Re: MFA vs. PhD

Subject: Re: MFA vs. PhD
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Mon Oct 31 2005 - 22:30:38 EST

I've been on hiring committees for 25 years and the situation has
changed significantly around here, notably in the past 10 - 15 years.

Our Provost (the highest academic position in the University)
requires a research profile and strong potential for research
recognition and funding.

In our first round of hiring (the basic ratings), out of about 250
points, 25 points are given for a DMA or PhD, and 10 for the MFA etc.
The research dossier (and promise!) carry 40 - 50 points. An MFA with
weak research potential could get 20 or 30 points, while a PhD or DMA
and the same research profile will get 35 - 45 points. This will in
most cases remove the applicant who only has an MFA.

A PhD or DMA reflects the ability to withstand the rigors of three,
four, five years of focused, sometimes mind numbing work. There is
the need to continued work in life-grinding circumstances. Not
everyone has the mind or stamina to simply "get through". It's easier
when you are younger. As much as I have thought about doing a DMA or
PhD, I simply do not have the (type of) mind (or the energy to
dedicate) to it.

And teaching University is not for everyone, if you really want to be
a good teacher. There is a teacher in our department who prepares a
written outline of every class he teaches, and after the class he
writes a report and commentary on what happened, what worked, what
didn't etc, and he has been doing this for more than 25 years.

Teaching of this quality and dedication is a discipline that the PhD
will allow you to find out if you "have (some of) the stuff" required.

It's also a significant trade-off these days with fewer and fewer
academics feeling they have the time to excel in their creativity as
much as they would like to.

In short ... yes, the DMA / PhD carries more weight in most
circumstances, notably also in teaching graduate students, for many
institutions do not want people who have only MFA degrees being
principal advisor to a DMA or PhD student.



At 15:40 -0800 2005/10/31, Chris DeLaurenti wrote:
>For folks on the list: do colleges/universities hire MFAs to teach
>sound art or does the Ph.D still hold sway? Does one carry more
>"weight" than another?
>I have no experience in the matter - apart from seeing job postings
>seeking "Ph.D or equivalent (experience)" - and kept mum while the
>sparks (some of which seemed to be born of traumatic experience)
>Perhaps the question (and answers from the wise souls who know)
>might be of interest to others on the list?

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