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Academic Job Search

Some students who obtain engineering doctoral degrees decide to pursue academic jobs as faculty (either tenure-track or non-tenure-track) or researchers at university labs.  Students with master’s degrees may also find academic jobs as instructors or fixed-term staff within a college or university setting.

Your graduate work has provided additional training and skills beyond what you accomplished as an undergraduate, including the ability to:

  • Do original research or to assist with someone else’s research project
  • Analyze information and present it coherently in writing
  • Give presentations to large and small groups
  • Teach a course or seminar

 During your job search, be sure to emphasize these skills in your curriculum vitae, cover letter, and interviews.

Where to Look

Use these resources to look for academic and research positions:

You should also look at the departmental websites of specific institutions where you want to work (if applicable) and find out what types of research the faculty there are doing to determine how it may align with your own background and goals.

Finally, your professional network—the people you know who are doing the kind of work you want to do—can be a valuable resource.  Here are some ways to tap your network to find opportunities:

  • Talk to your department or thesis adviser about academic jobs in your field of study.  He or she could offer you advice about the search process and job expectations.
  • Talk to other faculty members in your department who are doing research in a related area.
  • If possible, attend academic conferences in your area of study and talk to faculty and graduate students who are doing work similar to yours.
  • Give a presentation at a conference to increase your visibility in your field.
  • Make connections with faculty in your area of study at other institutions through a social networking site like LinkedIn.

Timeline

First–Fourth Years

  • Put together a curriculum vitae (CV) that you can add to as you progress through your degree program.  Ask your faculty adviser for input.
  • Start looking for fellowship opportunities (the National Science Foundation is a good place to start).  The application process may take several months to one year to complete, so start early.
  • Network!  Join professional organizations in your field and attend conferences, lectures, and poster sessions whenever possible.
  • If you don’t already have one, invest in a good-quality interview suit in a classic color and style that you can use for interviews (see our Pinterest boards for business professional dress ideas).
  • Apply for summer experience as a teaching or research assistant on campus.
  • Build your publication record by working with your faculty adviser, other faculty, and other graduate students on research articles and book chapters.

Fifth or Final Year

Fall Semester

  • Maintain memberships in professional organizations.
  • Update your CV with any teaching or research experience and/or publications.
  • Request recommendation letters from faculty, providing them with information about the areas of study and/or skills that you would like them to emphasize.
  • If you are seeking a faculty or instructor position, prepare a teaching philosophy statement and summaries of your research.
  • Collect additional materials that you will need for your applications, including your teaching evaluations, course syllabi, and published papers.
  • If you’re an international student, talk to an adviser in the University Office of Global Programs about any special requirements or conditions you may have in order to work in the U.S.
  • Search and apply for academic jobs.
  • Attend conferences and workshops to build your professional network.  Note that many first-round interviews for academic jobs are held at conferences.

Spring Semester

  • If you interview for one or more positions, send thank-you notes immediately following the interview(s).
  • Discuss any job offers with your faculty adviser (and, of course, your family!).
  • Develop a contingency plan if you do not receive any job offers by the end of the spring semester. Consider post-doctoral research, adjunct or one-year positions, or even a short stint in industry—in an area related to your research interests—to build your experience.
 

Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032