**updated with new data and more text 5 March 2019
I’ve been tracking the job market for several years. Building on Cook & Rude, 2003 and Cook, 2006, we had a stalled start at finishing the longitudinal piece to the original job market study (which would have been based on 2010-2011). But we got some data from that and then I’ve continued to gather bits and pieces.
Here’s a nifty little chart if you’re wondering about the strength of the TPC market. (We’ve got data before and this year’s both 2017-18 and 2018-19 data are being collated with much more specifics about timing …see below).
|Year||Primary||Secondary||Total TPC||Total r/c & TPC||% TPC of total|
Keep in mind that with about 35 programs putting out folks who actually specialize in TPC, we’re still only averaging around 25-30 graduates a year that need/want to do the TPC academic job market.
So you can see that there’s some wiggle room there for a few more specialists. But there is an interesting thing (well, not really considering the national landscape), the 2017-2018 data reflect a growing number of both contractual, off the tenure track that are limited appointments and a growing number of full-time non-tenure track jobs. Roughly HALF of the TPC jobs for 2017-2018 were off the tenure-track. The off the tenure-track jobs are also mostly advertised in the Spring. Tenure-line jobs are advertised mostly in the Fall with an application due date of from late October to early December. Thus, it appears that the job market cycle has definitely in TPC shifted to
- September (mid): job ads came out in mid-September
- October: your materials go out in the mail
- November/early December: initial interviews to narrow down the list to those they wanted to interview in person
- December/January/February: campus visits
- February/March/April: job offers and acceptances
For the 2018-2019 job season, NO TPC mentioned MLA so we can definitely say that as a field we no longer adhere to that schedule nor do we go there to interview. Also over the last few days, with the MLA going on, there have been social media posts about the need to continue MLA interviews and the ethic of doing so. So one step backward for the newer folks, in the olden days (around 10 years ago), most everyone interviewed at the MLA, even TPC jobs. And if you didn’t interview at the MLA, you still kept pretty close to the timeline, which meant most folks would get interviews in mid-late December and then campus visits were extended in late December and early January. Everyone was going by this timeline, which was driven by the MLA convention/interview schedule.
One of the things I’m working on is to get a full data set of what folks look for in a TPC candidate and what they settle for if they feel they need to hire to keep their line. That’s in the works and more data will be forthcoming. So yes, all this data will be organized into something useful for the field.
But just today, Inside Higher Ed published a report based on the MLA data that was looking at “alt-ac” skills. My guess is that the author** didn’t realize that TPC was a academic field that advertised jobs on the MLA, but what I appreciated about this was that in 2015-2016, 14% of all job postings in the MLA asked for technical/professional writing. That’s a pretty good representation of our field and its growth, particularly over the last 10 years.
But when the bottom fell out of higher education (ca. 2007-8) folks started to not go because of money and then when MLA moved to the first week in January, it seemed to be a good moment for a sea swell of change. Since then, TPC doesn’t even give the allusion of keeping to the (old) MLA timeline. So many initial interviews are now done via skype or the phone and those first interviews can start as early as October or early November. So now, in TPC, the majority of jobs have earlier due dates so that campus visits are happening in December. This move makes it really, really hard on candidates and it’s something that TPC is going to have to talk about, out loud and potentially come to some sort of collegial agreement. It’s not fair to candidates to consider accepting a job in December when they haven’t even interviewed for some in January. And yes, I get the timing of ads are keyed to internal institutional things, among a host of other factors, but I stand by my assertion that the way the job market works is totally unfair for candidates, and part of that is something we (tenured faculty and administrators) can actually control or consciously work on.
But I still need a little more data to lay out the trends and to make a persuasive case to do that work.
**The author and I had a brief twitter exchange in which she pointed out it was good for her to think of technical writing as something other than a skill. She did not fully acknowledge that she understood it to be a true academic field but simply said she did see a lot of postings. I did appreciate her reply.