Philosophy PhD Programs: Syracuse University and University of Chicago CHSS

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are Syracuse University and University of Chicago Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science (CHSS). These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) This information comes from the APDA database, and was updated by my research assistant, Anna Durbin, using the program's placement page and what she could find online. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.


  • Syracuse is about twice as large as Chicago CHSS, which is a small program
  • Both have similar, above average permanent academic placement rates
  • The research foci of the programs are very different: LEMM and Value Theory for Syracuse vs. Science, Logic, and Math for Chicago CHSS
  • Both have above average racial/ethnic diversity, and Syracuse also has good socioeconomic diversity while Chicago CHSS also has good gender diversity
  • Syracuse was given a much higher, above average program rating by its students

Overall placement, 2012-present
Syracuse had 33 PhD graduates in this period, whereas Chicago CHSS had 15. Of Syracuse's 33 graduates, 29 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 16 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (55%), with 1 of these in a program that offers a PhD in philosophy (3%). Chicago CHSS placed 5 of 10 into permanent academic positions (50%), with 3 in philosophy programs with a PhD (30%).

Of Syracuse's other graduates, 2 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 11 have temporary academic placements, and 4 are in nonacademic positions.

Of Chicago CHSS's other graduates, 3 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 5 are in nonacademic positions, and two have no or unknown placement.

The average salary of Syracuse graduates is $66,367 and 94% preferred an academic job, whereas too few Chicago CHSS graduates provided salary information to report, but 100% preferred an academic job.

Note that removing nonacademic positions from the total number of graduates in reporting permanent academic placement is a new standard for this project. According to the old standard, 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 according to the new standard are 42% and 15%, respectively, with an overall average salary of $68,542 and 90% who prefer an academic job.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 50% of Syracuse students are in LEMM, 41% are in Value Theory, 9% are in History and Traditions, and none are in Science, Logic and Math. 5% of Chicago CHSS students are in LEMM, 5% are in Value Theory, 14% are in History and Traditions, and 76% are in Science, Logic, and Math. For Syracuse, 50% of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Value Theory, whereas the majority of those from Chicago CHSS were in Science, Logic, and Math (80%).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 28% in LEMM, 34% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 14% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Including all past graduates and current students, 25% of those from Syracuse are women, as are 42% of Chicago CHSS students.

29% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The current database percentage is 31% for all past graduates and current students.

Including all past graduates and current students, 22% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Syracuse and 20% from Chicago CHSS identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic.

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The percentage from the Diversity and Inclusivity survey is 14%. The current database percentage is 20%, but this is likely inflated relative to the true population due to some of our data gathering efforts.

45% of those from Syracuse were first generation college students, but too few Chicago CHSS students provided this information to report.

The percentage of all survey respondents who are first generation college students is 23.4%, compared to 31% for all United States doctoral degree recipients in 2015.

Students from Syracuse provided one public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

Further steps to encourage people from low socio-economic backgrounds to pursue a graduate degree in philosophy. Perhaps more consideration for grad school applicants from small liberal arts schools rather than the usual influential research institutions. It still seems virtually impossible for a promising student with this kind of background to succeed in the profession without a great deal of difficulty.
(CHSS students did not provide any such comments.)

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 Syracuse students selected "somewhat likely" (4.3, n=19), whereas Chicago CHSS students selected "neither likely nor unlikely" (3.0, n=5). Syracuse did not have a moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program rating. Of 69 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates, 14 had moderate negative correlations between these values, 7 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.06.

"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, 3.9 for research, and 3.7 for financial support.
In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Syracuse students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=12), whereas too few Chicago CHSS students provided this and the following information to report.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Syracuse students selected "satisfied" (3.8, n=12).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, Syracuse students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=12).

Public Comments

Syracuse students provided public comments on the program overall:
A very strong teacher training program, which provides a leg up when it comes to syllabus construction, assignment design, etc.
Commitment of faculty to success to students.
The faculty were among the top in their field, excellent teachers and, perhaps most importantly, where always there to support students and do what they could to help them succeed as philosophers and on the job market. My fellow graduate students were brilliant and I learned so much from them every day. They also supported each other which made the experience much more pleasant than it otherwise would have been. The department funded conference attendance, and brought in countless amazing philosophers to give talks, which provided good networking opportunities for when one goes on the market.
The program provides grad students with vastly more teaching experience than most other programs, which I believe was helpful on the job market. I did not find the program to be supportive of women while I was there, but this seemed to be changing when I left and based on what I know has continued to improve since.

on preparation for teaching:

We were given the opportunity to hone our teaching skills as teaching assistants, and then gained ample experience teaching our own courses. Faculty also sat in on my courses and gave me advice and were willing to do so additional times whenever I requested that they do so.

on preparation for research:

Graduate coursework and most dissertation advisors provided an accurate picture of the quality of work needed for peer reviewed publication.
I was able to publish a great deal as a graduate student, largely because the seminars helped me learn how to write for journals, rather than just typical academic papers. The department also put on workshops about how to publish that were very helpful and, when I asked, faculty were always willing to read my papers and give me advice about whether the paper could be turned into something publishable and, if so, help me see what needed to be changed to get it there.

and on financial support:

I would have liked to have been paid more, but I think we received a higher than average stipend and it was enough to live on without taking out additional loans. The cost of living is quite low in Syracuse.
The department changed its policies in regards to graduate student funding abruptly, and as a result many graduate students who had relied upon and reasonably expected continued funding after their fifth year were denied contracts on relatively short notice.
Chicago CHSS students likewise provided one public comment on the program overall:
I received my PhD from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, a multi-disciplinary program that allows its students some freedom to design their programs of study. Philosophy PhD students have used the program to very good effect, but only when they ensure that their programs of study include a good amount of both historical and contemporary philosophy as practiced by professional philosophers.

Next week I hope to look at Temple University and Arizona State University, History and Philosophy of Science (HPS). Feedback is welcome, at

Link to this post at: