Philosophy PhD Programs: University of Iowa and Wayne State University

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


  • Wayne State is a small program with few survey respondents, limiting what we can report here
  • Iowa's permanent placement rate is about average, but has above average student ratings
  • Students from Iowa tend to be in LEMM, whereas Wayne State students tend to be in LEMM or Science, Logic, and Math
  • Both have below average gender diversity among graduate students, and Iowa seems to have below average racial/ethnic diversity, close to average socioeconomic diversity
  • Yet multiple students from Iowa commented on the gender diversity of the faculty as a plus

Overall placement, 2012-present
Iowa had 23 PhD graduates in this period, whereas Wayne State had 9. Of Iowa's 23 graduates, 18 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 8 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (44%), with none of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy. Wayne State placed 2 of 8 into permanent academic positions (25%), with none in philosophy programs with a PhD.

Of Iowa's other graduates, 8 have temporary academic placements, 5 are in nonacademic positions, and 2 have no or unknown placement.

Of Wayne State's other graduates, 6 have temporary positions and 1 is in a nonacademic position.

Nonacademic positions held by graduates of Iowa include sales, management, and educational testing, whereas those held by graduates of Wayne State include web developer.

The average salary of Iowa graduates is $57,222 and 64% preferred an academic job, whereas too few Wayne State graduates provided salary or job preference information to report.

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, 44% of Iowa students are in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), 25% are in Value Theory, 25% are in History and Traditions, and 6% are in Science, Logic and Math. 33% of Wayne State students are in LEMM, 22% are in Value Theory, 11% are in History and Traditions, and 33% are in Science, Logic, and Math. For Iowa, the plurality of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Value Theory (50%), whereas this was split between Value Theory and History and Traditions for Wayne State (50% each).

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, 19% of those from Iowa are women, as are 11% of Wayne State students.

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

Including all past graduates and current students, none of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Iowa identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic. (Too few from Wayne State provided this information to report.)

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.

20% of those from Iowa were first generation college students, but too few Wayne State 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 Iowa provided one public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive (Wayne State students did not provide any such comments):

Philosophy should do less policing of disciplinary boundaries. Philosophers waste too much time arguing about whether something is philosophy, and I think this particularly impacts people working on philosophical issues that impact underrepresented groups. My department improved significantly on these issues merely by hiring people working in a wider range of areas, and thereby convincing the rest of the department that what they were doing was worthwhile. Beyond that, I think most philosophy departments probably need an ombudsperson or other formal process for addressing issues of micro-aggressions up to, and including, harassment and assault.

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 Iowa students selected "somewhat likely" (4.3, n=12). (Too few Wayne State students answered this or the following questions to report.)

Iowa did not have a moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program 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," Iowa students selected "satisfied" (4.3, n=10).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Iowa students selected "satisfied" (3.8, n=10).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, Iowa students selected "satisfied" (4.2, 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.)

Iowa students provided public comments on the program overall:

large proportion of the faculty are female (I take this to be a positive); focus and train grad students well for teaching their own courses
My program is incredibly rigorous while still being laid back and friendly. We have 50% female faculty and an incredibly welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, including a DEO deeply committed to diversity in the discipline. Also, we get way more teaching experience, at a more measured pace, than is common for philosophy graduates.
The philosophy department at the University of Iowa invests deeply in its graduate students, supporting us in our academic endeavors, our advocacy for fair treatment as workers, and our efforts for securing employment upon graduation. I have found the department to be supportive of students regardless of their personal aspirations, including in my case supporting me in my search for nonacademic work.

on preparation for teaching:

the department does a good job of training and supporting grad students for undergraduate teaching. (e.g., every year there is a day of teaching training where grad students lead mock classes/lessons for fellow grad students and faculty. this is is then followed by feedback - praise and suggestions - from the faculty)
The training was pretty DIY/throw-you-in. But I found the faculty and fellow students to be supportive when asked for help.

on preparation for research:

Professors here, for the most part, tend to be generous with classwork grading and very rigorous and demanding with regard to any real work being done for a thesis or publication, etc.
The professors have high expectations, and most are willing to closely mentor students. Students should always be careful when picking an adviser to choose someone who provides the right level of mentorship for them. My adviser did very well.

and on financial support:

The University of Iowa funds graduate students quite well, in large part due to the graduate student body being represented by a union (UE Local 896). In addition, the philosophy department does a great job helping students find summer work and reimbursing conference travel.
We receive what I understand to be very generous TA stipends compared to other places. Benefits are great.

(Wayne State students did not provide public comments on the program.)

Next week I hope to look at Western University and University of Oxford. Feedback is welcome, at

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