In February, I was in Las Vegas to present my research at the Western Society of Criminology’s Annual Conference. Instead of doing my usual post covering my time at the conference I thought I would use this blog post to discuss some of the things I learnt while attending a workshop on the US academic job market for soon to be completed PhD graduates.
While I have become familiar with the UK academic job market during my time in Leicester I have started to become interested in what other opportunities might be available for early career researchers outside of the UK/Europe.
With Criminology/Criminal Justice being a much more popular degree in the United States than it is in Europe there are consequently much more job opportunities for academics, with around 800 colleges/universities offering degrees related to Criminology/Criminal Justice. Thus, I thought it would be worth learning more about the US academic job market as I begin thinking about what I would like to do after my time in Leicester is over and this workshop provided the perfect opportunity to learn more about this.
So, without further ado here are some of my observations from the workshop:
- American universities are classified differently than their British counterparts.
In the UK universities are often distinguished by when they were established for example ancient universities (i.e. Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh etc.), red brick universities (universities founded in major cities in the late 19th/early 20th century i.e. University of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham etc.), “plate glass universities” (ones established in the 1960s i.e. University of Warwick, Kent, Sussex etc.) and new/modern universities (former polytechnics established after 1992 i.e. Liverpool John Mores University, Middlesex University etc.).
In contrast in the United States universities/colleges appear to be classified according to factors such as research activity, granting of doctorates etc. with R1 universities being the ones which conduct the most amount of research (akin to Russel Group Universities in the UK). A more comprehensive overview of which universities fall within which category can be found on the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education website (see: Website).
- There is quite a lot of variation in terms in what the hiring process looks like based off the type of institution you are applying to.
To get a better idea of what you can expect from the application/hiring process it is important that you have a good idea of what type of institution you are applying to. For example, during the workshop I was told that if you are applying to a research intensive (R1) university your teaching experience/ability will not be weighed as heavily as your research experience/track record. Similarly, if you are applying at a two-year college they won’t care as much about your research as they will your teaching ability. In addition, you can get a better idea of what type of role you are applying to by looking at things such teaching load which is usually indicated as 2:1, 3:3, 4:4 etc. Each number represents the number of classes/modules that you are expected to teach each semester for example 2:1 means you need to teach two classes in the first semester and one in the second meaning that you have more time for research than if you had a 4:4 teaching load.
- American university job applications usually require some additional supporting documents that are not common in Europe.
Job applications for academic posts at American universities often require a series of supporting documents as part of the application process these include:
Teaching Portfolio: The teaching portfolio generally consists of three parts. The first part covers your teaching responsibilities. For example, this may include an overview of the courses you taught including their size, level and format. The second part covers your teaching philosophy which is a self-reflective statement about your beliefs on teaching and learning. For example, you can use this statement to tell potential employers if you prefer to lecture or do more interactive teaching exercises etc. The third component of the teaching portfolio covers the evidence of your teaching effectiveness. This may include copies of course syllabi you have taught in the past, any awards you may have received for teaching, and reports from peer reviewed teaching/classroom observations from fellow staff as well as student evaluations.
Statement of your research agenda: This is a 1-3-page document in which you describe the trajectory of your research to the selection committee (normally for the next five years). Again, the research statement is much more important/common for applications to research intensive universities. You use it to provide an overview of things like your long and short term research goals potential future grant applications etc.
Letter of interest/cover letter: Like in most job applications outside of academia the purpose of this letter is to introduce yourself to the selection committee and outline how you are a good fit for the position.
Writing sample: As the name suggest this is a sample of your writing and can be a section of your PhD or a recently published academic journal article you wrote. However, it is important that you are either the sole or lead author and that the sample you sent was in fact written by you.
Letter of recommendation: Unlike many other job applications that require you to merely list the contact details of references many job applications for faculty positions at American universities require you to attach an actual recommendation letter to the application. During the workshop, I was told that they typically want three of them as part of the application process. While the three reference letters should be from colleagues within academia the workshop instructors told, me you can include an additional fourth reference letter from someone outside of academia.
- Much of the hiring recruitment process takes place at the big annual criminology conferences.
These conferences are the American Society of Criminology Annual Conference which takes place each year in November and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Annual Conference which takes place each year in March. These conferences are a very important part of the recruitment process because they often serve as the first opportunity for applicants to sit and meet with their potential future employers.
Normally a lot of the vacancies of Assistant Professor tenure track positions are announced a few months before these two main conferences. Shortlisted candidates can then meet with members of the selection committee and do the first round of job interviews at the conference. Candidates who get past this phase of the application process are then invited for a campus visit/second-round interview.
In addition, to doing these first-round interviews at these conferences, the conferences provide additional networking opportunities for job seekers. Firstly, unlike other criminology conferences I have been to where everyone has the same name/conference badge these conferences provide attendees with distinctive badges that indicate to everyone else that you are either looking for a job or looking to hire someone. One of the workshop instructors pointed out that they got their first job in academia because they were wearing one of these badges and were approached by a recruiter while they were in the elevator. So, while this process may seem unusual in Europe it is apparently quite common practice in the United States.
In addition, these conferences also usually hold employment exchanges where you can set up meetings with multiple potential employers. From what I have been told this process looks very similar to what you experience when attending a “speed dating” event. I was told that it is important to do a bit of research before attending these events so that you can show the recruiters that you visit with that you know something about their university as not knowing the basics about their institutions is viewed poorly.
Some final quick thoughts:
While there are clearly more academic job opportunities in the United States for Criminology PhD graduates than in Europe the completion for these jobs is quite fierce. While most Universities in Europe are publically funded and therefore have quite consistent recruitment procedures as well as employment conditions in the United States there is far more variation in what is expected from the application process as well after you are hired. While there is a lot of variation in what is expected from the applicants I was told that a typical recently graduated and hired Assistant Professor had between 4-5 publications and has taught several courses independently.
If you are interested in finding out what job opportunities are available for early career researchers in the United States, you can take a look at the following job sites: