As much as you enjoy your UNLV time as a graduate or professional student, you will be looking at a career path that extends beyond your program. How can you prepare for academic and non-academic careers? When should you start researching job listings? How do you find out more about potential matches between your skills and experiences and the needs of a desired industry? We provide some guideposts here to help you navigate the complexities of preparing for a career that builds on and extends your graduate experience.

You face both positive and negative aspects of the larger career landscape. The way the job market looks today differs from that in the late 1990s Internet bubble or from post World War II expansion of higher education. Demographic and economic projections are inevitably uncertain, yet most would imagine stronger potential for health, social and educational employment growth in Las Vegas than many other U.S. metropolitan areas. While chance favors the prepared student, how those chances look is contingent upon factors outside your control. What you can do is be proactive in informing yourself about the nature of career possibilities. By preparing well, you can increase the likelihood of finding a path you will find professionally rewarding and aligned with other career and personal considerations. How should you get started?

As a graduate or professional student, there are higher expectations of your work and its consequences compared with your undergraduate years. By virtue of applying to and entering a graduate or professional program, you have demonstrated a passion, talent and potential for success in your chosen field. You are putting your time and resources into a degree program that you want to serve your longer-term professional aims too. You can do many things to pave a pathway to success by drawing upon many other people and other resources in your department and even beyond the university.

Academic Job Interview Preparation and Tips

Preparation is key for any academic job interview. It is critical for you to be prepared to talk about yourself (current research, future research plans, teaching skills and interests, and accomplishments) and your understanding of an institution (history/mission of the institution, research interests of the faculty, knowledge of courses offered, student population, understanding of the position) to convince a hiring committee of your ability to do the job.

  1. Find out what is expected/Will you be a good fit?

You will likely be asked to give a presentation about your research (“job talk”) or a teaching demonstration. You have a chance to talk to many faculty members and meet with graduate students. In addition, you will almost always be taken out to dinner with members of the search committee.

  • Firstly, read Academic Interview Tip Sheet
  • Review their departmental website, including their staff list to get a feel for how you would fit in
  • From their website, identify:
  • Classes you will feel comfortable teaching, having some that are not covered by existing full-time faculty will be a plus.
  • Identify potential collaborators among existing faculty
  • When was the last faculty in the department tenured? What criteria were used for granting tenure? Do they have bylaws to outline these? This will help you determine if the department will be a good fit if getting tenured is important for you
  • Revisit the job description and essential and desirable criteria
  • Talk to others about their experiences of academic interviews
  • Try to organize a mock interview - perhaps with job-searching contemporaries.
  • Review the research you did into your own capabilities so that you have plenty of evidence to support your suitability for the job when answering academic interview questions
  1. During the Interview/Interview Presentations

It is common to be asked to give a presentation, such as an outline of your recent research or a short lecture. Below, we suggest how to prepare for the most common components of campus interviews.

  • Read this detailed handout on Job Talks from the University of Washington’s Career Center.
  • Watch a video: "How to Give an Effective Job Talk," a workshop offered by the NIH’s Office of Intramural Training & Education (2 hours).  Complete listing of videos is found here (scroll down to "Academic Careers").
  • Dress smart, remember everything counts, yes even your attire
  • Do your homework:
    • Show your future employer that you know your potential future colleagues and what they work on, particularly potential collaborators. 
    • Familiarize yourself with the work of your potential collaborators, particularly those on the search committee.
    • Familiarize yourself with their curriculum, what are the classes they teach and how can you contribute to the curriculum.
    • Do your best to remember names of faculty in the department, particularly those on the search committee.
  • Have a list of questions you might want to ask
    • Workload
    • Tenure clock, criteria, and process
    • Startup fund and policy for using startup
    • Buyout
    • Any soft money requirement (do you have to supplement your salary with grants?)
  • During your presentation:
    • Keep your presentation to what was requested (research, teaching). If you are not sure what type of presentation you should prepare, then ask your contact person. Generally, you will be asked for a research presentation, teaching schools often ask for a teaching presentation in addition to the research presentation. This may be a mock lesson to the search committee or in an actual class setting.
    • Know your audience (faculty, students, a mix of both) and cater your presentation to your audience.
    • Have a precise structure and make sure you communicate your takeaway points clearly.
    • Be confident in your presentation, practice will help in this regard.
    • Keep your presentation to the allotted time. If you are given 30 minutes for your presentation without questions prepare a presentation of 25 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
    • Have faculty and other students from your department listen to your presentation and give you feedback.
    • Prepare handouts for at least the search committee.
    • Make sure that there is time for the audience to ask questions, ask your contact person the format of the presentation. Will the questions be asked after your presentation? If you are given a choice and you feel nervous, suggest that questions be asked after your presentation.
  • Resources:

