Ecology faculty job market data

Dynamic Ecology founder Jeremy Fox here. Every year for three years (2016-18), I tried to identify every single person hired as a TT asst. prof in ecology or an allied field (e.g., fish & wildlife) in N. America. I also compiled various bits of data on the new hires and the institutions that hired them. These data address some widespread anxieties and misunderstandings about the ecology faculty job market, and also speak to gender diversity and equity in recent ecology faculty hiring. They complement–and in some cases improve on–other sources of information, such as anecdotal personal experiences.

Here’s how and why I compiled these data, and a summary of the variables.

Here’s a compilation of various analyses I’ve done on the data. Also includes links to various sources of advice on applying for tenure-track faculty position in ecology in N. America. And here’s a paper summarizing many of those analyses. The topics addressed include:

  • What fraction of recent-ish ecology PhD recipients went on to TT faculty positions? (answer: at least 1/3, quite possibly substantially higher than that)
  • What’s the gender balance of recently-hired N. American TT ecology asst. profs? (answer: 57% women, with a very tight 95% confidence interval. Now, go read my whole post before you leap to any conclusions about how to interpret that number, or about my views on diversity and equity.)
  • When did recently-hired TT asst. profs in ecology and allied fields get their PhDs? (answer: most commonly 3-4 years before being hired, but anything from 2-5 years is common. <2 and >8 are rare but not unheard of).
  • How were newly-hired TT asst. profs in ecology and allied fields employed at the time of their hiring? (answer: mostly as postdocs, or else in some other academic employment)
  • How many first-authored publications do you need to be competitive for a TT asst. prof position in ecology at an R1 university, and how many of them need to be in “leading” journals? (answer: probably not nearly as many as you think!)
  • What’s a typical Google Scholar h index for recently-hired TT ecology faculty, at the time of hiring? (answer: ~5-12, but it varies a lot, and covaries with research intensiveness of the hiring institution)
  • How many recently-hired TT ecology profs have Science/Nature/PNAS papers (answer: only a minority, though it’s a larger minority for new hires at R1 institutions)
  • Where did recently-hired N. American TT ecology profs get their PhDs? (answer: at lots of different places, mostly in N. America)
  • Where did recently-hired N. American TT ecology profs get their bachelor’s degrees (answer: at lots of different places, mostly in N. America)
  • Is ecology faculty hiring “hierarchical”, meaning that TT ecology faculty positions are usually filled by someone with a PhD from an “elite” institution, or at least from an institution of equal or higher “rank” than the hiring institution? (answer: no)
  • How many newly-hired TT ecology faculty did their PhDs with a “famous” supervisor? (answer: not many, for any reasonable definition of “famous”, not even if you restrict attention to new hires at R1 institutions)
  • How often are TT ecology faculty positions filled by “insiders”, broadly defined as someone with a current or previous employment or educational connection to the hiring institution? (answer: hardly ever)
  • How often are TT ecology faculty positions filled by someone with a pre-existing collaboration with someone in the hiring department? (answer: basically never)
  • How often are TT ecology faculty positions at bachelor’s college filled by someone who is currently a VAP? (answer: rarely) Or in some other position with exclusively or primarily teaching duties? (answer: only in a minority of cases)
  • Is it true that bachelor’s colleges mostly hire people with undergraduate degrees from bachelor’s colleges? (answer: no)
  • How often are TT ecology faculty positions filled by someone who already holds a TT faculty position elsewhere? (answer: not often)
  • How often are ecology faculty positions advertised as “asst/assoc” or “open rank” filled at a rank above asst. prof? (answer: hardly ever)
  • Are recently hired TT Canadian ecologists different in any way from US ones? (answer: no, save that they’re much more likely to have gotten at least one degree in Canada)
  • When do TT asst profs who move from one TT position to another typically do so? (answer: 3-6 years after starting their previous TT position)
  • What previous teaching experience do recently-hired TT ecologists have? (answer: instructor of record for bachelor’s college hires; varying experiences for R1 uni hies)
  • Was the 2020-21 ecology faculty job market different from the pre-pandemic job market? (answer: yes and no)

I also compiled data on how many people apply for N. American TT faculty positions in ecology and allied fields.