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Changing subject after a PhD? Need career help

User: ilpit89 - 29 October 2020 19:01

Hi all,

I'm about to finish a double PhD in American Literary History (from both an Italian and a German University). Yet, I am very seriously considering a change in career path, either into Philosophy or Italian Studies.

This is for a variety of reasons.

- Having a degree in American literature doesn't look like the best plan because: 1) there are very few courses on American literature in Italian universities and therefore very little chances of becoming a professor; 2) if I were to become a public school teacher in Italy, I would have to teach English grammar to kids, and this is not my thing; 3) I figure that the international world will not be interested in an Italian guy who can teach American literature because there are tons of native English speakers who can do the same. Am i wrong?

- Philosophy has become my #1 passion in life. Plus, if I won't be able to find a university position, I could still become a public school teacher, and this would mean actually teaching philosophy to teenagers, which seems to me one of the coolest things I could do.

- Italian Studies interests me and I'm thinking that having a degree in this subject will make me much more interesting to the international university world: I could present myself as a specialised researcher in the subject who is also a native Italian. Again: am I right?

Given all of the above, I have the following practical concerns/doubts/questions:

- Can people actually do more than one PhD (in different countries)? If yes: how is doing multiple PhDs looked upon in the academic world? If I have already completed a PhD, is a foreign university more likely to accept me because I have already demonstrated my abilities (and that I can be trusted), or will they reject me because they don't want people to do multiple PhDs?

- Related to the above: are there going to be problems with obtaining funds? I have no intention of doing research without funding. Through my PhD I have won multiple scholarships, and I would have refused the position if it didn't grant a decent monthly salary. I am very passionate about these subjects but I also think we are all adults who deserve to get paid for their work and who must not renounce financial independence.

- Finally, I wonder – given my qualification (which I believe the UK would technically consider as a PhD in English) – at what level could I apply to study either Philosophy or Italian Studies? Would it be post-doc, PhD, MA, or do I really have to start from BA?
(Perhaps I can acquire a minimum number of credits in the specific subject and then I become eligible for entry at a higher level?)

I am primarily interested in the UK, but I will also consider any other country in which I could do research in English.

If anyone has any answers to these questions, I will greatly appreciate your help. I am in one of those moments in life when you have to figure out what to do next.

Cheers guys, and thank you in advance!

User: AislingB - 30 October 2020 17:39


I don't think your being Italian would necessarily put you at a disadvantage if you were applying for posts internationally. I'm in the UK and I have colleagues from Greece and Austria teaching English Linguistics. It doesn't matter where you're from as long as your English is good enough and you can convince the interview panel that you're the best candidate for the job.

Quite a lot of UK universities have closed their modern languages degrees and others are likely to follow, so I wouldn't count on finding a post teaching Italian studies in the UK, especially as Italian has never been particularly popular at degree level.

You might be able to move towards Philosophy through post-doc work rather than starting another PhD. I have seen colleagues move away from their original specialisms into new fields of interest and eventually into different departments. It depends a bit on the structure of the university you end up in.

User: bewildered - 31 October 2020 12:32

I think Aisling is right. The university job market is awful in all three subjects you propose but least bad in American Literature so if your primary aim is getting a university job, then it would make sense to make sure you are publishing in good journals / presses and apply internationally. And as Aisling suggests gradually shift your focus into more philosophical work. But I think you probably have to decide whether that is your priority and whether you think your cv is competitive internationally. Or whether working towards a long term future in Italy is more important to you? In that case you need to be very clear on what's needed to become a school teacher - here in the UK I think you would need a certain number of BA credits in the subject you want to teach.
In terms of funding for UK PhDs in either subject you suggest, it's very competitive and your other degree marks & proposal need to be really good. I would have thought that a switch to Italian studies assuming an Italian literature topic, wouldn't require further study but I can't see Philosophy depts being keen on someone embarking on a PhD without any previous study.

User: ilpit89 - 07 November 2020 18:34

Thanks guys your replies were very helpful, especially with your suggestion not to pursue Italian studies. Thanks!

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