ask a scatterbrain: will a women’s studies certificate help me on the job market?

From a graduate student:

My institution offers a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies through the Women’s Studies department. As someone who aspires to be seen as a Sociologist who does gender/sexuality, how helpful do you think this would be on the job market?

I hope to get some answers that break it down a bit:

  • Will it be a leg up for gender-focused sociology jobs?
  • Will it open opportunities for joint appointments in Women Studies and Sociology?
  • Is a 3-course certificate worth the opportunity cost of working on a side project or pushing dissertation research forward?

10 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain: will a women’s studies certificate help me on the job market?”

  1. I’ll answer from the perspective of a sociologist who does not “do” gender or women’s studies but might hire a gender scholar. A certificate would make no difference to us. We pay approximately zero attention to what classes people have taken. I am guessing that a certificate could help signal seriousness about Women’s Studies for a potential joint appointment, but that seriousness could be signaled other ways, as well, e.g. in what conferences you attend, what courses you have taught, what your research profile looks like. A certificate can also be useful if the courses themselves are useful in giving you a background education that will prepare you to teach and do research in your desired area. If it is the actual education that is useful, and not the certificate, you can also decide whether you need all three courses or only some of them.

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  2. Increasingly GWS is offering its own degrees, and for a soc PhD who wants to consider joint positions with GWS or tenure home GWS positions, it is a sign of seriousness about interdisciplinary gender knowledge to have taken the certificate. If the only jobs you want to consider are 100% soc, it probably doesn’t matter if you have any GWS courses if you have depth of prep in sociology of gender. But even big depts rarely offer enough advanced gender courses to get what you need just in your own dept. Being judicious about other courses, whether in GWS or history or Polisci or cultural studies or GWS or whatever, will allow you to offer more than superficial approaches to sex-as-a-variable or thin approaches to intersectionality as a mere interaction effect.

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  3. My quick thinking is very much along the lines of OW’s: what will matter is your contribution to sociology and your record in the field, not coursework (regardless of a certificate). HOWEVER, I can imagine that it could increase your value as a candidate in an interdisciplinary Women’s/Gender Studies search, which could be an advantage. And similarly, in a teaching-intensive institution, I could imagine the credential as offering a modest advantage.

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  4. My own thoughts about sociology are similar to OW and Andy, but I’m curious about the point brought up by grouchosis. To what extent are Gender Studies jobs (or joint appts) requiring a PhD in the field, rather than a certificate? My sense is that it is going this direction, but I don’t know how far toward that end it has gone yet. Is a certificate enough of a sign of “seriousness” to warrant a hire?


  5. I have a graduate certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies and I am a sociologist and teach in a sociology PhD program. My experience was wonderful and I would not change a thing. It broadened my knowledge and added to my respect for other disciplines and interdisciplinary work. I integrate things I learned from those courses regularly into my teaching and research. While it might not help someone get a job in sociology (depending on the department), it certainly would not hurt. Departments that value inter-disciplinary work or who value people who go above and beyond requirements would likely view it positively.Further, it would open up doors to apply to gender and women’s studies positions. I would recommend this to anyone. Of course it is more work, but it is worth it. It is disappointing that doing more work would not really be helpful if it is not sociology. But I knew that was the case when I sought my certificate and did it anyway. Ultimately it is about the knowledge gained from the experience.

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  6. I’m a graduate student currently on the job market, and I’m seeing plenty of gender studies job ads that require a “PhD or certificate” in Gender Studies. I haven’t received indication that the certificate matters for sociology jobs, but if you want to be marketable to as many jobs as possible and possibly have joint appointments in gender studies programs, get the certificate. I’m not sure I understand the downside of getting the certificate. If gender is something you want to specialize in, these courses will be your favorites, and they will foster a more sophisticated, interdisciplinary understanding of gender.

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  7. Just to be certain there is no lack of clarity. When I said I thought the impact of a certificate would be zero for a sociology department, that isn’t a “downside.” There would be no negative effect of having the certificate for my kind of program. And I would agree that a Women’s Studies program would want proof of a real commitment to and training in Women’s Studies. I believe the OP’s concern was that they would be taking three extra classes rather than doing something else with their time.

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  8. My question for faculty in gender studies programs who are reading this thread: Is it better to have a publication that establishes a record in gender studies or a certificate? In other words, is it better to spend the time to actually become an outstanding gender scholar or spending time in more courses? When students ask me this question (and similar ones), I always ask people to avoid course work and focus on publication or teaching, if liberal arts is a goal.

    PS. Faculty at IU who have been hired in soc or gender studies tend to have publications in this area and there is very little discussion of certificates or course work.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I doubt the certificate will do much. Sociology is all about what you do, the research or theories you put forward. Qualifications aren’t exactly the most scrutinised aspect of the profession. As far as I know, right now it is all about impact of your work.


  10. I suppose from our perspective, the best thing would be to have taught in the relevant area. If having the certificate is a prerequisite for teaching undergraduate gender studies courses at the graduate institution or neighboring institutions, then that might be something to think about. Otherwise, try your best to have some teaching experience related to the areas you wish to claim you can teach in (leaving aside perhaps the one area your research is most focused on) if you want to be competitive for teaching-focused jobs.

    But we also don’t routinely do joint appointments, so I can’t speak to how the formal credential works in that context.


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