Whether or not you want to go into academia, it’s important to think of your master’s or Ph.D. degree as not just a “calling” but as a “profession.” Now is the time to make yourself competitive. Your coursework and your research are important, but so is networking and creating effective materials that will get you noticed on the job market. Check out the resources below, including Aurora by Beyond the Professoriate, which has learning modules for many of these subjects and our graduate student career guide.
 

Get access to Aurora  Graduate Career Guide 

Tips for Graduate Student Careers

The Career Development Center is here for graduate students. See these helpful resources that can guide you as you pursue your future.

 

Academic Job Market

The number of tenure-track jobs available has been falling sharply over the past 50 years. According to the American Association of University Professors (2018), 73% of faculty positions are currently non-tenure track positions. It’s competitive out there, so it is important to take measures that make you stick out if you seek tenure.

In addition to your coursework and your research, networking and creating effective CVs will help you get noticed on the job market. Check out our job search resources, including the online tool Aurora, for additional information on preparing yourself for the job market.

How to Build a Competitive Application for Tenure-Track Jobs

Conferences: Be active at high prestige conference for your field if possible. Use the regional conferences to build toward the major conferences and then include these speaking engagements on your CV.

Grants: Getting grants can show your effectiveness as a researcher and a communicator, especially because obtaining external funding is a big part of an academic program’s success. As a grad student, look for opportunities to obtain or co-write for grants, preferably national-level awards (not just campus travel awards, etc.). 

Publications: Your publishing record (often in major peer-reviewed journals) is one of the biggest measures search committees use to evaluate your success. So learn what’s important in your field. For example, do you need to be a sole or lead author to be competitive? Are white papers and book chapters included in publication counts?

Teaching: Figure out whether you want to go for a teaching-heavy appointment or a research-focused one. Don’t spend too much time teaching if publications are what you’ll be measured on. Most institutions will look for some evidence of teaching experience.

Industry, Government, & Nonprofit Track

Opportunities abound for master’s and Ph.D. students in private, nonprofit and government sectors. Whether having a graduate degree is very common in your field or your transition from academia to industry is less traditional, there is a lot you can do with what you have learned in a position outside of the university.

Networking

Networking is critical to your success in academia. You belong to a subfield of people with shared research and teaching interests, and you want to be an active member of this relatively small world and to know the players. When it comes time to get a job, it helps tremendously to already know people from research collaborations, conference get-togethers and writing papers together.

    If you're attending a career fair, note that recruiters may be less familiar with M.S./M.A. or Ph.D. level positions.

    • Research in advance companies that often hire or require an advanced degree for their positions.
    • Bring two versions of your CV (a condensed 1-2 page version and your full academic CV). Ask the employer which version they prefer.
    • In discussions, focus on your transferable skills for any situation; this will broaden the types of positions you might be qualified for.
    • Make sure to practice a layman’s version of your research focus that can be adapted to different audiences.
    • Explore other tips for networking in any situation, and check out Aurora by Beyond the Professoriate for webinars and other resources to improve your networking skills. 

    Tips for Networking in a Grad Program 

    • Attend and speak at conferences. Make sure that you not only go to top conferences and industry meetings, but that you meet everyone. Go out to eat with people in your field. Socialize as much as you can. Ask your faculty mentors or peers to introduce you to who they know. And then stay in touch.
    • Ask your faculty mentor to connect you. Be intentional about asking faculty in your department to introduce you to people in the field, whether it’s private companies they’ve worked with, old grad school buddies, research collaborators or faculty at institutions of interest to you. Current professors are already in the field and can help you break in.
    • Cultivate a well-known recommender — especially if you're at an institution that is not a top five institution in your field. Ideas include inviting a scholar from your field for a panel or working with them on a project and then asking for a letter of recommendation when you go to apply to a job.
    • Behave like a peer, not a student. Remember in networking and in the campus interview process to dress and speak like a faculty member. Begin to see yourself as an expert in your field and behave in a collegial and professional manner (e.g. firm handshake, leave the backpack at home, concise summary of your contribution to your field ready to go). Grad school represents a transition from learner to subject expert.

    Professional Materials

    Ensure that your resume or CV is in top shape. Check out this information, as well as the Resumes & CVs page for advice on constructing and editing these documents.

    Once your resume is ready, we highly recommend graduate students create a presence on LinkedIn.You may also consider creating a research website, vitae profile and/or academia.edu page with a research summary, papers, publications, and syllabi so that hiring committees can review your work online.

    Develop thoughtful research and teaching statements. The purpose of the research statement is to summarize your research accomplishments and focus and to provide a roadmap of where you’ll go in the future. The teaching statement aims to paint a picture of who you are as an educator; it should focus on your teaching results, your goals, your values and details of the environments you’ve taught in and the modalities/methods you have used. 

    Resources to Find Jobs

    For academic job searching, try Chronicle Vitae, a service of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a hub for graduate level, faculty, research and other academic positions. Search Handshake for a diversity of scientific and non-scientific positions in industry.

    Interested in alternative paths to tenure track? Check into paths in federal or local government (e.g., scientific positions on USAJobs.org) or non-faculty positions on university job boards (e.g., advising, curriculum development, research technicians).

    Unsure what job titles are out there or what you want to do with your graduate degree? Take a free career self-assessment based on jobs data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics with Focus 2 or take an assessment with Science Careers (geared at grad student-level professions).

    Career Preparation with Aurora

    Aurora empowers graduate students to learn successful job search strategies, whether seeking faculty or professional careers, and make informed decisions about their career path.

    Though created for Ph.D. students, master's students and postdocs will also find its resources useful. Aurora provides accessible, well-curated information for busy graduate students that supports career exploration and promotes engaged learning. You can access recorded seminars, reflective prompts and assessments. 

    Learn more about Aurora