Academic Job Market

What can you do to prepare for success in the academic job market? You should gain a sense of the kinds of experiences, skills and products that serve as key considerations in your field. For many research-oriented faculty positions, peer-reviewed publications, grants, and research experience will be central factors. For community college positions, teaching will be more highly prioritized, making it more important for you to gain experience serving as an instructor of record in your teaching experience in applying for such positions. Professional fields such as law or education have discipline-specific expectations, which can include direct experience obtained through internships or field practicums. For faculty positions, a trend in recent decades has been for a smaller fraction of positions to consist of tenure-track lines, which manifests as a higher share of positions for adjuncts and visiting professors. If seeking a permanent faculty position, note that the current job market can entail postdoctoral and temporary lectureship experience preceding tenure-track faculty hiring for many fields. That can mean applying for postdoctoral, non-tenure-track faculty or equivalent kinds of positions, perhaps along with tenure-track openings, when wrapping up your graduate or professional degree.

To identify the central factors in hiring and career advancement in your field, you can find ample information online.

  • Look up the jobs section for your discipline’s international, national and possibly regional professional societies. Conduct job searches for your field on sites that compile positions from many other websites; indeed.com is a fine example. Read the announcements carefully to ascertain the types of skills and experiences that are required or preferred. Talk to your advisor(s) and colleagues at other universities about their views of the factors central to job success in your field.

Once you are well-informed about the benchmarks for success in your field, prioritize your time and resources and act on the motivation that led you to a graduate or professional program in the first place.

  • If conducting ground-breaking research will be central to advancement in your field, ensure that is given the appropriate place in your busy schedule. Allow sufficient time for lab, field or library research. Ensure that you translate that core effort into the publications and conference presentations that will enable disseminating the fruits of your labors, and that serve as indicators of professional quality and success. You will have individualized and heavy demands on your time. Knowing what most matters to your professional success equips you to be strategic in engaging in beneficial activities but declining opportunities that could distract from priorities.
  • Although some of your time is spent in social isolation (in writing, for example), preparing for academic success is a social endeavor. You are talking with advisors and peers at UNLV as well as colleagues at other institutions about your work and career prospects. Networking is important. Your graduate and professional peers today may become life-long faculty peers. Although many academic job advertisements are posted publicly, there are also a sizable number of positions that are filled without a formal and public search. A tenure-track position might emerge from a visiting lectureship, or an opportunity hire a candidate without a public search. By networking with colleagues at conferences and in online communities, serendipitous opportunities might arise. You also demonstrate professional engagement and a visible profile that can enhance your chances for success in a competitive job market.
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills strengthen various aspects of your academic success. Teaching requires communicating effectively with students. Giving conference presentations entails clearly and succinctly sharing your work—what it is, how you did it, and why it is important—with others. Conducting research and writing reports and peer-reviewed publications activates your writing skills. Written and verbal communication skills can be improved with experience and feedback. Consider applying for the UNLV Research and Teaching Graduate Certificate Programs and being involved in other aspects of UNLV professional development programming to refine your verbal and written communication skills.

Academic Journal Publishing Tips & Information

A key expectation for graduate students and postdocs seeking academic employment is publication of their work in peer-reviewed journal articles. You can find many tips to help you prepare and publish your work through an online search, with some key points distilled here. Do your research about journal relevance, impact, suitability, acceptance rate and other key parameters such as typical turn-around review and publication time. Part of doing your research means talking with faculty and other graduate/postdoctoral students, as they too can be helpful sources of insight.

