Wednesday, May 09, 2012

My Experience with Academic Job Search / Salary Data

There are usually two avenues after MS or PhD. You can choose to go to industry or become a teacher. As an instructor with MS degree you have primarily two option: Community Colleges or Universities. Here are few things to remember:
  • Top Research universities will always want a candidate with finished PhD. Some occasionally will ask for ABDs but degree needs to be finished before you start working. These positions are mostly Tenure Track Positions but sometimes Non-Tenure Track too.
  • Teaching-based Universities or Colleges will prefer PhDs but may accept MS degrees for lecturer positions.
  • Community colleges mostly want candidates with MS degrees and with some other certifications.
The best time to start looking for academic jobs is from December to May each year because most positions start from Fall semester. Schools and colleges start publicizing positions in late Fall or early spring semesters. 

Best resources are:
  • Chronicles of Higher Education
  • CRA Jobs
You should create an account on those websites and set them up to receive a daily email if a position of your interest is advertised. 

If you are looking for a Tenure Track position then you must have a lot of research papers (journals) and some teaching experience. On the other hand, if you are looking for a teaching based job then teaching experience will help you a lot. Here are some suggestions for teaching based jobs:
  • Try to take courses that cover breadth of the different fields. Multiple MS degrees are always helpful.
  • Find opportunities to teach a lab and more importantly teach a class as Instructor of Record.
A good candidate will have good teaching experience, breadth and depth of knowledge, research, leadership experience as well as university and community service.

Here are the things to do :
  1. Write a CV highlighting your breadth of knowledge, degrees, courses, teaching experience, leadership experience as well as university and community service (advising, fundraisers, committees, etc).
  2. Write a teaching statement and define your teaching philosophy.
  3. Write a cover letter
  4. Get a list of courses offered in a general degree program and rank your ability to teach those.
  5. Arrange for 3-5 referees to write recommendation letters. Also provide them with a summary of your contributions which they can use in those letters.
  6. Get a transcript and scan a copy.
  7. Start applying for jobs as soon as you find an advertisement in which requirements match your qualities.
  8. Prepare for interviews. Initial Phone interviews, followed by on-campus interviews. More on those below:
What happens after you apply:
Universities or Colleges usually have pretty good idea about the candidate they want to hire based on the type of courses he will be teaching or types of activities he will be involved in. Try to get an idea about those from the ad and tailor your cover letter/CV accordingly. For example: If a positions requires a candidate with Software Engineering background then highlight the courses you have taken along with industrial experience in software development.

Interviews for Academic Positions:
Once the deadline for applications passes, search committee reviews all applications and shortlists 15-20 people for phone interviews. This list is then reduced to 3/4 for on-campus visit.

Phone interviews can come in wide variety. Some are 15-20 minute long and others are 45 minutes long. But you should be prepared to answer any and all questions. These interviews are almost never technical but always difficult. Always take them very seriously. Here are a list of questions that I have been asked during several phone interviews:
  • Why did you apply for this position (say something like great match between position requirements and your abilities)
  • What kind of teaching experience do you have? (highlight any grader, lab instructor as well as Instructor experience)
  • What courses can you teach? or have you taught? (be specific in terms of areas, never say everything)
  • How do you keep students engaged? (have some activity for them in class)
  • Do you have industrial experience? (highlight the technologies you used)
  • What technologies have you learned during your education as well as work (highlight all tools)
  • What is your teaching philosophy? (summarize it in 30 seconds)
  • How would you integrate technology into a course? or develop an online course? (mention discussion board, communication, etc)
  • How do you connect theoretical knowledge to practical concepts? (give students real work examples and applications)
  • What is a good teacher? (define it and then tell them that you have some of those qualities)
  • How do you evaluate the performance of students?
  • How do you handle non-traditional students (flexibility as well as following rules, emphasize hard work)
  • What innovative idea or technique have you used or implemented in a class room and how did it affect the delivery of course? (say something like designed a project)
  • If you have an option to start a CS program, how would you make the decisions regarding courses, curriculum, teachers, etc. (compare other programs, ask users - industry and other universities)
  • Do you have experience in curriculum design, course improvements? (find something similar and highlight it)
  • Have you ever worked with other instructors or TAs on a lab or course? (Highlight team/group work, collaboration)
  • Suggest two courses that you would like to add to our curriculum? (Bioinformatics and Business oriented?)
  • How do you stay current in your field? (How do you know which technologies to teach in classes)
  • How do you manage your time?
  • ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE US TO KNOW? (This is very important question and use it to highlight ALL of your strengths and experiences relevant to the position (i.e., courses, projects, service, leadership, etc.). Your goal is to make sure that the committee has heard about all of the different things you have done and if you couldn't get to it while answering one of their questions then briefly highlight it here.
  • DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTION FOR US??? (Always have a few questions ready for the committee, something about their school. For example: ask about usual responsibilities, course load, ask about position, advancement plan for position, ask what is the time frame for the decision, when should you expect to hear back? ask about change of status policy?)
You can also search online and find other academic questions. MAKE SURE THAT YOU PRACTICE ANSWERING THESE QUESTIONS BEFORE THE INTERVIEW.

