Sunday, August 04, 2013
Ask the Administrator: Alternatives to Faculty Jobs?
I have a PhD in philosophy, which I received in 2010, and have had terrible luck on the job market. I had a full-time lecturer position for 2 years (before I was done with the PhD) but have mostly been adjuncting since then. I had hoped to transition into some type of administrative position at a university, but have found that difficult. Do you have any advice on doing that? I initially found your blog when doing a google search for that. However, your post (from 2010, I think) was more for those who are currently faculty and want to make the transition, and I haven't really found anything too specific on Chronicle or Insider Higher Ed.
What I'm wondering about is moving into such a position at a university or college where I am not faculty. Does that happen? Also, I realized that I don't even have a good sense of the type of positions for which I would appear appealing. Obviously positions like Assistant Dean are out. In the past, I have applied to a random set of openings, without a sense of which ones were appropriate to my background. Or do these others want someone with manager/business background? I don't have that--only experience working with students and my first-hand experience with what is needed to succeed as an undergraduate and graduate student.
Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.
Counselor is usually entry-level and can be gotten with the kind of experience that you're likely to have had via teaching.
If you have time and money, it wouldn't hurt to take a class or two in HIgher Ed administration, which could give you some inkling of the kinds of things you might do and might help you find available positions.
YMMV (Dean Dad's CC could be different from mine), but at my CC the "academic advisors" on staff have a degree in counseling. The faculty who also do academic advising have learned to value this and send students to them when the problems go beyond sequencing and scheduling.
I know that large departments and individual colleges within a university will have academic advisors on staff who have degrees in the field rather than in counseling. Those could be a good target for you. Since I doubt that philosophy alone would support one, you need to diversify your knowledge of academic programs so you can work with a wide range of students. But be warned that I know of more than one instance where those jobs were the first cut when budgets contracted.
It is amazing what a deep knowledge of logic can do. I know one philosopher who writes software. There might even be openings for people who can make sense of the Affordable Care Act regulations.
But what might someone with a PhD degree in something like philosophy, history, or English consider as a possible alternative career? If they wanted to remain in a collegiate environment, perhaps they could move into administration. However, most college and university administrative positions seem to require some amount of teaching and research experience, and they also require some sort of advanced degree in that particular administrative discipline. A career-changing PhD might have to go back to school to get that required degree. Fortunately, these are fairly easy to obtain, and there are lot of colleges specializing in awarding advanced degrees for administrative-type positions. Frequently, all that is required is a few courses, plus a thesis which is little more than a glorified term paper. Perhaps with such a degree in hand, one might have a reasonable change of obtaining a full-time administrative position in a college or university. But administration is not immune from budget cuts and layoffs either, and it may be that the last administrative hire is the first one to get laid off when times get tough or enrollments decline.
Maybe a PhD in a liberal-arts discipline who is contemplating a career change will have to get out of academics altogether and consider going outside of the college and university environment and look at the corporate world. This will certainly be much more difficult to do than it would be for a STEM PhD, who has many more options for doing research in industry. Perhaps one might try to look at non-profits which are working in areas that are similar to what the candidate worked on as a graduate student. Maybe there is a way one can network with other liberal arts PhD holders who have been faced with similar difficulties.
Good luck. It is a tough world out there.
The problem here is that universities vary a LOT (eg, CCPhysicist and Laura Blankenship above). There are places where a phd places you out of contention for advising jobs, but I happen to be at fancy-pants university with an interest in hiring phds to relieve their faculty of all service work. Hence, they hire advisors, fellowship officers, teaching/writing center directors, registrars with phds. There are also a lot of half-teaching/half-admin jobs here, such as running honors programs, or running the operations side of interdisciplinary programs or research centers, under a faculty director. These are typically NOT people moving from faculty positions at the same university. I know one large public university that hired a phd in the field to be their department advisor, which I'm guessing is a mix of advising and a lot of paperwork of tracking grad requirements. Another friend is a grant officer at the NEH.
My office has hired a few phds with no previous formal advising experience since I've been there, and some issues we see: 1) are you mentally ready? we want people who will love the job, not consider it second best 2) are you strategically ready? A resume is an entirely different creature from an academic CV, and sending an academic CV is the kiss of death for my boss, it means you don't understand the shift. 3) are you ready to be a generalist instead of a specialist? I'm a historian, but I have to be able to explain how a biology major gets started doing research.
Here's some examples of what I mean by translation: I have a very skills-oriented resume. My dissertation is on my resume under "research and data analysis" and under "grant writing", but not as a dissertation per se. My service on the board of a small professional organization no longer speaks to "status in the field", but demonstrates my experience with event planning, and doing a website & newsletter. Being a postdoc in a lab requires mentoring undergrads, which is a form of advising (but only counts for you if you point it out as such). Teaching gives you skills in public speaking, in understanding students, and so forth, but it's unlikely that a staff job is hiring you for your knowledge of the content that you taught. If you don't have a skill that is listed in the job requirements, do some basic research and develop a plan for bringing yourself up to speed. There's a ton of spin required.
There are a lot of resources, including consultants who will help you develop that spin. Try the sites Beyond the Ivory Tower and Leaving Academia to get started. Somewhere there is a tumblr where phds just describe the job they have now, which would give you a sense of the range of possibilities.
Good luck! Been there, and I got very lucky. I wish you the same!