at a Top 10 institution vs. one that is ranked #90. People at the lower-ranked department like to argue that this is not true, but it most certainly is. Furthermore, the fact that ranking matters is not unknown to most when applying to grad school; nobody truly believes that enrolling at a University of Tennessee will pay off the same as going to Vanderbilt, and if they do, then the disappointment is well-earned.

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    1. Rankings do, absolutely, matter in the career marketplace. This almost goes without saying. However, there is no data that shows that the level of training and development is significantly different at one school versus another. Vandy might admit better students than UT, but there is not data to support the idea that they do a better job of teaching and training them. Or vice versa for that matter. Better inputs = better outputs in most cases, regardless of intervention.

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    2. There is virtually no decent data on this or almost any related matter. That's a problem. This would be a topic a (very smart ) grad student could tackle that would matter. But if they got the "wrong" results by the academy's lights, they'd be in very deep shit

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  30. This whole "prestige" issue is exploding along with the college tuition bubble itself. The new common-sense approach is to go to an in-state school and major in a subject that you like and one that will provide you with a fulfilling, well-paid, stable career.

    I would like to see every high-school junior take a year-long course in current events. About fifteen minutes of each class period should be used to discuss the issues here: who should go to college, when they should go, which college, which majors, which minors, which financial plans, should they work first, join the military first, delay going and have their employer pay, and on and on. The high school kids aren't stupid. But how many blogs have you read where a Liberal Arts major, soon to graduate, regrets his choice of subject and laments that his degree is worthless?

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    1. You can make an argument for this for a BA or BS or maybe some MA or professional degrees. It is most definitely not the case for a PhD in the Humanities.

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    2. "The new common-sense approach is to go to an in-state school and major in a subject that you like and one that will provide you with a fulfilling, well-paid, stable career."

      And I am here to tell you that vocational training at In-State U. doesn't get you a Damn Thing.

      Signed, Unemployed M.S. from In-State U.

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    3. @ Anonymous April 27 2:04PM: Stop lying. You didn't go to a state university for its vocational track (strange you didn't have any specifics).

      Most likely you're an unemployed with an M.A.

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  31. To the point of the last comment, the demand for the flagship state college in my state has exploded the last couple decades, for obvious reasons.

    First, the tuition is substantially lower than private schools. I was so ignorant about college that I did not know until 1/2 way through undergrad that this was actually the case.

    Second, the name recognition is much easier than almost all private schools. My school was a top 100 nationally ranked school, but few people outside the state seem to have heard of it. No such problem with the school bearing the name of the state, of course.

    Third, I'm sorry but it is a much easier school. Friends at the state school smoked their way through college, what with taking 4 classes per semester while I took 5-6 (for the same major).

    Not surprisingly, the difficulty of getting into said state school is unbelievably more difficult than it used to be. That's probably the wave of the future in each state.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I have a University of Kentucky PharmD and being that it is one of the top 5 pharmacy schools in the nation, it isn't as 'far down the list' as you make it. Individual disciplines know the strengths of programs, and believe me, Ivy League means squat for a lot of them.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I love how easy it is to find the next in the sequence. Brilliantly done.

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  34. Great! i graduated from Uc davis so im only 3 ranks away from Harvard!! ahaha, that makes me feel better

    ReplyDelete
  35. At my old dept. at a state university, they recently searched for an asst. professor and it came down to 3 candidates (out of almost 200 from what I heard, although less than 100 were actually qualified for the sub-field). 1 was from Princeton, 1 from TCU, the other from Temple. The TCU grad got the job. From what I heard, what made the difference was interview skills and personality. Some schools worry that an Ivy League PhD may "talk over" their students.

    Being able to look and sound like a well-adjusted person does help, regardless of your alma mater.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Some people are obsessed with the Ivy League which, after all, is only an athletic conference. Maybe the solution is for 95 percent of the new hires be from that school's athletic conference. Then Tennessee grads could teach at Alabama, Alabama grads could go to Florida, whose grads would go to South Carolina and so on. the new PhDs would be happy, not longing for Boston scrod and the Kennedys in what they consider a backwater. The students would be happy not having some one talk down to them. The Ivy League PhDs? Not so happy.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Certain specializations or even majors are offered at so few institutions that this argument does not hold true at all. Im currently applying to graduate programs for such a specific specialization there are only 10 universities in the world that offer it. Im not applying to all 10 because each school offering this specialization has different research goals. There is no Ivy league university offering a Phd in my specific area of interest meaning I won't be competing against Ivy league Phd's for jobs in my field.

