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November 29, 2010

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article up on the use, or lack thereof, of graduate program job placement stats. Seems few schools keep stats and even fewer are willing to make them available. This is apparently a bit of I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

“It is not in the graduate faculty’s interest to adversity very, very mediocre results…particularly as opposed to professional schools”

During graduate school we would get seemingly scores of emails awards and such won by recent alums. At times if felt like walking down the hallway you could hear on the air a voice: Did you know that so-and-so is now a junior prof at Fancy Pants University!?

I think my old program is starting to perhaps maybe think about beginning to kind sorta track graduate placement1. I heard rumblings during my first year and I still hear them several years out. As said in the article, it’s not that hard to keep track. So with the magic of Facebook and my google-fu I checked up on the old gang.

10 students who started graduate school with me eventually finished with PhDs2.
2 Industry unrelated research
4 Postdocs at R1s or equivalent
3 Tenure Track (SLAC, R1, R2)
1 unknown

I think that’s a pretty good record. I have no idea what comparable programs records are. I also have no idea what I would have thought about those stats if given them during year 1 or even recruitment. It might not have been hugely useful for choosing between programs. My options were all pretty comparable and likely have very similar records, given how much this can vary. Besides, I was certainly one of those students this guy is referring to:

“PhD students are extremely bright people who have been successful their whole lives, they are like hundreds of thousands of inner-city kids who believe they are going to be playing in the NBA”

Perhaps placement stats aren’t the program quality and graduate decision magic bullet that the article implies.

1. You can tell how confident I am in this happening soon.
2. Lost a few in years 1 and 2. A very low rate of attrition.

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