Graduate Education in Classics: A Continuing Conversation....

APA Presidential Forum on Graduate Education in a Changing Profession

Job Placement: What do Those Statistics Mean?

Jon D. Mikalson, University of Virginia

[From an APA Presidential Forum on Graduate Education in a Changing Profession. For more information on this forum, click here. For information on related initiatives, click here.]

My purpose in designing this paper was largely to suggest the inadequacy of the current data and information we have about the job placement situation. We rely, naturally, heavily on personal experience, anecdotes, and the statistics from the Placement Service. None is adequate for the important purposes for which they have been used. The APA needs very much to study the situation systematically. My study, though hardly systematic, does, I think, illustrate the need. Others may disagree with me that the job situation is somewhat better than usually imagined, but no one will disagree, I think, that we need better data.

A position in Classics is advertised at the University of Virginia, or at Creighton University, or at MIT, and, let's say, 85 applications are received. Does that mean that, heaven forbid, 1 in 85 classicists gets a job? Last year 558 individuals registered with the Placement Service, but there were only 104 certain positions and 22 possible positions advertised. Does that mean that, nationally, some 430 qualified classicists wanting jobs are unemployed this academic year? Or, to put it another way, that only 1 in 5 classicists looking for a job last year has one this year? The answer to each of these questions is NO!, but it is job statistics like these that give nightmares to graduate students, to their parents, and to faculty who are concerned about the future of the profession.

In order to understand these matters somewhat better, I spent a few hours with the 1994-1995 Placement Book, the collection of c.v.'s of individuals applying for positions this year. It does not, of course, include all applicants for positions this year, but it is a large sample and it is the best collection of data we have. I draw my conclusions from it, and I suspect that these conclusions can reasonably be extended to the group who did not, for whatever reason, submit their c.v.'s for the Placement Book.

261 individuals are included in the 1994-1995 Placement Book, 213 of whom are classicists. I leave aside the art historians and archaeologists for the AIA to study. The results of my study are not as precise as I would like, largely because of the difficulty of determining the critical information even from the c.v.'s. Sometimes it is unclear what the sex of the applicant is, what the area of specialization is, and even whether the applicant holds the Ph.D. Some c.v.'s rival a Pindaric ode in intelligibility. Given these and similar problems, I have done my best, and these are my results.

To begin: of the 213 applicants for Classics jobs in the Placement Book, Book, 129 appear to be male, 84 female. Of the 213, 89 are Latinists, 75 are Hellenists, 24 are Greek historians, and 19 are Roman historians. Of the 213, 118 have the Ph.D. in hand and 86 state that they are "expecting" (the usual word) the Ph.D. during this current academic year. To have or not to have the Ph.D. is an important distinction, and let me say that I assumed that a person who put down "Ph.D. 1994" currently holds the degree. On that basis let me restate the numbers: 118 have the Ph.D. in hand, and 86 are expecting it.

In this regard let me give some statistics not immediately germane to job placement, but important to our field. They concern the number of years it is taking to obtain a Ph.D. in Classics. Of those 118 who now hold the Ph.D., most (20) took it ten years after the B.A. The range is from four to twenty-some years, but ten years is at the top of the bell curve. Some individuals obviously changed fields or came to the Classics after other work. But most of those who spent ten years in a Ph.D. program were graduate students continuously since they received the B.A. The numbers are very similar for those expecting a Ph.D. this year, with the top of this bell curve at 9 years. I leave for another occasion the implications of these findings, but clearly as a profession we are having a very long apprenticeship (on average nearly 10 years beyond the B.A. - roughly the time it takes to become a neuro-surgeon), and that has major implications for fellowship support, for teaching assistantships, and, most importantly, for the lives and careers of the students involved. This is a topic that the APA, on this or another occasion, should address. It is also something we should keep in mind this afternoon as we talk of "adding" more elements to the usual Ph.D. program.

But back to jobs. Most interesting, perhaps, is that of the 213 Classics applicants in the Placement Book, 100 are, this academic year, in full-time employment at an institution other than that of their graduate work: 20 as lecturers, 32 as visiting assistant professors, 30 as assistant professors, 7 as associate professors, 1 full professor, 7 as high-school teachers, and 3 in other Classics related jobs or fellowships. Among these 100 I do not include adjunct appointments of various levels because they seem mostly to be part-time. Of the 100 who are in full-time teaching, 26 are in their first year of service, 25 in their second year, 31 have had 3-6 consecutive years of full-time teaching, 10 have had 7-9 years, and 8 have had 10 or more consecutive years of full-time teaching. And, so far as I can determine from the vitae, only 7 of the 86 "expectant" Ph.D.'s are employed full-time not at their home institution (not a surprising statistic). Among those 118 who claim to have the Ph.D. in hand, 28 are apparently not currently employed full-time, and, of these 28, twenty-two claim to have received their degrees in 1994 or 1993. At least three of the apparently unemployed Ph.D.'s received their degrees from foreign institutions.

About half of the 100 employed are in short term positions, instructors or visiting assistant professors with one- or two-year jobs. There will always, of course, be such positions in the field, and that, by itself, is not bad. What we are all distressed to see is an individual who must, year after year, take one-year jobs and face the constant dislocations, the expense of moving, and the agony of annual applications. This does happen, but probably not as often as is rumored. In the Placement Book I have found only two individuals who have had three or more such jobs in succession, four who have had two such jobs in succession. A couple have had a very long succession (up to 20 years) of adjunct and temporary positions, but they seem to want to be in one particular city. In the best of all worlds, one would move quickly from a short term job into a tenure track position, but there is obviously no guarantee of that in the current market.

This year there are a more "definite" jobs than there have been in recent years, as of December 1 fifteen (25%) more than for the same date in 1993-1994, fourteen (23%) more than in 1992-1993. Since 1985 the number of jobs advertised has ranged from ca. 120 to ca. 150, with 153 and 156 jobs in the boomlet years of 1988 and 1989. Many of us will remember 1989 as the year in which serious cuts were first made in the funding of our own institutions. The MLA has just published its survey of Ph.D. placement for 1991-1992, and it provides another set of useful data for these years. According to the MLA there were 53 Ph.D.'s awarded in Classics in 1991-1992, and of these 23% found tenure track jobs; 23% got non-tenure track, renewable jobs; 10 % got one year and 12% got part time positions; 10% found research positions; and 14% were reported as unemployed. If we combine statistics from various sources for 1991-1992, we get another interesting result. There were 53 Ph.D.'s granted (MLA), but there were 134 jobs advertised (APA). Even a classicist can see that if that ratio continues, the log jam of applicants should begin to ease.

Many of us remember 1991-1992 as a particularly bleak year, and it was, in fact, when the job market in Classics was starting to bottom out. Ted Tarkow of the Campus Advisory service reports that in 1991-1992 fifty three Classics departments were threatened by their institutions with elimination or significant reductions in staff. But he also reports that few of these threats were carried out (thankfully), and that since then, in 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 there have been only one or two such attacks on Classics departments. That improving situation is also reflected in the job numbers: up 4% in 1993 and up, so far, 25% this year.

Despite the recent improvements, we have only stopped the bleeding and stablilized the patient. The job market still is by no means bullish. No one will claim, I am sure, that the profession now or in the near future will be able to provide a position for everyone who wishes one, or even for everyone who attains the Ph.D. But it also is not, I think, as bad as we have been telling ourselves. Perhaps the most important statistic to emerge from my review is that 100 of the 213 applicants in the Placement Book are today fully employed at an institution other than their alma mater. If we can maintain stability, if we keep the aggregrate number of Classics jobs nationwide at least level, then, in simplistic terms, each of those 100 applicants who is currently employed, if he/she takes a new job this year, will leave behind a job for another person. And if in fact one-half of the applicants for jobs this year are currently employed, and if the market remains just stable, then the ratio of candidates to job vacancies should be halved, from, say, 1 to 5 to 1 to 2.5. And, as a final point, the c.v.'s would argue that candidates with Ph.D. in hand are far more competitive for jobs than are those with the Ph.D. expected. That's not surprising, but it too seriously affects the overall ratio of 1 job to 2.5 candidates. The ratio is far better than that for candidates with the Ph.D.

Significant improvement, for job candidates and for all of us, will come only by increasing the total pool of jobs. After several years of threatened or actual cutbacks, we seem to have found some stability, and that accounts for the slight upsurge in jobs this year and last. But so long as all jobs in Classics are replacement jobs, filling the place of us old folks who go on leave, retire, or keel over, the market will be tight. The real agendum is to increase the whole pool of jobs, and the best prospect for that lies not, I think, in expanding existing departments but in introducing Latin, Greek, and Classics courses into the many, the very many community colleges, colleges, and even universities that now have none. And the secret to generating demand for Latin, Greek, and Classics in those places is, I would argue, to create and support strong high school Latin programs in all the states. Our experience in Virginia is that virtually all Classics majors and most college Latin students come to us from high school Latin programs. They are the key to generating demand for Classics in all places and at all levels, and the APA as a whole and each of us, individually, must support high school Latin if we hope to see real improvement in the job market for ourselves, our students, and for the future of our field.

Appendix: Some Hard and Soft Data on the Current Job Situation

From 1993-1994 Report of the Placement Service, for years 1985-1993

Number of vacancies reported : number of applicants registered
     1985-1986      122                      337
     1986-1987      135                      489
     1987-1988      142                      441
     1988-1989      153                      460
     1989-1990      156                      473
     1990-1991      137                      542
     1991-1992      134                      553
     1992-1993      121                      532
     1993-1994      126                      558

From a reading of the 1994-1995 Placement Book

     Total number of applicants:  	261 =
     Classicists: 			213 +
     Art Historians and Archaeologists:  48

     Of the 213  Classicists:
          male 				129 +
	  female 			 84

          Latinists 			 89 +
	  Hellenists 			 75 +
	  Greek Historians 		 24 +
	  Roman Historians 		 19

          Ph.D. in hand 		118
	  ABD 				 86

     Years to Classics Ph.D. after B.A.
          For those holding Ph.D. YEARS  For those expecting Ph.D.
                1                  4                     1
                6                  5                     9
               10                  6                    13
               12                  7                    11
               16                  8                    12
                7                  9                    16
               20                 10                    10
               11                 11                     1
                5                 12                     3
                5                 13                     2
                2                 14                     2
                8                 15                     1
                5                 16                     2
                3                 17                     0
                7                 18+                    3

     Of the 213 Classicists, 100 currently employed as:
          Lecturers                             20
          Visiting Assistant Professors         32
`         Assistant Professors                  30
          Associate Professors                   7
          Full Professor                         1
          High-School Teachers                   7
          other Classics related positions       3

     Consecutive full-time teaching years hitherto of 100 currently 
          one year  		                26
          two years             		25
          three to six years    		31
          seven to nine years   		10
          ten +  years          		 8

From MLA [ADFL Bulletin, vol. 26 (1994), 34-48]

     For 1991-1992  (one of the worst years)

          Number of Ph.D.'s in Classics awarded:  53

          Employment percentages of these 53 Ph.D.'s by Fall, 1992

               tenure track:                    22.9%
               non-tenure track, renewable:     22.9%
               one year, non-renewable:         10.4%
               part time:                       12.5%
               fellowships:                      8.3%
               other employment:                 8.3%
               unemployed:                      14.6%