Philosophy PhD Programs: Purdue University and University of Pittsburgh, HPS

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are Purdue University and University of Pittsburgh, History and Philosophy of Science. 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.


  • Purdue is a large program with a lower than overall placement record, whereas Pittsburgh HPS is a mid-size program with a very strong placement record
  • These programs have opposing AOS profiles, with Pittsburgh HPS students largely in Science, Logic, and Math, and Purdue students largely split between the other three AOS categories
  • Pittsburgh HPS is stronger in gender diversity, but Purdue is much stronger in socioeconomic diversity
  • Pittsburgh HPS students rated their program more highly than Purdue students

Overall placement, 2012-present
Purdue appears to have had 50 graduates in this period, whereas Pittsburgh HPS has had 24. Purdue placed 11 of these graduates into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (22%), with 3 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (6%). Pittsburgh HPS has placed 15 into permanent academic positions (63%), and 10 into programs with a PhD (42%). Of Purdue's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship position, 29 have other temporary academic placements, 4 are in nonacademic positions, and 5 have no or unknown placement. Of Pittsburgh HPS's other graduates, 4 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 1 is in another temporary academic position, and 4 are in nonacademic positions. Purdue graduates reported an average salary of $64,417, whereas Pittsburgh HPS graduates reported $71,091. 93% of Purdue students and graduates preferred an academic job, as did 100% of Pittsburgh HPS students and graduates.

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, 27% of Purdue students are in LEMM, 30% are in Value Theory, 39% are in History and Traditions, and 4% Science, Logic and Math. 4% of Pittsburgh HPS students are in LEMM, 2% are in Value Theory, 14% are in History and Traditions, and 80% are in Science, Logic and Math. For Purdue, the plurality of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in History and Traditions (45%), but it may be worth noting that 100% (2 out of 2) of those in Science, Logic, and Math from Purdue in this time period were placed into permanent academic positions. The majority of graduates 2012 onward from Pittsburgh HPS placed into permanent academic positions were in Science, Logic, and Math (73%).

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.

Including all past graduates and current students, 22% of those from Purdue are women, whereas 35% of Pittsburgh HPS students 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, 12% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Purdue identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic. This number is 14% for Pittsburgh HPS.

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

50% of Purdue past graduates and current students who answered questions about socioeconomic status were first generation, with students spanning the lower to upper middle classes. In contrast none of the Pittsburgh HPS students were first generation and all but one were upper middle or upper SES.

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.

Purdue students provided two public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

Analytic philosophy seems to select for white people. Less analytic philosophy would probably mean more inclusion.
Diversify the canon at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

Pittsburgh HPS students provided three:

philosophy should become Western European studies.
More jobs outside the core areas of philosophy, which tend to be where minorities work -- because minorities can see the crucial importance of philosophical contributions fundamental questions about human life outside of M&E. More diverse faces at the front of classrooms to attract a more diverse student body to the major and to the profession. Financial support for students who work, students who parent, students who are primary caretakers for elders, and students whose disabilities stop them from proceeding in the traditional way through the program. Tenured professors should fight actively and consistently against adjunctification. Faculty should support student unions. Dual career couples should be supported through official channels rather than just ad hoc, as women most often suffer when families must make professional compromises due to the market
Reinstating mandatory retirement would be the most effective measure. Job searches requiring application materials to be anonymized would also help a lot. Journals also need to take responsibility for not publishing papers that selectively ignore the literature contributed by women and other marginalized people. There are a number of cases of high profile journals that knowingly published work like that recently, but there is no recourse for holding them accountable. Conferences should also take seriously policies to make their events inclusive spaces. If funders and organizational bodies like the APA required such measures, that could make a difference.

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 Purdue students selected "somewhat likely," on average (3.9, n=20), whereas Pittsburgh HPS students selected something between "somewhat likely" and "definitely would recommend," on average (4.5, n=16). Pittsburgh HPS has a moderate negative correlation between graduation year and program rating, excluding current students (-.38). 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, 15 had moderate negative correlations between these values (6 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.07). (Purdue did not have a moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program rating, excluding current students.)

"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," Purdue students selected something between "neutral" and "satisfied" (3.5, n=12) and Pittsburgh HPS students selected "satisfied" (3.8, n=8).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Purdue students selected "satisfied" (4.0, n=12) and Pittsburgh HPS students selected "very satisfied" (4.6, n=8).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," Purdue students selected "satisfied" (3.6, n=12) and Pittsburgh HPS students selected "very satisfied" (4.9, n=8).