    Much of what this blogger writes comes from a certain amount of truth but in all honesty the wide variety of graduate programs offered and for a myriad of people means this blog has general truths and that we as academics need to critically assess what we are reading.

    ReplyDelete
  38. "Groupthink in Academia: Majoritarian Departmental Politics and the Professional Pyramid"

    by Daniel B. Klein and Charlotta Stern

    Independent Review, Spring 2009

    http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?a=731

    From the article:

    [Consider a conventional ranking of two hundred economics departments worldwide, where the top thirty-five are treated as the apex (Klein 2005, 143). In these top thirty-five departments, more than 90 percent of faculty received their Ph.D. degree from the same thirty-five departments; the top is almost entirely self-regenerating. According to the regression line, the department ranked one hundredth would have about 65 percent of its faculty from the top thirty-five. Departments farther down the pyramid are generally much smaller, so the top thirty-five departments train and mentor the people who populate most of the top two hundred departments. The profession, especially at the higher echelons, consists for the most part of people directly indebted to and personally loyal to those at the apex.

    Yet these results do not fully capture the domination by the top departments, which also have vastly disproportionate influence in regard to journals, grants, second-generation degrees, and so on (Klein 2005, 144–45). In sociology, for instance, Val Burris documents the extraordinary power that the leading U.S. departments exercise:

    Graduates from the top 5 departments account for roughly one-third of all faculty hired in all 94 departments. The top 20 departments account for roughly 70 percent of the total. Boundaries to upward mobility are extremely rigid. Sociologists with degrees from non–top 20 departments are rarely hired at top 20 departments and almost never hired at top 5 departments....

    The hiring of senior faculty by prestigious departments is even more incestuous than the hiring of new PhDs.... Of the 430 full-time faculty employed by the top 20 sociology departments... only 7 (less than 2 percent) received their PhD from a non–top 20 department, worked for three or more years in a non–top 20 department, and, after building their scholarly reputations, advanced to a faculty position in one of the top 20 departments. (2004, 247–49, 251)]

    ReplyDelete
  39. A corollary:

    The lower the ranking of the PhD program, the more convinced the PhD student/graduate is that he/she will change the world.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Critical Thinking would dictate that ivy league graduates are not necessarily better than their non-ivy colleagues.
    Common Sense will tell you that your graduate degree is just like any other product, and most consumers still side with the name brands.

    I graduated from University of Michigan, and though a great school, does not have the same name recognition as Harvard, Stanford, etc. And, saying: Ohhhh... UofM is #1 in medieval education is just bull.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't people get basic facts straight? Michigan is a very highly ranked in many fields. For example, it is a top five program in psychology and philosophy (I don't know about other fields). It is thus ahead of various Ivies in these fields. (Including Harvard)

      Delete
    2. I'm not sure where you're getting at, Anon (Jan. 1, 2:34PM). No one said that U of M has the same recognition as Harvard or Stanford. What's being discussed here - at least it came more narrow in focus in the comment section - is program prestige, not university prestige.

      And the poster who mentioned her program being medieval studies went to Ohio State, not Michigan.

      Delete
  41. I have to say that I am disturbed by the number of comments on the site. Most of these comments are making the argument for the blog.

    What the hell are all of you thinking that some specialized history Ph.D or philosophy Ph. D will get you hired? So what if this school outranks Harvard or not? You are still getting a Ph.d in medieval history! This is one of the reasons you don't go to graduate school for! Life of the mind will not feed the hunger in your stomach when you get out and are in debt, teaching as an adjunct or worse working at a book store!

    As for me, I am an anthro major in the undergraduate level and just realized what a foolish mistake I made and am now doing what I can to correct it. As a result, I will graduate a year late and need to get two interships to even hope to undo it. I even took on another major and I am learning practical skills so I don't end up working in fast food. I just can't imagine being in debt and realizing my mistake too late-i.e being in graduate school.

