Blog - Looking to Become Faculty? What Doctoral Students Should Know

Finding and obtaining professorship and post-doc opportunities can be a challenge for even the most engaged doctoral students. As doctoral students, you may have heard at some point, get your dissertation done, become a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Graduate Assistant (GA), publish before you graduate, and work closely with faculty. All these things are great; however, they still may not guarantee you a faculty position after graduation. This article will explore some different approaches to consider when breaking into academia.

When trying to land a faculty position or post-doc, some of these tips may be helpful to consider before graduating. 

1. Talk to Faculty in Your Field of Study

Talking to faculty in the field you wish to enter at your institution and others can be very helpful. Faculty may have connections that will prove beneficial to you. They may also be more aware of the job market and opportunities not advertised but available. When preparing to talk with faculty, have a plan. You should prepare questions you hope to gain answers to, ask for advice, and ask if it is okay to stay in touch. These are all things that will help keep you on track. Some faculty are very busy, so you want to optimize and maximize your time with them. In addition, remember that networking will take you a long way. I found this to be true in adjunct/part-time and full-time faculty opportunities. In addition to your degree, you have a better chance of landing a job if you network and get to know others in the field. Although there are many higher education institutions, the field is still relatively small for colleagues and connections. So, make the connections, build the relationships, and use the links!

2. Where Do You Want to Be?

It is also essential to think about the type of institution you want to work for. Some factors to consider include::

  • Private vs. Public institution
  • 4-year vs. 2-year or community college
  • Predominantly white vs. Historically Black College or University
  • Residential vs. Commuter Institutions
  • Rural vs. City Location
  • Size of Institution
  • Teaching Oriented vs. Teaching Institutions

All these things matter when looking for faculty positions because the idea and expectation are that you will be there for at least a few years. You do not want to take a job at an institution that is not satisfying and not helping you meet your career goals. One of the crucial steps early in the job search is to do your research to know what kinds of institutions would best fit you. Remember, yes, you want a job; however, the institution must be a good fit for you too. Seeking out the types of institutions that you would like to work in will help with job stratification and longevity within the profession. It is never too early to start thinking about which institutions will be a good fit for you to start building your career after completing your terminal degree.

3. What Are The Expectations

Knowing the expectations and requirements for landing a job is just as important as knowing what type of institution you want to work in. You will want to consider the minimum level of education (degree and certifications and licensure) required for the position. Some positions may require more than a terminal degree to be considered, so it is essential to read the job advertisement closely. Additionally, some institutions will hire doctoral candidates as long as their degree is conferred by a specific date. Be sure you are aware of this because if offered a position and your degree is not conferred by the agreed-upon date, your offer may very well be rescinded.

On the contrary, some institutions post job advertisements that say you must have a degree “in hand” this is important to note as well. It is important to pay close attention to detail, as this is the institutions’ and hiring committees’ first opportunity to evaluate you. That is, you are being observed and assessed in everything you do, from filling out the application to the job interview. You will also need to pay close attention to the kinds and years of experience the position asks you to have. There may be ways to substitute specific credentials or educational experiences for work experience, so keep this in mind. Lastly, you will want to be clear about the faculty role you want and what the institution can offer. Some faculty positions may start at the rank of instructor. Some may start at the rank of assistant professor, and some may start at associate professor, depending on your education, credentials, and experiences. In academia rank and salary matter for where to start. Suppose you plan to stay in academia and climb the ranks you want to start as high as you can. I say this because traditionally, each rank has a certain amount of time associated with how long you need to serve before you can be promoted. Lastly, you will want to know if you want to be tenured or not. Some institutions do not offer tenure. Other institutions may advertise the position as a tenure-track position, and others may require you to compete for a tenure-track position once hired and one becomes available. I say this to reiterate that you must do your research and know what options you have available.

4. Adjunct If Possible

While this may be time-consuming when trying to finish a degree, is this one of the best ways to get teaching experience. Even if you do not teach a class every semester, see if you can obtain an adjunct position, even if it is at your local community college. Teaching experience is precious when applying for full-time teaching positions. If you can show that you have even a small amount of teaching experience, it can go a long way in searching for full-time employment. Additionally, in my experiences, institutions who are hiring for full-time faculty positions often start with their adjuncts. If you are qualified and already an employee, you are more likely to have a shot at the full-time job that opens. Remember, adjunct teaching is not only a resume builder but a gem to have in terms of experience when applying for full-time teaching positions.

Obtaining a faculty position after completing the terminal degree is not always as easy as many may think. The terminal degree does not guarantee a faculty position, as many full-time faculty positions do not require a terminal degree. Therefore, doctoral students and postdocs who wish to gain a full-time faculty position must be thinking beyond just having the degree. It is necessary to be networking, researching, evaluating institutions and colleagues for best fit, and possibly doing some adjunct work to add a little more experience to the resume.

Do you have additional tips to add to the list? Or have specific examples of preparation techniques for doctoral students and postdocs? I would also like to hear what your experience of job hunting has been. Feel free to send your responses via Twitter @TomlinAntione so that we can continue this conversation!

Author’s Bio:

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.