Philosophy PhD Programs: Indiana University and University of Southern California

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are Indiana University Bloomington and University of Southern California. These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) I updated this information myself, using the program's placement page and what I could find online. I aim to construct these posts with an eye to what can be seen about the programs from the APDA data set alone. This information has come from several sources, including current students and graduates. Prospective graduate students should look at the websites for the programs, linked above, for more complete information. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.


  • Both of these programs place a good proportion of their graduates into permanent academic positions, but USC also has strong placement into PhD granting programs
  • Of those going into permanent academic positions, most from Indiana are in LEMM and most from USC are in Value Theory
  • Indiana appears to have below average diversity, whereas USC has above average racial/ethnic diversity
  • Indiana students rate their program lower than average, with lower ratings among more recent graduates, but USC students rate their program very highly

Overall placement, 2012-present
Indiana appears to have had 32 graduates in this period, whereas USC has had 40. Indiana placed 15 of these graduates into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (47%), with 1 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (3%). USC has placed 23 into permanent academic positions (58%), and 12 into programs with a PhD (30%). Of Indiana's other graduates, 4 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 9 have other temporary academic placements, and 4 are in nonacademic positions. Of USC's other graduates, 4 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 3 are in other temporary academic positions, and 10 are in nonacademic positions. Indiana graduates reported an average salary of $54,944, whereas USC graduates reported $62,667. Only 73% of Indiana students and graduates preferred an academic job, but 100% of USC students and graduates did.

Note that the overall proportion of 2012-2016 graduates from the 135 programs tracked by APDA in permanent academic positions is 36%, with 11% in PhD granting programs. The current database values for all 2012 and later graduates are 37% and 12%, respectively, with an overall average salary of $71,879.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 44% of Indiana students are in LEMM, 32% are in Value Theory, 12% are in History and Traditions, and 12% Science, Logic and Math. 32% of USC students are in LEMM, 52% are in Value Theory, 11% are in History and Traditions, and 5% are in Science, Logic and Math. For Indiana, the majority of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in LEMM (60%), whereas the majority from USC were in Value Theory (70%).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 27% in LEMM, 34% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 15% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Whereas only 23% of past graduates from Indiana were women, 31% of current students are women. Including all past graduates and current students, 26% of those from USC are women.

29% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. Current database values are 31% for all past graduates and current students, 37% for current students, and 28% for past graduates.

Including all past graduates and current students, 0% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Indiana identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic, whereas this number is 27% for USC.

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The current percentage in the database is 15%.

13% of Indiana past graduates and current students who answered questions about socioeconomic status were first generation, with students spanning the lower middle to upper middle classes. Too few students from USC answered questions about socioeconomic status to report their numbers.

The percentage of all survey respondents who are first generation college students is 23.3% (CI: 20.7% to 26.0%), compared to 31% for all United States doctoral degree recipients in 2015.

Indiana students provided one public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

I do not know. I do not know what the source of lack of inclusivity is. So I cannot make any recommendations on what steps it should take. Or, more cautiously, I should say perhaps the next step would be additional studies or funds to more clearly identify what is the source of lack of inclusivity.
USC students did not provide any public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive.

Program Rating
In response to the question: "How likely would you be to recommend the program from which you obtained or will obtain your PhD to prospective philosophy students?" past and current Indiana students selected "somewhat likely," on average (3.6, n=16), whereas USC students selected "definitely would recommend," on average (4.9, n=8). Indiana had a strong negative correlation between graduation year and program rating, excluding current students (-.76). This means that graduates of more recent years rate the program lower than graduates of years further in the past. Of 65 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates (this does not include USC, since it has fewer than 10), 15 had moderate negative correlations between these values (6 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.07).

"Somewhat likely," 4.0, is the average rating reported in 2017. The current database overall average is the same, with an average of 3.7 for teaching, 4.0 for research, and 3.8 for financial support. In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Indiana students selected "neutral" (3.3, n=9) and USC students selected "satisfied" (4.4, n=5).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Indiana students selected "neutral" (3.4, n=9) and USC students selected "satisfied" (4.4, n=5).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," Indiana students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=9) and USC students selected "very satisfied" (4.6, n=5).