    Hell, one of my professors flat out told us that you don't get a Ph. D in anthro unless you really, really, really loved the subject and even then the job market was tough and you wouldn't get a job. And you know what happened? I know most of those kids, ignored him and will continue on and be in a world of hurt later on.

    As for me, I made the mistake to major in anthro and was too invested to back out and at least get a minor, so I went ahead and hate it! Although I learned to appreciate some insights, I have always been a critical thinker and instead of using those skills, I feel like I wasted my time and potential. However, if I was such a critical thinker, I should have known better. But, I was nineteen and stupid, but at least I am doing all I can to change this.

    P.S. Any grammer mistakes made should not distact from this post or make it any less valid. The grammer police seems to be on this site and as a result, some comments are disregarded just because of some spelling error, etc. Sorry, I am just human and make mistakes-as noted above by majoring in anthropology.

    Sighs, we all realize that this blog is talking about graduate schools in the humanities and social scienes, right? So, why the hell are we tallking about the hard sciences? This doesn't apply to you (at least in my mind), so why all the fuzz? Of course, getting a Ph.D will be different for each field. HOWEVER, don't be lazy and do RESEARCH! Find out what jobs exists in your field and whether needing a Masters is enough. For my new career path that is a huge, fat YES! So, I will invest in my education later on AFTER I face the world and get actually job experience. However, I don't need a Ph.D. and if I do that will be later on when I am financially stable.

    And for the love for God, do your research about your field and don't specialize to such a degree (i.e. 19th ca. Lit) that you lack any practical skills, such as Excel (and yes this is a skill) and basic programming. An office job may not be that appealing now, but when you're thiry, and not in $10,000+ in debt and having the time/money to vacation with you family, it will be heaven. Otherwise, you will curse your decision to have gotten an advanced degree in English.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 19th century lit. is specializing? Next s/he'll lecture us about s/he didn't have time for the novels of Wordsworth and neither should anyone else.

      Excel isn't really a marketable "skill," especially among the number crunchers who use it daily. I was told over a decade ago that engineers don't even bother putting this kind of thing on their resumes. It can be useful, but it won't get you a job - not even at $24,000 p.a. working for a bank. 80% of those using Excel probably don't use 20% of what it's capable of, and furthermore are likely to misuse that 20% because of lack of training/awareness of basic math and statistics (e.g. the so-called random value generator fails random distribution tests and therefore should not be used in statistical work - you have to roll your own). Your average HR monkey has no awareness of this, but may ask you whether you can set up a pivot table (which won't get you hired either, but it enables the monkey to check off another box).

      Basic programming won't get you hired - whether it's basic Basic, basic C++, or basic Java. Arguing that you can learn whatever other specific computer language or script that may be asked for because you know something about language Z will get your resume a quick trip to the round file courtesy of the HR monkeys. They have to be able to check off their little boxes without any actual understanding of what they're hiring for. This is why in 2001 you could find employment ads requiring 10+ years Java programming experience (among a slew of TLAs - three-letter acronyms - with similar experience requirements).

      So as you sally forth in search of employment with your 'practical' skills, all I can say is good luck, you'll need it.

      Delete
    2. Wow-- you made *such* a mistake with anthropology!!! What did you decide to change your major to? Political science? Economics? History? Any sort of liberal art/ social science major is all lumped together in terms of "value", at the undergraduate level. Now, you're in undergrad for more years of school-- and I'm assuming acquiring more loans to cover these years of school-- now that /isn't/ a mistake?

      A bachelor's degree today basically just shows employers that you committed to something and it's known you don't know *that* much about something-- you've just dabbled into it, for the most part. Honestly, if you were close to graduating in anthropology, it would've made more sense to just graduate with it, save time and money and try to get a job. Then, if you want to go to graduate school, you can go in a different discipline or field.

      Please stop being ignorant and bashing anthropology. It did nothing to you, you're just thinking you made the wrong decision and now you're blaming a wonderful discipline of study. Further, don't say "don't go into anthropology!!!", you obviously are just making such an assertion from your personal experience. The important thing is "Don't go into an anthropology graduate program unless you get into a top school that provides funding". There, much better.

      You must not really know anthropology or have an ability to appreciate what it really is. Therefore, I guess it is good that you changed your major....

      Signed, a UMich Anthropology BA graduate.

      Delete
    3. @ Anon (May 30, 11:52AM) -

      >>Excel isn't really a marketable "skill," especially among the number crunchers who use it daily. I was told over a decade ago that engineers don't even bother putting this kind of thing on their resumes.

      You pretty much defeat your entire premise. If you're apply to a company that uses Excel daily then it is a marketable skill for in the eyes of the company. What isn't marketable is not having it. What's in-demand is what's marketable.

      >>It can be useful, but it won't get you a job - not even at $24,000 p.a. working for a bank.

      Useful is marketable. You talk about things you don't understand.

      >>80% of those using Excel probably don't use 20% of what it's capable of, and furthermore are likely to misuse that 20% because of lack of training/awareness of basic math and statistics (e.g. the so-called random value generator fails random distribution tests and therefore should not be used in statistical work - you have to roll your own).

      I bet you don't even know how to properly use the "random value generator."

      Learning Excel isn't rocket science, though it does have a learning curve, so I'm not sure where you got the 80% from, unless you're implying that only you know how to use Excel the correct way and that 80% of those who are employed are royally screwing up their projects for their business.


      >>Your average HR monkey has no awareness of this, but may ask you whether you can set up a pivot table (which won't get you hired either, but it enables the monkey to check off another box).

      HR monkey? Wow. I wonder what your business background is.

      Again, I'm not sure how knowing Excel isn't a marketable skill the way you present it as.

      >>Basic programming won't get you hired - whether it's basic Basic, basic C++, or basic Java.

      Ask all those that have taken courses in basic programming from one of those intense 6 month programs and tell them that.

      You dismiss the knowledge of using Excel and you dismiss basic programming. I'm pretty sure you got some bitterness in you towards that (A) were hired who have such skills and (B) that are better than you at their job than you are or (C) you're some moron who got a PHd in the humanities/social sciences who turns his noses up at cubicle workers, because for whatever inane reason you escaped "the man."


      >>Arguing that you can learn whatever other specific computer language or script that may be asked for because you know something about language Z will get your resume a quick trip to the round file courtesy of the HR monkeys. They have to be able to check off their little boxes without any actual understanding of what they're hiring for.

      Since HR "monkeys" (you seriously got issues with HR) don't have the same responsibilities as the candidate interviewing for a banking job I wouldn't expect them to know what the candidate is suppose to know. You're comparing apples to oranges.

      In fact, HR must be doing something right because they hired my brother who knows Excel and it hasn't been a disaster on his part.

      >>This is why in 2001 you could find employment ads requiring 10+ years Java programming experience (among a slew of TLAs - three-letter acronyms - with similar experience requirements).

      Cool story.

      >>So as you sally forth in search of employment with your 'practical' skills, all I can say is good luck, you'll need it.

      What skills would be marketable in your eyes, as well as practical, that would get one a job?

      Delete
  42. Even at a top school you need to have a trust fund or a very powerful advisor. And it helps not to be female.

    When I married, my wife was a grad student in Art History at Yale, and looked on with awe by her comrades. But she had the wrong adviser who ignored her and had poor career prospects. She abandoned a dissertation that already had 800 pages written and would have had a revolutionary impact on her subfield. Finally she graduated from law school at 40, not able to go to Yale Law or take a Supreme Court clerkship because of family obligations. She was denied partnership at the #1 law firm in the world, because she is female, but they still paid her 7 figures. Now she is a partner at another top law firm, where they are also takeing her for granted for being female.

    Another woman in the Yale art history department was spoken of in awe by her peers. I can't tell you how brilliant she was considered to be. She lost out at Princeton because of politics involving another department. The man responsible was a friend of ours and told frankly he did not know whether she would ever be able to recover. She finally got tenure at Michigan 13 years after getting her PhD.

    These people are the top of the top: smart, workaholic, dedicated, personable, decent to their cores. And this was 30 years ago.

    Later, I shared office space with a friend who was getting a history PhD at Princeton. Not of the same exalted caliber, but she had a very powerful advisor. He got her post-docs at Columbia and Harvard and eventually a tenure track job abroad. That is what you really need today, either a powerful advisor or a trust fund. Just being among the best people in your field is no guarantee of success.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a fine example of projection and stupidity, if not outright lying.

