For the discipline of German Studies, most jobs require a serious commitment to research. The notion that most faculty members find jobs at teaching-focused universities is often repeated, but it does not apply to German Studies. If you want to find a job in German Studies, or if you want to prepare your grad students to find jobs, focusing on teaching at the expense of research is a recipe for failure.
Before I provide the documentation, let’s unpack this a bit. By “jobs” I mean “tenure-track jobs as a German professor,” because that is what nearly all the students who pursue a Ph.D. hope to achieve (and if we included non-tenure-track jobs in the following analysis, it wouldn’t change the results in any significant way). I’m also focusing on universities in North American because few people enter positions in international Germanistik with a Ph.D. from a North American university. Our training in literature combined with experience in foreign-language pedagogy make us strong candidates at home but flawed ones abroad.
It has been obvious for several years, of course, that where the jobs are is not in German Studies, with the exception of around 30 positions each year. Academic departments should respond by cutting back the size of incoming cohorts and the number of degrees granted. They should recognize that many of their graduates will find careers outside of academia as a necessity, and be supportive of those who do so. What they should not do, despite all the hype, is try to prepare grad students for non-academic careers. A Ph.D. in German is a horribly inefficient way to prepare for a career in finance or technology or the non-profit sector or, really, almost anything except becoming a German professor. Let the grad departments instead focus their efforts on preparing their grad students to become the best-qualified candidates for the jobs that exist. That’s what they are—or should be—good at.
So there aren’t a lot of jobs in German Studies. But if you’re determined to give the academic job market in German a whirl, then you need to be aware of where the jobs that exist actually are. If you’re a faculty member in a Ph.D.-granting department, you need to know what kind of training your students actually need, and what your neighbor in the office across the hall says about her discipline may not be true at all of German Studies.
I’m basing the following on over 330 tenure-track or open-rank jobs advertised in German Studies, either in the MLA/ADFL job list or in other sources, from the 2006-2007 academic year through the 2013-2014 academic year. I’m combining the pre-crash years of 2006 and 2007 with the post-crash years of 2008 and later because the percentage differences were insignificant when I examined them separately. The crash appears to have affected the number of tenure-track jobs in all types of departments.
Now it’s true that most tenure-track jobs are found in departments that offer only a bachelor’s degree (53.7%), or only a minor (4.7%) or language courses (2.1%), meaning 60.5% of jobs do not involve graduate teaching. That still leaves a large fraction of jobs that do involve graduate teaching either at the MA level (10.3%) or the Ph.D. level (29.2%). Call it a 60:40 split between jobs that involve only undergraduate teaching and jobs that include some graduate-level teaching.
The crucial context, however, is that 59% of all tenure-track jobs are at research institutions (RU/VH, RU/H, or DRU in Carnegie classifications). Faculty in bachelor’s-granting departments at research institutions are required to publish in most cases, as your colleagues at Notre Dame and Dartmouth can confirm. Another 17.1% of jobs are found at master’s degree-granting institutions that may require research. The bachelor’s-granting colleges—mostly SLACs—do offer 23.3% of jobs, but most of them are still interested in faculty publishing (and including undergrads as co-authors). The only institutions that almost never require research are community colleges. Since 2006, there have been two tenure-track positions in German advertised at this level (0.6%).
The other kind of position that requires no research, available at all institutions of all types, is part-time adjunct teaching. Graduate departments should be doing everything in their power to avoid sending their students into that type of position.
It might help to classify the segments of the job market both by degree granted and by institution type, and rank them by the portion of the job market they comprise.
Figure 1: Percentage of tenure-track jobs in German Studies, 2006-2007 to 2013-2014, by the degree granted by the hiring department and simplified Carnegie classification of the hiring university
This is your future on German Studies if you are one of the lucky ones that finds a stable job. Your grad program had better prepare you for doing some serious research, or you won’t be a serious contender for the biggest segment of the job market: Ph.D.-granting departments at research institutions. Even if your department doesn’t offer graduate degrees, your colleagues on the T&P committee from departments who do aren’t going to grant you tenure if you aren’t publishing. You have to leave your grad program specialized enough to succeed in your subfield. Tenure-track jobs that are focused solely or predominately on teaching are rather uncommon in German Studies.
On the other hand, most faculty aren’t going to be able to teach only in their subfield, even at research universities. You’ll have to teach a combination of language, culture, and literature courses, usually not in your subfield. Those annoying breadth requirements in your graduate curriculum are there for a reason. So is your teaching methodology seminar.
Finally, be prepared to move. Here are the top ten states by the number of tenure-track jobs advertised in German Studies since 2006, comprising 50% of all jobs advertised. (I’m treating all of Canada as if it were a single state. Uh, sorry?)
Another approach is to look not at states, but at regions (again using the Carnegie classification, and treating Canada as its own region).
Figure 3: Regional distribution of tenure-track jobs advertised in German Studies, 2006-2007 to 2013-2014
That’s right: Most jobs are in places that are hot, cold, really freaking cold, really far away, or that usually vote Republican. Pursuing a job in German Studies will mean moving there so you can teach undergraduate courses outside your specialty while you’re under pressure to publish just as much as your colleagues in English who semi-regularly teach specialized seminars to grad students. For every job like that, fifty people will apply. For every one person who gets a job like that, three or four others won’t get any job at all.
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We’ll come back to this data again next time to answer the question: Which grad programs need to cut back?