The Academic Job Market

Here’s another shining example of what some of us face each day:

Western State College of Colorado invites applicants for a full-time temporary teaching position in sociology and political science beginning in August of 2006. Teaching responsibilities include courses in sociological theory, criminal justice, and introductory courses in American, comparative and/or international relations. Responsibilities are to teach 12 credits per semester, involvement with the annual Sociology Student Symposium and with social science clubs and organizations, and may include other duties.

Consider what they’re asking for: an expert in two distinct disciplines, with subspecialties in 4 or 5 very different areas, plus a myriad number of administrative duties. This is a 60-70 hour a week job, and they expect to hire an experienced professional:

Candidates must possess strong commitment to undergraduate education and demonstrated excellence in teaching.

If you’re still not feeling my pain, consider the capper:

Salary Range: $30,000-$32,000.

The average social science Ph.D. student takes eight years to complete the degree, and this is the market they face. It seems like a pretty accurate indicator of just how much we value education in this country.

FILED UNDER: Education, , , ,
Leopold Stotch
About Leopold Stotch
“Dr. Leopold Stotch” was the pseudonym of political science professor then at a major research university inside the beltway. He has a PhD in International Relations. He contributed 165 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and February 2006.


  1. the Pirate says:

    Loyola Marymount pays a bit better than that, but considering the undergrad tuition is 28K a year….where does all the money go. (Well aside for way too many administrators and coordinators of vairous multicultural, diversity and touchy-feel committees)

  2. ddsdejavu says:

    Simple supply and demand.

    If the university can hire a qualified person with a PhD to do the job for 30-something thousand bucks, why should they pay more?

    What kind of idiot would get a invest 8+ years to get PhD and then apply for a job at that salary?

  3. bains says:

    Yea, but you get to live in Gunnison – one of the coldest towns in the lower 48… and get to hear your school refered to as “Wasted State”.

    The intangibles, you’re only 28 miles away from Crested Butte Ski Area, and that Gunny is really nice from the end of mud season til it hits -25F again.

  4. I give up. What is the attraction to such a position. Where is the brass ring? Why so many applicants?

  5. bains says:

    For what’s it worth James, I attended a rival to Western State, FLC in Durango. My PolySci Prof was out of UChicago and my Philosophy Prof out of Dartmouth. I cant remember where my primary advisor (history) was from, but I do remember asking him why Fort Lewis? Enviroment, he said… small town, small college, small classrooms. Unstated was small expectations – from administration for him to be published. All three, and many others, were great teachers, not looking for fame, but realizing that they had the talent to encourage inquisitive minds.

    They were all also brutally intolerant… of the momma’s boy or daddy’s girl that presumed success. Only hard and honest work was rewarded.

    Back then, teaching twelve credit hours entailed three 1.5 hour classes two days a week – of course they put in many hours in obligitory class prep, and many hours in office, common, tavern, or home consultation. Granted some of that was real advisorial work, but because they were such good teachers, much was intelligent, and challenging, bull sessions.

    Yea that’s a long way to get at the point. They work quasi-hard in a heck of an enviroment for eight months. Which translates to an equivalent starting salary of 45-48k per (normal work) year.

    I’m only sympathetic to the quality teachers that are prevented from earning merit-based salaries, once they’ve proven their worth.

  6. I can’t imagine you could hire anyone with the depth necessary to teach both fields well – and certainly nobody except a political sociologist would have that level of training, and even they wouldn’t know much about criminal justice. Granted, I don’t think it takes a lot of expertise to teach intro to American or IR, so if it’s primarily a sociology slot it’s at least doable.

    The basic problem with 9-month academic salaries is that summer money is hit-or-miss; sure, the 12-month equivalent is livable, but you can’t move out of your apartment into a cardboard box for the summer. So either the 9-month salary has to be high, or summer teaching has to be guaranteed (which it ain’t most places), or you need a sugar daddy.

  7. Maybe this is how much the free market values social science Ph.D.s in this country. That could be because there just isn’t much perceived value to others for social science Ph.D.s or that there are just too many people with social science Ph.D.s chasing too few jobs that require these credentials. To say this is indicative of how much we value education in this country is not a fair or reasonable statement. You are free to study whatever you want however much you want. That does not obligate me or anyone else to pay you what you feel you “deserve” for your troubles. You’re not advocating a makework jobs program for social science Ph.D.s or a minimum wage for social science Ph.D.s are you?

  8. Herb says:


    I think you have things a little mixed up. You said, “how much WE value education these days”

    You should focus your observation on Western State and not lunp everyone in one pot. It seems to me that Western State, is the “cheap Charlie” here and not “we”

    Now yo know what most people go thru as they hunt for a decient job that can put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

    Looks like Western State is following the lead of most big businesses. The sad part is that it appears that Western State, like most colleges and universities, is all about money and not education

  9. yetanotherjohn says:

    Its not an accurate indicator of how much we value education, but how much we value education in social science. Take the same eight years, apply it to law or engineering and you will get a very different value assigned to the education.

    That’s a problem with capitalism, the market doesn’t always value what we offer as much as we do.

  10. Anderson says:

    I would feel more compassion if I didn’t read posts & comments on this blog advocating the abolition of the minimum wage and extolling Wal-Mart for paying “above the market price” to its employees.

    My impression from my Ph.D. program in English (which I abandoned ABD) was that universities deliberately admit more grad students than the markets can possibly bear, so that the grad students can teach courses while the profs teach a few upper-levels and do research. So the fault does lie with the universities.

    I suppose the feds could step in, but I’m sure OTB would be unhappy about that. So, enjoy your free market, y’all.

  11. Herb says:


    Like I said, Our nations colleges and universities are all about MONEY and not education.

    Looks like the money you, or someone else, spent on your PhD was money down the tubes.

    Ph well, live and learn

  12. Moe Lane says:

    Wow. This makes me feel so much better about my current job. Thanks! 🙂

  13. Side comment: there’s an ad for some ridiculous conspiracy theory on the right side of your blog. Are those stupid ads really that necessary?

  14. Simon Spero says:

    The point of a job like this is to put you in a better position for negotiating the next one. Whole Foods is likely to make a much more generous offer if you can show them you’ve already developed proper work habits.

  15. bryan says:

    You neglected to mention the biggest slap in the face: it’s a temp position, meaning you’ll be back on the market in a year or two. That’s what sucks worse than the 32,000. If 32,000 were starting, with some col increases and a tenure bump, that would at least be getting somewhere.

    As it is, you’re an academic transient.