One of the questions we asked in our surveys of adjuncts and post-adjuncts was about the nature of post-graduation support from one’s mentor and alma mater. I wondered whether any advisers cut former advisees off at some point; i.e. would anyone cut a student off from letters of recommendation after a few unsuccessful years on the job market? And, along opposite lines, I wondered if any institutions gave alumni more than letters of recommendation.
The long and short of it is that no, no one in our pool of respondents had encountered committee members who cut them off from letters of recommendation. But for most alumni, that’s about all they can count on. A few respondents reported being able to adjunct to greater or lesser degrees in their home departments; one respondent claimed that his or her dissertation advisers bought him or her a new car (free cars would really increase the value of a Ph.D.!). And there also seems to be a lot of commiserating and emotional support for the jobless. But that doesn’t seem to get anyone very far.
One of the questions that Matt Thompson and I had going into the surveys of adjuncts and past adjuncts was whether or not there is a window of opportunity for getting a tenure track job. In other words: is there some cutoff point where the likelihood of getting a tenure track job is greatly diminished? We don’t have a hard and fast answer — the surveys were too limited — but there’s some data to think about.
Of the 50 respondents to the post-adjuncting survey, 32 now hold tenure track positions. Of the 13 that provided answers to clarify what kinds of jobs they currently work in, most were in full-time research, consulting, or non-tenure track instuctorships. Of those same 50 respondents, the vast majority adjuncted as their principle means of income for four years or less (43); the other seven have all been adjuncting for six or more years, with two respondents doing so for 10 or more years. (Based on the data, it looks like the two long-term adjuncters are half of a two-income household, which might explain why they have continued to adjunct for so long.) When compared to the current adjuncts, the numbers are pretty similar. Of the 36 respondents who provided an answer to how long ago they received their Ph.D.s, most were in the five years or fewer category (31 of 36). The other five are all in the nine years or more category.
Taken together, it looks like the window of opportunity for getting a tenure track job is the first five years after the awarding of a Ph.D. Continue reading