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Thread: Teaching prospects?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Teaching prospects?

    I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this, but does anyone know how good prospects are for Ph.Ds in Planning or Geography? I've come to a realization that I would probably be happiest Teaching/researching at the university level (and I can't do any worse than my professors), but of course, I don't want to put in the time for something that likely won't pan out.


    I keep reading things about how humanities PhDs are wastes of time, but nothing much about social sciences. I see postings for professors constantly (but of course, I have no idea how many applicants these postings draw). Also, most Ph.d Programs are small and many schools are expanding (or creating) programs.

    Any insight?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Funding for public colleges is being cut in state budgets just like everything else. Or if you have a particularly anti-education college drop-out governor like Wisconsin's Scott Walker, then K-12 education and state universities are taking more than their fair share of the cuts. How will this impact hiring of new faculty? Maybe there will be more competition for jobs, or then maybe more faculty near retirement age will get out, leading to new openings. Point is, the academic field is really no different than the government or private sector when it comes to job prospects. If it what you want to do, pursue it. The worst case scenario is that you might still end up in a non-academic job instead of teaching. But the best case - a teaching/research gig in a university - can only happen if you get the degree.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    I have an MS in a sociology field and found out prospects are pretty tough right now. Most community colleges have part-time openings (though never enough at the same college to make it a full time gig) and universities are hiring for adjunct professors (non-tenure track) only. Currently funding everywhere is down and so the teaching establishment at universities probably aren't looking to increase competition for their limited funding. I thought about getting a PhD but that would require me to quit my job and hope something comes up in a few years when I'm done.

    People often forget learning should mostly be about you and expanding your knowledge base. Far too often people only do it for more money, forgetting knowledge is about the best asset there is. If you decide to get your PhD I commend you and wish you the best. Once you have it you can always use.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    I would check university job boards to see how many postings you can find for the field or fields you are interested in. Most universities start looking for faculty around March so that should give you a good idea about what is available out there. stroskey is correct that many more universities are using adjuncts to deal with the budget shortfalls. Community colleges in out of the way areas always seem to be looking for people but you need to be qualified to teach a subject they offer like intro to geopraphy. The other thing to keep in mind that if you want a tenure track job then you need to have a PhD from a top flight school along with several peer reviewed journal publications under your belt. If you get your PhD from East Jesus State College then your career options will be further limited. Universities like to hire academics from an equal or higher tier school.

    My father is a dean of a college in the Midwest and if you think muncipal politics are petty and stupid just wait until you start your PhD and work for a university.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    I would check university job boards to see how many postings you can find for the field or fields you are interested in. Most universities start looking for faculty around March so that should give you a good idea about what is available out there. stroskey is correct that many more universities are using adjuncts to deal with the budget shortfalls. Community colleges in out of the way areas always seem to be looking for people but you need to be qualified to teach a subject they offer like intro to geopraphy. The other thing to keep in mind that if you want a tenure track job then you need to have a PhD from a top flight school along with several peer reviewed journal publications under your belt. If you get your PhD from East Jesus State College then your career options will be further limited. Universities like to hire academics from an equal or higher tier school.

    My father is a dean of a college in the Midwest and if you think muncipal politics are petty and stupid just wait until you start your PhD and work for a university.
    If anything, this is an understatement. My experience in pursuit of a PhD gave me a very cynical view of academia.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I was fortunate to teach as an adjunct professor at a major state university for three years and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. However, as an adjunct I did not have to participate in research and writing which is an essential role of a university professor on a tenure track. Teaching at a university seems like a great job from a distance and, as I said, just the teaching part was great for me. However, university politics are like no other and there is a lot of competition to get the great jobs and keep them through to tenure. After you get your PhD, hopefully at a well known and prestige planning school because it makes a big difference, expect about five to eight years as an Assistant Professor teaching the lower end of the curriculum and doing a lot of research and writing to get published and noticed. If you survive that, it is a great job.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for the responses guys!

    I guess I'll schedule a time to talk to the respective programs at my current school (currently at OSU in MCRP). Someone mentioned researching being a big part of academia - That's also what makes it so appealing to me! teaching at a community college might be OK for a while, but I'd really like to contribute to new knowledge.

