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Faculty and Academic Hiring

Searching for and landing a faculty position is different from looking for a job in the corporate or not-for-profit sectors. Available positions are posted in specialized databases, application materials are usually different (with disciplinary distinctions), and the process is also usually congruent with the academic calendar. Faculty job openings may be posted as much as a year before they begin.
Securing a tenure-track faculty position is more challenging than ever before, and advance planning and organization are essential.

Where to Apply

Before starting your search, research different types of institutions. The higher education landscape in the United States is very diverse. Consider where your interests best align with institutional missions.

If you are in an interdisciplinary area, will you focus your search to certain types of departments? Learn about disciplinary expectations so you can address these in your applications.

Stay current on national issues in higher education by reading the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

Where To Find Postings

Most tenure-track faculty positions are posted in one or both of the following databases:

In addition to regularly checking these, talk to mentors in your field to learn discipline-specific venues for finding job postings (scholarly associations, listservs, etc.).

Arrange for Recommendations

References are very important in academia. You will need 3-5 references who can speak to your research skills, potential as a scholar, and teaching skills in the classroom.

  • In general, it is best to have references that know you well and have known you recently.
  • When requesting references, make certain that the individual is willing to be a strong reference. You might ask by saying, “I’m going on the faculty job market this year, and I'd like for you to serve as a reference on my behalf. Do you feel you know me and my work well enough to serve as a positive reference?" It’s always good to follow up on this conversation with an e-mail message confirming their willingness to serve as a reference. Your request should also indicate what you would like the recommender to emphasize in their letter.
  • Supply your references with a recent copy of your CV and any other materials that might help them comment positively on your work, such as a writing sample, dissertation chapter, or statement of research goals.
  • Have a conversation with each reference about their expectations and preferences for the process, so that you are both on the same page going forward.

Get Organized

You will likely be applying to many different positions, and you need to keep track of the different details associated with each application. Plan how you will manage dates and details BEFORE you begin. It can be helpful to create an Excel spreadsheet or maintain a log or file so you can keep track of key information and deadlines.
In addition to your spreadsheet or notebook, keep a dedicated folder (electronic or paper) for each position to which you apply. Keep track of details such as:
  • The position announcement
  • A copy of all application materials submitted
  • Notes about any conversations with members of the search committee
  • Notes from interviews and relevant telephone conversations
  • Additional information gathered about that institution
  • Offer or rejection letters
  • A copy of your letter of acceptance or rejection

Consider Your Broader Options

According to research conducted by Maresi Nerad and others at the Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education at the University of Washington, it can take several years for a PhD to land a tenure-track job.

As you prepare for your academic job search, be realistic and accept that you may need to spend more than one year on the job market. Consider how you will support yourself and remain scholarly active during the interim. Job seekers often spend the intervening years in contingent positions such as adjunct or visiting faculty, postdocs, or other non-tenure-track positions. Consider whether or how long you are willing to be in a contingent position and be open to exploring career options beyond the professoriate.

Some students may wish to simultaneously manage both faculty and non-faculty job searches. The resources on this website as well as the advice of Graduate College Career Development Office counselors can help you as you explore diverse opportunities.

Get Personalized Career Coaching

If you are a current graduate student or postdoc at the University of Illinois, you can schedule an appointment to meet with a career advisor to discuss the academic job search, workshop application documents, prepare for interviews, and more.

Schedule an Appointment


Additional Resources

Furlong, Jennifer and Julia Miller Vick. The Academic Job Search Handbook (Fourth Edition), University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.
Gray, Paul and David E. Drew. What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career, Stylus Publishing, 2008.