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In 1950, 22 anthropology PhDs were awarded in America. In 1974, 409 anthropology doctorates were awarded, and PhD production exceeded 400 for the first time. During the last 20 years, PhD production has held remarkably stable--at 400 per annum--ranging from 445 in 1976 to 360 in 1982 (mean = 396); the figure for 1995 is 464. From 1948 to 1994, 10,659 anthropology doctorates have been awarded by North American universities listed in the Association's AAA Guide.
Biennial Surveys. Recognizing the need for longitudinal data about anthropology PhDs, the American Anthropological Association began, in 1982, a series of biennial surveys. In 1995, questionnaires were sent to 300 1994-95 anthropology PhDs for whom mailing addresses were provided by departments. A total of 151 usable questionnaires was received, for a return rate of 50% (1990 = 68%; 1988 = 67%; 1986 = 65%; 1984 = 74%; 1982 = 41%).
(Note: In 1992, the Association's Washington, DC, headquarters restructured its internal departments, moved to a new location in Arlington, Virginia, and installed a computer network with entirely new software; the PhD Survey was not completed in 1992. With the 1995 Survey of Anthropology PhDs, the Association resumes its biennial survey schedule.)
Modal PhD. The modal 1994-95 PhD recipient (based on arithmetic means, medians and modes) is "Christine," a white, 40 year-old female who found academic employment in a U.S. four-year college. Christine's doctorate in sociocultural anthropology was based on fieldwork in North America on a non-applied topic; she took 8.4 years to complete her doctorate.
At time of degree, the youngest PhD recipient in Christine's cohort was 27 years old, and the oldest was 75. To date in the 1990s, the 400 PhDs awarded each year in American anthropology represent about 0.9% of the total number of doctorates awarded in all fields (anthropology MAs = 0.3%; anthropology BAs = 0.5%).
Five Fields. Rates of PhD production in each of anthropology's traditional subfields have been relatively stable since the mid-1970s (Figure 1). For the past 20 years, cultural anthropology accounted for an average 50% of new PhDs awarded in the U.S.; archaeology = 30%; biological/physical = 10%; linguistic anthropology = 3%; applied/other = 7%. The figures for 1994-95 are, respectively, 52%, 24%, 10%, 1% and 12%. (Note: Fewer practicing anthropologists receive specific training in applied anthropology itself than in sociocultural.)
Sociocultural PhDs. Today cultural anthropology offers its doctoral students an array of competing theoretical approaches. In their dissertations, PhD candidates may emphasize aspects of one or more of the following viewpoints: (1) science (i.e., they test a hypothesis; use replicable observation techniques and formal methodologies; and may be anti-subjective), (2) advocacy (i.e., further a political agenda; champion health-care, pursue economic parity, redress past wrongs; may value subjects over science), (3) interpretive (i.e., study the interplay between data and observer; prefer to speculate rather than replicate; may deny that objective meanings exist) and (4) postmodern (i.e., write ethnography as biography; emphasize written texts; prefer subjectivity to science; may be anti-objective). There has been little synthesis among the four views.
Recent dissertations include "Temples, Tourists and the Politics of Exclusion: The Articulation of Sacred Space at the Hindu Pilgrimage Center of Pushkar, India" (Christina Joseph); "Heeni Wharemaru: Her Story, the Personal Chronicle of a Maori Woman" (Mary Kay Duffie); and "Images of Culture: Being Herero in a Liberal Democracy" (Deborah Durham).
Archaeology PhDs. Doctoral candidates in archaeology are in a synthesizing mode. Drawing on previous archaeological field studies, they also use cultural, physical and linguistic anthropology to understand political development, trade, land use, nutrition, and migration routes within larger regions of study than the single site. Ethnoarchaeology, historical archaeology, Old World archaeology and the rise and fall of New World civilizations (e.g., the Maya) are popular topics. High-tech instrumentation, remote sensing and sophisticated imaging software add energy and excitement to the subfield.
Dissertations include "The Archaic Settlement System of the Middle Green River Valley, Kentucky" (Christine Kay Hensley); "Hunter-Gatherer Subsistence Adaptation in the Saginaw Valley, Michigan" (Kathryn Egan); and "Pottery Economics: A Kalinga Ethnoarchaeological Study" (Miriam Stark).
