Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ask CJ: what does "ABD" mean?

From the inbox, a good question:
Your latest Ivory Filter Flask post made me wonder: when "ABDs are encouraged to apply", does that imply that ABDs are in the process of finishing up...or, like in humanities, it's an alternate way out?  
I suspect that "ABDs are encouraged to apply" means "Just because you're still technically a graduate student and you haven't defended, you can still apply" and not "we don't mind if you don't finish your Ph.D. thesis and defend." 

That said, I've never sat on a small college faculty search committee, so I have no idea. Readers, what say you? 

6 comments:

  1. I thought most of these faculty positions (at small colleges) were conditional on completion of the PhD by a certain date. I do know of a case where someone was hired as an organic chemistry instructor "ABD" and later let go because he hadn't actually finished up and defended.

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  2. I was hired as an ABD at a small university but, before any offer was made, I was asked at several points in the interview process for assurance that I was on track to defend my thesis before I started teaching. My university takes great pride in it's statistic "98% of full-time faculty possess a terminal degree" (as it should(?)). From talking to several friends/colleagues at other schools (and from several other interviews I had), that seems to be fairly common - many schools are willing to make seriously consider grad students before they have defended but their employment in the fall is contingent on actually defending and processing the paperwork on time. I'm not sure how my department would have responded if my PhD had failed to materialize...my impression is that they would have done a last-minute search for a 1-year visiting position.

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    1. It's always an awkward moment at faculty meetings when they ask us to congratulate one of the young humanities profs on successfully defending their PhD.

      ABD almost always means "job is contingent on defending before you start," but when in doubt, ask!

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  3. It will depend on the school and the position. For last minute positions, I have known several places that have even taken on senior graduate students to fill in for a year when needed. This of course must be done in cooperation with the graduate advisor, and typically delays the student's defense, but it is a great way to gain experience teaching, especially if the student is focused on writing and out of the lab.

    Often, these students are hired on part time so they don't affect the terminal degree % mentioned by VTJ and they come from very close institutions (for the Spokane position maybe Gonzaga or even someone from WSU or U of ID who doesn't mind a drive).

    However, this situation is rare and risky, so it really only comes up for last minute hires for short term (one year or one semester) positions.

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  4. I've never heard the abbreviation ABD used in our field. Seems to be a humanities thing where someone has fulfilled all of their coursework requirements, and is just working on their thesis, which is based on desk work rather than lab bench work.

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    1. In all fairness, I didn't list ABD on my CV or cover letter. I listed an anticipated graduation date at the end of the then-current academic year.

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