April 2009 Issue • Volume 37 • Issue 4

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News from
ASA’s Research Department

This column keeps you informed about the latest activities from the Research and Development Department to help you stay current with changes in the profession and the discipline.

Employment Prospects

As the current economic recession affects faculty hiring in higher education, disciplinary associations such as the American Historical Association and Modern Language Association (MLA) have reported declining numbers of jobs for PhDs advertised at their meetings or on the websites. As a result of what they refer to as "turmoil in financial markets" and "what appears to be a non-trivial economic downturn," the American Economics Association has asked employers who have listed positions in JOE (Job Opportunities for Economists) to announce any suspension or cancellation of listed jobs. Between August and December 2008, more than 50 jobs were cancelled, according to the list of announcements.

The American Sociological Association (ASA) is joining its sister organizations in announcing job losses for sociology PhDs at all levels. The table below compares the number of unduplicated job listings advertised in the ASA Job Bank in 2006 (a particularly good year for job listings in sociology) and 2008 (what appears to be a particularly bad year for job listings in sociology). (The 2006 findings were originally discussed in Too Many or Too Few PhDs?: Employment Opportunities in Academic Sociology, which can be accessed at the "Research and Stats" webpage at www.asanet.org). The table shows a decline of 22.8 percent overall between the two years. This dip was not as precipitous as first might appear. For example, the dip did not occur all at once. When accounting for the overall number of jobs advertised (including duplicates), there was a 36-percent decline in listings between 2006 and 2007, and another 17-percent decline between 2007 and 2008.


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Jobs for assistant professors, the largest category of listings, declined by almost 40 percent between 2006 and 2008. The largest decreases in listings were for full and associate professor positions. These positions have been reduced to a handful, although most jobs at this level are likely to be handled through more informal networks. The smallest declines are for fellowships and positions in applied, research, and policy settings.

The story of decline may be overly pessimistic, however. For example, in 2008, there was a small increase in the number of academic positions for deans, department heads, visiting professors, or soft-money research. Most significant, however, was an increase in the number of positions with faculty rank open or having more than one rank listed. Jobs open to all ranks more than tripled over the two-year period. In addition, an unknown number of jobs are not advertised in the ASA Job Bank (i.e., paid ads) but are listed on ASA sections’ listserv distributions and by regional sociological societies and aligned association websites (i.e., non-paid ads). The number of jobs not listed through paid outlets such as the ASA Job Bank may have grown with the increasing economic uncertainty.

Alternatively, the picture of losses may be more glass-half-empty, especially for job seekers. As with the economists, jobs may have been cancelled. In order to present a more accurate picture of the job market for PhD-level sociologists, Jerry Jacobs (University of Pennsylvania) will work with the ASA Research and Development Department to find out how many of the 2008 jobs listed in the Job Bank were filled and how many were cancelled. Chairs and department administrators of sociology departments should expect a short survey later this spring. Preliminary findings should be available at the 2009 ASA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Who’s Teaching and How Much?

Higher education organizations, coalitions, professional associations, and disciplinary societies have decried the increasing use of adjunct faculty and its negative impact on the quality of student learning. It is generally assumed that the heavy use of adjunct faculty is limited to the humanities, but reports in 2008 by the American Federation of Teachers and the MLA show that this type of employment is widespread across disciplines, estimating that between 38 and 41 percent of courses are taught by adjunct faculty at four-year institutions. However, results from the 2001 and 2007 ASA Department Surveys reveal an opposite trend in sociology: Full-time and supplementary faculty numbers have remained stable in the six years between surveys, while teaching loads have increased for full-time professors. These findings are available in the latest brief from the ASA Department Survey series, What’s Happening in Your Department? Who’s Teaching and How Much?

Given the lack of consistency between ASA findings and those of the other surveys, the ASA Research Department would like to hear if the findings reported here match your department’s experiences. Comment on this brief at the new ASA Research Department Blog (asaresearch.wordpress.com).

A Master’s Degree in Sociology

The ASA Research Department has launched a new webpage, "What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Sociology?," to provide information to students interested in applied and professional degrees and to faculty members developing or running these programs. New information will be gathered from ASA’s new longitudinal study of master’s candidates in sociology (see p. 5 of the March 2009 Footnotes). This survey seeks to bridge the information gap on MA degrees and aid departments in efforts to improve or develop programs that would make the master’s a more meaningful degree. In March, the ASA Research Department invited more than 1,400 students in sociology master’s programs to participate in a two-year survey. The first-year survey asks about their experiences in their programs and goals upon obtaining their degrees. The second examines employment and additional education outcomes.

Findings from the master’s survey will be reported on an ongoing basis on the ASA website. To learn more about the study, view findings from a survey of graduate directors, preview the Phase I student survey, and purchase a copy of the report Thinking About the Master’s Degree in Sociology: Academic, Applied and Everything in Between by the ASA Task Force on the Master’s Degree, visit www.asanet.org/cs/research/masters. logo_small


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