Academic jobs have many positive attributes. Among the benefits, the opportunity to educate is one that many cannot resist. It is a satisfying task that can make you feel as if you have really accomplished something and made a difference in the lives of others
There are many benefits to choosing a job in academia. By choosing your place of employment (small college vs. university), you elect how much of your job is research, how much is teaching, and how much is service. (Service includes advising students, committee work, etc. and varies depending on the department.)
In general, the research area is yours to choose.
The hours you are expected to work are generally more flexible than in industry and you will (probably) have your summers off.
Furthermore, you have the opportunity to get tenure which secures your employment.
There are also some drawbacks to jobs in academia. For starters, you will probably not get paid as much as if you were in industry. But your salary may be a nine month salary, and you can subsidize your summer pay by getting a grant or contracting work to industry.
Keep in mind that teaching, committee work, advising, “money hunting”, and research tend to pull people in many directions — you’ll have to like this kind of existence.
If you have difficulty thinking up topics for research, then you may want to consider seeking employment at a small college rather than at a research institution. Even though your summers are yours to do as you choose, a certain amount of research is often expected, and the summertime can be the most productive time (no classes to interrupt you). If you do not achieve the high enough standards to obtain tenure, then you will have to leave that school and go elsewhere.
The following are some guidelines and references to aid in your job search process. There is a wealth of information on-line about academic job searches in mathematics. “The Academic Job Search in Mathematics” by Tom Rishel is a good place to start. The AMS has a list of other articles relating academic and non-academic job hunting.
If you are interested in a position that emphasizes research as a large portion of your responsibilities, then you may want to consider applying for a postdoc position. These positions often have a reduced teaching load (if any) and consequently allow for more time to do research and publish paper.
It can be difficult to be hired in a tenure track position at major research universities without any post graduate research experience. The pay for a postdoctoral position can often be significantly less than a tenure-track position.
Advertisements for a position beginning in the fall will start appearing during the summer (a year or more in advance). Generally most advertisements appear between October and January. Some deadlines for applications can be as early as September and as late as February, but most fall in the November to January time period.
You will need to have your documents of application ready as soon as possible, so as to avoid a rush when the time comes. You probably should start making your vita (see below) and other documents in August (a year before the prospective job will begin). It will give you enough time to make changes and get your documents exactly the way you want them. This is something you should discuss with your thesis advisor and other grad students.
This is a fancy name for an academic resume. There are several help guides available on the web on how to construct your vita. One such location is at the University of Illinois at Chicago web site.
Ask a few people to allow you to take a look at their vitae (the Career Development Center has drop-in hours for this). A lot of people have their vitae linked to their home page, so as you surf the web take note of the formats that you like and dislike and also the type of information that is included.
Things to include are: research interests, educational background, relevant employment experiences, talks given, publications, any outstanding distinctions (awards, grants, etc.), courses taught, computer skills, etc.
Make sure it is neat and well written.
You may want to make an electronic version for your Web home page. The electronic version should look exactly like the hard copy of your vita, except that it will have links to your publications, the schools you went to, the conference home pages, etc. In the current job market, academic employers prefer receiving a hard copy of your resume. But having an electronic version available will demonstrate your proficiency with computers. Also, if the employer is inspired, she/he can easily learn more about the items you have linked to your resume.
When you apply for a job in academics, you may be required to include a 1-2 page statement of research interests and/or a statement of teaching philosophy and career goals.
One hint on the statement of research interests is that you could use your abstract of your thesis if this is already written and edit this as you see fit.
A cover letter, although not usually requested, should also be included in the materials you send in your application packages.
It is a good idea to start writing these documents early, so you are not throwing together an application to meet a deadline.
Other Things To Include In An Application
If you have any papers submitted for publication or which have been published, you may want to include copies of these papers in your application. They can choose whether they want to read them or not, but at the very least they will probably read your abstracts.
Many schools ask for transcripts. Rensselaer does not charge you for each transcript that is sent out, so it is to your advantage to send along a transcript with each application regardless if the school has requested it or not. You will need to fill out a transcript request form.
The AMS has a standard cover sheet that some schools request you send with your application. You can find information on and obtain a copy online (AMS cover sheet) or in the AMS newsletter (NOTICES of the AMS). There is a Tex template that can be used to make the process of filling out multiple AMS cover sheets very easy.
Most schools will request between 3 and 4 letters of recommendation with your application.
Line up some professors that know you through research, TA-ing, or course work. Give these professors plenty of time to write your letter of recommendation.
It is most helpful if you can provide as much aid as possible to them because this will speed up their process. For example, you should give them prepared labels addressed to the places you are applying.
There is a Tex program that is set up to make labels. Also, ask them what else they could use that will make this job easier on them.
Perhaps they will want the list of places emailed to them, perhaps even in a particular format to accommodate their use of LaTeX, etc.
Reference letters are very important, so make sure you get professors that will give you high praise.
Additionally, if you have some previous work experience that is relevant to your new employment, you may want to have your previous employer send a “bonus” letter of recommendation. This letter would not necessarily count as the 3 or 4 requested by the future employer.
Many colleges advertise in several newsletters, etc. The most common newsletters to find advertisements include Notices of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), FOCUS (The Newsletter of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA)), SIAM NEWS (Newsjournal of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)), and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Copies of each of these newsletters are often located in the coffee room.
Another excellent source of job openings is the Web. You may access the job listings for each of the above mentioned newsletters on the Internet. Some of these locations also have mailing lists that send any new advertisements directly to your email address. Web sites include:
There are many more sites that list employment opportunities. Ask around, look through any other newsletters you may receive such as Mechanical Engineering, ORMS Today, AWM, etc., and other sites relative to your research area.
MAA/AMS Joint Meetings Conference
You may want to attend the national meetings of the MAA/AMS. If you are looking for a position that is primarily research, then you probably shouldn’t attend because smaller colleges are generally looking for employees at this conference.
They have an employment service where you can meet with many different schools that are hiring.
Each interview is very brief (about 20 mins.), and meeting so many people can be overwhelming. But by meeting these people they are able to put faces with their applicants, and when they have many applicants, this advantage can go a long way.
Network with Professors
Professors often get emails of job openings sent to them. Let all the professors know that you are looking for a job, and ask them to please forward to you any information regarding openings.
Also, let the professors know what schools to which you may be applying. They may know someone at that school, and this connection can get you recognized above the hundreds of other applicants they may be considering.