Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#105 Applying for Academic Positions


The University of Delaware, Center for Teaching Effectiveness sent me the posting below. It contains some very good advice on seeking an academic position gleaned from a panel of recent University of Delaware graduates who are now serving as faculty members at various institutions. Additional information, including a listing of on-line resources can be found at:


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Why Professors Have Tenure and Business People Don't

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Exploring Faculty Careers in Higher Education: Advice from University of Delaware Graduates (University of Delaware - Center for Teaching Effectiveness)

How do I prepare to apply for an academic position?

As you begin your graduate program, or at least well before you are finished, start taking a look at the postings for the kinds of positions that interest you. Inquire for details about job requirements so that you have the time to acquire the skills the job market demands, before it is too late at application time. Try to develop as much varied experience as possible: teaching (if possible several different courses), research record, service, work, or leadership experience-basically, anything that will give you experience and set you apart from others. If that means publications, take time to include them in the process of your research. If teaching experience is expected, make your TA position meaningful by taking some initiative and responsibility in the planning of coursework or by trying innovative teaching methods you may have heard of. Your department and CTE can help you get started.

What does an academic search committee look for?

The search committee looks for an experienced teaching and/or research background and faculty approval of you and your work. Where possible, make friends among faculty (network!). Seek out a faculty mentor or several mentors. Mentors can be helpful in understanding the expectations and job requirements of a professor. A mentor can also help you start a research history through collaborative research efforts. Find someone you can trust and feel comfortable with. Mentors are also helpful when they can write letters of recommendation, not only about your professional abilities, like teaching and research, but also about personal qualities like "works well with others." Take the time to develop these relationships with mentors. Keep a dossier of every accomplishment while you are in your program; save this list for your Curriculum Vitae (CV). Make sure to document all of your responsibilities for each job and have the supervising/mentoring professor write a knowledgeable letter of recommendation for you.

How do I market my abilities, qualities, and qualifications?

During the searching process, tailor your letters to specific institutions. Tailor your application letter and CV to the specific position. Try to learn as much about the position as possible; visit the institution's websites. Also learn as much as possible about the department and institution in terms of teaching philosophy, so that you appear more compatible with the department and institution.

How do I prepare for the interview process?

Be prepared for the interview process by surfing the WEB for additional info on the department, faculty. Prepare yourself with information about the institution, department, philosophy, mission, etc. Have questions prepared for your potential employer such as "Where do graduating students go from here?" Is this a new or replacement position? Is collaborative work encouraged or discouraged? How often are new faculty expected to publish?" Basically, know the department before interviewing and demonstrate an interest in the job. Take time to research the interests and subdisciplines within the prospective department and state in your application how you would advance their research agenda . Before an interview, conduct research with respect to the faculty. Try to be familiar with the kind of work the department does, what particular faculty are known for. Remember that if you have been given an interview, the faculty are interested in you. Also, remember that you are also interviewing the department.

What can I expect during the interview process?

At an interview, you will be nervous. Try to be genuine and interested. Make certain that you have questions for the committee. Questions indicate that you are considering them seriously as a place of employment. Be prepared to answer questions such as "Why do you want to go into teaching?" How would your colleagues describe you? What experiences do you have teaching? How do you see yourself fitting into this department?"

If you are offered a position, get a clear indication of when you need to respond. Then contact an impartial faculty member at another institution to inquire about the position particulars, such as course load, compensation package, etc. Compare notes to determine whether or not the offer is a good one, or at least one you can live with. CTE thanks the following panelists for their recommendations:

*Catherine Bentzley, Ph.D., Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, PA (1997, Analytical Chemistry).

*Shawn Christiansen, Ph.D., Human Development & Family Studies, Penn State Worthington Scranton, PA (1997, Individual & Family Studies).

*Janet Manspeaker, Ph.D., Social & Behavioral Sciences, Cheyney University, PA (1990, Political Science).

*Michael O'Neal, Ph.D., Science Education, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD (1997, Geology).