      (1) Claim that spouse's 800 - yes, 800 - page dissertation would've made a major impact in her field,
      (2) Claim that she couldn't attend Yale Law and therefore do a clerkship under a justice sitting on SCOTUS due to family obligations, and
      (3) Claim that due to her sex she was benched for partner at, supposedly, the #1 law firm in the world (I didn't even know there were rankings for law firms).

      This site is great.

      Also not sure how being female played into anything in your "brilliant" Yale Art History student.

      I've checked Michigan's Art History page and I came up with two women that fits the description in your story. Either it's Elizabeth Sears or Rebecca Zurier.

      Sears was employed by Princeton University in 1982-1987. Usually talks about obtaining tenure is anywhere between the 4th or 6th year. She left Princeton for Michigan to obtain tenure 13 years after her doctoral studies.

      If anything, I believe this part of your post is true but not your story about your wife. I've known a couple of lawyers who've done clerkships under SCOTUS justices that had children. I'm also perplexed why your wife abandoned her dissertation regardless if she had a poor advisor. There are many art history programs where I bet she'd get a look at for hire.

      Delete
  43. The system is total BS with respect to how it perpetuates inequality. Pedigree bias is very present even in my field (sociology; see, for example, "Prestige Determinants of First Academic Job for New Sociology PhDs"; there is a more recent piece in the American Sociological Review (2005?) but I cannot recall the citation off hand). Thus, for while we are told to work on our own scholarship, much of the research shows that (again, at least in my discipline) the prestige of your institution matters far more than your scholarly achievements during grad school. So much for meritocracy!

    ReplyDelete
  44. But how is this problem specific to academia?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Been reading this blog. Agree with some entries, disagree with others.

    But this one is just nonsensical, for reasons that others have mentioned. Pedigree counts?? That is a general property of life, not a property of grad school. Having Harvard or Google on your resume opens career and even personal doors that having Arizona State or Bob's Discount Network Administrators doesn't. This is simply our society. You won't escape it by not going to grad school.

    You might as well say "Don't go to grad school because you might get cancer." Yeah, you might get cancer as a grad student, but you might get cancer anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Academic pedigree (not surprisingly) is more important in academia than anywhere else.

      What is surprising is how many people don't understand that. They take out 50K in loans to get a Ph.D. from a state school and think that that's going to get them hired to teach somewhere.

      Delete
    2. Exactly. If you get fully funded at a top five program and do well you will have a good chance at a tt- track job. If you go to a program only in the top fifty, very little chance (and it won't be what most would consider a pleasant job). It gets dicey with less extreme examples.

      Delete
    3. The problem is far more pronounced in the academic profession than elsewhere in the "real world". If a graduate from a low prestige college goes into business and proves they have a talent for getting things done, their school pedigree will likely be forgotten and disappear to the bottom of the resume. Maybe it's similar in the natural sciences, where a graduate from a low prestige school might solve a real problem. But in the humanities/social sciences, the academic pedigree means everything and it stays at the top of the credential list for life.

      Delete
  46. In my subject, history, there are 150 PhD programs. I place them in 5 categories:

    1) The Uppities - about 10 of them(the 8 Ivies, MIT + Stanford)

    2) The Lesser Uppities - Mostly private expensive schools, about 15 of them - Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, William&Mary, Duke, Emory, Chicago, NYU, Rice, Notre Dame, & a few others

    3) The Big State Universities - Several dozen of these - wide variation in quality here - like the difference between University of Wisconsin and University of New Mexico - but still, they all have big enrollment and division I football programs.

    4) The Regional State Universities - Several dozen of these (these are mostly interchangeable in my view ie: Cal-Riverside, Wayne State), and I also include the smaller, less famous private U's in here, ie: Temple, Loyola Chicago, Fordham, TCU, Northeastern, etc...

    5) The Specialized Regional State Universities - Maybe 20 or so of these - they have PhD programs in history but only in VERY specific sub-fields and only produce maybe 1 or 2 graduates every few years.

