How to estimate my probability of getting a (competitive) job in Academia


I am a PhD in comparative politics at a top 20 US school. I enjoy research and teaching, and would stay in academia with a good offer. However, my university is in DC so my career-changing options are strong. I don’t love research enough to devote 5 years to the PhD then retrain in my early 30′s. Roughly, I would prefer changing tracks to becoming a post-doc but not to becoming a non-tenure assistant professor.

Ideally, I want to know in year 3 of 5 if I will succeed on the market. That gives enough time to submit several publications and get feedback.

Some relevant facts

My university is the 25th most prestigious in Political Science, and similar schools place 25% of their students in tenure track positions. For now, 25% seems a reasonable base rate.

My probability also depends on my skill relative to other PhD finishers. Obviously ability is hard to self-assess. Some observables

  • I am quicker with statistical concepts than my peers.

  • I spend more time reading the research than my peers. I’m generally more independently curiosity-driven and less grades-driven.

  • I have one publication out, and am finishing data analysis on 2. Some PhD’s finish with 0 publications, so I’m doing well.

But how important are skill signals in the hiring process? Some of my professors believe hiring is highly nepotistic, such that only prestigious universities get placements. The evidence is unclear: the top quintile of schools place at twice the rate of second quintile schools, but the two groups differ in observable ability signals. Without at least a regression on placement via prestige and publications, there’s no way to tell.

Any advice on how to arrive at my best probability?