Wednesday, 16 January 2008


Edit: I reread this entry this morning and realise that I sound like an arrogant little bitch, I guess at the end of the day a PhD is what you make of it. I'm sure that there are people in the UK who are better qualified and have more additional activities on their CV and vice versa. I just find it annoying that even after working hard for 3 1/2 years on a PhD which puts me ahead of the job market in one country, I'm still barely on the bottom rung in the eyes of another. I find it very odd. On the other hand, I'm pleased I don't have to take classes or exams any more!

I've been wondering about this for a while, namely the differences between UK and North American PhDs... I realise that on the other side of the Atlantic PhD students continue to take classes and exams for a significant period of their PhD. This discussion came up on another blog (link at the bottom of this post) and I was surprised by a couple of the replies

I've mostly been told that it's swings and roundabouts: we aren't necessarily as far advanced as a post-doctoral candidate in the US, who may well be in their mid-thirties and have six years of very-close-to-professional experience under their belt, including several publications (depending on field) and ten years' teaching experience. But we're quite likely to be several years younger, our dissertations are perhaps longer (I was told by an American lecturer at my university that US doctoral dissertations in my discipline might be as little as 40,000 words, but I've heard other friends who did their doctorates in the US say theirs were more like 70,000) and therefore closer to being finished books. We haven't had the same kind of incredibly intense and broad tutoring that North American doctoral candidates get in their first couple of years, and that's the thing I find hardest to reconcile, but presumably we've specialised more in our undergraduate degrees than North Americans, or something. I've no idea how that works

And further on in the response...

I had a friend who did her PhD at St. Andrews (in what is considered a very very good program for our field) and had a very difficult time getting a job in the US. At interviews with SLACs she would be asked how she could relate to US undergrads and how she thought she would be able to teach certain classes since she had no teaching experience.

Maybe its just the University I've been at, I've taught courses, tutored classes, marked work (often appalling work but that is another story), published, worked on research and contract excavations, various archaeological jobs, private sector jobs, museum display work, conferences, articles - both published and in press, and yet I find it difficult to believe that this makes me unqualified for a very large section of what, for me, is a ridiculously small job market. There was another post, which I can't find now (typically), that said UK PhDs aren't suited to North American jobs because we do not have the range of experience necessary to teach. My undergraduate was specialised, but in the sense that it gave me a thorough grounding in the literature, languages, archaeology and history of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, my Masters did the same, except specialise more on the archaeology. I've been teaching for nearly 5 years and have yet to teach more than 2 hours per year of my specialist subject. I've taught geophysics, aerial photography, archaeological introduction classes, computer classes, how to dig, how to draw, how to write (not that anyone listens to that one), classical literature, environmental archaeology (I get to wave leg bones at people and watch them cringe), organised postgraduate activity days, designed websites, organised conferences... So does that make me inexperienced or unsuitable?

1 Comment:

Pixel said...

It's all about selling yourself. When they ask you questions like, "What makes you suitable to teach US undergraduates," the key is to have a coherent and respectable answer, not to get flummoxed and irate. Plus, at least in my field, publications are key, and, in this case, they mean publications in US journals, which I've heard are few and far between for non-US academics - but that's something to keep in mind when getting a degree in the UK but hoping to work in the US.