    Also, a lot of you guys mentioned university drama, is it any worse than government employee drama? I've been a state employee, that was a huge load of bullshit. I would think that if you were able to make a name for yourself through publishing, then at least you'd have some weight as a professor (unlike government work, where you'll be just a number most of the time).

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I'm in a Ph.D. program at a top-tier private university right now. I have a master's in planning and worked several years as a municipal planner before applying to doctoral programs. My program is an interdisciplinary program that is not explicitly related to planning; however, my own projects are very much focused on planning and related topics (housing, demography, etc.).

    I would be hesitant to pursue a Ph.D. in planning. If you do that, you will be qualified to teach in a planning program -- and not much else. However, if you have a master's degree in planning and then pursue a Ph.D. in a different type of program--public policy, urban affairs, or public administration, for example--you will open many more doors.

    Best wishes.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    ...r, university politics are like no other and there is a lot of competition to get the great jobs and keep them through to tenure. ....
    Why I don't teach.

    Quote Originally posted by reimaginethis View post
    I'm in a Ph.D. program at a top-tier private university right now. I have a master's in planning and worked several years as a municipal planner before applying to doctoral programs. My program is an interdisciplinary program that is not explicitly related to planning; however, my own projects are very much focused on planning and related topics (housing, demography, etc.).

    I would be hesitant to pursue a Ph.D. in planning. If you do that, you will be qualified to teach in a planning program -- and not much else. However, if you have a master's degree in planning and then pursue a Ph.D. in a different type of program--public policy, urban affairs, or public administration, for example--you will open many more doors.

    Best wishes.
    We should bookmark this for reference when the same questions come in the future.
    -------
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by reimaginethis View post
    I'm in a Ph.D. program at a top-tier private university right now. I have a master's in planning and worked several years as a municipal planner before applying to doctoral programs. My program is an interdisciplinary program that is not explicitly related to planning; however, my own projects are very much focused on planning and related topics (housing, demography, etc.).

    I would be hesitant to pursue a Ph.D. in planning. If you do that, you will be qualified to teach in a planning program -- and not much else. However, if you have a master's degree in planning and then pursue a Ph.D. in a different type of program--public policy, urban affairs, or public administration, for example--you will open many more doors.

    Best wishes.
    LOL, you answered my follow up question!

    I was thinking the same thing, planning programs are small and few, and many will accept applicants from outside planning. That's why I was looking at geography programs (that and my school as a relatively easy dual degree option, through which I can hopefully cut out some time in classes. Plus, my MCRP program is embarassingly inadequate with GIS). I was also considering Psychology.

    Weird, my undergrad is in psych, and I thought my interests had moved away from it, but human ecology seems like an inviting research field...

  11. #11
    Some of the reasons for getting a PHD in a different field are important, but a lack of GIS is probably not all that important. I use it from time to time, more often, I have students who I can pay to do something for me. Frankly, GIS is not a good use of my time for research. Its just one tool of many.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by latte thunder View post
    LOL, you answered my follow up question!

    I was thinking the same thing, planning programs are small and few, and many will accept applicants from outside planning. That's why I was looking at geography programs (that and my school as a relatively easy dual degree option, through which I can hopefully cut out some time in classes. Plus, my MCRP program is embarassingly inadequate with GIS). I was also considering Psychology.

    Weird, my undergrad is in psych, and I thought my interests had moved away from it, but human ecology seems like an inviting research field...
    That's funny. The Ph.D. program I'm in is called 'Community Research and Action.' In essence, it's community psychology -- which is inherently interdisciplinary. I have no connection to psychology whatsoever (undergrad degree in history, grad degree in planning), but this program has turned out to be great for me.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    I'm thinking we should expand the art of teaching planning to the business community. Location is important in business (although a little less so in the Internet age), and convenience to customers demands some thinking about where businesses should put stores and rental properties, and what the zoning codes are for those locations, and how to influence those zoning codes. Homeowners, too, might be able to find zoning and planning code knowledge useful, as they seek to sell/remodel/tinker with their homes. So don't just limit your teaching ideas to universities. Go and cultivate a new market.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    My father is a dean of a college in the Midwest and if you think muncipal politics are petty and stupid just wait until you start your PhD and work for a university.
    LOL, my father works in a college here in New Jersey and I agree with you.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Personally I wouldn't pursue a PhD until I can determine a use for it beyond teaching. Even if teaching is your end goal, it would be smart to already have a fall back in mind so you can tailor your research accordingly.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    I was there

    Latte Thunder, I was in your exact same position a few years ago. I chose Geography because they offered three years of funding over Planning which only offered one. Also, prospects for academic jobs in Geography were much better a few years ago - they have been quite bad the last three years but I hear they are getting better.

