Monday, July 14, 2008

Maybe there really is "No Place Like Home"?

Today's Chronicle offers an interesting little list for those of us about to go on the market this fall. Despite the obvious fact that non-Ivy PhD's have little choice in today's job market, everyone manages to have a few preferences in terms of location or what type of school they'd like to work for. Hubby and I have pretty much ruled out anything in the northeast, California, or the Pacific northwest. We've done so for several reasons, but the most important is cost of living. It makes no sense to accept jobs in places where we'd only be scraping by to afford schools and a house in a safe neighborhood while also paying back student loans. Interestingly enough, my home state has an incredibly low cost of living and two Home State universities consistently made almost every category (in their respective size listings) in the Chronicle's list of 2008 Great Colleges to Work For. Most of the criteria aren't things we'd previously considered when discussing how we would determine which jobs to apply for, but now that I've seen this I'll be keeping them in mind as I pore over the MLA job list in October.

The thing is, I'd NEVER planned on returning to Home State. Sure, it would be great to be closer to family, and a couple of the bigger towns in Home State are really nice places to raise a family. However, the institutions there aren't the kind of places that I see as stepping stones for my career and more importantly, they don't offer much in terms of my field (no major early modern work going on in any of these schools). According to the list, though, there are some really great schools to work for in Home State. In fact, a colleague of mine took a job at one of them last year, and he loves it there.

I guess there's no real point to this post except to say that I've never experienced such a vast Period of the Unknown in my life. It might help us on the market that we're not looking at the typical places academics want to work, but what are we sacrificing in that process? Ultimately, our priority is making the decision that's best for The Family, but there are so many factors in that decision that it's utterly exhausting to think about.


LD said...

Man, if only I could look forward to thinking about some of the benefits of the job market. We've got a two body problem in our house, so there's a pretty good chance that even if I do get a job, I won't be able to take it. blech

M said...

I would encourage you not to rule out all of the northeast or the Pacific northwest, at least not in terms of cost of living alone. C had an interview at a school in the Pacific northwest, and in this particular location the cost of living was actually comparable to Southwest College Town. Similarly, there are a number of places in the Northeast where the cost of living is affordable, although higher than here. Generally speaking the salary at universities in these areas are reflective of the cost of living.