of journals and job markets
A few days ago, Katherine wrote a very thoughtful post on spouses and the academic job market. (BTW, buy the Grad Skool book!). In the comments, a commenter, “Silly Wabbit,” wrote:
In another post Fabio recommended avoiding publishing in journals other than the top journals for PhD students; I’m not sure this is good advice. If a grad student can get papers into a regional or specialty journal I can’t imagine this hurting their career prospects especially over the possible alternative of no publications.
Am I off base here?
Let’s clarify the record. If you read the Grad Skool Rulz #25, I recommended that students count their job market “points.” I wrote the following checklist:
- Have I finished my dissertation proposal?
- Have I completed the data collection for my dissertation?
- Have I completed at least one polished chapter of my dissertation?
- Do I have more than one chapter of my dissertation completed?
- If I get a job, can I complete the dissertation by the summer before I have to start?
- Do I have a published article in a reputable refereed journal?
- Do I have multiple articles?
- Are any of those articles in the top journals?
- Do I have a book contract? (this often counts for two points)
- Do I have the support of my committee? (counts for multiple points)
- Do I have teaching experience? (counts for more if you want a liberal arts position)
It is obvious from the list that publishing in a top journal is only one attribute for a successful job candidate.
However, the importance of your publication varies greatly, depending on what job you want. If you want a job in a top R1 school, then the journal matters a lot. The modal assistant professor in a top 20 schools has authored or co-authored an article in AJS, ASR, Social Forces, or Social Problems. If not, they almost *always* have an authored or co-authored article in a well regarded specialty journal such as SPQ, ASQ, or Sociology of Education. Don’t take my word for it. Just look at the assistant professors and job candidates in the top 20 or 30 programs. The pattern is obvious.
Of course, there are exceptions. For example, book writers, such as ethnographers or social theory types, will sometimes publish in journals that the rest of the profession has never heard of. Or they get a job an a contract, or in a few cases, a complete book. Another exception is when someone is in an unusual specialty, like critical race theory, where it is very hard to consistently place articles in AJS or ASR. In that case, hiring committees are likely to recognize less prestigious or off-beat journals.
If your goal is a strong R1 program, then the strategy is obvious. Go for AJS/ASR/SF/SP and the well regarded specialty journals. Submit multiple times until you get a hit and go on the job market. There are other ways to succeed, but they entail more risk.
If you are targeting other kinds of institutions, then you have a lot more choices. Once you get past the top 20 or so, then people will seriously consider other journals such as the regional journals, or lesser known specialty journals. Liberal arts colleges prefer respectable articles but also strong teaching records. I’ve seen some students get excellent jobs with a single edited volume chapter on the CV, mainly because the person had a compelling dissertation and a solid teaching record.
Bottom line: The higher up in department prestige you go, the more you need to be associated with high prestige journals. Not a perfect correlation, but it’s there. Non-elite schools are more willing to look at people who publish in regionals or less well known specialty journals.