Wednesday, February 10, 1999

16. Where you live will be chosen for you.

While you may have some part in choosing where you will attend graduate school—admission committees will have their part in the choosing as well—you will have very little choice in the matter of where you live after you complete your graduate education, at least if you plan to remain a professional academic. This is because there will be so few open positions for which you will be qualified at the moment when you enter the job market (see Reason 8). Remember that most faculty openings (especially in a sluggish economy) are the result of faculty retirements, so your job prospects will depend on your graduation coinciding with the retirement plans of someone whose position will be replaced. When budgets are tight, retirees are often not replaced at all.

Unless you have received some inside information, there is little way for you to guess where the job openings will appear in any given year. You may be in graduate school in sunny Southern California, and be quite happy there, but the only job announcements for someone like you, whose specialty is eighteenth-century French literature, are for positions in Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Idaho. Every other job seeker in the country (and perhaps beyond) with a PhD in your specialty will apply for those three jobs, and because you have devoted eight years of your life to the subject and you aren’t ready to jump into something completely different, you will, too. And if you manage to land one of those jobs, you may very well spend the rest of your working life in Alabama. The job market will determine where you live.


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