Friday, September 11, 2015

Job Market Opening Day 2015

How many full-time tenure-track or open-rank jobs in German Studies will be posted to the MLA Job Information List in 2015-16? Take your pick. Seeing how 2014 went, your pick is probably as good as mine.

18. The historical average since 2003 is that 54.4% of all TT jobs show up on opening day. As of today, there are 10 such jobs. 10 / .544 = just over 18.

24. Ten jobs isn't the absolute worst we've ever seen on opening day, but it's close. Other similar years include 2009 (10), 2010 (11), and 2014 (9). The average result from those years is 24 jobs by the time the list closes.

25. The percentage posted on opening day has been declining. If the trend since 2008 (see graph) continues, we're only seeing 40.6% of the jobs today. 10 / .406 = almost 25.

Percentage of TT jobs posted on opening day, 2008-2014, showing declining trend
30. Going back to 2008, there have been on average around 30 jobs each year. The last two years saw 28 and 29 jobs, respectively. If this is an average year, then we'll get around 30 jobs by the end, maybe a few less.

32. Last year, only 31% of the jobs showed up on opening day. If the same thing happens this year, we'll get up to 32 jobs.

My pick: 25. We'll see a reversion to the mean, and 15 more jobs will appear before the list closes, most likely before the end of February. With a bit of optimism and wishful thinking, 2015 will end up in a tie for the second-worst year in German job market history. I would love to be wrong and to see many more jobs appear, but even an outlandish fantasy like 35 jobs would only move this year into sixth-worst in job market history.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hiring season: how the market is changing, and how you can change the market

The MLA job information list opens one week from today. Usually the number of jobs advertised on opening day is a pretty good guide to how many TT jobs will eventually be advertized. Last year, though, my prediction was way off target: I predicted 16 or 17, but there were eventually 29 jobs advertised.

That’s not a positive development. It means the market is becoming less predictable, and specifically it means that more TT jobs are being advertised later in the year. For the most part, though, hiring departments still participate in the schedule of publishing job ads in the fall, conducting initial interviews in January, bringing candidates to campus and making initial offers in February and March. The more departments are competing for a job seeker at the same time, the better her life is. The general lack of departments competing for job seekers in German is a big reason for our misery.

But that’s only how things work in the shrinking pond of TT hiring. For several years now, the number of full-time NTT jobs has been larger than the number of TT jobs. Last year, there were over twice as many contingent positions on the German jobs wiki as TT positions, and even 50% more NTT than TT jobs posted to the MLA job list.

And the timing for NTT hiring works much differently. In the good old days of TT hiring – you know, 2006 – 75% of jobs were posted by the time the job list had been open for 4 weeks. Last year, it took until week 10 to reach that same level. For NTT jobs, though, barely 25% had appeared by week 10, and it wasn’t until week 30 – some time in April – that 75% of the jobs were posted.

That means that someone applying for TT jobs will know with a high likelihood in January or February how many schools are competing for his services. (Don’t kid yourself. Usually the answer is zero.) He can make an informed decision about what to do next – to accept a TT offer, to apply for NTT jobs, to go get a real estate license, whatever.

But there is no rhyme or reason to the hiring calendar of the NTT job market that is coming to dominate our short-lived careers. A great NTT job – teaching 3-3, paying $53,000, renewable indefinitely – can be advertised at any point in the year. A lousy NTT job – a one-year position teaching 4-4 for $32,000 – can also be advertised at any point in the year. And you often won’t know which job is which until it’s been offered to you.

There are two things that you – yes, you, the person reading this – can do to nudge the scales slightly more in favor of the job applicants. The job market in German will still be a desolate hellscape, but the thermometer setting may come down a bit.

1. Post the salary information of every job advertised to the job wiki. Make departments compete on salary. A few universities publish a pay scale in the job ad or in the HR job description. At public universities, the salary (or the salary of recently-hired people in similar positions in the department) is public information that can often be discovered with a little digging. At private universities, former tenants of the advertised position will know approximately what the salary is. Put the burden on the search committee to make sure the salary published on the jobs wiki is reasonably accurate. If the salary is too low, few people will apply. If nothing else, this will let would-be grad students see how dismal the salaries are in their dream jobs, provide ammunition to people who think they’re not being paid market wages, and maybe even shame a few departments into paying their full-time faculty a decent wage.