Public Comments
Indiana students left the following public comments about their program overall:
I found the culture of the department to be very friendly and supportive. While placement is difficult for every department in the current market, they are very committed to helping their graduates find positions.
The faculty and students at Indiana were amazing. Bloomington is a terrifically vibrant and welcoming community, and the university is electric with ideas and activity. The department has strong relationships with other academic programs and departments, which encourages and promotes collaborative and interdisciplinary work. The faculty are attentive and caring, supportive and friendly, and easy to work with. They are terrific teacher/scholars, and do a wonderful job preparing graduate students to carry on that tradition. Studying at IU was a transformative experience, both personally and philosophically, and I would strongly recommend the department to prospective students, especially students interested in philosophy of science (including cognitive science), history of analytic philosophy, and epistemology.
Many of the graduate students at my degree granting institution were friendly, helpful, and excited in philosophy. In general, they were a joy to be around. Many of the faculty were nice and I and others learned much from them. But the department, on a whole, was not very concerned with professionalization. No time was spent in classes, or one on one meetings, on how to teach or do research. In fact, some faculty even gave advice against professionalization. (For instance, more than once I was told not to present at conferences or try to publish until after I had received my degree.) Additionally, the faculty had become increasingly factionalized so it could be difficult to put together a committee in certain core areas of philosophy. I do not know if these things have changed
There is very little support from the faculty for students working outside their direct research areas. They identify students that do share these perspectives early, give them additional support and preferred teaching work, while mostly ignoring others who struggle to find their place in the field. These students are typically ignored and gossiped about as being "stupid". Working on any interdisciplinary projects outside of Cog Sci or History & Phil of science is a non-starter. Showing an interest in areas of non-western philosophy (outside the class room) is a sure-fire way to be politely shoved out of the program. There is routine infighting within the faculty that makes it difficult for students to form committees, get forms signed in a timely manner, etc. The training in the program seems to be right from the stone age--many faculty are technologically averse, and there are few opportunities to explore other areas like digital humanities. They still think logic is best done in front of a chalkboard. They are slow to act on grad student feedback about the program and so afraid of administrative scrutiny they try to keep any dispute in house, rather than use university resources. Things might be changing, but they have also been unable to hire for several searches due to infighting. Zero opportunities for applied work or research.
on training for teaching:
There was no official or unofficial preparation for graduate student undergraduate teaching. Some faculty were assigned to over see a course, but some would simply do nothing. Others would observe one class but spent that time for polishing a letter for the job market not giving concrete feedback. There was even one case where a student wanted to teach a course in a fairly certain way and the faculty assigned with the course refused to approve the course. Some faculty would send information about university wide teaching classes. That was helpful. But there was little advice or preparation. I do not know if this has changed.
There is one training session before the first year. It fails to address hardly any of normal literature on learning, includes no help with integrating technology in the classroom and instead focuses on lecturing. No pedagogy class, no formal help from Instructors during years as an AI (same thing as TA), and only confusion about things like diversity statements and teaching philosophy is disseminated.
on training for research:
Most faculty have trouble pointing people to research or networks besides those they themselves write or directly dialogue with. There are good things about the program: if you are lucky enough to share a research interest with some faculty member you will get lots of help. If not, its sink or swim.
and on financial support:
Money is okay for the area, and health insurance is not bad. However, it requires that you typically use the health center, at least $1500 dollars a year goes to university fees, and there are few opportunities for extra work or funding. Having a child, running into a major medical issue, or requiring cognitive therapy makes it very difficult without living on Ramen noodles.

USC students left the following public comments about their program overall:
Faculty were very supportive through coursework, dissertation, and placement, and have remained supportive since I graduated. The program is also very well structured with well thought out steps along the way, each meant to lead you into a new phase -- from coursework to a dissertation topic, and from there to completing a dissertation. In general I had the sense that graduate training was a priority for the department.
Faculty members are generally engaged with helping their students succeed in their academic careers and are leaders in their fields.
The department is high-pressure, high support. The graduate community was collaborative and healthy, and the faculty provide world-class instruction as well as mentoring. As a whole the faculty do emphasize professionalization throughout the degree program, so students make steady incremental progress (e.g. presenting at conferences, preparing papers for publication, crafting syllabi, etc.) and are well-prepared to start as junior faculty by the time they defend.
on training for teaching:
When it comes to teaching I think we humans learn most by example and by experience, not by studying theory. At USC we get the chance to see how professors teach, to learn from their example, and then to try things out. We receive the freedom and autonomy needed to make mistakes and to learn while we teach. USC gives us this freedom and autonomy. But if help is required, professors are quick to help and to offer advice.
They offer supplementary training focused on preparing their students to teach.
The department assigns each graduate student a teaching mentor to observe and coach them every semester that they teach, in addition to a seminar/working group focused on teaching in the first semester as a teaching assistant, and regular roundtables discussing difficult pedagogical challenges.

on training for research:

Very supportive, with frequent meetings with advisors and the program directors as a whole
Most professors offer generous comments on student work as well as practical advice for securing an academic position.

and on financial support:

Extremely generous by comparison to many programs
Compensation was above average (based on anecdotal conversation). They offer you the option of keeping external funding or buying out of teaching requirements. Plus, they actively try to secure additional internal funding for students in the program.
The stipend here is generous and increases every few years. For our most recent cohort, I believe the stipend began at $30,000/year. This is more than enough to live comfortably in LA. I, in fact, save a few thousand dollars a year. Moreover, there are regular summer bonuses (approximately valuing $3000 per summer.) The department also offers travel funding, which is great for when graduate students want to travel for conferences. Moreover, there are several summer fellowships (approximately, I believe, valuing $5000) geared towards dissertating students who wish to travel far (e.g. Oxford) to work with philosophers from other departments. (We strongly encourage graduate students to travel and work with people from other departments. We are all colleagues in the end.)

Next week I hope to look at Purdue University and University of Pittsburgh, HPS. Feedback is welcome, at

*Post last updated 6/9/19

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