The Academic Job Search Timeline

Start early and stay organized. These are the keys to a successful academic job search.

So how early is early? Career advisors and experts in the field of career planning suggest that the academic job search should start at least 24 months before the target job start date.

As for organizing an academic job search, you’ll need to engage in some very strategic planning.  The following timeline lays out the various benchmarks you’ll need to meet as you plan and execute your job search.

 Two Years Out
  • Finalize your supervisory committee.
  • Be nominated for Preparing Future Faculty.
  • Publish.
  • Start networking.  Attend conferences and volunteer to staff the registration desk.  It’s a great way to get to know the leaders in your field.
  • Learn what to look for in a job description and start reading them. The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education list open positions.
  • Explore postdoc options.
  • Finalize your Individual Development Plan. Determine your options and identify strategies that will take you where you want to go
Eighteen Months Out
  • Keep working on the dissertation.  A Ph.D. in hand opens more doors than an ABD (all-but-dissertation).
  • Let your advisor and other faculty know that you’re about to enter the job market. Seek their advice and review potential contacts.
  • Identify your recommenders. 
  • Publish.
  • Prepare your CV and identify any gaps in experience (conference presentations, grants, papers).
  • Draft your teaching and research statements.  Get feedback.
  • Attend conferences.  Submit a paper or a poster.
  • Obtain and prepare postdoc applications.
One Year Out
  • Finalize your CV.
  • Secure all letters of recommendation.
  • Keep working on the dissertation!
  • Develop your elevator speech.
  • Attend Graduate Studies’ Career and Professional Development events on academic job search and interview preparation.
  • Publish.
  • Write a grant.
  • Attend academic conferences.
  • Schedule a mock interview with your department chair and/or dean.
  • Continue reading all job listings in your field.
  • Keep in close touch with advisor.
  • Consider making direct inquiries to departments of particular interest.
Eight Months Out
  • Continue to monitor job listings; apply to those that are a good fit.
  • Publish
  • Attend conferences.  Present.
  • Continue networking.
Five to Six Months Out
  • Prepare and practice job talks.
  • Go on campus interviews or have telephone interviews.
  • Be good to yourself.  Take some breaks!
  • Receive offers. Remember, it is not official until you have it in writing!
  • Negotiate. 
  • Thank everyone who helped you after you accept a job offer.

If You’re Not Successful
Don’t despair!  Consider on-campus and/or local options.  Adjunct or part-time teaching may lead to a full-time non-tenure track faculty (NTTF) position. Continue developing your research and teaching skills, polish your professional skills, and start again.    


Additional Resources on the Academic Job Search

Tomorrow's Professor: Preparing for Academic Careers in Science and Engineering, by Richard M. Reis (IEEE Press, 1997): An extremely thorough guide, this book offers good advice from the first years of graduate study up through successfully completing the tenure process. It's enlivened by case studies. Reis also runs an e-mail discussion group that touches on a variety of issues related to faculty development.

Tooling Up: The Cold, Hard Truth About Finding a Job in 2009 By David G. Jensen February 20, 2009

The Academic Job Search Handbook (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), which is a start-to-finish guide to finding a faculty job, but plenty of other good options are out there.

Check out the Academic Job Search mini wiki at The Wikia Scratchpad (a place to share information about the academic job search on a national and even international basis).