In the last couple of days, philosophy blogs have all been obsessing about the APA debacle of this year. The inclement weather was just the ‘coup de grace’ to an institution – the Eastern APA and the madness of the job interviews – that many feel is utterly absurd. As has also been noticed, the market this year is probably the toughest ever, given that, even though there are slightly more job openings than in previous years, there is a considerable backlog of candidates who did not manage to secure jobs in the last couple of years and who are thus still on the market, competing with the newcomers.
The harshness of the academic job market, in philosophy and elsewhere, also naturally leads to the thought that there may just be too many people with a PhD degree around. This opinion has been voiced at many places (I believe Leiter said something to this effect at some point), but it is not immediately obvious that the general economy of markets should regulate people’s individual choices and lives. If you really, really want to do a PhD, is it fair to let ‘the market’ tell you that you shouldn’t? I always felt that it should after all be a matter of individual choice, that is until I read the recent article on doctoral degrees at The Economist. The article presents some depressing data on how having a PhD degree hardly adds anything to your ‘value’ in the job market (that is, the non-academic job market) over ‘merely’ having a master’s degree, while of course entailing a considerable investment of time and often of money. It also offers some fresh data on how many PhD-holders are now without a job in different countries.