    Having been on several hiring committees at my community college, I've seen applicants from all the categories but the Ivies. Never seen anyone from there. A few, but rare, from the lesser Ivies. Most of our apps come from people with degrees from Big State and Regional State U's.

    Keep in mind our requirements are M.A. only, but typically PhD applicants outnumber the M.A.-only ones. There have been situations where MA people have beaten PhD ones, but this is a minority just because of numbers.

    Generally speaking, the pedigree does not matter at this level, since we've seen people from Big State programs crash and burn in interviews, while Regional State U's sometimes shine brightly.

    It also didn't matter at the Regional State where I went to school. In one search a TCU grad beat out a Princeton one. There were people with degrees from Northern Illinois and Harvard on that faculty.

    In my experience pedigree is mainly important in the #1-3 categories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Inspired by the comment above, I decided to look at a public university history department in the middle of the country to see what kind of people it has been hiring.

      This is where the 6 assistant professors of history at the University of Missouri-Columbia got their Ph.D.s: Yale, Columbia, Brown, Wash U, Emory, and Kansas

      In that list, Kansas is the exception that proves the rule.

      Mizzou is what you would call a Big State University, so I checked out three regional universities.

      There are 4 assistant professors of history at Missouri State-Springfield with Ph.D.s from: Cornell, Leiden, Wisconsin, Missouri

      3 at Northwest Missouri State: Missouri, Nebraska, Arizona State

      2 at Western Missouri State: Duke, Akron

      You can see a general pattern with a couple of surprises.

      Delete
    2. Sounds about right. I just looked up IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University - Indianapolis).

      They appear to have two new asst profs, one with a PhD from University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign and the other from University of South Carolina.

      The bigger problem is that the dept. there is staffed mostly by adjuncts - what looks like their own retired professors and PhD candidates from IU-Bloomington and Purdue.

      Another one - Clayton State University in Morrow, GA, an exurb of Atlanta.

      They have 3 asst. profs - PhDs from Ohio State, Univ of Toronto, Emory.

      Like I said before, I work at the community college level and we never see PhD candidates from anything better than Big State Universities - and they are rare and often the dregs of what their departments must have to offer. It's usually regionals but they are also not the strongest and can be beaten by strong Master's only grads if their teaching is not strong. Although we do have a Kansas PhD alumnus here.

      Sometimes it baffles me why so few PhDs try at our level and instead want to languish in adjunct-hell at the university level.

      Delete
    3. In my major metro area, getting a position in the community college system is the first prize for taking a graduate degree at the local (Big State U.) university. Hard to say what happens to the majority of the hundreds of graduates that don't make the cut. A few (VERY few) of the international students tend to go on to teach at very small poorly-ranked institutions or return home to teach at more prestigious institutions. Some local graduates go on to become perennial tutors. Some become CC staff or administration.

      Delete
    4. But why would you categorize the history programs that way?

      If you're talking about undergraduate rankings regardless of program, sure, but for the doctoral level rankings are different. According to US News (2013) Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan and Chicago are in the top 10. MIT is listed at 27. Cornell and Hopkins are just outside the top 10 alongside UNC. William & Mary and Notre Dame are ranked at 36.

      Again, your clusters would work if you were talking about undergraduate prestige. A doctoral in history is a whole different ball game.

      The general rule is if you want to teach at the top 25, if not the top 15, then you should attend a program that is within that cluster of considered elites.

      Delete
    5. I also want to add that the general rule I've mentioned is proven true by Anon's (5:52PM) and Aaron's post.

      Mizzou's history department is ranked at 64. I suppose the "saving grace" to this is that it's the flagship public university for the state of Missouri. The assistant professors that are alumnus of programs ranked higher than 25 attended Yale, Columbia and Brown. WashU and Emory then follows in ranking. The outlier is Kansas sitting at the 50 mark.

      The lower the ranking one would go and the more regional the less "elites" you'll see. If the "elites" can't secure TT at other "elites" they'll find TT jobs at flagships that aren't in that cluster.

      Delete
  47. This article doesn't offer a reason not to go to graduate school. It offers a reason to go to graduate school only at Harvard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or, more generally, not to go to graduate school at North Central [Great Plains State] U.

      Delete
    2. Exactly. That is precisely the point. For those who want academic jobs, this reason is the most important one on the entire list.

