Philosophy PhD Programs: The New School and MIT

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are The New School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 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.


  • New School does not have a placement page, making it difficult to trace all graduates
  • New School is a large program with below average academic placement, whereas MIT is a mid-sized program with very good academic placement
  • New School students focus on History and Traditions, whereas MIT students are largely in LEMM
  • Both have above average racial/ethnic diversity, and MIT also has above average gender diversity
  • Ratings from past graduates and current students are much higher for MIT overall, and somewhat higher for research and financial support, but slightly lower for teaching preparation

Overall placement, 2012-present
New School had 77 PhD graduates in this period, whereas MIT had 37. Of New School's 77 graduates, 73 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 21 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (29%), with 6 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (8%). MIT placed 19 of 31 into permanent academic positions (61%), with 12 in philosophy programs with a PhD (39%).

Of New School's other graduates, 11 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 30 have other temporary academic placements, 4 are in nonacademic positions, and 11 have no or unknown placement.

Of MIT's other graduates, 6 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 5 have other temporary positions, 6 are in nonacademic positions, and 1 has no or unknown placement.

Nonacademic positions held by graduates of New School include software engineer, counselor, art director, and sales, whereas those held by graduates of MIT include software engineer, editor, finance, and law.

The average salary of New School graduates is $60,800 and 100% preferred an academic job, whereas this is $68,357 and 100% for MIT.

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, 20% of New School students are in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), 38% are in Value Theory, 43% are in History and Traditions, and none are in Science, Logic and Math. 57% of MIT students are in LEMM, 29% are in Value Theory, 2% are in History and Traditions, and 12% are in Science, Logic, and Math. For New School, the majority of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in History and Traditions (57%), whereas the majority of those from MIT were in LEMM (68%).

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, 28% of those from New School are women, as are 45% of MIT students.

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

Including all past graduates and current students, 43% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from New School and 26% from MIT 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 New School were first generation college students, but too few MIT 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 MIT provided one public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

Encourage more research (and research funding) into non-Western philosophy: this tends to encourage underrepresented group members to think of themselves as potential philosophers. Also, and on the basis of the former: diversify philosophy syllabi, not only in terms of gender and race or ethnicity, but also in terms of disrupting or at minimum growing the canon, to include other traditions. Encourage faculty to attend at least one session, workshop, or lecture on non-Western or other underrepresented philosophy. One need not feel like one can only teach what one has learned in school –– opportunities for professional growth should also encompass and encourage growth in teaching areas. There are many, many bridges into under-represented fields, from just about any starting point in conventional philosophy. Support intensive summer workshops for underrepresented groups (such as PIKSI). Find ways to lower application fees for graduate study, particularly into top programs. Encourage faculty to attend institution-run workshops on diversity and inclusion (just about every major college and university has one or more such events every year).

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 New School students selected "neither likely nor unlikely" (2.8, n=9), whereas MIT students selected "definitely would recommend" (4.8, n=13).

MIT has a strong correlation between graduation year and program rating (.63); more recent graduates give it a higher 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. 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," New School students selected "neutral" (3.3, n=6), as did MIT students (3.0, n=6).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," New School students selected "satisfied" (3.7, n=6), whereas MIT students selected "very satisfied" (4.7, n=6).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, New School students selected "unsatisfied" (2.0, n=6), whereas MIT students selected "neutral" (3.2, n=6).

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

New School students provided public comments on the program overall:

Insecure funding is the main reason I would not recommend the department.
It depends on what areas of study a prospective student wished to pursue and on available funding.

on preparation for teaching:

There were a few teaching opportunities for select students. The rest had to make do on the adjunct market.

and on preparation for research:

The more independent a student is, the better off he or she will be.

MIT students likewise provided public comments on the program overall:

1. The climate is very good. 2. People are always around the department. 3. There are lots of reading groups and workshops etc -- lots of opportunities to present your work. 4. Faculty are excellent and most clearly care a lot about graduate education. 5. The graduate students are in general very good. This pushes you to become a better philosopher.
Faculty and other students in the program are very supportive, both from a strictly professional and from an emotional point of view. The program offers plenty of opportunity for high-quality philosophical interaction and students are usually encouraged to take an active role in department life.
The department tends to be very lively, and usually collaborative, with active involvement from graduate students in organizing many aspects of life in the department. Availability of faculty tends to be good. Teaching load is very manageable. Gender diversity tends to be good. Graduate student advocacy tends to be supported by faculty and students. Placement is on par with other top programs, with some variability year to year. There are areas for improvement, particularly when it comes to serving or supporting students with certain kinds of interests; and graduate student pay has lagged behind other comparable programs as living costs have risen; but on average, this graduate program compares favorably to other top programs in LEMM & analytic Ethics. On some metrics, this program has historically done better than other top programs. The main reason I would recommend this program is that it is rigorous (the first year in particular is a tremendously valuable stepping-stone for contemporary work in Analytic philosophy), active (there are constantly events, lectures, and reading groups, which foster learning, dialogue, and debate), and relatively faster than other programs. Students are less likely to languish undecided for years before continuing their life post-PhD, either in an academic or non-academic position. For mental health reasons, I believe this is best for a young student. Those who do enroll and then struggle to finish a dissertation within a 5-year period or find placement may have a very difficult time, however: MIT does not offer, to my knowledge, financial support after the 5th year, so students will have to apply for grant funding or find teaching work in order to complete the PhD. Many have done so successfully, but finding support or work can be difficult, particularly for international students. Due to its structural brevity, this can be a good program for those continuing from a Masters program or from a non-academic job. Someone coming in with specific goals and a timeline will usually be successful, as long as they have an interesting project. I would not recommend this program to an aspiring historian, Continental philosopher, or someone working on non-Anglophone philosophy, although it is possible to learn about these areas while at the program by taking courses at nearby schools or doing independent work (students will find support within the program to do these things), and it is even possible to complete a dissertation in areas not best served by the department (and several have).
Wonderful sense of community, very stimulating philosophically, fantastic faculty.
Wonderful, collaborative graduate community.

on preparation for teaching:

There is some teaching preparation, but most of it is transmitted between graduate students, in some cases in a structured way, depending on who has the job of orienting new teaching assistants that year. There are materials put together by a generation or two of graduate students that are extremely helpful when one is starting out. That said, due to institution-wide policy, students (pre-PhD) are not allowed to fully teach their own courses before graduating, so the teaching preparation is by nature going to be limited.

and on financial support:

As far as research goes, it is quite possible to find funding: conferences, visits at other campuses, and the like are all very possible. Finding funding past the fifth year, however, can be quite stressful, as it is not guaranteed, and can be competitive, as there is extremely limited funding in-house. Most students who fund past the fifth year do so by teaching at nearby institutions or by landing outside fellowships. The graduate student stipend makes living in the area possible without needing to seek outside work; and the health insurance is not terrible, with mental health services being among the most generous for graduate students. The stipend tends to be just enough to get by, to pay rent in a shared house, buy healthy food, and pay for public transportation. The support is inadequate for a single-income family or anyone with specific living needs.

Next week I hope to look at Florida State University and York University. Feedback is welcome, at

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