Sunday, November 16, 2008

Philosophy Jobs -- part one, the CC may be your friend.

First off -- let me say that getting a job in this year's job market is really hard. Most of the SLACs and state schools are freaked out about their financial prospects. The nice, research-oriented jobs -- the ones where they pay you think and then publish, are getting more competitive --- before they are put under some kind of hiring freeze.

The big secret is that there could easily be MORE community college jobs around -- if not for 2009-2010, then for the year after. Currently CC's instruct about 48% of ALL undergrads. Naturally, many drop out etc -- but, if you are looking for a job, it is a good thing to remember that jobs go where the students go.

CC jobs are counter-cyclical. When fancy-pants schools are worried that their students' parents can't pay the $35,000/year tuition -- they ought to be worried. Those same parents look at a bill for $150/00/ credit hour and pay it gladly to have their kid in college. Their college may well be BNCC. Plus, people who get laid off etc... go back to school. Sometimes they are changing careers, so they need their 'generals' for a new one -- other times they are working on a degree they quit from a long time ago etc... The thing is -- they are going to their local CC first.

CC jobs respond to enrollment pressure -- especially in my state. We have a contract that specifies how many classes must be covered by full-time faculty. That means for every set of sections we add to meet enrollment demands, we have to hire folks into tenure-track jobs.

Just to start you thinking about the job -- because the idea of teaching at a CC makes many philosophers cringe -- I'll start by saying it really isn't as terrible as you may think.

The pay and benefits are pretty darned good. I have my own office, with a window. I can apply for a sabbatical every 6 years -- and, since you wouldn't be in the 'cohort that got screwed by the contract' like I am -- your first one will be a year long at %80 pay.... Mine will be at %60, second at %80... grrr... At my school, I love my discipline and my department. My dean has good days -- and generally doesn't get in the way of what we want to teach. I get to choose my own textbooks, write my own syllabus as long as it complies with a VERY general course outline, and overall teach and grade as I think best.

The bad part is the 5/5 teaching load and the big classes. This semester I have two ethics classes at 50 students per class and two logic classes at 40 students per class. I have a one course release to be Humanities Department Chair... Next semester will be one of my smallest number of students so far (besides one debate coaching semester) -- I'll have 160 total, over four classes. If I'm teaching in Fall 09, I'll have 240 in five sections.

Before you ask -- yes, I have my students in logic do proofs for quizzes and exams and all of my non-logic students write several short or longer papers. Yes, I'm often up to my eyeballs in grading, but I've developed a system to grade papers quickly. No, I don't have anything like a TA or even a secretary that can enter grades in my gradebook. No, I currently don't use bubble-sheet exams -- but I have in the past and I may go back to them on a limited basis. Yes, the grading sucks and often their writing sucks.

Right now, because of the big class sizes, I've decided my school does not want me to teach my students to write in philosophy classes -- so, I'm not doing it. I circle errors and make comments about their reasoning. I do consider form when determining grades, but I don't do more than that. To be honest, if the comp folks can't manage it in classes half my size -- how could I possibly do it in classes of 50?

So -- when the Eastern APA turns out to be a huge, expensive, hassle and waste of time -- don't get too depressed. Start looking in the Chronicle and other places for CC jobs. They'll be there --

Next time -- how to write the cover letter and CV so that we'll WANT to invite you for an interview....


Pele said...

Thanks for this very helpful post! I look forward to your next post on writing the CV.

julie said...

Terrific advice as usual, PhiloFact.

mrc-w said...

Good call - CCs are definitely a good option! This is my first semester as full-time faculty at a CC and I love it. At my CC we havea 4/4 load and class sizes capped at 35, which is really nice. Our sabbaticals pay 50% for a year or %100 for a semester. I'm going back to my phd school in December to visit some friends and I'm totally going to advertise the CC route. Loved your post about it! :)