Job Search Strategies for Graduate Students
Whether you are seeking an academic career or hoping to take a different career path with your graduate degree, this article by UBC professor and UBC alumna Dr. Kim Snowden provides insights and strategies for your job search after graduate school.
What is an academic career?
Academic careers aren’t just about becoming tenured research faculty, there are other paths that are worth considering. Here are some of the most common types of academic careers:
Faculty at University
Most universities in Canada now have two streams for academics - Research and Teaching. Research Stream jobs are always tenure track and typically start at the rank of Assistant Professor with the expectation of publishing, research, securing grants, supervising graduate students, teaching 2-4 courses, and administrative service such as committee work. Teaching Stream jobs are either tenure-track (Instructors) or non-tenured (Lecturers) and include more teaching (5-8 courses), service such as advising, committees, administrative work, and also educational leadership in areas such as curriculum design and development. Universities also rely heavily on adjunct or sessional teaching roles which are teaching-only, non-permanent positions. These positions all require a PhD.
Faculty at College or University College
These roles are focused on teaching with opportunities for research, curriculum development and design. There are usually smaller classes and often only an Master’s degree is required.
Non-teaching Careers at Universities and Colleges
Don’t discount other options at post-secondary institutions such as academic advising, student engagement, teaching and learning centres, or even your alumni office! These positions draw on many of the same skills you will acquire during your graduate school experience: research, communications, innovation in teaching and student engagement.
Securing an Academic Job
There are various websites that have job listings for academic jobs. One of the main sites for Canadian jobs is University Affairs. Join the national and international scholarly associations related to your discipline. These associations typically require an annual membership fee which then provides you access to resources such as job listings in that field.
When I was on the job market, I regularly checked on the employment pages of institutions where I could see myself working or where my work was a good fit. This is a good habit to get into as it also allows you to see what is expected of you and what disciplines are hiring.
Tip: Most full-time faculty positions begin July 1st and job advertisements are often posted a year in advance so you will need to start looking for jobs as early as possible.
Contract faculty positions vary in posting date typically posted 3-6 months before a course begins. Start dates are consistent with the start of academic terms.
Non-faculty or Alt-Ac Jobs
I often hear from graduate students or junior faculty that they would have benefited from advice and training in areas beyond traditional academic faculty work. It’s true that academia can often seem to be about one path, and one path only. It’s easy to feel demoralized if this isn’t what you want or if you are unable to find work in your field and, unfortunately, academia is often not supportive of choosing a different career path. It’s important to think about your graduate school experiences as a journey - one that might take you down the traditional path or one that might change paths as you learn something new about yourself. I recommend this essay on thinking about your journey as a story but not limiting yourself to one ending .
If you do decide that a job as a tenure-track research scholar isn’t for you, there is a community of folks who understand. From PhD to Life is one example of a resource which shows you how to apply your academic experience to a wider career community.
Whatever path you choose, remember to build a professional community around you, of other people in your field, fellow alumni, and others who can share your journey.
Kim Snowden PhD'07 is a Lecturer and Undergraduate Advisor at the Social Justice Institute at UBC where she teaches courses on social justice & social media, folk & fairy tales, science fiction & fantasy, young adult literature, and monsters of all kinds.