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  1. #1
    Senior Member INTPness's Avatar
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    Default Calling all college professors

    If you've taught at a community college and/or at a university in recent years, I'm interested in hearing about your experience (what did you like/dislike about it and why) and what trends you see developing in this level of the educational system. Good thing to get into or not so much? Why? Are there really Ph.D.'s who can't find work even at community colleges?

    I know what the general popular opinions are, but I'd like to hear from those who have been on the inside.

    It's something I considered once upon a time, but you hear stories about spending 5-6 years in a Ph.D. program and then "eeking out a living" by part-timing it at 3 different community colleges and making like 33k/year between the 3 colleges. Is that the reality of it or are those just the professors who can't connect in an interview and so they end up on the fringes?

    One would think if you had a Ph.D. and could at least hold a fairly decent conversation and portray an ounce of confidence in an interview, that you'd at least be a "shoe-in" at the community college levels (unless oversaturation is really that big of a problem right now).
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  2. #2
    Glycerine
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    What my XNTP Ph.D (in anthropology) bearing teacher told me today, if you are going into the social sciences, you will have a MUCH better chance of landing a teaching job with a PhD. He said most of the hires within the last year held a Ph.D or were in the last year of earning it (talking about my local community college) and that it is going to get quite more competitive in the future. He would probably have said it was a smart move for you to get a Ph.D if you want to be in academics but not necessarily a shoe in. Also, another teacher (most likely has only a Masters in mathematics though) told me it only takes 3 years to get tenured at my community college. However, I'm no where close to a Ph.D.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by INTPness View Post
    One would think if you had a Ph.D. and could at least hold a fairly decent conversation and portray an ounce of confidence in an interview, that you'd at least be a "shoe-in" at the community college levels (unless oversaturation is really that big of a problem right now).
    Honestly it's pretty grim if you're getting a PhD and hoping to become a professor at a major university. You're lucky if you can get a job at a 4 year school, and unfortunately many do end up working at a community college, even with a PhD. I'm on the tail end of my PhD now. Since I am in the sciences I'm really glad that I am not graduating this year because the job prospects aren't so good. Since I've been working on my PhD I've know about 15 people who graduated with their PhD. Most of them were in a science, but 2 were in psyche, and one was in a language.

    Only one of them has a professor job at a major university (but this person won every prestigious fellowship possible) - they are now working in a tenure track position after a very prestigious postdoc. There is one other guy that graduated with a science PhD and is working as a tenure track prof at a 4 year institution. Most of the others aren't even working in their fields anymore or they are doing something slightly related to their field in an industrial setting. There is one guy who is basically a career postdoc now, which is sad because he is really brilliant, but he never won any fellowships so those are the breaks.

    Also unfortunately the ones working at the community colleges are maxing out at about 40k to 50k a year. The people at the 4 year schools are making about 70k a year, and the people at the major universities are making about 100k when they max out unless they're full professor or department head etc. Unfortunately the ones that get the tenure track jobs don't always get tenured. There have been a lot of assistant prof heads rolling at my school since the funding has been drying up for theoretical research.

  4. #4
    Geolectric teslashock's Avatar
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    I'm not a professor (yet), but it is something that I aspire to be, so I've gathered a good bit of information on the whole process.

    I know that the chances of landing a professor position are directly proportional to the amount of grant money you can bring in to the school. Grant money is dependent upon how much you published as a grad student and postdoc and how your work from grad/postdoc years has the potential to ask new questions and bring in more money. It's very very important to work under a good mentor as a graduate student and then as a postdoc (and by good, I mean one that publishes regularly and brings in a good amount of money), so you can use your research area from pre-professorship to feed into your potential professor position.

    I don't know what field you are interested in pursuing, but if it's biomedical research, then I can go into even more detail about the kinds of grants you should aim to bring in and the kinds of journals in which you should be publishing, in order to land a professor position.

    I know of a man who, upon completing his postdoc in the biomed science at a rather prestigious university, applied as an assistant professor at 25 universities. He was interviewed at two and offered a position at one. The odds are not good, but they are not impossible.

    Once you land a professorship, your salary is basically based on how much grant money you bring in, again (I must stress, grants/research are really really important). If you are more interested in the teaching side of a professorship, rather than the research side, you can do education research, and that will bring in grant money as well (one of my biology professors has an 800k grant for biology ed research that she conducts at the university). You just really need to be offering something interesting to the field/university, and your salary will be decent.

