Using a timeline can help you organize your job search during your time in graduate school. These timelines, for master’s and PhD students, will help you work toward your career goals over the course of your program.

Your timeline will vary depending on the hiring cycles of your target industries. Be sure to research the hiring process for your industry to maximize your planning.

Master’s Degree Student in a One-Year Program

Fall Semester

  • Register on LionSHARE, Columbia’s online job posting and career event platform.
  • Begin researching jobs and organizations to familiarize yourself with industry skills and language.
  • Create and tailor your resume for your industry.
  • Meet with a career counselor to review your resume and job search strategy.
  • View CCE’s calendar to RSVP to graduate student career events and workshops.
  • Join student clubs or professional associations to begin networking.

Spring Semester

  • Continue to update your resume and apply to jobs of interest.
  • Meet with a career counselor to discuss your career goals and progress.
  • Attend Quick Questions for resume/cover letter review and career-related questions.
  • Practice your interview skills and network with alumni during our Practice Interview Nights.
  • Enhance your networking strategy; continue to attend employer events and workshops.

Master’s Degree Student in a 2+ Year Program or a Final-Year PhD Student Looking for a Non-Academic Position

First Year: Fall Semester

  • Register on LionSHARE, Columbia’s online job posting and career event platform.
  • Meet with a career counselor to discuss your career plans and next steps.
  • Explore career fields and companies of interest and become familiar with application deadlines.
  • Prepare for your summer internship or research opportunity search.
  • View CCE’s calendar and RSVP to career fairs, employer panels, and company presentations.
  • Create or update your resume and have it checked by a counselor during Quick Questions.
  • Begin networking with family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Join professional associations associated with your industry.

First year: Spring Semester

  • Continue researching companies and organizations and their hiring deadlines.
  • Apply for summer internships and/or research opportunities.
  • Meet with a career counselor to review your internship search strategy.
  • Attend Practice Interview Nights or schedule a mock interview with a career counselor.

Second Year: Fall semester

  • Update your resume. Attend Quick Questions to review.
  • Meet with a career counselor to discuss your career search and networking strategy.
  • Check LionSHARE regularly for on campus recruiting opportunities.
  • View CCE’s calendar to attend employer presentations, workshops, career panels, and career fairs to enhance networking opportunities.
  • Begin applying for jobs (depending on industry recruiting cycle).

second year: Spring Semester

  • Attend Quick Questions or set up a meeting with a career counselor to discuss  your networking and job search strategy.
  • Continue researching opportunities and applying for jobs.
  • Attend company presentations, career panels, and career fairs to meet and network with employers.

PhD Student Conducting an Academic Job Search

The hiring process for tenure-track jobs depends on field and institution. That said, most tenure-track positions appear in early fall. Initial interviews may occur by phone, video call, or at your annual professional conference. On-campus interviews, or campus visits, generally occur between January and March. Offers are typically extended in early spring. Candidate withdrawals or new funding sources, however, can extend the search. After institutions finish their tenure-track searches, they may open searches for fixed-term appointees.

Below you’ll find a timeline with suggested steps to help you achieve your career goals. It’s best to work with your advisor to tailor your timetable to your discipline.

Years 1-4

Learn & Build Relationships in Your Field

  • Work with faculty, your Director of Graduate Study, administrators, and CCE to identify PhD resources available to you.
  • Learn about your field at departmental colloquia, University Seminars, professional conferences, and lectures.
  • Explore areas of research with different faculty members.
  • Attend GSAS Happy Hours and other graduate school events to network with peers.

Grants & Fellowships

  • Identify and apply for fellowship, grant, and scholarship opportunities early in your program. Keep in mind that many graduate student fellowships are for first- or second-years.

Teaching & Mentorship

  • Use summers to gain additional teaching experience.
  • Gain supervisory experience by mentoring an undergraduate research assistant or overseeing a senior thesis.


  • Create a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and keep it up-to-date by reviewing it every six months.

Research & Dissertation

  • Submit articles for publication. If beneficial in your field, identify opportunities for collaboration on book chapters, edited volumes, or research with professors.
  • Begin to discuss who will be on your dissertation committee. Review the application processes and search committee expectations with your adviser.
  • Have your dissertation proposal approved by your core committee members.
  • Start outlining chapters and writing your dissertation.
  • Attend writing workshops and dissertation support groups. Write with a dissertation partner to keep each other on track.

Conferences and Publications

  • Attend workshops or panel presentations in your specialization.

  • Attend or present a poster or paper at one professional conference per year.


  • Arrange colloquia or symposia and help on committees where possible.
  • Volunteer or intern to expand your knowledge or become involved in the community.

Plan ahead. It is time consuming to apply to academic jobs, complete your dissertation, and fulfill other obligations (e.g., teaching). If you plan to apply for positions in Year 5, you’ll need to plan your year carefully.

Year 5 (or Final Year of PhD Program)

Preceding Summer

  • Update your CV for your academic job search.
  • Make an appointment to review your CV with a career counselor and also get opinions from your adviser, colleagues, and friends.
  • Open a dossier online and finalize arrangements for delivery of letters of recommendation.
  • Contact your recommendation letter writers AS SOON AS POSSIBLE (over the summer—or earlier—is best, when they have more time to prepare your recommendation letter).
  • Review job openings in the The Chronicle of Higher Education, on professional association websites, and journals to discuss with your adviser.
  • Start drafting cover letters to use with your applications. These letters—and all written materials in your applications—can be reviewed by career counselors, Writing Center consultants, and your adviser and departmental faculty.
  • Prepare your Statement of Teaching Philosophy, if requested by an application.
  • Prepare a Research Statement, if requested by an application.
  • Gather application materials together: course syllabi you have designed, teaching evaluations, submitted or published articles, conference abstracts, transcripts, etc.
  • If you haven’t already done so, join professional associations within your field (if you are not already a student member).

Early Fall

  • Attend “Inside the Academic Job Search” series of workshops presented by CCE, and Preparing Future Faculty series sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
  • Check job postings in The Chronicle of Higher Education and in other professional association websites and journals.
  • Ensure all your letters of recommendation are in your dossier, and send thank you notes to your recommenders. Keep them apprised of your application progress.
  • Finalize your CV, cover letters, and other application materials.
  • Work with graduate career counselors at CCE and advisers and faculty in your department to have your application materials reviewed.
  • Set up a meeting with a career counselor to practice and get feedback on your interview skills. Get feedback from your adviser or colleagues in your field about your dissertation pitch.
  • Prepare and rehearse your job talk presentation.
  • Deliver your job talk or research at departmental colloquia, lab meetings, and regional conferences.
  • Keep in close contact with your advisers regarding the positions to which you are applying; they may be able to network on your behalf.
  • Send in applications.
  • Prepare for first-round interviews.

Late Fall

  • Present a poster or presentation about your research at professional conferences.
  • Network and undergo first-round interviews at professional conferences.
  • Continue applying for positions.
  • Send thank-you notes following any interviews.
  • Set aside time for campus visit interviews (“fly outs”), which typically occur between January and March.


  • Go on campus visits for interviews, job talks, and teaching demonstrations.
  • Send thank-you notes.
  • Work with a career counselor and/or your adviser on negotiating job offer(s).
  • If you haven’t found a position yet, don’t worry! It often takes more than one year to find a position. Discuss your options with your adviser or with a career counselor.

Make an appointment with a career counselor to discuss your individual timeline further.