Biological/Physical PhDs. Doctoral research in physical anthropology includes biomolecular data-gathering, toward an evolutionary synthesis with paleoanthropology. The latter itself benefits from high-tech instrumentation, including thermoluminescence (TL), electron spin resonance (ESR) and 2-D/3-D computed-tomography (CT). Research proceeds on early hominid and hominoid taxonomy, New World Paleoindians, primate social behavior and the biology of aging. Paleoanthropology is more holistic, and has become an experimental science based on actualistic studies, microwear analysis and tool replication.
Dissertations include "The Phylogeny of New World Monkeys Assessed by High-Resolution Two-Dimensional Protein Electrophoresis" (Charlene Dickinson); "Social Organization and Reproductive Strategies in a Wild Population of Common Marmosets" (Leslie Digby); and "Amino Acid Residue Analysis of Type 1 Collagen in Human Hard Tissue: An Assessment of Cribra Orbitalia in an Ancient Skeletal Sample from Tomb 31, Site 31/435-D5-2, Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt" (Scott Fairgrieve).
Linguistic Anthropology PhDs. Doctoral research in linguistic anthropology emphasizes the centrality of speech in human culture. Passage of the Native American Language Act of 1990 increased the study of endangered languages (and their role in understanding the peopling of the Americas). Linguistic anthropology holds great potential for studying the multilingual, multicultural world.
Recent dissertations include "Memory, Identity and Politics in Armenia" (Nora Dudwick); "The Citizen Factory: Labor and Identity in Bolivian Rural Teacher Education" (Aurolyn Luykx); and "Jump! Jump an Play yuh Mas" (Patricia Alley-Dettmers).
Applied Anthropology PhDs. In the 1990s, applied anthropology is a growth industry. Dissertation research is conducted in all quarters of the world, and by practitioners in all four subfields. Scientific paradigms predominate over interpretive or postmodern approaches; the latter may be less workable in applied's "real world" of quantification and objective data gathering. Recent topics include studies of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other social-change agencies; finding ways to build local-level knowledge into models of social change; and research on specific biomedical problems, such as AIDS, in Third- and Fourth-World nations.
Dissertations include "From Making a Living to Making Money: Domestic Economy, Capital, and Family Farming in the Venezuelan Andes" (Russell Rhoads); "Women's Narratives: Living with HIV Disease" (Patricia Salmon); and "The Impact of State Legislation on Retirement Housing Management: Issues of Legitimacy" (Judith Scherer).
In 1995, graduate enrollments in U.S. anthropology programs (the mean for selected sample of departments) increased 7% over 1993, and 27% over 1989. According to the Association's 1994 Survey of Departments (see AAA Guide 1994-95), graduate enrollments in MA and PhD programs have remained relatively constant since 1975.
Age at Graduation. The age of doctoral recipients in anthropology has steadily increased from 34 years in 1973 to 39 in 1990; the average age at graduation for 1994-95's cohort is 40. Older age is due, in part, to fewer fellowship opportunities (see below, <M>Funding).
Elapsed Time. Since the mid-1980s, time spent after a BA degree--actually enrolled in graduate school--to attain a PhD in anthropology has averaged 8-10 years. Average elapsed time-to-completion for the 1994-95 cohort is 8.5 years (women = 8.4; men = 8.6; the range is from 4-21 years). These figures compare to six years for engineers (the shortest time to completion), 7-8 for social scientists, and 8 years for humanists (the longest time to completion, reported in the National Research Council's Summary Report 1992: Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities). The longer time required for an anthropology doctorate is due, in part, to learning exotic field languages and/or completing a 12- to 30-month field study far from home.
Minority representation in anthropology-PhD cohorts increased from 13% in 1990 to 16% in 1995. Meanwhile, the percentage of white anthropology PhDs decreased from 96% in 1972 to 84% in 1995. (Comparative figures for all U.S. PhD degrees conferred, by racial and ethnic group, in 1991-92, are as follows: American Indian = 0%; Asian = 5%; Black = 4%; Hispanic = 3%; White = 87%; data source: U.S. Department of Education reported in Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac Issue, September 1, 1994, p. 31.) As stated in the National Research Council's Summary Report 1992: Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities, "Just over 10 percent of all PhDs awarded to U.S. citizens in 1992 were earned by racial/ethnic minorities--Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans" (p. 5).
