a “relatively good” job market? really?

Opened my email this morning to find this new (and in my opinion, horribly argued) report from the American Sociological Association, about the sociology job market. (EDIT – OLD REPORT).

Spoiler – their conclusion:  “These findings suggest a relatively good market for new sociology PhDs.”

Their justification for this statement?  There were more assistant professor jobs posted in the ASA JobBank in 2006 than there were people who received PhDs that year.

The authors (Jerry Jacobs and Roberta Spalter-Roth) do attempt to qualify this “finding” with a breakdown of substantive areas – open jobs, criminology jobs, theory jobs, etc.  and … come to the same conclusion.  They do not note that there are a glut of people who are looking for culture jobs, social movement jobs, and education jobs, or that most “open” jobs actually have a good idea of who they’re looking for (usually NOT culture or social movements or education).

My response: what drivel.   I realize that ASA wants to put a shiny coating on what is happening in the academic job market world – that scatterplot discussed ad nauseum in the fall – but this “report” is ridiculous.

UPDATED:  I read my email this morning without coffee first. The report above is from early 2008, before the economy tanked.  They’re updating the results, available at this year’s ASA meeting:  Here is the link to the preliminary findings for the New Jobs Survey:


Much more (appropriately) bleak. I still think the 2006 “conclusion” is ridiculous for job markets 2006-2008, however.

11 thoughts on “a “relatively good” job market? really?”

  1. This report is from June 2008. In hindsight we can talk about the attrition/massive freezing of funds and positions – but I don’t think we can hold the authors’ feet to the fire for accurately predicting how the second half of 2008 and first part of 2009 would fare.

    That said, the “# grads/# jobs” ratio is a pretty silly one, since the # of grads is neither exhaustive nor fully representative of the population of academic-job-seeking sociologists.


  2. Sociologists are not needed in Canada either, according to Canada’s immigration minister. “I mean, we don’t really need a sociology professor. No offense to sociologists.”



  3. Actually, I think that those things are related, the lack of jobs in sociology and the fact that sociology is seen as irrelevant. The top departments that train grad students also act as if the world outside the ivory tower is irrelevant. I don’t mean in their research, where they do things that could be relevant, but in the way that they often fail to diffuse their knowledge to the outside world, to encourage their grad students to work outside academia, to hire as professors people who have worked in the “real world” after their PhD. There are fields where people going back and forth is more common, and perhaps that is the reason why their field is seen as more relevant by the outside world, and perhaps it makes their grad students see more prospects outside academia as well (perhaps, too, if soc were seen as more relevant outside academia, because we made more effort toward it, it would also create more jobs for sociologists). I’m sure it’s all more complicated than this, but this is just some preliminary thoughts.


  4. Maybe you can link to the “ad nauseum” prior scatterplot discussion on the job market for those of us who don’t know it?
    What makes you think the sociology job market pre-2008 was so bad? Friends didn’t get jobs? Whatever the flaws of the Jacobs and Spalter-Roth report, at least it gives some rationale for its conclusion.


    1. I was tentatively on the job market in 2006, did a small search in 2007, and then fully on the job market in 2008 (and did get a job). Based on my own experience, the 2006 and 2007 job markets were not very good, and 2008 got significantly worse. I can definitely say that in 2007 , many schools where I would have been interested in applying did not even post job ads, and of those that did, the competition was extremely tough. People from my highly ranked department have had a very hard time finding decent (and I don’t just mean top 10) jobs for the last few years. I can compare this to the late 90s and early 2000s when people from my program seemed to be landing better jobs, even ABD. One of the things that really frustrates me about the ASA reports is that they don’t account for the large number of postdocs, VAPS, and assistant professors applying for jobs. This has been the case for quite a while now.


      1. bedhaya – right – what seems to have really changed about the job market from when I started grad school in 2002 to 2008, when I did a small, targeted search (applied to 15 schools) this past fall, is that # of PhDs is not the right measure of “how many people, and which people, are looking/applying for jobs.” Almost every one of the jobs I applied for (as an ABD, and that still existed after the economy tanked) had more than 250 applications, and from this brought in only postdocs and assistant professors for their interviews.
        What this means to me is that for an ABD to be competitive for any decent job (not just R1, either), they have to have more of everything than what was necessary 10 years ago to do a job search – more publications, more awards, etc, on top of a terrific dissertation.

        I think one other flaw of the Jacobs-Spalter-Roth report is not examining what % of new PhDs are concentrated substantively in the lower half of their table of jobs by substantive area. I think we/they would find a reversed pattern, meaning that it is relatively harder for more people to get jobs than it is relatively easier for less people (those who compete for the jobs at the top of that list- criminology/law/fancy quant stuff).


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