The job market for political scientists, like the markets for most academic fields, is a lot tighter this year than in the recent past. The American Political Science Association, which held its annual meeting here over the weekend, didn't release data on the job market, but everyone here agreed that things have gotten tight.Read the whole thing, at the link.
At a session for graduate directors, one woman talked about how she is trying to help not only those finishing up their dissertations find jobs, but those from last year who are working as adjuncts, with little by way of a living wage or job security. She said she found herself wondering when she should tell her students or graduates, if they can't find tenure-track jobs, that "this just isn't going to work out" and they should look for work elsewhere.
It was a sense that the job market just isn't what it used to be (and not only the scarcity of jobs) that led the political science association, for the first time at its annual meeting, to bring graduate directors together to hear from a panel and to trade ideas about the job market. The meeting was a mix of trend analysis, philosophical debate and tips for how to better prepare graduate students to find jobs in the field. In discussing tips, many times the political scientists found themselves recommending actions that might help on the job market, but that they weren't sure were ideal for graduate education.
A lot of the discussion is not that different from the kind of talk I used to hear 10 years ago at UCSB. Landing a tenure-track post at that time was hard. Now things just sound worse. As always, there's a premium on publications, even during the third year of grad school. I remember, back then, UCLA's political science department requiring students to write for publication. These are "qualifying papers," designed as pre-publication research. Students can't advance to candidacy without them. The assumption is that students would't be competitive job candidates without published research, and it's more true than ever.
Inside Higher Ed also notes that departments are seeking candidates skilled at generating external grant funding. It makes sense, if college budgets are tight, why not higher young scholars who'll bring in money? There's an interesting discussion of the online "job rumor mills," which weren't around when I was on the market. I guess the problem of anonymous posters and the "hate factor" aren't exclusive to the political blogosphere.
Anyway, I'm just glad I found a job teaching when I did. I'm in my 10th year at LBCC and I have few regrets, although I think most folks secretly wish they were at Harvard holding forth. But life in academics being what it is (competitive mostly), I can't complain.
In any case, folks should read the discussion on the future of political science graduate training at Duck of Minerva. Peter Howard's is here, "Your Life's Work." Patrick Thaddeus Jackson's is here, "Jobs and Vocations."
As a professor who trains students seeking university transfer, I'll never advise a student to forego the dream of becoming a political scientist (and that's the sort of the conclusion you get from Peter's post). The main thing is not necessarily for folks to actually become a Harvard professor. The ideal is to have lived a life of ideas and engagement, to have made a profession out of studying politics. And that'll be all the better if one finds a spot at an institution of higher education, even at community college.