      Delete
  48. Pedigree and upper class affectations...crucial. Needless to say, but I'll say it: race (not so much ethnic background–if you're latin american or middle eastern, make sure you pass as "white"...and generally these are individuals from upper middle class backgrounds too, whether in the US or abroad). Really dark skin–not good; broad nose/mouth–not good.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I graduated from the University of Idaho... Shoot.

    ReplyDelete
  50. An excellent post - and (despite my wishful self with utopian dreams) I have to agree with it. The comments below by everyone including those who like to be called Mister Anonymous (much like me) were equally illuminating.

    Bottomline - pedigree matters. As for the person who mentioned Chomsky - this is certainly an interesting comment from Chomsky himself and perhaps even true to some extent (admittedly it was new to me and I appreciate your contribution to my knowledge).

    But let us admit it, we would not have paid much attention if it had been said by Professor Chomsky teaching at the Zhejiang University or at the Tsinghua university or the IIT. Each of them has merits, and excellent faculty, but we make judgements based on our perceptions. Ditto for PhDs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope. What you say is only true if you are fooled by the superficiality of branding. Sorry, pal, but that applies to education as much as - if not more - than anything else.

      Delete
  51. Please read Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath." It makes a very strong case for being a big fish in a small pond (amazing student at a good or even better-than-average school) instead of being a small fish in a big pond (a once-amazing-but-now-average-because-of-relative-comparison student in an amazing school). It not only applies to schools but also to those hired out of school.

    ReplyDelete
  52. 1. Concentrate pedigree value in a few urban areas on the New England, mid-Atlantic, and California coasts.

    2. Use this to enforce the liberal politicization of academia.

    3. Use 1-2 to enforce liberal politicization of national government, some state governments, and key industries.

    4. Use 1-3 to consolidate economic power in 4-5 key states, which enter into symbiotic relationships with the federal government/ dominant party in return for receiving the majority of national tax dollars.

    5. Involve federal government in expansion of student loans. Hike tuition faster than inflation to grow institutional bureaucracies to aid in consolidating steps 2-4, and impoverish/economically cripple all other regions of the country. Expand outright grants and opportunities to non-citizens to consolidate political and economic power. Accelerate offshoring of industrial sectors likely to generate alternate power centers.

    6. Generate ethnic violence, using the universities to provide support. Abdicate key federal law enforcement responsibilities, abdicate key health, environment, and security responsibilities (or even engineer disasters deliberately), and misuse government resources to quash undesirable internal dissent through excessive and inappropriate force.

    7. Police public speech and thought by co-opting electronic media and communications. Begin widespread and intrusive surveillance of the dis-empowered classes.

    8. Using terrorism as a cover, curb cash transactions and promote the "cashless society." Ostensibly in aid of law enforcement, this will actually consolidate power in a very few hands, create greater dependence, and be misused to squelch political dissent and facilitate outright theft.

    9. Accelerate automation of labor.

    10. Make abundantly clear that resistance is futile, that there are inviolable class barriers, that government will arbitrarily pick and destroy targets, that law does not apply, and that media is more or less uniformly controlled.

    Congratulations America.

    ReplyDelete
  53. This is utterly true. It is a brutal food chain, and, these days, such an explicit one that nobody even bothers to sugarcoat it very much. Today I positively shudder whenever I reflect upon my naivete at the time I drank the grad-school Kool-Aid in 2001. I was 35 and had an Ivy-league bachelor's degree (Columbia), but my initial post-graduate career efforts had tanked, and in grad school I sought escape (yes, from reality, the job market, and myself). To avoid accumulating debt, I bunked at "Hotel Mama," as the Germans call it, and attended a large third-tier state university--for in the area, that was the only option. I figured I would reboot myself by earning an M.A., then seguing into a top-ranked Ph.D. program.

    My mother, of all people, was skeptical, because as a born New Yorker (NYU grad, too), she was no stranger to collegiate pecking-order snobbery. But after I met the faculty at the third-rate university, I exulted, "Why, it's really a hidden gem of a program--look, almost all of them have the Ph.D. from an Ivy or public Ivy!"

    Little, little did I know what that meant--and does not mean.

    ReplyDelete