Sunday, 16 March 2008

Public service announcement, potential grad student edition

Via the rumor blog, I discovered The Grad Cafe, a website aimed at potential grad students in a variety of fields. For the potential political scientists in the audience, I found this post by “realist” and a reply by “eve2008” to be particularly of interest and largely congruent with my battle-tested views on the subject. (Reality is harsh. Deal with it.)

In terms of graduate admissions, I particularly would emphasize the importance of strong training in research methods at the undergraduate level—if your BA program doesn’t require a rigorous methods course (and many top departments don’t), take it anyway or if unavailable go to another department and take their equivalent course (e.g. econometrics, stats for psych/sociology/marketing). I’d also argue that some experience writing a real research paper either in a course or as a capstone/honors thesis is important. Even with weak GREs and a less-than-stellar GPA, those two would be enough to get into an MA program where you can prove yourself “worthy” of admission to get a placeable PhD.

For the morbidly curious, I believe the tenure-track placement record for my PhD program in the last seven years or so is 2 state school BA/MA/MPA programs (both for fall 2008, one of which is me), 2 state school BA programs (fall 01 and fall 04?), and 1 private BA program (fall 06). Our MA graduate who went on to another PhD program placed in a PhD program (fall 07). Not bad for a low-ranked program, overall.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

Hope you can help. It seems no one knows the answer to this:

These distance learning universities all offer Ph.Ds.
Please rank them in descending order of total students registered (Total student body population in Ph.D programs) in any type of Ph.D program.
I assume University of Phoenix is number one. Perhaps Capella or Walden is number two.

1. UOP
2. Capella
3. Walden
4. North Central
5. Fielding
6. Argosy
7. Nova Southeastern
8. A.T. Still
9. Liberty
10. Jones International

Please email me

Thank you,



I presume you want unfiltered honesty. I hope this doesn’t come across wrong, and remember that all “reality” is colored by one’s perception.

The truth is that no accredited university is going to hire someone with a distance-ed PhD for a tenure-track job. If you are in education administration (such as for a public school district), and having a PhD or EdD, no matter where it’s from, will get you a promotion and pay bump, then, by all means, go for it.

However, if you wish to teach at a 4-year college, I cannot conceive of a situation where you would be hired. Perhaps on paper, the distance-ed PhD meets their criteria….however, the hiring committee will be made up of people who look down on distance-ed programs.

This is insulting, and it may not be right, but I believe the consensus of folks with t-t jobs at 4 year colleges would agree with that assessment. I am sorry.

All that said, I have ABSOLUTELY no idea if a distance-ed PhD would be seen as acceptabile for teaching at the community college level.


In terms of rankings, I have no clue how those distance ed programs rank in total PhDs produced. The Survey of Earned Doctorates should track this, but you’ll need to rank them yourself.

Like Scott said, I think most of them are in secondary/higher education administration, where even “traditional” PhD programs are seen as very weak—this is the root of the controversies surrounding SIU‘s Glenn Poshard, which I strongly suspect largely stem from a lack of rigor in his graduate training (at SIU).


Dear Chris,
I agree with you on methods. I have my students take it in sociology. I also think that students need a good theory course and would do well to learn a foreign language.


As a MA graduate of said lowly ranked program, I’d say that ain’t too bad, either.

[Permalink] 6. realist wrote @ Thu, 20 Mar 2008, 11:39 am CDT:

As author of said forum post (seriously, it actually was me who wrote it), I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.

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