Women In Academia

Women in Academia: Are You Prepared for the Job Market?

The job listings that get sent around through the departmental mailing list are picking up in full force now that the academic year is underway. While most listings are for post-doctoral and tenure-track positions at R1 universities, every once in a while, a teaching position at a primarily undergraduate institution gets sent around, and in that moment, the variety of academic jobs becomes obvious. The thing is: most students seem to be only prepared for the R1 track.

Actually, let me start off by acknowledging that different disciplines and institutions will handle things differently. I know that on my campus, two graduate groups in similar fields get pushed in different directions: one is exclusively geared towards R1 careers, and the other, while still focused on the R1, tends to provide a bit more preparation for work outside of academia. But in both cases, R1 careers are still front and center.

So here I am speaking broadly about the general culture of academia where graduate students are molded to be future PIs, even when PI jobs are decreasing in number. R1 isn’t the only option ““ so why is it treated as such?

Part of it is easy: at R1 institutions, undergraduate and graduate students are going through school getting mentored by those who decided to stay and pursue that R1 career option. This is the career path those professors and mentors understand the best having lived it for however many years. But even accounting for that, there is surprisingly little support for students who wish to pursue primarily teaching positions, positions at community colleges, or heck, even look for things outside of the Ivory Tower.

Career center and departmental workshops are definitely valuable resources. If the career center doesn’t offer resume and CV writing workshops or information sessions about seeking employment at a community college/outside of academia/etc, then consider meeting one-on-one with a career counselor and seeing what you can work out. But recognizing that the PhD is a valuable degree and that the graduate school experience is a valuable experience for a variety of careers would not only increase the marketability of these degrees, but would provide students with many more options after graduation.

I strongly believe in the value of a master’s degree or PhD for people in a wide variety of fields and occupations. Students who are interested in these fields and occupations should have access to the professional development resources that will allow them to succeed.

So how about you? Did you feel prepared for a job in or out of academia after/during graduate school?

8 replies on “Women in Academia: Are You Prepared for the Job Market?”

According to Wikipedia, R1 universities are, according to “the 1994 edition of the Carnegie Classification[, schools that]…

* Offer a full range of baccalaureate programs
* Are committed to graduate education through the doctorate
* Give high priority to research
* Award 50 or more doctoral degrees each year
* Receive annually $40 million or more in federal support”

I have no clue what a PI university is, however.  I am curious to know…

Like BaseballChica03 my school has done very little to prepare me or any students for work outside of a R1 university.

I am going to graduate with my MA in May.  I entered my program wanting to go on and get a PhD after taking a two years to teach.  I am leaving the program no longer sure if  job in academia is want I really want to do.  I (and  friend of mine in the program) made the mistake of revealing our desire in going to a small liberal arts school and focusing on teaching rather than research (we both had fantastic experiences at our undergraduate schools, and want to give back to those communities).  We were told in no uncertain terms “not to tell anyone that.”

At the U of U it is all about pedigree.  What school did you go to, who did you study with, who have you met and gone to conferences with, who was your adviser (who was your adviser’s adviser), how prestigious was your school, on and on and on.  R1’s want little mini-me graduate students that go out into the R1 world and populate it with little mini-me them.  It is (at our school) lineage and pedigree.

Now I am looking to graduate and work outside those ivory towers I once admired, as is my PhD friend.

Actually, I am about to apply for a couple jobs up in Washington state, how timely! I feel prepared only because I did a ton of extra volunteer internships and research opportunities outside of school. Usually the department only mails out job listings from really big entities (Kaiser being a common one) although they aren’t really related to either track in the program. I think, unless you have professors that spent a lot of time in non-academic settings, generally classes tend to be tailored to academic positions and super high level research positions (in my case, I am not sure about other departments), while most of the jobs are government-related.

My school did not prepare me at all for anything outside an R1 track. The moment I expressed an interest in a teaching school, it was all downhill from there in terms of the support my advisor gave me. Heaven forbid anyone in the department wanted to get a job in the public sector or a private research group. Forget it! It was very frustrating, and I ended up leaving with my MA instead of staying on for the PhD as planned because I couldn’t take the constant pressure to make me into something I didn’t want to be.

I am in a program that is geared towards jobs in history but in a Public history capacity, we are able to  continue on to research institutions if we want from MA, or go into the workforce. The director of our program sends out public history jobs whenever a colleague contacts him wanting someone that can do that (and there are many). In fact, I just got hired as a part time research assistant for a public historian today! I think that the students in the general stream are at a disadvantage to us. Yes, they write a longer Thesis, but we are getting more courses and an internship in the summer and mentors that are currently in the field. I like that my program gears me towards a career, whether it is academia or not!

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