Philosophy PhD Programs: Johns Hopkins University and University of Minnesota Twin Cities

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are Johns Hopkins University and University of Minnesota Twin Cities. 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.


  • Both Johns Hopkins and Minnesota are smaller programs, although Johns Hopkins students report that it is expanding in size
  • Johns Hopkins academic placement rate is well above average, whereas Minnesota is a bit below average
  • The program ratings are about the same, both below average, but with higher ratings from more recent Johns Hopkins graduates
  • More Johns Hopkins students are in LEMM and History and Traditions, whereas more Minnesota students are in Value Theory
  • Minnesota has above average gender, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity, whereas Johns Hopkins appears to be below average for gender and socioeconomic diversity

Overall placement, 2012-present
Johns Hopkins had 27 PhD graduates in this period, whereas Minnesota had 20. Of Johns Hopkins's 27 graduates, 20 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 12 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (60%), with 3 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (15%). Minnesota placed 5 of 14 into permanent academic positions (36%), with none in philosophy programs with a PhD.

Of Johns Hopkins's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 6 have other temporary academic placements, 7 are in nonacademic positions, and 1 has no or unknown placement.

Of Minnesota's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 8 have other temporary positions, and 6 are in nonacademic positions.

Nonacademic positions held by graduates of Johns Hopkins include governmental policy, university administration, musical instruction, and law, whereas those held by graduates of Minnesota include government, software engineering, art, and law.

The average salary of Johns Hopkins graduates is $64,222 and 100% preferred an academic job, whereas this is $72,386 and 79% for Minnesota graduates.

The current database values for all 2012 and later graduates now in permanent academic positions, out of those in academic positions overall, is 42%, with 14% in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy. The average salary of all graduates who took part in the survey is $68,542 and 90% prefer an academic job.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 32% of Johns Hopkins students are in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), 21% are in Value Theory, 34% are in History and Traditions, and 13% are in Science, Logic and Math. 17% of Minnesota students are in LEMM, 50% are in Value Theory, 9% are in History and Traditions, and 24% are in Science, Logic, and Math. For Johns Hopkins, the plurality of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in LEMM (50%), whereas this is Value Theory for Minnesota (40%).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 28% in LEMM, 33% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 15% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Including all past graduates and current students, 26% of those from Johns Hopkins are women, as are 39% of Minnesota students.

The current database percentage is 31% for all past graduates and current students.

Including all past graduates and current students, 17% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Johns Hopkins and 22% from Minnesota 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 21%, but this is likely inflated relative to the true population due to some of our data gathering efforts.

None of those from Johns Hopkins reporting being first generation college students, whereas 38% of Minnesota students identified this way.

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 Johns Hopkins provided two public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

Broaden its canon and counts as core and as philosophical. Also, move away from an obsession with rankings (journals, programs, etc.)
I am against diversity hiring, because I think it does not lead to those hires being seen as less qualified. Instead, I think it is important that professors do more to encourage minority and female undergraduate students to consider an academic career and offer to talk to them.

Students from Minnesota provided one:

I have no idea. I am a white male raised in a middle class background. I was trained as an analytic philosopher with a heavy emphasis on logic, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science. It is my impression that analytic philosophy departments tend not to be very inclusive. While I have not kept up with the makeup of the department since I graduated, it does seem that the department has moved away from the strong emphasis on analytic philosophy and has moved toward an emphasis on ethics and social justice and, as a result, has probably become more inclusive.

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 Johns Hopkins students selected between "neither likely nor unlikely" and "somewhat likely" (3.5, n=12), whereas Minnesota students selected students selected "somewhat likely" (3.6, n=21).

Johns Hopkins did have a positive moderate correlation between graduation year and program rating (.36); this means that more recent graduates gave it higher ratings than graduates of the more distant past. 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. It is worth noting that some students give lower ratings to their program because they would not recommend a graduate education in philosophy to anyone or because they think it is more difficult to find employment from that program for reasons that have little to do with the quality of that program.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Johns Hopkins students selected "neutral" (3.2, n=6), as did Minnesota students (3.1, n=10).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Johns Hopkins students selected "neutral" (3.3, n=7), as did Minnesota students (3.3, n=10).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, Johns Hopkins students selected "satisfied" (3.6, n=7), whereas Minnesota students selected "neutral" (3.4, n=10).

