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How Do I Find a Position?

Regrettably, successfully finding a position is as much a measure of the time and energy you invested in the search as a measure of your potential. Prior to any search you should consult with your department and school to see what career guidance is available. Our comments below are intended for general background rather than specific suggestions.

Most academic positions will have some teaching and some research involvement. Even some two-year colleges and some high schools are becoming interested in how research involvement may benefit their students and faculty.

Most schools are expecting faculty to have gone through a standard development of undergraduate school, graduate school, research to a PhD, and a post-doc. A few individuals may be able to jump across these expectations, say going from the PhD directly into a permanent academic position. But this unusual.

Where are positions announced?

In physics, the largest and almost expected job site is maintained by the American Institute of Physics. Physics Today Jobs offers not just job announcements but a wealth of career advice, the opportunity to post your resume on-line, a listing of job markets at physics meetings, and other services. It is the single largest collection of physics positions in academia, research and industry.

For many years the standard announcement site for academia was the Chronicle of Higher Education. A few schools will still prefer to advertise in the physics job site than in the AIP's site. The Jobs Page of the Chronicle is also a valuable archive of information about the academic lifestyle, applying to a position, achieving tenure and even leaving academia.

However, there are many other sites springing into existence. Examples are HigherEd Jobs and Inside HigherEd , both of which have archives for physics positions and offer much advice on careers in academia.

And in addition to NSHP, both NSBP and SACNAS host job sites.

Though many schools place announcements in multiple locations, there are many that will advertise in just 1 or 2 sites.

If you are interested in a specific location, then you might also check the Human Resource (or Personnel) Departments of the schools in that area and the job ads in the local newspapers.

But many schools expect to find candidates at meetings. And so, while still a graduate student, it would be a good idea to attend meetings in order to see how the job sites are managed.

In addition to the national meeting of APS and AAPT (and most of the AIP organizations) recruiters will attend meetings of SACNAS, NSBP and NSHP.

What documents are needed to apply?

Generally, schools will ask for a cover letter, a vitae, and a list of references. Sometimes there are several other supporting document needed.

The cover letter should be writtent to introduce yourself and to explain why you are well fitted for the position. The first step is to read the position annoucement carefully. And the second is to research the kind of school. Many applicants never get through the cover letter cut. The cover letter should contain at least a paragraph or two about your reseach and your teaching approach if is appropriate for the job position.

The CV is a history of your professional activities. These have a semi-standardized organization and you should explore models from your friends, faculty and the career service sites, e.g Physics Todays Jobs and the Jobs page for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Both of these documents are essential to do well. If possible, have experienced faculty look over these documents for advice and consider their critques carefully.

In addition to these documents 2 others may be asked -- your teaching philosophy and your research plans. Though it seems unfair to ask new students fresh from graduate school to undertake explaining a teaching philosophy with limited back ground in teaching or to artuclate fully how their research would benefit a school or a students that the candidate has never vistited, many schools view these doucuments as pivotal to a selection. Though it may be a temptation to overstate your experience or insight, generally it is a better route to admit to modest experience and a willingness to learn.

Again it would be good to have experienced faculty (particularly faculty familiar to the kind of position you intend for the documents) read the documents.

Either copies or originals of your graduate and/or undergraduate transcripts may also be required.

All of this should suggest that finding a position is intense and absorbs a significant amount of time and work. And it does ... start early.

Some more general advice on finding a job in any area of academia is

Hunting for Jobs at Liberal Arts Colleges by Suzanne A. Kane and Kenneth Laws, Physics Today, November 2006 pp. 38-42

Preparing for the College Teaching Market by Luke Keller (Committee on Employment), AAS Newsletter, May/June 2008, pp. 12-13

And there are other sources on the Career Page that might be useful.