Most minority PhDs are in cultural anthropology. Representation in the subfields, computed for the 1994-95 PhD cohort, is as follows: archaeology = 0%; sociocultural = 74%; biological/physical = 4%; linguistic anthropology = 4%; applied/other = 17%. (Note: based on small numbers, these percentages are imprecise.)
Women anthropology-PhDs increased from 32% of the 1972 cohort to 59% of the 1995 PhD cohort (breakdown: sociocultural = 64% female, archaeology = 43% female, physical = 54% female, linguistics = 100% female, applied/other = 65% female).
The Association's 1994 Survey of Departments (see AAA Guide 1994-95) reported that since 1988-89, women gained two percentage points toward parity in the full-time faculty (all ranks combined = 30%), and attained record levels in the ranks of full and associate professor. In 1994-95 the figure increased by two percentage points (all ranks combined = 32% [breakdown: in BA departments = 36%; MA = 34%; PhD = 31%]).
As a percentage of their own sex, women anthropologists are more uniformly sorted into grades (professor = 35%; associate = 31%; assistant = 31% [instructor = 3%]) than male colleagues, who are bunched together at the full-professor level (55%; associate = 26%; assistant = 17% [instructor = 2%]).
Although parity between the sexes has been attained at the assistant-professor level (women = 54% in 1994-95 [breakdown: in BA departments = 49%; MA = 55%; PhD = 55%]), as a category, the latter accounts for only 18% of the full-time anthropology faculty in America in 1994-95 (breakdown: in BA departments = 23%; MA = 16%; PhD = 17%).
Training. Funding patterns for doctoral classroom training in anthropology have changed since 1972, with federal monies accounting for a smaller slice of the pie. We asked 1994-95 PhDs to indicate their major source of financial support for graduate training excluding fieldwork. Federal sources (fellowships, traineeships, grants, loans and "other") accounted for 16% (1972 = 39%, 1977 = 36%, 1982 = 19%, 1984 = 20%, 1986 = 18%, 1988 = 16%, 1990 = 19%). Nonfederal sources (university or foundation fellowships and grants, teaching and research assistantships) accounted for 56% (1972 = 27%, 1977 = 33%, 1982 = 48%, 1984 = 49%, 1986 = 46%, 1988 = 38%, 1990 = 41%). And personal sources (savings, family loans or gifts and personal employment) accounted for 27% (1972 = 32%, 1977 = 32%, 1982 = 36%, 1984 = 30%, 1986 = 35%, 1988 = 36%, 1990 = 42%).
Major Support During Fieldwork. Funding patterns for doctoral field research in anthropology have remained relatively stable since 1972. We asked 1994-95 PhDs to indicate their major source of financial support for doctoral field research. Federal sources (fellowships, traineeships, grants, loans and "other") accounted for 23% (1972 = 51%, 1977 = 44%, 1982 = 36%, 1984 = 33%, 1986 = 29%, 1988 = 17%, 1990 = 44%). Nonfederal sources (university or foundation fellowships and grants, teaching and research assistantships) accounted for 41% (1972 = 21%, 1977 = 24%, 1982 = 35%, 1984 = 35%, 1986 = 35%, 1988 = 41%, 1990 = 34%). And personal sources (savings, family loans or gifts and personal employment) accounted for 29% (1972 = 26%, 1977 = 31%, 1982 = 32%, 1984 = 32%, 1986 = 36%, 1988 = 32%, 1990 = 29%).
A doctorate is recommended for full professional status as an anthropologist, although work in museums, physical-anthropology labs and field-archaeology is often possible with a master's degree. There are more nonacademic career opportunities available to PhD anthropologists, currently, than there are jobs in the academy itself.
Increasingly, PhD students begin their training with academic as well as nonacademic careers in mind, and seek admission to programs which have some applied anthropologists on board. In their planning, PhD departments may be advised to hire applied anthropologists, both to meet changing student expectations and to bolster the department's official mission on campus.