Public Comments

Purdue students left the following public comments about their program overall:

My program no longer accepts new graduate students (there is not funding).*
I feel like I received an excellent education for the topics I was interested in. For a student who wanted more exposure to continental philosophy, the department may have been a bit too aggressive against such fields of study. I also felt that I could have been more closely mentored. Professors seemed to latch on to certain students and not others.
Philosophical pluralism among the members of the department and professional respect for differing standpoints with regard to religious faith.
It depends on which faculty.
Strong in history of philosophy. Program offers courses covering analytic, continental, and pragmatist traditions. Good placement record.

on training for teaching:

I was not afforded the opportunity to student teach, and had to adjunct elsewhere.
I did receive excellent teaching opportunities, both as a TA and as an independent instructor.
After serving as a teaching assistant for two years, program offered me opportunity to teach undergraduate courses on my own.

on training for research:

The department provides excellent support in this area. Early in the fall semester, faculty members offer a publishing workshop with very concrete advice. In addition, faculty are available for consultation on papers and often encourage students to improve upon seminar papers for publishing. The department has a very lively reading group culture and is generally supportive of independent research. We also have a large number of research lines available, so graduate students can take semesters away from teaching to focus on research. I would say that this is the strongest area of support in our department.

and on financial support:

I received funding, but through a different department (communications)
I received good financial support as a teaching assistant.

Pittsburgh HPS students left the following public comments about their program overall:

The faculty and placement record speak for themselves. For philosophy of science students two of the most valuable features of Pitt HPS that may not be immediately apparent were (i) the numbers of visitors passing through the Center for Philosophy of Science (ii) a decent size and friendly graduate student body working on philosophy of science at various stages of the program (say 20-30 people) with whom you take graduate classes, learn from and bounce ideas off (and get career advice from older students).
This program is appropriate for students interested in technical work in philosophy of science, with secondary historical interests. Students without background in a science should be prepared to get up to speed during their PhD.
This is an excellent department for students who are certain they would like to work in the philosophy of science. It is not an appropriate choice for historians, or for those who have interests likely to develop in other areas of the discipline.
Support for students, even after graduation. Superb visiting scholars program at the Center for Philosophy of Science.
Quality of the faculty was high; Quality of fellow graduate students was high; collegiality among graduate students was high; support from faculty and faculty advisers while in the program was high; support while on the job market was good; Pittsburgh is a pleasant and affordable city. However, some of these advantages are "fragile" and can change with time as faculty and graduate students come and go.
Overall, the department (including the community of graduate students) provides good support for academic research. There is more support for some areas (e.g., cognitive science, physics) than others (e.g., feminist philosophy of science, biology). The community of graduate students is one of the main strengths of this program as it is quite collegial and supportive. There are some good advisors here and professionalization advice is shared widely. There are many opportunities to meet outside scholars through the Center for the Philosophy of Science.
Grad student community. Lots of choice in coursework. Critical mass of philosophers in the area.

[Two non-public comments mention climate/diversity issues.]

on training for teaching:

Students have an appropriate amount of teaching opportunities -- enough to gain experience and competence, but not too much to balance with research.

on training for research:

Students are not required to get a broad experience in the discipline of philosophy, which is important for employability at departments that may require them to teach outside of the philosophy of science. There are many opportunities to get this sort of broader education by taking classes "across the hall" at the Philosophy Department, however, for those who need to gain expertise in other areas.
Much of the advice at this program comes from advisors and other graduate students. However, there are very strong norms of sharing tips and advice for academic research. There is a long history of sharing work in a comfortable environment at the graduate student run Work in Progress talks. Professionalization advice is also shared widely.

and on financial support:

Pittsburgh is cheap and the stipend is relatively generous. Students will need to keep on schedule to keep receiving support, which is all to the good.
It is quite high pay for a grad program, and they have a substantial amount of fellowship support automatically offered to students. The opportunities for additional teaching are also quite valuable, for experience and extra pay.
The financial support this program provides is sufficient for my needs, though I am not supporting a family. Pittsburgh is a relatively cheap city. Health insurance is provided and the plan is quite comprehensive. Travel funding is less for graduate students who are not doing cognitive science and are not members of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.

Next week I hope to look at University of Massachusetts, Amherst and University of York. Feedback is welcome, at

*I have been informed that this comment pertains to the Philosophy & Literature program, and not the Philosophy program. The data provided here combines these programs. The Philosophy & Literature program was briefly closed for funding reasons, but has since reopened. Post last updated 5/1/19

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