Noah Smith, who just took a faculty position at Stony Brook University, describes the job market for economics PhDs; I’m assuming his description is reasonably accurate. It’s a little different than the one for STEM PhDs (boldface mine):
The Job Market is the main process by which PhD economists get jobs, though not the only process. There are plenty of jobs outside the Job Market, which you get by applying in the normal way (cold calling, resume mailing, connections, etc.). But the Job Market has three advantages, namely:
1. The job advertisement, application, and interview processes are all centralized,
2. You get the resources of your academic department to help you send out your applications, and
3. You are almost completely assured of getting some sort of job at the end of the process.
Jobs that are included in the Job Market are almost all posted on one website: Job Openings for Economists, which is run by the American Economic Association. You find the jobs you want to apply for, you send a list of these to your department, and you find three or four people to write you letters of recommendation.
The department then does two things. The administrative people forward your letters to the employers, and the Placement Coordinator tries to help identify good targets to call and recommend you directly….
After applications go out, employers contact grad students for interviews. These interviews take place at the AEA’s Annual Meeting in early January, which is a gigantic confab where most of the economists in the country go to eat free food and hobnob. As an interviewee, you generally don’t have time to go to any of the presentations or speeches; you’re running back and forth from hotel to hotel, going to interview after interview. This year’s AEA Meeting was in Chicago.
You then wait a week or two, and the employers who are interested in you call you back and schedule a flyout. Flyouts, which happen in February and March, involve going to the place, meeting the people, getting taken to dinner, and presenting your research. After that, offers go out.
There is also something called the “Secondary Market” or “scramble,” in which people who don’t get jobs through the aforementioned process get matched with employers who couldn’t find anyone to fill their slots. I don’t know exactly how this works, but I think the Placement Coordinator has to do a lot of work, making phone calls and such. The sense I get is that essentially everyone at a top 50 school eventually winds up with some kind of job.
Which, if you think about it, is pretty awesome. Especially as things currently stand in our economy. Being an econ grad student has its drawbacks, but joblessness afterward is definitely not one of them.
So we have a profession in which a significant proportion of its members espouse free markets and other anti-worker policies, who themselves have never fought for a job in an open market, who have never had to hustle.
Hell, they don’t even have to contact the institution offering the job (I misunderstood).
This would be like celibate men telling people what to do in their sex lives.
And that’s just too crazy to even contemplate. Oh, wait. Anyway…
Actually, no. Fuck anyway. If this system applied to biologists, it wouldn’t really matter: a key component of our jobs does not involve analyzing, critiquing or enacting policies that directly or indirectly affect employment. Mind you, these economics jobs aren’t like 2-3 year postdocs that pay, if you’re lucky $45,000 per year (usually much less, and the high salaries are found only in expensive university towns) and then you’re out on your ass; these are real jobs. And only one of out seven STEM PhDs will wind up in a tenured position.
To me, the economics job hunt strikes me as a major reality-distortion field. It certainly could account for the lack of alacrity I see when many, though not all, economists discuss unemployment. I would imagine the ‘elite’ economists–the ones most prone to have the opportunity to speak to the larger public–will have likely had the easiest time of it, with the best, and for the rest of us, unrealistic outcomes.
Anyway, congratulations to Noah. I hope he likes Stony Brook (longtime readers will know that I spent over four years there).
EXTRA BONUS HEAD EXPLODYNESS: Here are the publication requirements (boldface mine):
You need a Job Market Paper, or “JMP.” This is a piece of original research, usually the first chapter of your dissertation.
That’s it! Really! That’s all you need! In the words of the great professor Yusufcan Masatlioglu, “All you need is that one damn paper.”
At your AEA Meeting interviews, you will mainly discuss your JMP. At your flyout, you will present this paper. You don’t need to have published this paper; in fact, you don’t need a single academic publication (most people save publishable papers for when they are already working as assistant profs, where the papers will count towards tenure). “All you need is that one damn paper.”
Well then. It’s five o’clock somewhere, STEM PhDs have a drink.