How Do I Start an Academic Job Search?

If you are gearing up for a job search at a college or university, and are interested in jobs with titles like Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Visiting Faculty, or (one day) Tenure-Eligible, this information is for you! It's a great idea to begin preparing for your job search during graduate school, even before you’ve completed your thesis or dissertation, so that you are adequately prepared for your new role in academia!

Learn Your Field

Look through job postings in the area of your research or teaching interest(s) to identify patterns, common language, and standard requirements. This will help to inform the way your professional documents are written and can assist you in filling gaps in your current experience. Another great way to stay on top of trends in your field is to subscribe to professional papers and academic journals published by professional organizations. You may even consider setting up a Google Scholar alert to email you when new research is published that matches keywords or names of authors you’d like to follow.

Seek Out Professional Development

As you engage in scholarly work like research and teaching, apply to present at conferences and submit papers to academic journals in your field. Think about working part time or volunteering for research centers/institutes, journals, and at national/regional meetings of your field’s professional organization(s). These things will help you to develop professional contacts, connect with faculty from other institutions, and gain important skills like editing and presenting.

Utilize Your Advisors

Stay in touch with your advisors and faculty through the graduate school and job search process. Ask for their advice on your application materials, openings that you’ve come across, and ways of facilitating professional connections across institutions. Developing a relationship early on is important so that they truly understand your specific goals.

Prepare Your Teaching Portfolio

As you teach (or assist in teaching) one or more courses, keep copies of the syllabi, assignments, exam questions, and student evaluations so that you can use them as examples in future interviews. Make sure to highlight the materials that you personally created or found to be particularly effective. Ask if you can practice delivering a lecture on your own with a professor observing, so that they can give constructive feedback and write more detailed letters of recommendation. Collect any feedback you receive,even if it’s verbal (write it down!). As an added bonus, compile a list of a few courses that you might anticipate teaching in your new role, including a brief description and some examples of readings or other resources that you would utilize for each one.

Craft Your Documents

Most positions in academia will require the submission of a CV (curriculum vitae), a cover letter, and a research statement and/or teaching philosophy (see below). In your CV, it is imperative that you include your teaching, research, publications, and presentations along with any other relevant experiences. It’s appropriate for this document to be 2+ pages long since it is more all-inclusive than a standard resume. The research statement and teaching philosophy are usually each 1-2 pages in length, written in present tense, and are written with the audience in mind.

For all of these items, it is important that you are cognizant of preferred formats and nuances within specific academic and professional areas. Although the differences may be minor, you may want to check with your field’s professional organizations and your advisors before you begin.

Write a Research Statement

A research statement has more of an emphasis on the focus of your current and future research. This tells a search committee about your areas of specialty/expertise, your academic knowledge and writing skills, and your potential “fit” within a department of faculty. Your statement should include any research projects you’ve worked on or are currently working on, how this research advances the field, and future research goals. If applicable, it is a good idea to touch on established or anticipated funding for your research and to give credit to research that has inspired your own. These documents are typically 1-2 pages in length with attention to organization in the form of headings, subheadings, and bulleted content. 

Write a Teaching Philosophy

A teaching philosophy is a personal narrative that touches on your view of teaching and learning, a description of your teaching style, and a justification for why you teach the way you do. A well-written teaching philosophy demonstrates a reflective mastery of basic pedagogical skills and communicates your goals as an instructor. To do this most effectively, write in such a way that allows a reader to “visualize” you in a classroom setting; be very specific with examples, strategies, assignments, etc. You certainly don’t want your writing to make it appear that you have all of the answers, but that you’re confident in your experiences while being open to continued learning.

Secure Letters of Recommendation

Make sure that you’ve asked supervisors, mentors, advisors, and faculty members if they would be willing and able to write a strong letter of recommendation on your behalf, with plenty of time to spare before you plan to submit any applications. When you ask, be prepared to provide an updated CV, as well as your research/teaching statements. These documents can help a writer to focus on your strengths and skills more effectively.

Prepare for the Job Interview

The first round of interviews for an academic position usually happens over the phone or video chat. Check out our Interview Stages and Types page for advice on preparing for these types of interviews. If you make it to the final round, the institution will generally pay for your flight and lodging, and you can expect the interview to be an all-day event. You may be asked to give a presentation and meet with a variety of constituents. Check out our interviewing tips to learn more about types of interviews and opportunities we offer to practice interviewing in person or online.

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