Wednesday 11 April 2018

The Market, Part Two

In February, I published the first in an intended series of three blogs about my experience on the academic job market. In that post, I discussed my journey through graduate school, and I outlined the general tiers of academic institutions. In this post, I will discuss the rankings of paid academic positions, and then provide templates for my own materials that I used on the job market. Again, I in no way claim to be an expert in these matters, and I explicitly say that not to devalue my own experience but to qualify it as just that-- experience. In many ways, the academic life can be somewhat bipolar in that it asks professors and students to choose areas of research and scholarship that interest them, but it also, often, pushes away personal time, agency, and care. I believe that scholars must and should work to claim and exercise their own agency through this journey, and that is grounded in experience.

So, this is my experience on the academic job market.

Academic jobs in English, rhetoric, and writing come out one time a year, and they mostly come out on one list. This is so opposite of what normal people experience in the job market, but it's the reality of our field (and, I believe, many other academic fields). This list is called the Modern Language Association of America Job Information List, or the MLA JIL. This list is published in mid-September, and it contains the majority of the job postings in the entire field for the upcoming (read one year away) academic year. Now, there are some pre-JIL postings that sometime come out prior to this date, and those are usually on individual listserves or on the Rhetoric/Composition Wiki. Jobs are also continuously posted on HigherEdJobs and ChronicleVitae. One other place where job ads are aggregated is on Rhet Map, which draws the adds from the MLA JIL and shows them according to location. Jim Ridolfo puts this together, and it is a great service to job seekers.

I used all of these resources to search for job postings. From about mid-August to mid-December I looked at one or more of these lists probably at least four days a week. The Rhet/Comp Wiki is especially helpful/problematic to check because it can be updated by community members who log on and update the individual adds with the status of their applications/ interviews, etc. To the right is one example of a post on the site from my alma mater, ASU.

These job lists come out and they list a variety of items that you can also see in this example. Items like, the title of the position, the focus of the position, a description of what the ideal candidate will focus on and/or do, the deadline for submission of materials, and sometimes (not in this case) a list of materials that the committee would like to see from the candidate. To find that information for this position the candidate would have to click on the actual link where the job is posted, in this case ChronicleVitae, in order to see what materials they need to submit for the job. I will discuss those materials coming up.

One of the most important items that these job ads list are the title of the position. In this case, the title of the position is "TT Asst. Professor." What that means is this position is listed for as a Tenure Track Assistant Professor position. Here is a list of the different kinds of teaching positions that one will generally encounter at American institutions of higher education:

Now, there are, of course, exceptions to these rankings, contract, and promotion systems, which I why I labeled them all starting with "generally." While adjuncting is by far the most tenuous and underpaid type of professorship, some institutions, like Madison College, have built in pay advancement systems. One of the main issues with being an adjunct, though, is that one only gets work if there are classes available that full time professors don't want or need. Instructors or lecturers still generally teach very heavy course loads (as many as 5/5), but their contracts are usually yearly, so there is a bit more stability; some of these positions also have internal ranking and promotion systems. Assistant, Associate, and Full professorships are the types of professorships that are most generally known to the public and considered "tenure track," although there are exceptions to this system as well. An Assistant Professor, despite the name, is a full-time professor who is part of whatever type of promotion system (tenure or non) that the institution uses. In a tenure-track system, by the time one is an Associate Professor and almost always by the time/ as one becomes a Full Professor, they are tenured and no longer tenure track.

Clicking over to Facebook just after writing the proceeding paragraph, I see that Dr. Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In has shared this article published today (April 11, 2018) in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which asks in its title "How Much Did Professors Earn This Year?" To find specific earning statistics at any given university, take a look at Chronicle Data. The article answers that question with the following statements:

"Full-time faculty earned an average of 3 percent more than they did in the prior academic year. But the salary increase was cut by nearly two-thirds, to 1.1 percent, after adjusting for inflation. The average salary ranged widely, depending on rank: Full professors earned $104,820, associate professors made $81,274, and assistant professors took in $70,791. The average pay for lecturers was about $57,000 while, for instructors, it was $59,400. The AAUP's analysis also found salary compression at 892 institutions" (June). 

Some other troubling findings published in this article are the fact that "93 percent of all reporting institutions pay men more than women at the same rank... on average women made 90 cents on the dollar compared to men at the same rank this year" and with "the average age of a Ph.D. completion at 32," career trajectory starts much later "than most white-collar workers" (June). This is the state of the academic world that hopeful applicants, like myself, are currently entering.

In terms of what types of documents that job search committees actually want to see, there is also quite a range. Each committee wants to see something a little different, so each application takes quite a bit of time to gather and send the specific documents to the submission portal for that school. I was lucky enough to have friends and colleagues who shared their materials, so here are some of my material templates that I sent out in my job applications this past fall of 2017:

Like I said, I had many friends who supported me in this application process. One friend is Dr. Kat O'Meara, an Assistant Professor Rhetoric and Composition and Director of Composition at Emporia State University. During her application process, she wrote a blog post for 4Cs called "Managing PhDTSD." This article was very helpful to me as I jumped into my job application process.

That's it for my second market post! Now please enjoy these cute photos of my dogs because they are cute:



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