    The average professor salary at my public university is like 90k for tenured professors. Once you get through the rough years of grad/postdoc/entry-level prof, you will have a decent salary, but salary during grad is about 20-25 on average (for sciences) and during postdoc is about 40-50, so that's still a lot of years living on the cheap side. It's not one of those things in which you will not be rewarded for your work, though, once you get through it. Just remember that the number one most important thing is to make contact with other successful professors in your field and work under a mentor who will be very willing to assist you and who has a lab that consistently publishes and brings in grant money.

  5. #5
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    I have been associated with a number of academic institutions, both as a graduate student, and now as a professional in a scientific field. I have always shied away from direct academic employment, because in my experience, the professors spent most of their time trying to raise money and not much conducting actual research. That was done by students and postdocs. From my experiences, I can tell you at least about PhDs in technical subjects:

    1. Yes, it is possible for someone with a PhD not to be able to find a job, even in community college. I know a PhD in math who had exactly that experience. Now he works for a company doing modelling and simulation.

    2. Faculty salary practices often differ between public and private universities, with private ones often having more flexibility, and public ones governed by state law.

    3. The academic job market has been especially tough in recent years, at least in technical fields, due to a large influx of laid-off industry professionals. That will probably persist until the economy improves more appreciably.

    4. Over the past 10-15 years, research funding has become more narrowly focused on more short-term projects. It is hard to cobble together a respectable dissertation under such conditions. One must be lucky in stringing together several related projects; or must work on one project for one's dissertation, and another to earn one's keep at the same time.

    5. Classroom teaching techniques are evolving to incorporate more collaborative and inquiry-based learning, as opposed to the traditional lecture, problem set, exam paradigm. At research institutions, there is more effort to engage undergraduates in the research process. I also see more interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary programs appearing, and more "center of excellence" type units within universities, or even as a collaboration of several universities. It often makes technical and academic sense, but is just as often set up to increase chances of bringing in funding.

    6. To those considering a doctoral program: one should not get a PhD just in order to get a job; or because your family wants you to, or because you think you will then earn a good salary. It is a significant commitment of time and effort, and is best undertaken when one has a genuine passion for the field and desire to devote one's career to plumbing its depths. Also, academe is not the only environment where PhDs can find relevant work. It is often easier to find jobs in industry, or even government, if one chooses the appropriate sub-specialty.

  6. #6
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by teslashock View Post
    I don't know what field you are interested in pursuing, but if it's biomedical research, then I can go into even more detail about the kinds of grants you should aim to bring in and the kinds of journals in which you should be publishing, in order to land a professor position.
    Please do elaborate. I'm right now strongly considering transferring to phd (from masters) in biomedical research - my biggest worry is the job situation afterwards and whether I'll like the job. I'm assuming you're in the states, though? What's your area?
    -end of thread-

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by spin-1/2-nuclei View Post
    Honestly it's pretty grim if you're getting a PhD and hoping to become a professor at a major university. You're lucky if you can get a job at a 4 year school, and unfortunately many do end up working at a community college, even with a PhD. I'm on the tail end of my PhD now. Since I am in the sciences I'm really glad that I am not graduating this year because the job prospects aren't so good. Since I've been working on my PhD I've know about 15 people who graduated with their PhD. Most of them were in a science, but 2 were in psyche, and one was in a language.

    Only one of them has a professor job at a major university (but this person won every prestigious fellowship possible) - they are now working in a tenure track position after a very prestigious postdoc. There is one other guy that graduated with a science PhD and is working as a tenure track prof at a 4 year institution. Most of the others aren't even working in their fields anymore or they are doing something slightly related to their field in an industrial setting. There is one guy who is basically a career postdoc now, which is sad because he is really brilliant, but he never won any fellowships so those are the breaks.

    Also unfortunately the ones working at the community colleges are maxing out at about 40k to 50k a year. The people at the 4 year schools are making about 70k a year, and the people at the major universities are making about 100k when they max out unless they're full professor or department head etc. Unfortunately the ones that get the tenure track jobs don't always get tenured. There have been a lot of assistant prof heads rolling at my school since the funding has been drying up for theoretical research.
    Hi

  8. #8
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    I used to teach Math at a university and I only have a MS. I had no trouble getting the job either although the pay was not that good. I think the availability of jobs really depends on what field you are getting your degree in.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member avolkiteshvara's Avatar
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    Not a prof but work with many at University.

    I used to think I wanted to teach. After seeing all the crap they go through, I'm glad I didn't go that route.

    If I ever did, I'd want to do community college.

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