Academic/Nonacademic. In the early 1970s, 74% of PhDs took jobs in academic departments of anthropology (13% took jobs in research centers and other academic departments; 13% took nonacademic jobs; Figure 4). From the mid-1970s through 1990, the percent taking jobs in anthropology departments dropped to 38% (21% took jobs in research centers and other academic departments; 41% took nonacademic jobs). In the 1994-95 PhD cohort, 42% took jobs in anthropology departments, 29% took jobs in research centers and other academic departments; 28% took nonacademic jobs (note: many jobs in research centers are "nonacademic" as well--i.e., do not award tenure--bringing the overall applied figure close to 50%; Figure 4).
Academic Work Setting. Academic settings include departments of anthropology (joint and separate), non-anthropology departments (e.g., linguistics, anatomy, women's studies, fisheries), campus ethnic centers (e.g., African-American studies, Latino studies), campus area studies (e.g., Pacific studies, Mexican studies, Latin American studies), campus research institutes (demography centers, survey research institutes, archaeology centers) and campus museums.
Tenure Rates. Of those 1994-95 PhDs who are academically employed, 6% are tenured, 30% are on a tenure track and 63%--almost two-thirds--are not on a tenure track. Comparable figures for "not on tenure-track" for 1986 = 61%, 1988 = 66% and 1990 = 49%.
Rating Advisers. Since 1982, recent PhDs have consistently rated the job-hunting assistance they received from departmental advisers as "poor." For 1994-95's PhD cohort, the ratings are much the same (poor = 42%; fair = 25%; good = 19%; very good = 8%; excellent = 5%). Through the 1980s, "excellent/very good" averaged 16%; 1995's figure is 13%. Thus, in planning for the future, PhD departments may consider offering tutorials on careers and job-hunting techniques, for applied as well as academic. (Note: To probe beneath the statistics, see below under Mentoring.)
Academic Job Availability. One measure of the academic job market is the number of position-open ads listed in the Anthropology Newsletter. The AN carries well over 90% of all academic jobs available in U.S. four-year colleges and universities. In 1994, only 215 positions were listed: half as many jobs as new PhDs available to fill them (1993 = 353; 1992 = 310; 1991 = 387; 1990 = 350; 1989 = 473; 1988 = 423; 1987 = 318; 1986 = 242; 1985 = 247).
Nonacademic Work Setting. Departments of anthropology at institutions of higher learning currently employ the largest proportion of anthropology PhDs; however, far fewer recent graduates are so employed, compared to the earlier cohorts.
Presently, there is no discernible ceiling or cap--like that prevailing in the tightened academic job market (Figure 5)--for PhD anthropologists targeting the nonacademic realm for employment. With its focus on internationalism, information and research, it would seem that the economy of the 1990s could absorb more anthropologists than the average 400 PhDs produced annually in the U.S. (Note: The diversity of professional-level jobs currently available to anthropology PhDs is evident in the Association's NAPA Directory of Practicing Anthropologists, available from AAA.)
Finding a Job. As in previous cohorts, the most successful job-hunting technique--accounting for 34% of all positions obtained by 1994-95 graduates--was "hearing of an opening through friends and contacts." Contacting employers "cold" (i.e., without any foreknowledge of opening; 17%), and answering ads in the Anthropology Newsletter (15%) were the next-most-cited means of finding a job. (Note: The AN has averaged 10% since 1972; 1995's 15% is a new high.) Additional methods used by the 1994-95 cohort included departmental job bulletins (3%), other help-wanted ads (10%), AAA annual meeting (1%) and employment agency (0%) ("other" = 19%). Since 1972, use of employment agencies has averaged less than 1%; AAA annual meeting has averaged 3%.
Average academic salaries for PhD anthropologists range from $34,000-$64,000, for the 9- to 10-month school year. Salaries outside the academy are higher, with greater variation. Many anthropologists work in nonprofit organizations, where salaries for positions held by PhDs range from $42,000 to $95,000, for the regular 11-12 month year. (Salaries for research directors in the for-profit realm are the highest and most variable of all; average figures are unavailable.)