Next step depends on whether you are a potential match to the position. Top 3-4 are invited and then committee may have few additional candidates ranked. Now if you are lucky to be invited for on-campus visit, it will most probably have meetings with other faculty members and/or students (sometimes group meeting and sometimes one-on-one meeting), campus tour, a short lecture (15 minutes to 1 hour), meetings with deans or VPs, Lunch (and dinner too) and may be some other activity. But they can be anywhere from 1 hours to all day. Almost all schools will reimburse the expenses so be sure to save original receipts.

The goal of these on-campus interviews is to see you up close and personal as well as show you the campus and environment. They will always be evaluating you and therefore, you must take every step extremely seriously. Sometimes, they will ask you questions like those given above or new ones. Be prepared to answer questions about your CV. Search committee doesn't usually miss anything hence you should be prepared to answer all kinds of questions. Make sure that you have your lecture/demo ready (topic is sometimes chosen by the committee but sometimes it is left for candidate to choose). Always ask who the audience is (which is usually a combination of students and faculty). Rehearse several times. Keep audience engaged. Have some activity for them. Be polite and show that you are a good teacher.

Have a list of questions that you can ask from the committee as well as deans. Be specific if you need to. Ask things like what courses will you be teaching? H1B visa, Green Card sponsorship? Collaboration with other faculty, Ask them about their own school, research, plans, area, etc. Ask about class sizes, type of students? Ask about support/funding for research, Ask about summer teaching possibility, typical expected load. Ask about decision time frame? Avoid talking salary numbers.

Thank them for the opportunity and try to enjoy the process and experience. Have fun!

Wait for the response from the school/college, Be prepared to evaluate any offers, Be prepared to be told that we love you but we won't hire you, etc. If you lucky to receive offer, ask for some time, around 2 weeks max, don't mention other interviews otherwise they will try to force a decision from you quickly. If you have had other on-campus interviews, ask those guys to let you know the decision by your deadline (politely). Ask if the salary is negotiable and try to get the best deal. Always have a fall-back option. i.e., (Ask for more than what you want so that if they give you a little less, you are still ok with it). Compare the offered salary to the salaries of other universities in the area (search online for salary lists or state salary databases, education news, jobs hunting websites, etc). Always show interest and thank for the opportunity and never give threats. Make sure you discuss all aspects (visas, insurance, raises, professional development funds, etc.) and try to get everything in writing. Few suggestions for negotiating the offer:
  • Always show enthusiasm ("I am excited about the possibility of joining, I am thrilled to receive the offer, Thank you for the opportunity and for your confidence")
  • Always ask for best salary (more than what you want). If they offer lower than the asking salary, try to get something in return i.e., better rank/title, credit for experience, rank/credit contingent upon next degree, etc.
  • See if you can get a release from a course or multi year contract as part of negotiation
  • Get adequate moving/relocation (10k is great), ask for signing bonus (most Universities don't have this), request funds for research, travel for conference, registrations, memberships, certificates, tuition fees, etc.
  • Ask for extra computer, equipment, etc.
  • Ask for everything ..... moving/relocation, house hunting, family visit, everyyyyyyyyyyything!
Do you have a shot at getting hired by TOP universities?
Absolutely, especially if you have a good profile! After my 4 years of teaching, I applied for another round of teaching jobs (NTT) and I was interviewed by some very good schools including UW-Madison, UVa, IU-Bloomington, UNC-Charlotte, & Augusta. Here are my observations from new experiences:
  • Your CV should include a number of items: a wide array of courses that you have taught, courses proposed/developed (in different modes including face2face, hybrid and fully online), contributed in program development, may be had a leadership role, university and community service, research, etc.
  • During your interviews, be sure to highlight your teaching philosophy. When answering questions, highlight all of your strengths and don't forget to mention everything that the committee might have not asked about. Try to find out what kind of candidate they might be looking for and be sure to mention those skills/courses during some of your responses.
  • Most good schools look for someone who is engaged/interested in educational research, can use research and active learning techniques in teaching (or project work in courses), undergraduate research, student advising (also in capstone projects), can contribute to diversity, can attract/retain minority students and diverse population, has experience working with students and other TAs, can contribute to the department and field in general (attend related conferences and is familiar with related pedagogical techniques) 
  • At the end of the day whether you get hired or not is really about two things: whether you are a good teacher for their students and whether you will be a good fit. Remember most of the time, its not really about how good you are, rather its about how good will you be for that environment.

Salary Data for University Administrators as well as Faculty (for different areas, all levels)


takeshi007 said...

The primary purpose of a job search is to find the best possible job. This can be divided into two components: determining what your ideal job is and convincing others to give you that position. When I began my search, I didn't know if I wanted to be at a research lab, a research university, or a liberal arts college. I wasn't even sure what academic department I was most interested in. My job search was as much about finding out what I wanted as convincing others to hire me.

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I J said...

Adeel, this is really good,
i just needed to know what to ask from a candidate at our dept, so got those points,

you are awesome,