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Academic job search for graduate students

Preparing yourself to pursue a career as an academic faculty member spans your time as a graduate student, and involves introspection and tasks. Consider the advice below as you walk this journey.

Planning and developing yourself as a professional

  • Self-assessment and critical thinking
    Reflect and then answer some questions about your future goals. Answers to these questions form the parameters of your job search.
    • What do you want to achieve in your work?
    • What types of organizations or institutions will provide the best opportunity to achieve your goals?
    • Where (state, region, country) do you want to work and live?
  • Get to know your faculty and seek their advice.
    Faculty can advise you on professional associations, conferences, and presentations; and reputations of institutions, departments, and individuals. Seek opinions of many individuals.
  • Attend and present at professional / academic conferences.
    Expand your network and visibility by doing so. Your faculty can advise you on options and their value.
  • Network.
    Network with faculty, graduate student colleagues, and professionals in your field through professional and academic organizations, conferences, and other activities.
  • Read The Chronicle of Higher Education.
    This is an essential source for career development advice for new professionals entering academia.
  • Seek neutral third party advice if you need it.
    Faculty, while strongly wanting you to succeed, may have biases and want to influence you; that's their job in contributing to your professional development. If you need a neutral third party to help you process your options, actions and decisions, make an advising appointment with Career and Professional Development.

Sources to find academic jobs

Use a variety of sources, including:

  • Chronicle of Higher Education job listings
  • Websites of institutions with programs that interest you.
    Especially focus on the websites of the pertinent academic departments and become familiar with the research and teaching interests of the faculty.
  • Career field resources - includes higher education / academia.
  • Professional journals and professional organization websites relevant to your field.
    You would become familiar with these during the course of your graduate education; and you can ask your faculty members for recommendations for your field.
  • Networking.
    Most graduate students will have opportunities to network through professional organizations and at conferences. You may also wish to proactively reach out to professionals with research expertise and interests that you wish to pursue.

Documents for the academic job search

  • A curriculum vitae, or c.v. is the most traditional document used in an academic job search and provides detailed documentation of all related professional experience. See our c.v. guide
  • The resume format is typically used for a job search in industry and other non-academic positions.
  • Provide current contact information for faculty or employers who can speak knowledgeably and positively about your abilities and professionalism. The number of references required varies among institutions; three to five are typical.
    Note that names and contact information for references are contained within acurriculum vita, but generally not included on a resume (if you use a resume, prepare a separate document with reference contact information). Read more about references.
  • Your faculty advisors probably have plenty of experience both writing and reading letters of reference, but if someone needs advice, suggest the NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers): How to write a reference letter. This addresses legal issues, discrimination laws, and FERPA.

  • Your statement of teaching philosophy should be deeply reflective in nature, and should be closely connected to the institution to which you are applying to teach.
  • Ask yourself the following before drafting: 
    • What pedagogical methods influence your teaching?
    • What evidence do you have to support that your teaching is effective?
    • How do you ensure a sense of belonging and inclusion in your classroom?
    • Are there concrete examples that demonstrate your teaching philosophy?
  • In order to tailor your statement for each application, research the following before drafting: 
    • What is the institution's mission and how does that align with your teaching philosophy?
    • What are some keywords that stand out from the department’s website?
    • Are there particular strategies or components to their academic experiences (i.e., emphasis on experiential learning)?
  • Resources for writing teaching statements:
  • This document is an opportunity to not only reflect on your current and previous research, but also an important chance to speak to the future of your research interests.
  • Consider what your audience - the search committee - wants to learn about your accomplishments and goals related to research at the institution to which you are applying.
  • Your statement should be tailored for each academic institution by considering the following: potential faculty collaboration, grants for which you would apply, and how your research can positively impact that particular institution/department.
  • Resources for developing your research statement:

Hiring process for academic jobs

The job announcement is often the first formal information you have about the position. That job description is a general introduction to the position, but may not provide a thorough picture of what the department seeks in a candidate. Research both the institution and the department thoroughly to determine your fit with the culture and mission. Review their websites and talk to people you know who have contacts or relationships with the institution or department.

Apply for any positions where there is a potential fit. Accept interviews to judge if the environment is right and allow the department to clearly define its goals and learn more about you. The department may visualize additional goals after seeing what you have to offer.

The typical search committee consists of four to six members who review applications and narrow the candidate pool. Applications that pass this initial screening may be presented to the entire faculty in the department. The entire department may have input on which candidates will be invited for an interview.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Search for this topic on The Chronicle to find more.

Professional conferences may present interview opportunities, allowing you to present yourself to representatives of multiple institutions, and for those institutions and departments to screen many candidates in one location. Your conference website should provide instructions.

This could be the initial interview you experience. Interviews might take place in a large ballroom with many tables set up for individual interviews occurring simultaneously. Generally expect your interview to last about 30 minutes. Your goal in this interview is to get an invitation to visit and interview on the campus.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Zoom and phone interviews may replace or supplement a conference interview as a screening interview, or serve as a follow up. Your phone/video interview could be with one individual, or include two or three faculty or staff members. Expect this interview to last 30-45 minutes; however, don't assume. If you are not informed, ask about the expected length when this is scheduled.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Campus interviews can last one day or more days. You may be evaluated during meals, during travel to and from the airport, and at other informal times. A series of interviews will occur with different faculty and staff or groups of people throughout your time on campus. You are likely to be asked to make a presentation about your research, pedagogy, or vision of your role at the institution. There may be an open invitation for many interested individuals to attend your presentation. Plan ahead and inquire about equipment needed for your presentation (what you should bring and what will be provided), and have a backup plan in case of equipment problems. Your schedule should include time for you to visit the city or community and look at residence possibilities.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Your host should explain what expenses and covered (hotel, airfare, car rental, cabs, meals, etc.), and whether these are paid directly by your host or if you make payment and are then reimbursed.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education: