Q&A with a Prospective PhD Student

I recently had an email exchange with a student we are recruiting for our PhD program (said student looks really great!), and it occurs to me that others may find some of my answers useful, so…

First, many of your students have been successful in securing tenure-track employment.  In your opinion, what should the ideal applicant’s CV encompass when they enter the job market?  What would you say is typical of a student who completes their Ph.D. at Florida State?
That’s not something that I can summarize well in an email.  Instead, I offer the following advice.  First, follow the job postings in your field (join APSA at apsanet.org).  That way, when you enter the market you are well informed about recent trends.  Second, watch the job market in your field.  Doing point 1 will tell you what jobs are out there.  Pay attention to who gets interviews and offers.  Visit their websites and read their job market papers (I have at times convened groups in which we read those papers together).  Third, when your department fills a position (especially one in your field) seek permission to spend a couple of hours perusing the job applications of the candidates who applied.  In short, invest time in answering those questions for yourself using real data, not the beliefs and conjectures of faculty who have not been an ABD in 20 years. Faculty will be more than happy to share with you their half baked, selectively sampled, and therefore ill informed beliefs.  And the beliefs of your fellow PhD students will tend to be considerably worse than those of faculty because they do not do 1, 2, or 3 above.

Regarding your second question, you should be able to find the CVs for most of my PhD students from the links on my PhD Students page, and the date of their PhD is listed on the page (all of my students leave for their first job degree in hand).  With that you can discern what their CVs looked like when they were on the market.

Second, what percentage of students apply for and earn external grants?  Do faculty grant requests include funding for graduate students or research assistants?  I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the grant-application process and don’t know what is typical within the discipline.
Grants are not a big part of Poli-Sci, and the percentage of our PhD students who obtain external funding is low.  Most of my students apply for some sort of funding, but it is very competitive, and I do not consider funding a requisite to being successful in a PhD program.

Third, I’m sure there are several other prospective students who are also interested in studying sub-state conflict and political violence – how many students do you typically advise simultaneously?
I pretty much supervise anyone who is in our program who wants to write a dissertation for which I am a credible advisor.  The number of advisees I have had varies, as we are a small program, and you can see that variation pretty readily on my PhD Students web page.


About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
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1 Response to Q&A with a Prospective PhD Student

  1. Sean says:

    To add my $0.02 here: If Will Moore (or another faculty member) is interested in working with you (and you with him/her) that should make your decision simple. Many years ago I chose a lower-ranked program over a higher-ranked* program because a well-known faculty member took an interest in me; I do not regret that decision one bit. When the time came to go on the job market I was well-prepared academically and socially to join a faculty. That was a function of my faculty mentor. When I went on the market my close working relationship with this faculty member impressed hiring committees enough to get me interviews. That mentor-student relationship evolved into a colleague-colleague relationship that we have to this day.

    Goal 1 is a job. Goal 2 is tenure. And here is something that I know from being on tenure committees: We do not tenure your graduate institution, we tenure you. You can go to the “best” graduate program in the country, but if you do not perform we will not give you tenure because you went to “Stanvard,” “Yaleton,” or “Michilumbia.”The quality of your work will decide the issue for you. And if you are well prepared to perform because you worked closely with Will (or another faculty member of his stature) your chances of success are that much greater.

    In the interest of full disclosure: I have been criticized (sometimes savagely) for offering this same advice to others, so take it with a grain of salt. Not everyone will agree with me.

    * FSU is a highly ranked program so do not misinterpret my comments here.

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