Hiring Trends in the Communications Disciplines

By Downes, Edward J.; Jirari, Rime | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Hiring Trends in the Communications Disciplines


Downes, Edward J., Jirari, Rime, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


What is the employment outlook for doctoral students completing their graduate work in communication? This paper reports the results of two original studies, a national survey of faculty needs and preferences administered to a sample of administrators of institutions offering instruction and degrees in communications programs, and a content analysis of 803 advertised faculty openings in programs of journalism and mass communication. Together, they provide useful indicators of the employment outlook and hiring trends in colleges and departments of communication and the scholarship and experience characteristics considered desirable in the current market.

Past Indicators

Few studies address journalism and mass communication education employment indicators. In 1993, DeFleur forecast a shortage of Ph.D. holders seeking faculty positions in American colleges and schools of communication. He used government data, a survey of administrators throughout the United States, and a content analysis of faculty positions for the 1991-92 recruiting season. DeFleur predicted that in the five years to follow, the number of entry-level faculty positions available would be greater than the number of applicants who were Ph.D. holders. "(T)here seems little doubt that the years ahead will provide many opportunities for those who complete the communications Ph.D. If present estimates are correct, only about half of the number of communications Ph.D.s needed will complete the degree during the next five years,"I DeFleur said.

The mismatch between the available talent pool and the academic market demand for communication faculty with doctorates would be caused, DeFleur argued, by rising undergraduate enrollments replacing a previously downward trend, insufficient numbers of students entering Ph.D. programs, an increase in the rate of faculty retirements, and fiscal policies imposed on institutions of higher education. Even so, DeFleur found that more than 80% of advertised positions preferred or required a doctorate. Yet only half the number of candidates with doctorates needed to fill those vacancies would be available in the short term. These trends would be more severe in the communications field than in other academic disciplines because Ph.D. production had been level or in decline for several years. One implication, DeFleur said, would be a continuation of the practice of utilizing part-time instructors who may hold a master's degree, but who had not eared a doctorate.

With DeFleur's work as a foundation, Merskin and Huberlie 2 examined announcements of positions for communication graduates. The authors attempted to draw conclusions about the nature of the advertised positions and the information they conveyed and looked for: the teaching rank and load; stated preference for candidate qualifications; and additional responsibilities, salaries, and benefits such as summer teaching. The researchers pointed out that most ads communicated little information and with a sense of irony suggested that, at least in terms of their position announcements, "communication schools must learn to practice what they preach."

In another study, Herling3 found that the production of Ph.D.s needs to be tied to trends in enrollment... and retirements. Herling observed the Ph.D. production process needs to be evaluated to improve current completion rates. He concluded that communication disciplines will suffer from a shortage of qualified individuals to fill predicted openings for the 1990s.

Two threads run throughout these foundational articles. Each predicts a shortage of Ph.D.s, and each states a need for more research on hiring trends in higher education's communication programs.

Schuster analyzed relevant market issues in 1995 and forecast the academic labor market up to 2005.4 Schuster's interpretation of national data led him to predict an attractive market for emerging doctoral degree holders across the disciplines and professional schools. …

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