Presently. Since 1974, anthropology PhD production has stabilized at plus-or-minus 400 per year. At present, 93 academic anthropology departments in the U.S. award a doctorate. Based on present and likely future trends, there is little reason to assume a substantial increase in anthropology-PhD production over the next several years, either in greater output from existing departments or from creating new doctoral departments.
Assumptions. Assuming 400 new PhDs are produced per year indefinitely, what might American anthropology look like in 30 years? To boldly guess this far ahead one might also assume (1) a retirement age of 65, (2) a lifespan of 76 years and (3) a mean age of 36 at time of degree. Thus the average career "shelf life" of a PhD anthropologist today is about 30 years (and less for recent PhD cohorts).
Year 2025. By the year 1995, approximately 11,000 men and women (representing 0.004% of the U.S. population) had received a doctorate in anthropology. By the year 2025--using the assumptions noted above--straight-line forecasting yields a grand total of 12,000 U.S.-awarded anthropology PhDs--1,000 more than today. If the value of a commodity is determined by its scarcity alone, future anthropologists will be valued indeed.
The answer is--Yes. As in all previous cohorts sampled, a majority (85%) would choose anthropology again if they had it to do all over (Figure 7). (Comparative figures for 1972 = 90%, 1977 = 80%, 1982 = 72%, 1984 = 74%, 1986 = 81%, 1988 = 84% and 1990 = 85%.) Of 1994-95's anthropology PhDs, 67% would complete their graduate training "more or less as they did"; 15% would choose a different specialty within their subfield and 3% would choose a different anthropological specialty. Sixteen percent would "not pursue training within anthropology again."
(For purposes of planning, academic departments are invited to request further statistical details by contacting the Department of Academic Relations, AAA, 2200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 600 , Arlington, VA 22201; 703/528-1902, ext 3010; fax 703/528-3546; firstname.lastname@example.org).
To supplement the quantitative analysis of the 1995 Survey of Anthropology PhDs, we asked new PhDs to respond to three open-ended questions. Ninety-two responded to the qualitative section of the survey questionnaire, permitting at least a glimpse beneath the statistics.
New PhDs in anthropology offered the following advice to prospective graduate students:
1. "Go for the doctorate only if you have a passion for anthropology and adventure."
2. "Make the best of an uncertain mentoring environment."
3. "Get some training in applied anthropology."
In the 1995 Survey, we asked, "What advice would you give to a prospective PhD student in anthropology?" Constructive opinions, presented in their own words, are from anthropologists who received their PhD degrees in 1994-95.
(1) Strategies (in no particular order). Have confidence in yourself and take responsibility for yourself and your program. Go to a school with a large endowment (more likely to give financial support). Go to the school that supports unconditionally the kind of research you wish to pursue. Choose your adviser carefully. Talk to previous graduate students about their advisers before enlisting your own. Begin publishing in graduate school. Be strong not only in theory and method--but in applying them to the real world. Get a complete education. Know what science is. Go for the "big-three": grants, publications and a powerful adviser. Get all the "human" support you can from the department. Remember--everything is ultimately your decision.
(2) Tactics. Obtain teaching experience. Learn statistics. Take technical classes in analytical methods. Do as much field research as you can. Take classes in all the subdisciplines. Learn to write. Master public speaking. Get a background in budget management. Get some experience in an interdisciplinary project. Give conference papers and publish before completing the degree. Do not go into debt to finance your graduate studies. Finish quickly and get back into the real world ASAP. Have fun and enjoy what you're doing.
(3) Topics. Choose a topic for which there is already plenty of available data--don't waste time looking for what isn't there. Try to specialize in two geographic areas, if possible. In cultural anthropology, avoid working in the U.S. Don't treat the PhD as the "end" of something--but instead as part of a career trajectory.
(4) Teachers. Choose a program that encourages close communication with faculty. Choose your committee carefully. Develop a good working relationship with your adviser. Make sure the faculty members you pick are compatible and generous with their time--and that they, themselves, are getting funding. Find out whether faculty members coauthor articles with students. Do not let faculty push you into areas where you'd rather not go. Realize that faculty members fail to discourage many students who would be far better served doing something else.
(5) Funds. Always think in terms of fundable research. Pick a geographic area that is being funded by the U.S. Government. Do not enroll in a PhD program unless you are assured of funding (without funding, many drop out after a few years).