    I couldn't stomach the politics, soap opera and (in my opinion) the futility of academia. I realized that I was very much an applied person, I liked doing projects, conducting research and writing documents that actually made things happen - not sit around and theorize about things. I came from a planning masters program and ended the first paper I wrote in the PhD program with "Recommendations" (the planner in me!). The comment I got back on that section of the paper was "Who do you think you are?!" I absolutely loved teaching at the university/college level, but the ole "Publish or Perish" mode of existence was not for me. While I was a PhD student, I could never turn work off in my head. I was always thinking about my current or prospective research or publication, what methodology to use, which populations, how to control for it, what biblio to use etc. etc. etc. I always felt guilty when I was on vacation, or even at home, because I felt I should be working on my research. I am now a public sector employee, which is rigorous work during office hours, but as soon as I step out of the office, work is totally out of my mind.

    One more thing, if you go to a good PhD program, they will want you to do research and get a job in a research-focused university. If you express an interest in teaching as a career, your professors will likely lose interest in you.

  17. #17
    Writing as a professor (I'm not in a Planning Department but I have many colleagues and friends who are):

    Every school will require its professors to teach, conduct research, and work in the field (this can range from working in a municipal planning department to consulting). If you don't want to do all three, then you shouldn't pursue a career in academia, or you should confine yourself to be a part time teaching adjunct.

  18. #18
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    no necessarily bad

    Quote Originally posted by latte thunder View post
    I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this, but does anyone know how good prospects are for Ph.Ds in Planning or Geography? I've come to a realization that I would probably be happiest Teaching/researching at the university level (and I can't do any worse than my professors), but of course, I don't want to put in the time for something that likely won't pan out.


    I keep reading things about how humanities PhDs are wastes of time, but nothing much about social sciences. I see postings for professors constantly (but of course, I have no idea how many applicants these postings draw). Also, most Ph.d Programs are small and many schools are expanding (or creating) programs.

    Any insight?
    I don't have hard figures but I suspect the job market for PhDs in planning is better than that for Humanities. The primary reason being that their are many career options outside academe. I have a Ph.D. in planning and my first job was with a research consulting firm. I have also been considered for positions at foundations. I'm in academia now, but I also do outside consulting. To increase your career prospects try to acquire marketable skills while pursuing your PhD. Things like GIS, demographic analysis, statistical analyses, environmental assessments, etc. In addition to studying what you love, make sure you acquire some some useful skills.

    Aside from working outside the academy, many urban planning programs in universities provide consulting services to small communities for a modest fee. This can help support professors' salaries and/or fund students. This can help insulate some planning programs from budgetary crises.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    Writing as a professor (I'm not in a Planning Department but I have many colleagues and friends who are):

    Every school will require its professors to teach, conduct research, and work in the field (this can range from working in a municipal planning department to consulting). If you don't want to do all three, then you shouldn't pursue a career in academia, or you should confine yourself to be a part time teaching adjunct.
    This is actually exactly want I want to do. Before going back for my masters I worked for a state agency and found the day to day tedious. I like shorter term projects, not the idea that I may sit somewhere for 30 years. I like asking questions and finding out the answers not following a rubric. And I like interacting with different people.

    I thought that if i found something in a field I was interested in, I could stomach knowing in advance exactly what I'd be doing, every day, from 8 - 5, for years. I have a great internship, with a great company, doing great things... and it's still not enough.

  20. #20
    The wonderful thing about being a professor is not the hours ( they suck - professors routinely work nights and weekends). It's not the pay (after tens even years of school you make less than most planning directors). The great thing us that you get to research or spend lots of time on virtually any topic you are interested in. As long as you can get something funded or pubished from it, there are no limits.

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