The 2021-22 N. American TT ecology faculty job market was a lot like the pre-pandemic market. Here are the data. (UPDATED with a bit of additional data)

I wasn’t planning to keep compiling data on the N. American tenure-track (TT) ecology faculty job market. But I did it one more time, thanks to a combination of procrastination on real work, and encouragement from ecoevojobs.net head honcho Anonymous Potato. Here are the data.

If you’re unfamiliar with how and why I compile these data, please read this paper I wrote about the pre-pandemic data. And see this post for last year’s mid-pandemic data. The tl;dr version is that I use public information to try to identify all ecologists who were hired into TT faculty positions in the US and Canada. I do this by checking every N. American TT faculty position on the nearly-comprehensive ecoevojobs.net listing that could possibly have been filled by an ecologist.

Here are the results for positions advertised on the 2021-22 ecoevojobs.net page:

  • I tried to ID a total of 482 positions. That’s far more than last year, when there were only 255 positions. It’s also far more than in pre-pandemic years (~300 positions/year). This isn’t because I cast a broader net this year–I used the same criteria as always when deciding which positions to check. I suspect that 2021-22 was just a really big year for faculty hiring, perhaps in part to make up for all the hiring that didn’t happen during the pandemic, when many searches were canceled or failed. A second, not mutually exclusive possibility is that ecoevojobs.net now lists way more positions than it used to–that it’s now a much more comprehensive listing than it was in pre-pandemic times. That second possibility seems implausible to me–were ecoevojobs.net users really overlooking, like, 40% of TT ecology jobs back in 2017 or whatever?–but I can’t totally rule it out.
  • I was able to identify 159 TT ecologists hired in the US and Canada during the 2021-22 job season. That’s far more than I was able to identify last year (56), but appreciably fewer than I was able to identify in pre-pandemic years (~170-190/year). The ratio of identified hires to positions checked was up a bit from last year, but way down from pre-pandemic years. I didn’t work quite as hard this year or last year to identify new hires as I did in pre-pandemic years (for instance, I didn’t email colleagues or department chairs for information). So that’s part of why I ID’d fewer hires. But I highly doubt that the modest decline in my own effort level is the main thing going on here. Speculating, my guess is that the pandemic severely disrupted faculty hiring, and that some of that disruption continued in 2021-22. Not necessarily disruption in the form of canceled searches in 2021-22 (again, there were a lot of jobs listed on ecoevojobs.net in 2021-22). But also possible disruption to the number of job seekers and their job-seeking choices (how many and which positions to apply to, willingness to accept offers, etc.).
  • The median hire during 2021-22 got a PhD in 2018 (mean was 2017.2, modal value was 2019). Range was 2007-2022. So in terms of number of years of post-PhD experience, post-pandemic hires were bang-on the same as mid-pandemic and pre-pandemic.
  • 2021-22 TT hires were 55% women, as inferred from pronoun use in social media profiles, personal websites, and university websites. Almost bang-on the same as mid-pandemic, and pre-pandemic (57%). (Aside: at one point about 2/3 of the way through the data compilation, it really looked like the % women was going to be down compared to mid- or pre-pandemic, but in the end it was unchanged. A nice little illustration of the importance of compiling the biggest sample possible.)
  • UPDATE: 2021-22 R1 hires were 54% women. Almost bang-on the same as mid-pandemic and pre-pandemic. /end update
  • 37% of 2021-22 TT hires were hired at R1 institutions or their Canadian equivalents. Almost bang-on the same as mid-pandemic (35%) and pre-pandemic (35%).
  • 16% of TT hires were moving from one tenured or TT position to another TT position. Almost bang-on the same as mid-pandemic (14%) and pre-pandemic (13%)
  • 19% of 2021-22 TT hires at R1 institutions were moving from one tenured or TT position to another TT position. Almost bang-on the same or a touch lower than mid-pandemic (25%), and similar to pre-pandemic.
  • Only 6% of TT hires in 2021-22 were employed by the hiring institution at the time of hiring. That’s similar to, or lower than, mid-pandemic (13%, a number which may have been a small sample blip), and almost bang-on the same as pre-pandemic (4%).
  • Only 3% of TT hires in 2021-22 got a PhD from the hiring institution, almost bang-on the same as pre-pandemic (~1%).
  • I was able to determine where 144 of the 2021-22 TT hires got their PhDs. They got them from 99 different institutions. That’s a bit less institutional diversity than mid-pandemic (50 hires with PhDs from 42 different institutions) or pre-pandemic (321 hires with PhDs from 147 different institutions). Not sure what to make of that, but it could well be a blip. It’s certainly not the case that lots of 2021-22 hires all got their PhDs from the same few “elite” institutions. 6 TT hires in 2021-22 got PhDs from Texas A&M, 5 got PhDs from UC Davis, 4 got PhDs from Georgia, 4 got PhDs from Florida, no more than 3 got PhDs from any other single institution. Yes, the majority of 2021-22 hires got their PhDs from R1 unis or their Canadian equivalents, just as in the past. But that’s only to be expected, because R1 unis grant the majority of all PhDs granted in the US and Canada.
  • Finally, here’s the only respect in which the 2021-22 ecology faculty job market may have changed modestly from pre-pandemic or mid-pandemic: the scholarly productivity of new hires, as crudely measured by Google Scholar h-index. The 2021-22 TT hires who had a Google Scholar page (which wasn’t all of them; it never is) had a mean h-index of 10.1 and a median of 9. The middle 50% was 6-14 and the full range was 1-28. If you restrict attention to new hires at R1 unis or their Canadian equivalents, the mean was 11.7, median 11, middle 50% 7-14, range 1-24. The bulk of the 2021-22 distribution is slightly but appreciably higher than mid-pandemic or pre-pandemic (mean 8-9, median 7-8, middle 50% ~5-12 for all institutions; mean and median ~10-11 for R1 hires). I suspect this is a real change rather than a blip, but I’m not sure to what extent it’s attributable to the pandemic, if any. There’s a slow long-term upward trend in ecologists’ h-indices, due to a slow long-term trend in publication rate of multi-authored papers. But I suppose it’s also possible that the pandemic contributed somehow.

