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Academic Careers

Academic careers are careers that are within academia (within the university) and generally are involved with teaching, teaching/learning support, and/or research. Explore this page for information on:

Your department faculty members (professors, etc.) may be able to give you some fantastic advice about pursuing an academic career that is specific to your discipline, but here are some general tips you will want to keep in mind while preparing for a career in academia:

Develop the right skills

What skills are important in academia? After scanning a number (100+) of 2017 academic job postings across Canada (all of which were found via the websites under the Academic job postings section), representing a variety of positions and institutions, the following skills and requirements were found to be common (listed in no particular order):

  • Research – demonstrate past and demonstrate ability to maintain research
  • Teaching (lecturing, engaging, encouraging, curriculum development)
  • Administration experience
  • Teamwork (and the ability to work with a multidisciplinary team) and collaboration
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Enthusiasm and interest for subject matter
  • Innovative thinking
  • Involvement/participation in campus and community initiatives and committees
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Supervisory skills
  • Subject-specific knowledge, interest, and research
  • Value diversity
  • Work independently
  • Networking
  • Ability to obtain funding
  • Commitment to students, teaching, and research

To learn more about what employers in academia are looking for, check out this 2014 UK AGCAS Research Staff Task Group research report: AGCAS Survey - Getting the First Lecturing Job: http://cpd.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2013/06/Getting_the_first_lecturing_job_2014_-_05Dec2014-1.pdf

 

Gain the right experiences

You will want to be able to demonstrate you have the in-demand skills by gaining experiences that allow you to develop them and prove them to prospective employers.

Research

  • Get the most from your current research experiences
  • Additional research opportunities (volunteering with your advisor or with another professor on a side research project) 
  • Look for grants or additional financial support. Research funding for grad students:

Teaching

Service/Administration

  • Demonstrate that you have been, and will be, engaged in campus
  • Campus committees
  • Community committees (such as boards of directors)
  • Conference/event organization 

Network

  • Network with professors, other researchers, and departments; seek out career tips and potential opportunities.
  • Conduct informational interviews - connect with someone working a field, institution, or position in which you are interested and ask them questions about their experiences and how you can best prepare for your career.  
  • Make yourself a valuable connection by sharing information with your network.
  • Network at conferences/events/presentations/committees.
  • Make use of professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn (https://ca.linkedin.com/) to connect with other academics. 
  • You can also make use of academic networking/sharing sites to help increase the exposure of your research and perhaps increase your citations:

 

To learn more, ask for our Academic Careers tips sheet or make an appointment with a career advisor.

When you are applying for academic careers, you will want to research the institution to which you are applying as much as possible. Most job postings will tell you what to include in your application, but don’t be shy reaching out to them if you have specific questions. Most universities also have information on their websites about faculty recruitment (here is the University of Windsor Faculty Recruitment site: http://www.uwindsor.ca/faculty/recruitment/). 

Typically, a tenure track application involves:

  • A CV (see Resume vs CV for information on how to write this document)
  • A cover letter that demonstrates why you would be a good fit for the position (discussing your past experiences and accomplishments and future potential) and your capability to make a contribution to your field.
  • A teaching philosophy. You can learn more about how to write an effective teaching philosophy through the University of Windsor GATA Network article: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/gata/2014/06/09/working-on-your-teaching-and-learning-philosophy/.
  • A written statement about your research achievements and interests. Be sure to describe it in a way that demonstrates your knowledge and potential, but is able to be understood by those who are not in field (keeping in mind that some members of your hiring committee may lack some of your subject specific knowledge).
  • An interview. This will likely be with a selection committee of people in varying positions across campus, often including faculty, student representatives, and employment equity representatives.
  • A presentation of your work. Sometimes referred to as a “job talk”, this typically 30 minute to an hour presentation is typically in front of the selection committee and other professionals at the university. 
  • Transcripts and reference letters. These are often requested in the application.
  • Meetings with faculty and support staff across campus. Use this as an opportunity to judge if the institution's environment is for you and to demonstrate your interpersonal skills.

The following resources will give you information on how you can prepare for these application steps:

Regularly checking university websites and departmental websites in which you would like to work is a good way to ensure that you will not miss any opportunities. In addition to that, the websites below can help you find positions in academia, including postdocs, research positions, faculty positions, etc. You can also use Google to look for jobs in a specific field or location.

 

Do you want to learn more about what it's like working in academia to help determine if it is for you? Here are some additional resources about working in academic careers that you may find interesting:

To learn more, ask for our Academic Careers tips sheet or make an appointment with a career advisor.