Brock Read

Senior Editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education

Introducing JobTracker

Full jtthumbland vitae

A little over a year ago, we took to this space to announce a plan to revive Jobtracks, a long-lost survey of new tenure-track hires conducted by the now-defunct magazine Lingua Franca. Well, actually, we planned to do more than revive it; we said we’d modernize it, too:

“The stakes of the academic labor market are high. But information about that market comes overwhelmingly in one of two forms: anecdote and advice.… We want to fill in some of those blanks.”

The response was fascinating. Some scholars wrote to tell us about the tenure-track jobs they’d just landed. Others asked when we’d start tracking jobs in their disciplines. And some job seekers described the data that would help them guide their own searches.

Time elapsed. A fair bit of time. (Putting names to job listings is onerous work, which is probably why few people have tried to do it.) But we’ve been doing it, and now we’ve got something to show you.

Here’s the beta version of JobTracker — a searchable, browsable new Vitae tool that offers a data-driven look at the academic job market.

What does that mean? We took 11 disciplines — anthropology, communications and media studies, economics, ecology, English literature, history, mathematics, musicology, philosophy, psychology, and religious studies — and identified all the open tenure-track jobs we could find from the 2013-14 hiring season. Since then, Maren Wood, our researcher and editor of the project, has been figuring out who got those jobs.

We restricted our search to tenure-track positions at four-year institutions in the U.S. and Canada — not because we don’t care about adjuncts or community colleges or international universities, but because we wanted to get a picture of the market for which most graduate schools are still training their students. Over all, we found about 4,000 tenure-track jobs, and we used a random sample to trim that number to the 2,500 positions you’ll find in our database.

If you’re curious about Maren’s methodology, we’ve explained it here. Otherwise, suffice it to say that she uses only publicly available information to determine who’s landed where.

We’ve made this point before, but it’s worth repeating: This project isn’t just about the names. In fact, it’s all the other stuff visible in the tool — the data on where the jobs are, which specialties are in demand, how long it takes Ph.D.’s to go from getting degrees to getting hired — that makes JobTracker interesting. Over the coming weeks, Maren will be writing regularly about what we’re seeing so far and what the data are telling us.

In the meantime, you can use the beta tool to explore much of the data yourself. Search for your institution to see which scholars it has hired and which Ph.D.’s have secured tenure-track jobs. Take a closer look at the new hires in one of our 11 disciplines. Browse our state-by-state map of job openings. Watch as we add additional data from the disciplines we’re still working on. Tell us if you got one of the jobs we haven’t yet filled in.

At the risk of overstating this point: This is very much a beta release, a project in process, an experiment, whatever you want to call it. It’s just a small sample of what we ultimately intend to do. The plan is to track more disciplines (including yours!), to collect years and years of data, and to offer new ways of filtering and visualizing it.

That’s why we’re eager to get your feedback. Which parts of this tool are helpful to you? Which could you live without? What other information or tools would you find valuable? What questions do you really want answered? By all means let us know. And stay tuned for updates.

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