Academic Careers


For many doctoral candidates pursuing a tenure track entry-level faculty position is an obvious choice. Nevertheless, it is still advisable to think carefully about your decision and to explore and clarify your goals before implementing a job search plan. You will want to assess your skills, interests, values, abilities, and personal qualities against the knowledge you gain about academic life. Exploring an academic career will reveal that faculty positions call - generally - for four principal responsibilities: teaching, research, scholarship, and administrative work - although not necessarily in that order. Doctoral study will facilitate gaining exposure and experience in these responsibilities and ascertain whether there is a "fit" between you and the expectations of an academic career.

Use your time in graduate school to develop the scholarly skills, academic track record, and experience that will help you build an impressive CV and prepare you for your job search. Your participation in academic conferences, in designing and teaching seminars and courses, and in networking with peers and faculty will help build your awareness of the expectations of your discipline.

We strongly urge all students to take the following steps shortly after your arrival:

  1. Register for LionSHARE. This will ensure you are notified of upcoming events of interest.
  2. Review the on-line calendar of Career Education events on a regular basis.
  3. Learn about the services and programs offered by the Center for Career Education
  4. Start evaluating your interests, skills, values, and personal traits to help focus your career search. Knowing yourself is the first step toward finding satisfying employment.

To learn more about the key elements of the job search, visit the following sections of our website:

Academic Job Search Timeline

(For a typical 5-year PhD program)
Years 1-4:

  • Use faculty members and GSAS administrators to identify University resources, such as: The Teaching Center, The Writing Center, Center for Career Education, University Library subscriptions and offerings, memberships Columbia University graduate students have (i.e., NYAS, free admission to area museums, etc.)
  • Attend department orientations, training sessions offered by libraries, Center for New Media, Teaching, and Learning (CCNMTL), etc.
  • Meet graduate students from other departments: attend Graduate Student Teas in 301 Philosophy,GSAS Happy Hours and Networking/Social events.
  • Identify fellowship opportunities early (many graduate student fellowships are for 1st or 2nd year graduate students - e.g., NSF fellowship; other application processes take several months to one year)
  • Explore areas of research with different faculty members, complete your coursework, and start professional networking: attend departmental colloquia, University Seminars, professional conferences, and lectures.
  • Use the summers to gain additional teaching experience: T.A. for or teach summer session offering(s), or teach at local area high schools and community colleges.
  • Gain supervisory experience through mentoring an undergraduate research assistant; oversee a senior honors thesis project.
  • Volunteer or take part in outside experiential opportunities.
  • Audit or take classes in areas outside of your area of research within Columbia University to expand your breadth of knowledge.
  • Attend workshops on grantsmanship, publishing, presenting, and teaching offered through CCE and the Teaching Center.
  • Try to attend and present a poster or slide presentation at one professional conference a year starting in your 2nd year.
  • Continue applying for grants.
  • Submit articles for publication, identify opportunities for collaboration on book chapters and other publications with professors.
  • Create a Curriculum Vitae (CV) as early as possible: it is easier to add things as they occur, than to retroactively create an entire CV from your last several years of experience.
  • With your advisor, begin considering who will comprise your dissertation committee members.
  • By Fall or Spring of Year 4, have your dissertation proposal approved by your three core committee members.
  • Start outlining chapters and writing your dissertation in the Spring of Year 4, continuing over the summer prior to Year 5. Attend writing workshops and dissertation support groups. Write with a dissertation partner to keep each other on track.

Year 5 (or Final Year):

The timetable for the academic job search is relatively standardized in most fields. In general, you will apply for academic positions in the fall, to begin your new position the following fall. Work with your faculty and departmental advisors to understand the time-table within your particular field.

Preceding Summer:

  • Update your CV for your academic job search.
  • Have your CV reviewed by others. Make an appointment at the Center for Career Education, as well as getting opinions from your advisor(s) and colleagues/friends.
  • Finalize arrangements for letters of recommendation in your dossier (file of recommendation letters):
    • Make a list of faculty members, advisors, and others you are planning to request a letter of recommendation from.
    • Contact the faculty members AS SOON AS POSSIBLE and set up a meeting with them to discuss which areas/skills to emphasize in their letter.
  • Open a dossier through the Center for Career Education.
  • Start drafting your application cover letters.
  • Prepare your Teaching Philosophy statement as necessary for applications.
  • Prepare a summary statement of your research or your dissertation.
  • Gather application materials together: course syllabi you have designed, teaching evaluations, submitted/published articles, conference abstracts, etc.
  • Join professional associations within your field (if you are not already a student member).

Early Fall:

  • Attend workshops on the Academic job search presented by the GSAS Deans Office, CCE, and/or the Teaching Center.
  • Check job postings in The Chronicle of Higher Education and relevant professional associations.
  • Ensure all letters of recommendation are in your dossier, and send thank you notes to your recommenders.
  • Finalize your CV, cover letters, and other application materials.
  • Work with graduate Career Counselors at CCE and advisors in your department to have your materials reviewed.
  • Set up video practice interviews at CCE.
  • Prepare your job talk presentation.
  • Deliver your job talk or presentation on your research at departmental colloquia, lab meetings, and regional conferences.
  • Keep in close contact with your advisors about 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 make a presentation about your research at professional conferences.
  • Expect to network and undergo first-round interviews at professional conferences.
  • Continue applying for positions.
  • Send thank-you notes following interviews.
  • Set aside time for campus visit interviews ("fly backs") which typically occur between January - March.


  • Go on campus visits for interviews, job talks and teaching demonstrations.
  • Send thank-you notes.
  • Start receiving offers for tenure track and one year positions.
  • Work with your advisor and/or a career counselor on negotiating your job offer(s). Make sure to take the time to consider all of your options.

*If you have not yet found a position don't worry! In many fields, the academic job market is very tight, and very often new PhDs (or post-docs in the sciences) do not get offers in the first year. Because of this, it is important to pursue contingency plan(s) to help you continue to develop professionally through the next year: adjunct teaching, post-doctoral research, etc.; it often takes more than one year to find a position.