(6) Speed. Work hard, focus early. Choose a program that encourages rapid progress. Establish social networks early. Get through the program quickly.
(7) Jobs. Be aware of job prospects and choose courses accordingly. Be well-informed about job placement. Take time to build contacts with professionals outside your institution. Go to meetings and make contacts as early as possible. Make yourself highly visible. Don't overestimate your opportunities in the future job market. Find a niche which is not overpopulated. Upon completion of your PhD, be willing to wait up to four years for a position in academics. The sense of achievement after a PhD--without future employment possibilities--will soon fade.
(8) Adaptability. Diversify your interests and skills. Don't choose such narrow training that you are less "sellable" after receiving the degree. Link your anthropological training to other fields--e.g., to agriculture, business, psychology, etc. Cross-train in other disciplines (e.g., in computers, anatomy, engineering). Gain practical skills for alternate positions (e.g., in CRM, computers, GIS). Be flexible in terms of job options. Conduct marketable research. Try to get some training in applied.
(9) Ultimately. Are you sure? Be very sure that this is what you want to do. Know why you're doing it. Go for it only if you have a passion for anthropology and adventure. Do not enter for the sake of a career--only for love of anthropology itself. Don't do this unless you are obsessed with the field and are willing to work for very little money. Weigh carefully your love for the profession versus your desire for economic stability. Accept that a career in anthropology is more like an artist's career than a lawyer's. Study what you love and care about, and don't worry about the future. If it's your dream--Go for it!
We also asked, "How would you describe the mentoring process you went through in graduate school?" As one woman answered, "Poor, in terms of preparing me for obtaining a job in academia--or perhaps I should say preparing me for the lack of jobs in academia."
Another member of 1994-95's cohort responded, "I did not receive a lot of `mentoring,' and did most of my research independent of advisers. As a result, I don't feel I got good advice on how to prepare for an academic career."
Apart from career counseling itself, faculty received mixed reviews on mentoring--from "excellent" to "so-so" (and from "zilch" to "nil"). One woman wrote, "Superb. I had wonderful outside contacts in academia who provided introductions, support and intellectual stimulation." Another wrote, "A mixed bag." A man answered the question with a question: "What mentoring process?" A woman's interjection: "Poor!"
Miscellaneous comments reveal the range of mentoring quality--high positives, high negatives--and the depth of feeling shown by those being mentored:
I had excellent access to all faculty; they provided excellent intellectual mentoring. My mentoring was meager in the extreme--the word hardly applies. Haphazard. Excellent. Not enough hands-on experience. Socialization into the discipline was largely hands-off. My mentoring was very effective--it kept me going. The majority of professors had very little time for graduate students, so we banded together ourselves. I like to work on my own . . . I was never advised to attempt to publish anything, nor to present papers. The faculty did nothing to help guide first year students. Mentoring was good to very good at the level of the main adviser; fair for the rest of the faculty. My adviser did not have any real advice except on academic issues; I was not prepared for the consulting side of anthropology. I was disappointed by the mentoring from my adviser, but other members of my committee were very helpful. Most support came from nonanthropologists in my area studies. Unstructured--but I got what I asked for.
Suggestion. The modal word to describe mentoring was "nonexistent." Thus, the following comment from a member of the 1994-95 PhD cohort may be helpful to current and future graduate students: "Mentoring was OK--but I had to be very aggressive to get it."
Finally, we asked, "During their training, should anthropology PhDs prepare for careers in both the applied and the academic realms?" The following list of responses summarizes this cohort's strong opinion that anthropology PhD programs should prepare students for careers in both:
Depends on interest of individual
I would have to say yes
If they can
If they want jobs!
It would be an excellent idea
It would be foolish not to
It wouldn't hurt
It's a good back-up
Most but not all should
No, unless so desired
Not a bad idea
Realistically, they should
Silly to think otherwise
They should be offered the choice
They should prepare for both
Yes, a resounding yes
Yes, definitely (2)
Yes, if they want jobs
Yes, life is applied
Yes, we need money
Yes, yes, yes (2)
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Yes, you never know
(*Numbers in parentheses indicate frequency of written response.)