I know that some of our students who are considering graduate school in philosophy are interested in what the job market for philosophers looks like. The broken record spins on — not good. But it is better than the last few years. Looking at all jobs (not just in the US) advertised in the “Jobs for Philosophers” from the APA, this year is up from previous years but still down from pre-crash. This year there were 194 ads. In 2010 there were 157, 2009 140. In 2008 there were 267 and in 2007 347.
I also did a rough and ready review of what areas in philosophy have the best prospects for jobs. This is very rough – I collapsed categories and did a lot of simplifying with the aim of giving students a general idea of the landscape. I ignored the web ads, senior hires, postdoc fellowships, and especially ambiguous ads (so the total number below is much less than the 194 total ads). This is meant to give you a general sense of the landscape, nothing more.
Jobs are advertised asking for an AOS (area of specialization) and an AOC (area of concentration). These terms are not clearly defined, but roughly an AOS is your area of research interest and what you wrote your dissertation on and an AOC is something you are competent to teach an upper division undergraduate course in (but don’t really research in that area).
Most jobs specify an AOS and an AOC. They will say “AOS: Ethical Theory and AOC: Social and Political” or something like that. Chances are they will have plenty of candidates who exactly fit their bill.
Some ads say “AOS open”, “AOC open” or even “AOS and AOC” open. Such ads are exciting for graduate students since it gives you a bunch of places to apply. But I think the excitement is largely unjustified. First, most AOC ads go on to specify something like “department would prefer x, y, z”. This annoys me since it means that the areas are not really open. If they know what they want, I wish they would just list it as the AOS or AOC. Now some places might really be looking for the best person they can find and don’t care about area. Maybe they have so many needs that they cast a wide net hoping to get the best person. I think other places, though, just can’t get their committee to agree on what need they want filled.
Keeping in mind the above limitations of my review, here were the most common AOS jobs (keep in mind, most of these were paired with a specified AOC):
Ethics / ethical theory / value theory: 20
Open: 17 (again, in most places something was specified)
Applied Ethics: 11 (of various stripes, environmental, business, etc)
Philosophy of Science: 7
Analytic metaphysics: 5
Social and political: 5
Continental: 5 (not a bad year for Continental, actually)
Phil of Mind: 3
Phil of Language: 3
This is about what I would expect. Most jobs are in ethics. Always some jobs for people in historical areas (ancient, medieval, modern, etc). Always some jobs for analytic metaphysics and epistemology. Philosophy of science seems to be on the rise, though I don’t have any evidence for that sense.