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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 how can you stick out if you seek tenure?
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.
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.
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.
Ensure that your CV is in top shape! Visit the Resumes & CVs page for advice on constructing and editing these documents.
Develop a thoughtful and convincing personal statement. Don't tell the story of how your childhood led you to a fascination which lead you to where you are today. Instead they want to know what your dissertation is focused on, your methods, a clearly articulated summary of your contribution to your field, your interests moving forward and what you bring to the company/institution.
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).