Enough with being coy about money. Applicants reveal every detail of their professional lives on their CVs. It’s about time that departments make public the basic information about the jobs they’re trying to fill.

2. Stay on the market. Let’s say you strike out on the TT market, but in February you land a one-year replacement position with College A teaching 4-4 that pays $37,000. Then in May you see a 3-year position at University B with a 3-3 teaching in a more attractive part of the country for you, and it pays $46,000. What should you do?

Apply. Take the interview. Take the job at University B when it’s offered.

Some senior academics will screech that This is Disgraceful, it is Simply Not Done, you have Given Your Solemn Word, Your Reputation in the Field Will Be Ruined, and you have Committed a Crime with Legal Penalties.

Nonsense. Look out for yourself, because no one else will. You owe College B nothing. They haven’t paid you a cent, and won’t until mid-September. College B can pick up the phone and find some other sucker in 15 minutes. Oh, the dean at College B won’t approve another hire, so College B can’t teach their intro classes? Very sad, but the insane policies at College B are not your problem. You can’t let that stop you from getting a better shot at a sustainable career at University A.

Will your reputation be ruined? Only at College B. Your friends and your advisor’s friends won’t care. They won’t remember you as “the gal who screwed over College B.” They’ll remember you as “that rising star who picked up that awesome job at University A.”

But can’t College B sue you? Since I’m not a lawyer, let me ask: what would they sue you for? It’s just a job offer. They’ve done nothing for you. Maybe in some alternate universe you would have to return your signing bonus. In the real world, people and businesses back out of contracts all the time. It’s just part of doing business, not a crime against humanity. And what college is going to want to have its name splashed across or Slate for suing an impoverished humanities Ph.D. who wanted to take a better job? It's not going to happen. If you’re still concerned, go give an employment lawyer $200 and ask him yourself.

(If you’re still working in your grad department, you may want to talk things over with your advisor. You’ll need to keep your advisor for a few more years yet, and maybe your advisor is one of those senior academics. But if you’ve left the nest, your advisor barely remembers you exist. Let your advisor know where you ultimately end up once you move in August. At the most, she’ll ask, “But I thought I heard you took a job at Slowpoke State?” To which you reply, “Oh, didn’t you hear? I got a better offer at Bigtime University, so I decided to accept their offer instead.” And that will be that.)

This is how we can make the job market suck a little bit less. Use your well-honed research skills to create transparency about salaries. And keep applying for the best job you can get. Don’t rush into the first NTT job you’re offered just because someone lowballs you in February.

Friday, June 5, 2015

2014-15 a Record-Breaking Year for Exit-Level Jobs

A boom in non-tenure track jobs promises full pre-unemployment for new Ph.D.s in German Studies

With the appearance today of an ad for a full-time adjunct instructor at the College of Charleston in the MLA job information list, the discipline of German Studies is rewriting its records for non-tenure-track hiring. Charleston’s ad pushes the total to 46 NTT jobs advertised so far—with five weeks left before the JIL closes—breaking the previous record of 45 NTT jobs set in 2005, and surpassing every prior year in nearly a half century since the first MLA job list appeared in 1966 (see graph). Never before have so many hopeful Ph.D.s in Germanistik been able to look forward to extending their professional identities and academic careers for nine more months before their cutting-edge research agendas become obscure footnotes in the MLA bibliography.

2014 sets an NTT record: German tenure-track and non-tenure-track jobs advertised in the MLA job information list, 1966-2014

While the number of new Ph.D.s granted during the 2014-15 academic year is not yet known, it is likely close to the 70 Ph.D.s awarded the previous year. That may suggest poor odds for new Ph.D.s seeking their first and last academic job, but the official numbers represent only a fraction of the market. With Charleston’s announcement, the German jobs wiki, which includes several jobs not advertised in the JIL, hit 70 advertised positions. Added to the 30 advertised tenure-track positions (at 29 TT positions in the JIL, 2014-15 is the 45th best year for TT job ads out of the 49 years since 1966), department heads are starting to worry that American colleges and universities may be facing an impending shortage of new Ph.D.s who are willing to shoulder high teaching loads for low pay for a couple years before their dreams of academic careers are snuffed out forever.

Long-standing traditions at many colleges of hiring new Ph.D.s as visiting assistant professors each year to put a young, research-active face on departments whose last TT hire was during the Nixon administration are in doubt. Departments who weren’t able to advertise their VAP slots until the late spring are facing several unpalatable options: hiring ABDs, canceling classes, or even canceling sabbaticals. Thus far, few departments have taken the drastic step of hiring stale Ph.D.s, or “experienced teachers with distinguished publishing records,” as they are euphemistically known, as it would be a tacit admission that a department’s teaching methods and research portfolio were stuck in 2013, or even earlier.

One group of faculty, though, is reacting to the latest figures with a mixture of relief and self-congratulation: Ph.D. advisors. Many of them will be able to pat themselves on the back this year for having placed all of their recent Ph.D.s in full-time academic jobs (what happens to the ungrateful little snots after that first job is their own problem). With such clear evidence that the jobs-with-training-wheels crisis in the humanities is receding, graduate faculty are looking forward to admitting larger graduate cohorts again so that no undergraduate German program in need of throwaway faculty members will be left wanting.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The job market crash in one chart

Over at Vitae, Brock Read has an article summarizing a recent report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that investigates the evidence that the academic job market in the humanities got worse in 2008. (You've got to love the AAAS headline: "Danger Signs for the Academic Job Market in Humanities?" Seriously? Having the number of tenure-track jobs drop by 50% in one year is not a danger sign. It's whole disciplines and the chance at an academic career being snuffed out overnight. The question mark should be replaced by an exclamation mark. But I digress.)

The Vitae post includes a nice graph that sums up the findings, which are based on job lists similar to the MLA's Job Information List (click over to Vitae to see a nicer version):
Jobs advertised in humanities disciplines, 2000-2013 (from Vitae)

The Vitae article and the AAAS post are careful to point out that sometimes one job ad results in multiple hires, or in no hire, and they may have missed job ads not advertised in the usual places. Those are all good points, but caution is misplaced when action is long overdue. The obvious solution to those concerns is to look at the last several years of disciplinary job wikis and see what percentage of job ads they might be missing. (And the report doesn't say if it looks only at TT jobs or at anything that shows up in a job list. As we all know, these are not at all the same things!)

So to help out the AAAS, I've included the graph below - nothing that I haven't already published here - that compares TT job ads in the MLA JIL and new TT appointments (according to "Personalia") in German for the same time frame.

TT job ads (in the MLA JIL) and new TT appointments in German, 2000-2013

 I've looked closely at the data and compared it to job ads posted anywhere jobs for German professors get posted, and, as it turns out, the AAAS is right on target: the job market really did crash in 2008, and it shows no signs of recovery.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Personalia update 2014 I: tenure books

With the release of the Winter 2014 issue of Monatshefte, it's time for the annual updates and fact-checking. This first installment will look at tenure books, where not much has changed since last year's comprehensive look. Of the twenty-one promotions to associate professor listed, ten appear to have submitted a single-author monograph as part of the tenure package. The home departments of those publishing books are little changed: one at an MA program in Canada, two at SLACs, the rest at RU/VH institutions. All but one of the RU/VH institutions offer a Ph.D. in German. So: If you're at a research school or a high-end SLAC, you may need a book for tenure. If you're not, or you're a linguist, as a rule you don't need a book for tenure.

As always, there are differences between presses. Native Germans can earn tenure with books from a German academic press. A book from a commercial press like Palgrave Macmillan or Routledge was enough for tenure at some RU/VH schools, including at the newest Ph.D.-granting departments in Colorado and Arizona. There were only two books from American university presses, both from Stanford University Press, which paved the way to tenure at Massachusetts and Yale. That bumps Stanford (6) ahead of Northwestern (4) in the list of most frequent recent homes for tenure books for those promoted to associate in Ph.D.-granting departments, followed by Chicago, De Gruyter, and Fordam (3 each), and then Penn State, Toronto, Routledge, and Niemeyer (2 each).

To update just one graph, here are the percentages of tenure books by press type and degree granted of the tenuring departments.

Publishers of tenure books in German Studies, 2009-14, according to the degree granted of the tenuring department