As stated in the title, I'm wondering if someone could shed some light on whether it is possible to land a tenure-track position in philosophy with a J.D. By way of background, I double majored in philosophy and psychology, and I am heading into my 3rd year of law school. A life as an academic sounds more appealing than it did a few years ago when I chose law school over a Phd., and I'm curious if a J.D. could suffice. Any helpful insight on this topic would be greatly appreciated!
There's more philosophy PhDs looking for jobs than jobs available in philosophy, and your undergraduate experience while helpful probably won't make you stand out as an expert in philosophy. Or to put it another way, while you've been earning your J.D. which prepares you for law, philosophy PhD earners have been studying the very subject material they will teach.
But you might be eligible for positions where they are looking for someone in philosophy of law. Specifically, if they want someone with practical experience (but then they wouldn't want you straight out of your J.D.). Probably a good way to ask this question would be to e-mail Brian Leiter (or someone else) who works in law and philosophy.
It is possible but you'll be competing against people with doctorates in Philosophy and dissertations and publications in philosophical journals.
Usually the requirement for faculty at colleges and university is the "terminal degree in the field." For law professors, this is the JD. For studio artists, the MFA. And most other faculty, the PhD.
I don't think the Provost would raise any issues with your hiring in terms of credentials, but the more difficult thing will be to convince the hiring committee (consisting of mostly philosophy profs with some other humanists) that you're the right person for the job.
Be prepared to articulate why you'll be capable of not only teaching PHIL101, but PHIL2xx, 3xx, and 4xx. If you're at a university, would you be capable of mentoring PhD students? The assumption will be that you don't have that experience, so the burden of proof will be on you.
Many JDs figure it's just as easy to get the PhD with a few more years of school and emerge with a JD-PhD.
[Editorial Aside: That all being said, I think you're a bit nutso. Have you seen the starting salaries for law professors? They are earning $150,000+ in the few few years and often have tenure by their 4th year. If I were you, I'd go into the teaching of law and teach very philosophical law classes.]
At a theoretical level, it's certainly possible. Saul Kripke never went to graduate school at all, but that didn't stop Princeton from giving him tenure in philosophy. If you're the next Kripke, then nobody will care what sort of degree you have.
At a practical level, you can't get hired in philosophy with just a J.D., assuming you aren't talking specifically about philosophy of law (which might draw on your legal background on an equal footing with philosophy). If you are, then that's worth a more detailed and specific question regarding the necessary background and experience. For a start, see these comments by Brian Leiter. If you want to do philosophy of law with a primarily legal background, it sounds like the chances are higher if you look for a law faculty position rather than a job in a philosophy department.
On the other hand, if you have in mind a philosophical career that does not make heavy use of your legal background, then the J.D. will be essentially useless. It's a terminal degree, but not one that certifies any level of background or experience in philosophy, so it will be irrelevant. The only way to get a job in a philosophy department at a four-year college or university is to convince them that you have the equivalent of a Ph.D. in philosophy (including not just basic knowledge, but also advanced seminars, carrying out research, and writing a dissertation - even if you won't be doing further research or teaching graduate courses).
This level of experience would be rare among law students, and even if you genuinely have the equivalent of a philosophy Ph.D. you should expect to have a difficult time making a convincing case for this.
I haven't seen your particular case (applying for philosophy jobs with a J.D.) in practice, but I've seen similar sorts of job searches in other fields (arguably with closer degrees, since Ph.D. degrees in related fields are more similar to each other than either is to a J.D.). In order to pull this off, you must have credible and compelling recommendations from mainstream faculty in the field you're applying to. So one key question is what the philosophy faculty at your current university think of you. Are they willing to write letters making a case that you are as qualified as their own Ph.D. students? If so, then you may have a shot at this, and you should talk with them for advice based on your personal situation. If you don't know any philosophers who are willing to write that sort of letter for you, then that will be a major barrier to getting a job in a philosophy department.
I think in part you're mixing up (or at least not clearly distinguishing) two separate questions:
- If you have a J.D., could you become a philosophy professor without getting any additional formal qualifications? (Yes.)
- If you have a typical resume for someone just finishing their J.D., would anyone hire you to be a philosophy professor? (Almost certainly not.)
To go to an analogy that might be more familiar, your question is a bit like asking "Can you go to Harvard if you get a GED?" The answer is yes in a certain formal sense; I'm sure there are people whose highest qualification is a GED who have gone to Harvard. Probably, somebody, somewhere, with a JD has gone on to being a philosophy professor without getting an additional degree, but that doesn't mean it's something a reasonable person should expect to do.
The important point here is that having a degree (even a very specific kind of degree) is not the primary qualification for becoming a professor. It's publishing in your field, convincing important people in the field that you are smart and good at what you do, and being able to teach undergraduate and graduate students in your field. A PhD helps you become a professor because it gives you a chance to do those things in a conducive environment, not because you get a sheepskin at the end. If you are able to do those things, maybe you can be successful in philosophy. It doesn't sound from your question like you've had much of a chance to do them yet.