For graduates of philosophy PhD programs, area of specialization can make a difference to placement outcome. Many positions are advertised only within a specific area of specialization, and the number advertised in each area varies year to year. What's more, the number of graduates in each area varies year to year, such that it is possible to have a higher number of graduates in the same year there is a lower number of jobs, and vice versa. To explore the contribution of AOS to placement outcomes, I used the APDA database to look at the number of philosophy PhD graduates between 2012 and 2016 with a permanent academic placement within three years of graduation for each AOS. (See data here.) Note that the findings listed below may apply only to this limited time sample.
There are currently 6628 graduates in the APDA database. 2861 have a graduation listed between 2012 and 2016. 2194 have a known AOS, and the rest have an unknown AOS. I looked only at those with known AOS.
761 of those in the database with graduation year between 2012 and 2016 have a listed permanent placement within 3 years of their graduation year, for an overall placement rate of 34.7% (761/2194).
36 areas of specialization had graduates listed for 2012 to 2016.
20 had a permanent placement rate below the overall value. I will call these the "low placement group." The low placement group is listed below in order of placement rate (with the number of those with permanent placement in less than three years divided by the total number of graduates 2012 to 2016 in parentheses):
Philosophy of Math (2/16) 12.5%
Decision Theory (1/8) 12.5%
Value Theory (2/12) 16.7%
German Philosophy (2/10) 20.0%
Metaphilosophy (1/5) 20.0%
19th/20th Century Philosophy (9/44) 20.5%
Aesthetics (9/36) 25.0%
Philosophy of Technology (1/4) 25.0%
Modern Philosophy (52/197) 26.4%
Philosophy of Religion (18/65) 27.7%
Meta-Ethics (9/30) 30.0%
Philosophy of Action (8/26) 30.8%
Philosophy of Law (9/29) 31.0%
Philosophy of Mind (39/120) 32.5%
Metaphysics (39/120) 32.5%
Epistemology (56/170) 32.9%
Philosophy of Economics (1/3) 33.3%
History of Philosophy (3/9) 33.3%
Logic and Philosophy of Logic (15/44)34.1%
Philosophy of Science (39/113) 34.5%
16 had a permanent placement rate above the overall value. I will call these the "high placement group." The high placement group is listed below in order of placement rate (with the number of those with permanent placement in less than three years divided by the total number of graduates 2012 to 2016 in parentheses):
Continental Philosophy (44/122) 36.1%
Philosophy of Language (33/91) 36.3%
Social and Political Philosophy (70/193) 36.3%
Applied Ethics (20/55) 36.4%
Ethics and Moral Philosophy (115/309) 37.2%
Comparative Philosophy (3/8) 37.5%
Philosophy of Biology (11/29) 37.9%
Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Linguistics (25/64) 39.1%
Philosophy of Education (10/24) 41.7%
Philosophy of Gender, Race, Sexuality, Disability (13/31) 41.9%
Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy (17/40) 42.5%
Analytic Philosophy (4/9) 44.4%
Ancient Philosophy (49/103) 47.6%
Asian Philosophy (9/18) 50.0%
Philosophy of Physics (15/26) 57.7%
Philosophy of the Americas (8/11) 72.7%
Note that these numbers do not differentiate the graduates of different years and that graduates in later years will have had less time to find permanent placement. Thus, areas of specialization with earlier graduates will have an advantage over areas of specialization with later graduates. To see if this made a difference to the above groups, I made an index for each AOS based on its average year of graduation divided by the overall average year of graduation subtracted by 2012 (e.g. average graduation year is 1.375 years after 2012 for Philosophy of Math divided by 1.767 for all AOS, yielding an index of 0.778). I then multiplied this index by the placement rate to create a new listing of those areas of specialization with above and below the overall placement rate, correcting for average graduation year. In this case, the areas of specialization in the high placement group were just about the same, in order (lowest to highest): Ethics, Applied Ethics, Continental,
Asian, Biology, Medieval/Renaissance, Education, Cognitive Science/Psychology/Neuroscience/Linguistics, Comparative, Ancient, Gender/Race/Sexuality/Disability, Physics, American. (While most areas of specialization changed position in this group, three areas left the group on this basis, meaning that their presence in the group was enabled by having earlier graduates than average: Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, and Social/Political Philosophy.)
I also looked at interactions with gender.
Overall, 263 of 761 women were placed in permanent positions in less than three years (41.3%), compared to 498 of 1557 men (32.0%). Of the non-indexed groups, some areas of specialization in the low placement group had an above overall placement rate for a specific gender, and vice versa.
Specifically, whereas 41.3% is the overall placement rate for women in this period, the following list of areas of specialization from the low placement group had a placement rate higher than 41.3% for women graduates (order here and in the lists below follows that of the low placement and high placement groups, provided above--i.e. low to high overall placement rate):
Meta-Ethics (5/12) 41.7%
Philosophy of Law (2/3) 66.7%
Philosophy of Mind (17/38) 44.7%
Metaphysics (11/26) 42.3%
Epistemology (18/41) 43.9%
The following list of areas of specialization from the high placement group had a placement rate lower than 41.3% for women graduates:
Philosophy of Language (11/29) 37.9%
Social and Political Philosophy (23/63) 36.5%
Applied Ethics (6/25) 24.0%
Ethics (35/86) 40.7%
Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Linguistics (7/20) 35.0%
Philosophy of Education (3/8) 37.5%
Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy (0/7) 0.0%
Analytic Philosophy (0/1) 0.0%
Similarly, whereas 32.0% is the overall placement rate for men in this period, the following list of areas of specialization from the low placement group had a placement rate higher than 32.0% for men graduates:
Metaphilosophy (1/3) 33.3%
Philosophy of Economics (1/3) 33.3%
History of Philosophy (2/5) 40.0%
Logic and Philosophy of Logic (13/38) 34.2%
And the following list of areas of specialization from the high placement group had a placement rate lower than 32.0% for men graduates:
Continental Philosophy (25/84) 29.8%
Comparative Philosophy (1/5) 20.0%
Philosophy of Biology (6/19) 31.6%
Philosophy of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Disability (1/6) 16.7%
Overall, both area of specialization and gender appear to make a difference to placement rate.
In the low placement group, the overall placement rate was 29.7%, with a placement rate of 38.8% for women in this group and 26.5% for men in this group.
In the high placement group, the overall placement rate was 39.4%, with a placement rate of 43.1% for women in this group and 37.6% for men in this group.
Finally, I looked at the placement rate for each gender in the low and high placement groups for the other gender. For women in the low placement group for men (areas of specialization with a placement rate for men of below 32.0%), the placement rate was 41.8%, whereas the placement rate for women in the high placement group for men is 40.7%. For men in the low placement group for women (areas of specialization with a placement rate for women of below 41.3%), the placement rate was 32.9%, whereas the placement rate for men in the high placement group for women is 30.7%. This suggests an interaction effect between gender and AOS for placement rate.
In sum, placement rate varies with area of specialization. Placement rate also varies with gender. Placement rate also appears to vary based on the interaction between gender and area of specialization.
Some related discussions online (in order of recency):