Philosophy PhD Programs: Yale University and University of Memphis

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


  • Yale's permanent academic placement rate is very good, while Memphis is about average
  • Both programs have more students in History and Traditions but place more in other areas (LEMM for Yale, Value Theory for Memphis)
  • Both programs have above average diversity
  • Program ratings are higher for Yale, with the strongest rating for financial support

Overall placement, 2012-present
Yale had 40 PhD graduates in this period, whereas Memphis had 26. Of Yale's 40 graduates, 38 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 26 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (68%), with 13 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (34%). Memphis placed 10 of 22 into permanent academic positions (45%), with 2 in philosophy programs with a PhD (9%).

Of Yale's other graduates, 5 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 2 are in nonacademic positions, and 3 have no or unknown placement.

Of Memphis's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 8 have other temporary positions, 4 are in nonacademic positions, and 3 have no or unknown placement.

Nonacademic positions held by graduates of Yale include software engineer, whereas those held by graduates of Memphis include judge, writer, and manager.

The average salary of Yale graduates is $90,900 and 100% preferred an academic job, whereas this is $68,429 and 100% for Memphis 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, 30% of Yale students are in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), 18% are in Value Theory, 47% are in History and Traditions, and 5% are in Science, Logic and Math. 14% of Memphis students are in LEMM, 41% are in Value Theory, 45% are in History and Traditions, and none are in Science, Logic, and Math. For Yale, the plurality of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in LEMM (46%), whereas the majority of those from Memphis were in Value Theory (70%).

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, 37% of those from Yale are women, as are 42% of Memphis students.

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

Including all past graduates and current students, 23% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Yale and 31% from Memphis 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.

25% of those from Yale were first generation college students, but too few Memphis 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 Yale provided one public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

As long as philosophy prizes “gotcha!” Q&As over philosophical exploration and ahistorical conceptions of what philosophy “really is” over fluid boundaries, we will continue to drive out the most vulnerable and marginalized and needed.

Students from Memphis provided two:

More virtual opportunities at conferences to alleviate financial burden for those who are under-employed or in financial jeopardy; childcare as a part of conferences; more effort to diversify ranking systems and effort to understand that journal rankings often work against or exclude the work in niche philosophical genres that can be important for generating scholarship in relatively new or minor fields/subjects
Undergraduate and Graduate recruitment, as well as Hiring practices, need to demonstrate a concrete commitment to inclusion. This involves making this commitment known and actually making decisions in the service of this goal. Furthermore, philosophers in general need to understand that they cannot escape their own positionality in their relationships with others but also in their thinking. They need to be aware of the ways in which their social positioning can affect their interactions with others, the problems they choose to pursue in research (and how), the ways in which they write (tone, pronouns...), etc. Academic philosophers must become sensitive to this and white male philosophers, in particular, need to learn to take thoughts different from their own seriously and must learn when to listen rather than to speak.

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 Yale students selected "somewhat likely" (4.4, n=16), as did Memphis students (3.9, n=8).

Neither university has 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," Yale students selected "neutral" (2.9, n=8). (Too few Memphis 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," Yale students selected "satisfied" (3.8, n=8).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, Yale students selected "satisfied" (4.1, n=8).

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

Yale students provided public comments on the program overall:

Excellence of faculty, accessibility of faculty, dedication to both research and teaching.
Financial support and extracurricular quality of life while in grad school was high. Influence of faculty in the discipline at large was great and consequently placement record was strong. It was a good place to learn how to teach philosophy.
For students interested in research at the intersection of philosophy and psychology, the program at Yale has no real comparison. There is now a formal program for pursuing a combined PhD in philosophy and psychology, and members of both departments are actively engaged in this kind of interdisciplinary work. It is also typical to combine this kind of research with classes/work in formal semantics.

on preparation for teaching:

Graduate students only teach small sections unless they go out of their way to design special courses with professors. At the level of the program, teaching advice and preparation for graduate students was left entirely to individual professors. In some cases, this instruction was helpful; in others, it was nonexistent.
The faculty value teaching and put serious time into it -- they model good teaching for grad students. Outside of the department, the Yale Graduate School has various teaching prep programs, too.
There were very few opportunities (when I was there) for teaching undergraduates. (I taught elsewhere while a graduate student.) Faculty support for running discussion sections and grading was on a person-by-person basis; most faculty did nothing and was never informed by university-wide best practices. The excellent Graduate Teaching Center is now mostly dissolved, and I’m not sure that anything equally valuable has replaced it. I would ask, if applying now, about teacher training run by the department or the graduate school.

on preparation for research:

I found the joint philosophy/psychology program itself to do a great job wrt advice and and preparation in academic research. Part of the focus of the program is on publishing during graduate training. I found this to be one of the strongest features of the program.

and on financial support:

It was sufficient for living in New Haven, CT. I found that the university generally supported students well.
When I attended, the stipend was competitive, but it was the excellent health insurance coverage (assuming you are living in New Haven and thus ‘in-network’) that was most noteworthy.

One non-public comment from a Yale student mentioned sexual harassment issues in the program.

Memphis students likewise provided public comments on the program overall:

Excellent pluralist program of study. Diverse students and faculty; supportive community. Strong in race theory, feminism, continental, social-political, and ethics.
Inclusive, commitment of resources to broad training and expert faculty, commitment to establishing a graduate student/faculty community and support system, interest in public philosophy as well as traditional and historical foundation in concept acquisition
Memphis historically has been a truly pluralist program, and the training in both has benefited me tremendously since I left. They place an extremely strong emphasis on teacher development and job preparation. My many mock interviews, for example, were much more difficult than my APA interviews. Finally, their approach to mentoring is a team-concept; groups of faculty mentor each student.
Truly pluralistic department with impressive faculty members well-known in their areas of specialization. Respectful, supportive graduate student community and faculty members.

on preparation for teaching:

Prior to teaching our own courses, graduate students serve as teaching assistants for two years, and many faculty members provide their assistants with the opportunity to teach sessions. All graduate students are then required to take a teaching seminar in which they construct a syllabus under direction of a faculty member and through peer feedback and commentary, and also discuss various aspects of teaching in general as well as at this University. We also select a faculty teaching mentor who observes our teaching, provides constructive criticism, and serves as a general mentor.

on preparation for research:

Classes are typically organized around research projects, and so include opportunities and structures for the development of research skills. There are also a number of courses available to graduate students through the university that teach research skills and strategies.

and on financial support:

PhD students receive a tuition waiver and stipend. The stipend is above average for the field. Faculty fights to increase our stipends when possible. MA students receive a tuition waiver and a lesser stipend. Many MA programs do not fund, so while the stipend may not be much it is much better than most competitive programs.
stipend on the higher end relative to other schools; cost of living is reasonable to low; some allowance for conferencing and travel

Next week I hope to look at University of Manchester and University of California, Berkeley. Feedback is welcome, at

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