PhD in Justice Studies
The first PhD program if its kind in Louisiana, and among the first in the US. Enhance your impact as a change agent for justice.
Although we are confident pursuing a PhD in Justice Studies can be a rewarding experience, there are many factors that determine whether a person is a good fit for this program.
As you weigh your options for how best to position yourself to advance justice in the world, here are a few things to consider about the nature of this opportunity.
One of the best reasons to begin graduate study is that deep engagement with important issues can enrich your life. This is true especially of the Justice Studies PhD, which promises to equip students with a practice-oriented understanding of issues of justice and injustice in their communities. A PhD in justice studies might be right for you if focused engagement with these issues appears to you an end in itself.
The field of Justice Studies is relatively new—so new that there is arguably not yet such a “field,” at least not in the same sense as there is a field of “anthropology,” or other more traditional academic areas of study. There are very few of programs like this across the country. This brings advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, this program is unlike many others that you have available to you as a prospective student. It has an interdisciplinary, practically-oriented focus that you are unlikely to find in more traditional disciplines and departments. On the other hand, this means that there is no clearly established path from a PhD in Justice Studies to a career as a university faculty member. Of course, that there is no clearly established path does not mean it’s impossible. But if your main goal is to enter academia as a professor, this program is unlikely to present the most direct path forward.
Again, because the field of Justice Studies is relatively new, there is no well-established body of data concerning job placement outside academia. As advocates of this program, we think there are a number of careers for which a PhD in justice could be an advantage (careers in local and national government, non-profit, think-tanks and research institutes, and so on). But without a strong track-record of placing students in these fields, it is important that we avoid overselling our case. It is similarly important for you to think seriously about the degree of risk you’re willing to take on in pursuit of a new degree like this. On the other hand, some employers offer incentives for attaining an advanced degree. Such incentives can substantially mitigate risk.
While we are proud to offer competitive tuition prices at the University of New Orleans, we cannot guarantee graduate assistantships to defray the costs of enrolling in our program. Students should therefore consider their financial situation carefully before enrolling. Taking out significant debt to attain any graduate degree, never mind one as new and experimental as this one, poses significant risks to a person’s long-term financial prospects. You should weigh these risks carefully and seek funding for yourself to the extent that this is possible.
There are more things worthy of being done in life than there is time to do them. As we note above, we think advanced study of pressing issues of justice can be a rewarding use of one’s time. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here! Still, students should think not just about the benefits taking this opportunity brings, but also its costs in terms of the things one has to give up to take advantage of it (alternative educational opportunities, volunteer work, career-change and advancement, and so on). We’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t encourage you to think carefully about how you spend your time.
Students should consider carefully the extent to which they value deep study and learning research methods before deciding whether to pursue this opportunity. Earning a PhD is time consuming. While the program can be completed in four years on a full-time basis, it is not uncommon for PhD students to take up to 8 years to complete their degree. Some never finish. As time to complete grows, so do costs and opportunity costs (as well as the likelihood of a student not finishing). Completing a PhD requires significant motivational resources. Completing advanced graduate coursework is a difficult thing and writing a dissertation that advances our understanding of complex problems is even harder. Accordingly, you should consider carefully where you are in life, in order to ensure that you have sufficient time and motivation to dedicate to the task. Our job on the admissions committee is to use your application materials to gauge whether you are capable of doing high level graduate work. But this is only part of assessing your prospects at success. The rest is up to you in the form of honest self-assessment. If you have any concerns along these lines, don’t hesitate to contact the program coordinator!