Don't wait until graduation to explore academic job opportunities. You have a wide range of options.
While a tenure-track position might be your first choice, it’s not your only one.
You might find fulfillment in a university research or administrative position, or a post in an academic-adjacent institution.
Don’t limit your choices. The key is to find a career that is meaningful and fulfilling to you.
Start your search early. Sign up for alerts from organizations and publications within your discipline, as well as general higher education resources such as The Chronicle of Higher Education jobs postings for personalized information on open positions.
Develop an Individual Development Plan (PDF). Make sure it includes all your relevant required experience. Follow pertinent groups in Twitter or LinkedIn; many open positions are announced on social media platforms.
Create Your Professional Development Plan Early and Update It Often
To make the most of your graduate education and to prepare for your future career, you may wish to create an Individual Development Plan (PDF). Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars use this tool to schedule professional development experiences during their graduate education.
An IDP maximizes your graduate education experience by providing a framework to:
- Assess your current skills and strengths.
- Identify areas for growth.
- Set short-term and long-term professional goals
- Develop a strategy to meet your goals
- Promote communication with mentors
You will revisit your IDP on an ongoing basis, to update it as your skills and goals evolve and to record your progress and accomplishments.
Prepare Academic Job Applications
Most entry-level academic positions don't expect you to have an extensive c.v., but you should be able show you’re likely to be successful in the position. Look at current listings for jobs similar to those for which you’ll be applying. Identify gaps in your résumé, and work with your advisor or mentor to develop a strategy to strengthen your materials.
You'll need to create base documents and craft personalized letters and résumés for the type of position and institution you're applying for. Ask fellow graduate students, your advisor, other faculty in the department (ideally, those recently on the job market), and others in your mentor network to review your job application materials.
- Developing Your CV
- Crafting Cover Letters
- Writing a Teaching Philosophy
- Writing Research Statements
- DEI Statements
- The Art of the Academic Interview
- Postdoctoral Fellowships
Exploring Alternative Career Paths
Prompted in part by the economic crisis of 2008, there has been discussion in the media about alternative academic careers and careers outside of academia.
There is a movement on the web and on Twitter to promote alternative academic careers (which proponents have labeled #altac due to the prominence of Twitter and hashtags in the discussion of these careers) to provide resources and information to those who are interested, as well as to remove the perceived stigma often associated with taking a position off the tenure track.
Many graduate students seek industry, government, or nonprofit positions because they feel they can have as much, if not more, of an impact in these areas. The key is to find a career that is meaningful and fulfilling to you.
- #Alt-Academy, a MediaCommons project, edited by Bethany Nowviskie.
- The #alt-ac entries on the ProfHacker blog, which is affiliated with The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Leonard Cassuto (2012), “In Search of Hard Data on Nonacademic Careers.”
- “Research Centered,” a blog affiliated with The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Roger Whitson (2012), “#Altac and the Tenure Track.”