Discussion

Back in the pre-pandemic times, this would be the point in the post at which I’d offer all sorts of carefully phrased remarks, to prevent anyone from over- or misinterpreting the results. But I’m busy and I can’t be bothered this year. Plus, frankly I doubt all those careful interpretive remarks made much difference. Probably, most readers didn’t need them (or, in rare cases, needed them but consciously or subconsciously chose to ignore them.) So, here are the data, make of them what you will.

Personally, I’m slightly surprised that the pandemic didn’t make much difference to these data, besides to the number of hires I was able to ID and the ratio of ID’d hires:positions checked. To be clear, I didn’t expect the pandemic to cause massive changes to any of these variables. And I didn’t have any hypotheses as to what effects the pandemic might have on these variables. I just thought there might be some effect or other, simply because the pandemic affected a lot of stuff! But no, there’s almost nothing, and certainly nothing major. Maybe there’s been some major effect on some other variable I didn’t measure? I’m slightly curious if, post-pandemic, job applicants are putting more weight on personal considerations (and/or on different personal considerations) when deciding where to apply and what offers to accept. For instance, are more applicants conducting geographically restricted searches in order to live close to family? I have no idea; I’m just curious. But I doubt I’ll pursue that curiosity, because I think it would be hard to compile public data that speak to it.

Finally, because this blog is largely dormant, hardly anybody reads it any more or follows our automated Twitter feed. So please do bring these data to the attention of anyone who might find them interesting or useful.

2 thoughts on “The 2021-22 N. American TT ecology faculty job market was a lot like the pre-pandemic market. Here are the data. (UPDATED with a bit of additional data)

  1. Amazing that new 2021 EEB hires on average were 4 years post-PhD. My mentors told me 4y in postdoc was a red flag. Funny how important knowing market trends is for mental health :p

    Was this average or the mean H-index different for R1s?
    Also wonder what’s the cause/effect between # years post-PhD & H-index. Worrying if we’re just selecting for showy work but consistent with tightening university budgets.

    • Thank you, glad you found the post helpful.

      Re: the question of when you are so experienced that additional experience ceases to be beneficial, or even becomes a drawback, in terms of your likelihood of landing a faculty position, see this old post for a bit of discussion: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/ask-us-anything-when-to-give-up-on-a-research-project-and-an-academic-career/.

      Mean and median h-indices for R1 hires are in the post. As an aside, in the past I’ve broken down h-index data more finely by Carnegie category, rather than just R1 vs. non-R1. In the past, that’s revealed that the divide in mean h-index is between research uni ecology hires (R1, R2, R3) and ecology hires everywhere else. I suspect the same is still true in 2021-22, but I don’t have time to check.

      In the 2021-22 data, and in past years, there’s a positive but very noisy correlation between the h-indices of new ecology hires and their years of post-PhD experience. I’d also note that ecologists hired into the same department in the same year quite often differ a *lot* in both their years of post-PhD experience and their h-indices. So insofar as there are causal connections between h-index and years of post-PhD experience, and between both those variables and hiring outcomes, I think they’re pretty weak causal connections. Who gets hired for any given position depends on lots of things besides each candidate’s years of experience and h-index, and most of those things aren’t even loosely correlated with years of experience or h-index.

      Re: the possibility that search committees are selecting for “showy” work, lots of faculty job seekers worry about this! I’d point anyone worried about this to our past posts on the frequency with which new ecology hires have Science or Nature papers. Only a minority do, even at R1 unis. Doesn’t mean that such papers don’t matter at all to the hiring process, of course. But contrary to what you sometimes hear on social media (and elsewhere?), it’s simply not the case that you “have” to have a Science or Nature paper to get hired as a TT ecologist at a research university.

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