Public Comments
(Note that these comments primarily come from current students and recent graduates, but in some cases may be from non-recent graduates.)

Johns Hopkins students provided public comments on the program overall:

Right now, Hopkins is a small department with a good cooperative atmosphere. The character of the department may change due to its expansion, but on the other hand that will raise its profile and give students more options in deciding who to work with. The funding is very good, considering that Baltimore is not too expensive.

on preparation for teaching:

We had excellent teacher training. Graduate students serve as teaching assistants for several years, thus having an opportunity to take on gradually the responsibilities of teaching. This is in contrast to some other programs that have students teach their own courses right away, without first having served as an assistant. Graduate students also have access to university-wide programming aimed at teaching excellence, and in later stages, can teach their own courses. I felt very well-trained and supported as a teacher.

on preparation for research:

Again, I think this is something you learn as you go. I think it is important that advisors treat grad students as people who are already researchers and allow them to grow in that role, and by and large this is the case here.
Research guidance depends entirely on the faculty mentor. Some members of the faculty are engaged mentors, meeting with their students to discuss research projects, providing feedback on student work, assisting the student in making connections with faculty at other institutions, and generally taking an interest in student success. Other members of the faculty are entirely disengaged as mentors, do not make themselves available to students, do not provide feedback on student work, and generally do not take an interest in student success. At any institution, students should choose their mentors wisely. At an institution such as this, it can make or break a career.

and on financial support:

Financial support was comparable to other institutions. In part because the school is located in a city with a low cost of living, the support package was enough to cover basic expenses during the academic year. There were additional opportunities to teach summer courses, or to adjunct at nearby schools. Money was certainly tight, but the financial package provided enough support to get by.

Minnesota students likewise provided public comments on the program overall:

I was provided amazing teaching opportunities that really allowed me to grow in that area. The entire department, including all graduate students with whom I worked, took their teaching assignments very seriously. I worked in a wide range of courses in a range of roles. While teaching and working on my dissertation was difficult, I am sincerely appreciative of the teaching experiences I was offered.
The faculty and staff are extremely kind, helpful, and devoted to the graduate program. Minneapolis is also an excellent city for being a graduate student (vibrant culture, lots of colleges to adjunct at, etc.).
The program values and focuses on funding, mentoring, training, and teaching students. The broader university offers outstanding resources for complementary learning and research. And the university in one of the best North American cities for living as a graduate student.
Very supportive of graduate students. Good, supportive atmosphere in general. No sexual harassment or jerks...A number of women faculty members. Decent placement record. Good requirements for graduation. No language requirement. Minneapolis is a great city to live in.
While I am perfectly happy with the program I received my PhD from, I would hesitate to recommend to anyone that they pursue a PhD in philosophy given the current expense of graduate school and the abysmal job opportunities that are available to freshly minted philosophy PhD. In my own case I chose not to pursue a job in philosophy. Instead I work at a medical library at the institution I received my degree from

on preparation for teaching:

I had many teaching assistantships for a diverse range of courses as well as the opportunity to teach about four different courses of my own at the University while a graduate student. A large number of local institutions offer potential adjunct instructor positions.
There have been very few workshops on teaching undergraduates, and very little advice given. There are virtually no repercussions for teaching poorly, and definitely no reward for teaching well. Teaching undergrads feels like the very last priority of many of the faculty here.

and on financial support:

I was provided no financial support from my program while I was a graduate student. Instead I got a full time job at the library that I currently work at and used the regents scholarship provided by the University to pay for my graduate education.
No guaranteed summer funding, pay well below the standard of living in the Twin Cities, and nearly $800 in student fees per semester for the first three years in the program. Some students have taken to part-time jobs just to get by, which presumably detracts from their ability to focus on the program. Additionally, the department has recently received a very large endowment, exactly $0 of which is being distributed to graduate students in any way (no RAships, fellowships, grants, awards - nothing). There is no graduate student union on campus, but the situation in the philosophy department makes the formation of one very attractive.

Next week I hope to look at Yale University and University of Memphis. Feedback is welcome, at

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