A student’s decision to pursue graduate work in the academic study of religion is often a complex one, based on considerations ranging from intellectual and personal to professional and practical. In all cases, the decision represents an important life choice. Yet students in the academic study of religion often lack access to the very information they most need to make informed decisions. In a 2008 survey conducted by the AAR, over 80 percent of current graduate students in the field responded that they had little or no understanding of the job market for PhD graduates in their specific field of study when they started their studies, and 82 percent reported that they had little or no understanding of the job placement success for graduates in their field of study from the institution they were attending.
In light of the changing nature of the job market with regard to academic positions in the field and in order to afford students the opportunity to make informed decisions about whether and where to attend graduate school, the American Academy of Religion puts forth the following best practices for the posting of graduation and placement information by graduate programs in the academic study of religion.
Programs should post in a location accessible to prospective and current students (typically the program website) concrete data on progress towards the degree and graduation status for each year’s class of students. This data should be updated on at least an annual basis. For example:
Class of 2005: 20 students started, 13 still enrolled, 1 graduated (as of Fall 2009)
Class of 2004: 18 students started, 6 still enrolled, 5 graduated (as of Fall 2009)
Programs should post in a location accessible to prospective and current students (typically the program website) the average time of completion — the period from first enrollment to graduation — for all students who have graduated from the program during a specified period of time. For example:
Average time from first enrollment to graduation for students who graduated 2002–2009: 6.5 years
Programs should post in a location accessible to prospective and current students (typically the program website) specific information — including year graduated, area of study, dissertation/thesis title, and current position, but not student name — regarding the placement status of each student who graduates from the program. This information should be updated on at least an annual basis. For example:
2006. East Asian Religions. “Japanese Buddhism in an Age of Empire: 1920–1945.” Tenure-track Assistant Professor, Oberlin College (as of September 2009).
2006. Ethics and Society. “The Pursuit of the Common Good in Twentieth Century Catholic Thought.” Hired as an educational program director for a non-profit organization (as of September 2009).
The above information is crucial not merely to students who are deciding whether or not to attend graduate school, but also to students currently enrolled in programs who must make informed decisions about future career paths. In addition, this information should be an integral part of discussions by faculty members as they conduct informed assessment of program strengths, weaknesses, and future directions.
(Board resolution, July 2009)