Re: Ph.D in Cultural Anthropology
8 Nov 1996 20:28:00 GMT

On 4 November Tanya wrote: I am currently considering pursuing doctoral
studies on Cultural Anthropology with the hopes of obtaining a faculty
position upon graduation...I noticed that there does not seem to be much
work in this field. What is the realistic job market like? How competitive
is it?

Someone please correct me if I am in error, but at present there is
apparently to way know what percentage of Ph.D. anthropologists are able
these days to find legitimate employment in the field, as no one has
compiled the data. (By legitimate I do not include the burgeoning number
of part time positions which pay in the neighborhood of ten thousand
dollars per year, without benefits.) Here are a few preliminary facts and
figures. Last year there were approximately 200 anthro jobs nationally in
academia. During the same period about 400 students got their doctorates
from some ninety degree granting institutions. It does not take long to
get quite a backlog under those conditions. When the Anthropology
Newsletter attempts to address the health of the discipline it is in terms
of the expanding number of new Ph.D. recipients. Nada on employment. (See,
for instance, the current issue for data on the success in the field of
applied anthropology.)

My own suspicion is that there is something of conspiracy of silence on
the topic. Better that the students not realize that unless one has a
degree from a top ten program there is almost no chance that the
investment of what should be a persons most productive years, not to
mention the direct and indirect investment of many tens of thousands of
dollars, will produce not even a single interview. Which is not to say
that even a top ten degree will necessarily fare much better in the
hyper-competitive marketplace. In my own department (a second tier program
with some twenty full time faculty and more than a hundred grad students)
the past three job openings have all attracted more than two hundred
applications each. All of the candidates had doctorates in hand, and most
had very fine resumes. The majority will never get jobs.

I suggest that any undergraduate thinking about a major in anthropology or
anyone thinking about graduate school in the discipline talk with the
appropriate departmental advisor and ask tough questions about employment.
Keep in mind that it is the students who are paying the professors
salaries, so they are not likely to just volunteer negative information on
the topic. Most, however, are honest enough that, if questioned directly,
will give straight answers. This might prove to be the most important half
hour investment that you will ever make. For my part, I offer this sort of
information to students interested in anthropology whether they ask for it
or not. Sorry about the heresy.