Philosophy PhD Programs: University of California, Davis and University at Buffalo

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are University of California, Davis and University at Buffalo. 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.


  • UC Davis has somewhat higher than average placement into permanent academic positions
  • The plurality of UC Davis students are in LEMM, whereas this is Value Theory for Buffalo
  • Both programs have somewhat below average gender diversity but somewhat above average racial/ethnic diversity; Buffalo also has above average socioeconomic diversity
  • Student ratings for Buffalo are below average, overall and especially for financial support, but are better for more recent graduates

Overall placement, 2012-present
UC Davis had 25 PhD graduates in this period, whereas Buffalo had 44. Of UC Davis's 25 graduates, 21 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 10 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (48%), with 1 of these in a program that offers a PhD in philosophy (5%). Buffalo placed 15 of 37 into permanent academic positions (41%), with 5 in philosophy programs with a PhD (14%).

Of UC Davis's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship position, 7 have other temporary academic placements, 4 are in nonacademic positions, and 3 have no or unknown placement.

Of Buffalo's other graduates, 5 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 14 have other temporary positions, 7 are in nonacademic positions, and 3 have no or unknown placement.

Nonacademic positions held by graduates of UC Davis include writing, teaching, and consulting, whereas those held by graduates of Buffalo include ontologist, attorney, and clinical ethicist.

The average salary of UC Davis graduates is $63,857 and 100% preferred an academic job; this is $63,750 and 100% for Buffalo.

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, 37% of UC Davis students are in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), 23% are in Value Theory, 14% are in History and Traditions, and 26% are in Science, Logic and Math. 36% of Buffalo students are in LEMM, 43% are in Value Theory, 15% are in History and Traditions, and 6% are in Science, Logic, and Math. For UC Davis, the plurality of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in either History and Traditions or Science, Logic, and Math (30% each), whereas the plurality of those from Buffalo were in LEMM (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 UC Davis are women, as are 22% of Buffalo students.

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

Including all past graduates and current students, 25% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from UC Davis and 22% from Buffalo 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.

30% of those from Buffalo were first generation college students, but too few UC Davis 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 UC Davis provided one public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

Creating more opportunities for community engagement and support can help foster an inclusive culture.

Students from Buffalo provided several:

Academia is always going to have a class problem. I can say, as a person from a low SES background, I felt much more welcome in my State school PhD program than in my fancy liberal arts undergrad program.
Censure programs that are demographically imbalanced, especially graduate programs. If we insist on continuing garbage rankings that are no more than insider sentiments about how great insiders are, then factor diversity and inclusive environmental survey data into rankings. Expose the problems to public scrutiny, take our lumps as a profession, and bring in many of those waiting on the outside to replace those we need to put to pasture for their obstruction and bad behavior.
Give more women and minorities opportunities through post-docs, visiting positions, etc. Include more women and people of color on a philosophy syllabus.
I think that one of the most important steps for philosophy to be more inclusive is to be affordable for everyone. But this is a problem of the university system in general, rather than philosophy in particular.

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 UC Davis students selected "somewhat likely" (4.1, n=10), whereas Buffalo students selected "neither likely nor unlikely" (3.0, n=13).

Buffalo has a positive moderate correlation between graduation year and program rating (.33); this means that graduates of more recent years gave higher ratings than graduates of less recent years. (UC Davis did not have a moderate or higher correlation.) 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," Buffalo students selected "neutral" (3.0, n=11). (Too few UC Davis students answered this and the following questions to report.)

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Buffalo students selected "neutral" (3.4, n=11).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, Buffalo students selected "unsatisfied" (2.4, n=11).

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

UC Davis students provided public comments on the program overall:

The most important thing was the level of interest faculty showed in graduate students. They were very concerned about ensuring that their graduate students had good research projects that would give them the best prospects possible (given the institutional pedigree) in their early careers.
UC Davis has excellent, helpful faculty who are actually interested in the success of their graduate students. There is a healthy and friendly environment there, with several opportunities for interaction and intellectual engagement.
Very helpful guidance. Lots of teaching experience. Helps graduate students make connections. Great staff and professors.

on preparation for teaching:

Lots of teaching experience if you take advantage of it. This will set you apart on the job market.

on preparation for research:

Lots of chances to join reading groups and philosophical organizations in the Bay area. Professors always willing to meet with you and talk about your work.
My advisors were outstanding in preparing me to do academic research. They taught me how to apply for federal funding and other external grants, they were enormously careful researchers who demanded the same of me, and showed me how to construct a paper. They were also good models for work/life balance, yet were able to maintain the highest standing in the field. They were great models, and took time to teach me how to be an academic researcher beyond just constructing a paper.
The faculty provide many opportunities to engage in collaborative research and receive substantive feedback on research. There are also several well-established and long-standing reading groups in different areas that help raise the caliber of student work. I strongly advise anyone pursuing their graduate studies at UCD to make use of the resources that they offer.

and on financial support:

5 years of funding. After 5 years, they try to continue funding if possible. Summer teaching is a possibility. Travel support is an option.
Funding is inadequate everywhere and UCD is no exception. However, there are nearly always opportunities to teach your own course during the summer to gain teaching experience and receive some financial support during the summer. On the other hand, the decisions about the allocation of funding in the department are not transparent and do not appear to be principled. This sometimes causes tension between graduate students and between the graduate student body and the faculty.

Buffalo students likewise provided public comments on the program overall:

I have deep appreciation for the department culture and quality of instruction. However the program is not well-ranked in the Leiter Rankings, and I am not sure that it is advisable for any student to get into academic philosophy in the current job market if they fail to gain admission to a top tier program.
Not a lot of diversity. Not a lot of women. Not even a lot of diversity in philosophical area of study or views. Very old-fashioned views about women by many professors. Not a caring environment for students. Hostility internally. Professors not approachable. Overall mentality that the field is too difficult to get a job in and we should not continue on as students, that only the really special can make it (the professors) and that UB is a prestigious place to work but not to get a PHD.
Some faculty are quite prominent in their fields and they are supportive.
Success at UB very much depends upon your research interests. Some fare very well but others less so.
There are viable funding opportunities, the Department offers teaching experience, and an excellent learning environment offering a broad range of philosophical specialities.

on preparation for teaching:

The program requires a Teaching Philosophy seminar, and funds many graduate students to do recitation teaching and lecturing. However some of the faculty seem to place less stress on undergrad instruction and more on graduate teaching and research.
There was very little explicit advice on teaching but I learned a lot from being a TA for various people.
We have a mandatory course on teaching philosophy the first semester, which is helpful.

on preparation for research:

Faculty is available for giving you advice on how to publish.
I had a great advisor. Your preparation, I think at most programs, depends a great deal on that.
Many of the graduate students have been able to publish their own top tier journals before going on the market, also many faculty work with graduate students as co-authors.
This was definitely the focus. Though I did collaborate on work with professors and never got a publication out of it.

and on financial support:

Our stipend is simply not a living stipend.
When I was there (in the late 2000s) the stipend was 11.5k a year (4 years). Barely livable even in a low-cost region like upstate NY. Most graduate students are forced to take adjunct work in their second year at least.

Next week I hope to look at University of Iowa and Wayne State University. Feedback is welcome, at

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