Actually, subject librarians do not need a Ph.D.   One can have such a position without any additional degree, though in general a second masters in a relevant field is necessary.   Some jobs do require a Ph.D., but as that would require someone to obtain a masters in addition and would pay less than a job requiring just a doctorate, they are not too common.

In addition, librarians in faculty positions, even without doctorates, are often required to do research and publish.  It's often quite challenging, given that they usually have to work 40-hour weeks throughout the year.  I am one of these people, in fact.


Dan Harms
Bibliographer and Instructional Services Librarian
SUNY Cortland Memorial Library
P. O. Box 2000
Cortland, NY 13045
(607) 753-4042

-----Original Message-----
From: Society for The Academic Study of Magic [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Segal, Professor Robert A.
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 4:31 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC] academic career

April 23

Dear Dan,

Yes, you're right.   But the history of art requires a PhD, and specialist librarians in subjects need a PhD.     I was really referring only to those who do scholarship, as indeed some specialist librarians do.


From: Society for The Academic Study of Magic [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Daniel Harms [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 4:41 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC] academic career

The need for a Ph. D. is certainly not the case in all fields in the United States.  Librarianship and art are two fields where a masters degree is often considered sufficient.


From: Society for The Academic Study of Magic [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Segal, Professor Robert A. [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Sunday, April 22, 2012 9:05 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC] academic career

April 23

Dear Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju,

Thanks for your cordial reply.

Let me please respond briefly.

Yes, in England, though not in the US or Scotland, both influenced by Germany, a PhD was not required in the humanities.   Indeed, only aspiring academics who'd failed to get a first as undergraduates were expected to seek a PhD as compensation.   But this custom no longer exists.    Try applying for an academic job in any field without a PhD or a pending one.

I can think of some exceptional persons without PhDs.   But exceptional they are.

The training one gets--or ideally gets--cannot ordinarily be secured on one's own.    Freud and Jung analyzed themselves, but all Freudian and Jungian analysts must be analyzed by others, and others designated as training analysts.

You are hardly alone in finding Armstrong of value.   I find her superficial.   She seems profound because she writes about big ideas.   But she oversimplifies.   Even if she doesn't need to know the languages of the subjects of her writings, she does need to know the scholarship.  And she does not.   Her bibliographies are spotty and ad hoc.   She may have good ideas--though I myself doubt it--but she writes as if the work done on her topics by experts does not matter.

Anyway, enough on her.

I wish you well in your endeavors, and I think you wise to seek opinions from as many persons as possible.



From: Society for The Academic Study of Magic [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of OLUWATOYIN ADEPOJU [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Sunday, April 22, 2012 11:17 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC] academic career

Thank you very much Professor Segal. Your name is one that resonates immediately  within my brain centres, a name that is part of the air of scholarship one has been trying to breathe for some years.

Its easier to keep one's opinions to oneself and let the presumably uninformed and presumptuous person go  their way, to be enlightened years later by the painful fruits of their own ignorance, so I very much appreciate your taking the trouble to express your opinion and give that advice  you have given. Its an opinion other academics have expressed to me.

I have both your book and that of Armstrong.

Thanks for advising me on the PhD. The years I have spent on pursuing a PhD have been among the cognitively richest years of my life.

I am not convinced, though, that a humanities scholar needs a PhD to work at the level of a person who has one.

What exactly does a humanities PhD entail?

The ability to think for oneself and present effectively these original reflections within the broadest relevant context of others' efforts in the same field.

I would think that is a good summation of what a humanities PhD is directed at accomplishing.

Can conventional human cognitive powers realistically aspire to more than that?

May all  advances in scholarship not be described in terms of greater or lesser achievement along this scale of originality of thought in relation to the history of the relevant field?

I believe the skills that make good academic scholarship exemplars of thoroughness in research, critical rigour, interpretive range and communicative force can be developed outside the framework of the guided growth of a PhD beceause these are generic skills, evident in academic works, distillable  from studying these works and adaptable to various contexts.

What would one say to the example of a Rene Descartes, a Ludwig Wittgenstein, among others, whose achievements were made without the benefit of  a PhD or its equivalent? Genius has been described as explanations for such achievements but can we limit to notions of mysterious genius   the unremitting effort of these men to arrive at fundamentals  of knowledge, their sensitivity to their own creative capacities, qualities at the heart of their achievements? Cant one emulate such people?

The PhD was not always a requirement in English universities. The PhD is a development of a process of standardization that is much younger than the beginning of the Western concept of the university.  What is the resulting difference between academic  scholarship pre and post the PhD regimen? I dont know.

As for Armstrong, I would not dismiss her.

The book of hers that made me a fan is her A History of God, a stunning sweep of the history of Arab, Persian, Jewish and European religion and philosophy demonstrating the intertwined development of the Middle East and Europe. Through the symphonic interweaving of historical actors, ideas and incidents emerges her theme of  religion as a demonstration of encounter between human imagination and cosmic mystery, a perspective that privileges human agency   in fashioning forms to relate with, explain and accommodate this mystery, a point of view that can be related to her academic background in literature and her struggle to find religious meaning outside the externalizations of faith she describes as frustrating her in her own quest in the Catholic church.

She might not be able to read or have mastered the source languages of the texts she discusses, but I would not think that would dilute the quality of her work unless she does not limit the scope of her investigations accordingly. Expertise in source texts in their  original languages is vital but there are different kinds of scholarship and  such expertise enables one kind of scholarship but its lack does not inhibit others, in my view.


oluwatoyin vincent adepoju

On Sun, Apr 22, 2012 at 10:06 PM, Segal, Professor Robert A. <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
April 22

Dear Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju,

If I may offer two cents (or pence):   if you wish to enter the academic world, you need a PhD.    Writers without academic credentials are dismissed as popularizers or worse.    Not to have a PhD is akin to wanting to become a pilot without a license.

Karen Armstrong is the proverbial exception that proves the rule.    Undeniably, she makes a healthy living from her books.   But she is a joke.   She has never done any research in any of the areas in which she has published--with, I suppose, the exception of her autobiography, which I wouldn't read even if I were immortal.   She has no conception of scholarship.    She thinks that she can write on the Bible without knowledge of Hebrew or Greek.   She has written, I believe, on Islam--without, I bet, even being to able to identify the Arabic alphabet.   She lists fewer sources in her bibliographies than first-year students at accredited universities would be expected to list in their essays.

My own field is theories of myth, and I reviewed her SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH for the Jungian journal, itself far from academic, SPRING.   I ended my review by calling her book the worst book on myth that I have ever read.   She knows nothing about the topic.

I know nothing about you and would not have uttered a peep had you know cited Armstrong as an example of what you might be seeking.   Obviously, you are free to ignore all that I have said.

There are academics who write for nonacademic audiences.    My own MYTH appears in Oxford's VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION series, which operates out of the trade division and which is marketed to lay persons.   But the authors of its own 200 or so volumes are experts in their fields.

With best wishes,

Robert (Segal)

Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen is a charity registered in Scotland, No SC013683.

The University of Aberdeen is a charity registered in Scotland, No SC013683.