  • How do I determine which journal(s) to submit to? Certain journals are considered standards for a field and may be expected as part of demonstrating academic success in that field. Editors who employ similar approaches and have topical relevant topic expertise may better see the value in your work. Journals with higher impact scores tend to have lower acceptance rates and greater visibility. Interdisciplinary journals can offer a wider audience beyond your field. Some journals provide editorial decisions within times as short as a few weeks, whereas others may take on the order of a year; that impacts the pace at which your work appears online or in print. Since you can only submit a manuscript to one outlet at a time, choose strategically where to submit and have ranked alternatives in mind.
  • In preparing your manuscript, ensure you have sought and obtained feedback from faculty and fellow graduate students or postdocs. They will see holes you might have missed. Any substantive, critical feedback they provide (while maintaining their own busy schedules) should be appreciated for helping improve your work before submission. As to the content and structure of your manuscript, adhere to the submission guidelines (e.g., length limits, manuscript headings, reference format). Note that many of the top journals expect both theoretical insight and rigorous empirical analysis. Accordingly, you might ask if your manuscript addresses these kinds of key questions:  
    • What is the research question? Why is it theoretically and/or empirically important and interesting?
    • What has been done about the topic? That is, what have we learned from prior research? Answering this question requires a comprehensive, in-depth literature review. The purpose of doing this is to see where the existing work falls short. How does your work contribute to research on this topic? Why is it significant?
    • What is the theoretical underpinning of the research? Does your work have a coherent underlying logic, whether it is a formal mathematical model, verbal reasoning, or empirical analysis? 
    • What about the data, sampling, measurement, and statistical methods? Are they appropriate and matched with the theoretical arguments? 
    • How are the data interpreted? Are findings related back to hypotheses and predictions? Are findings related back to the scholarly literature? Are limitations and alternative interpretations discussed?
  • After you submit your work, the editor(s) will determine whether to reject (“desk rejection”) or review your manuscript. If reviewed, typically two to four reviewers will be sought (numbers depend on field and journal) to provide critical feedback. The specific review criteria and format can vary, such as “PLoS ONE” review criteria focusing on methodological standards rather than impact, and the fields (e.g., some quantified global evaluations vs. specific open-ended questions) completed by reviewers. Note that it can be challenging to secure reviewers who accept and respond to review requests in a timely manner, especially over summer and winter holidays. That also impacts the pace at which an editorial decision can be rendered. Based on reviewer comments and the editor’s own critical evaluation, potential outcomes are generally rejected; revise and resubmit; or accept with no or minor edits. An outright acceptance with no or minimal edits almost never happens. Only under rare or unusual circumstances might one seek to rebut a rejection; instead, one should evaluate carefully the critical feedback to revise and likely seek to submit to a different journal. If an undue time has lapsed since manuscript submission (e.g., relative to what the journal publishes as typical decision times), you can reach out to the editor and ask professionally for a status update on the review process.
  • If invited to revise and resubmit a manuscript, pay close attention to the comments and requested edits. A typical manuscript revision process entails crafting both a revised manuscript and a cover letter that itemizes responses to editors’ and reviewers’ comments. The tone should be respectful and thoughtful. Responses can acknowledge helpful edits that improve the manuscript and state why some suggestions were entertained, but not followed (e.g., legitimate justification, outside the manuscript or journal scope). 
  • Finally, do not give up easily because of rejections. Top journals generally have <10% acceptance rates. It is not unusual for a paper to be rejected by multiple top journals but ultimately accepted by another journal. If you believe in your project and reviewers appear to recognize some value in the manuscript, then improving your work after a rejection is worth pursuing. 
  • The following links provide information on academic journal publishing tips and information.

Application Materials

As you approach the time near the end of your graduate and professional program when you are applying for jobs, you can take steps to ensure that you are putting your best effort forward. There is no reason to do things that will remove you from a competitive applicant pool, after all. Many positions will require application letters. How long are these and what should they contain? You can find many sample application letters on the Internet to provide inspiration, and you can ask for guidance from advisors and colleagues. For tenure-track faculty positions, most application letters should be two pages maximum. However, even parameters such as length can vary across disciplines or the country in which a position is offered, so ensure you are using criteria appropriate for the positions to which you are applying. Positions emphasizing teaching will benefit from greater emphasis of your teaching experiences and performance, just as positions featuring research will want more detail of your research, publications and grants. You may be asked to submit separate research and teaching statements in addition to what will become a shorter application letter. Correct spelling and grammar are imperative in your application letters. These letters serve as indicators of your attention to detail and professionalism, warranting your close scrutiny of them. Asking others to proof-read for contents and style is highly recommended.

There are other key elements in an application process:

  • You will be submitting a CV. You can find many sample CVs on the Internet, including from your discipline. Notice patterns across those samples—length, use of headers, titles of sections, font types and sizes—and let those guide development of your own CV. Again, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes in your CV. Let it speak clearly and elegantly of your skills and experiences rather than be distracted by fancy and unnecessary elements.
  • You will also need to provide several references with any application. For faculty positions, these should be individuals who can comment substantively on the merits of your work. Your advisors are likely to be best placed to serve in this capacity. You may also have another reference at a different institution with whom you have collaborated or worked with who can offer insightful observations of your profile. Help others help you by maintaining professional relationships with your advisors and other key players in your graduate and professional success. References who know you from regular meetings, who have seen your teaching, who can speak to your motivation, who can comment on your abilities to work well with others, who have written things with you—these are the individuals who are in a position to serve as strong references on your behalf. Of course, ensure that you have provided a reference with any necessary materials such as a job description, application letter, and CV with sufficient advance time for that individual to write a letter by a required deadline.

To continue your explorations of academic jobs, guidance for specific fields as well as more broadly can be readily found online. Several helpful websites for further unpacking the process of preparing for and applying to academic jobs are as follows:

Building Impactful Slide Decks for Teaching and Presentation

Think of a slidedeck-enhanced presentation that you liked, and one that you didn’t. What made for an impactful slidedeck? Perhaps the balance of words and visuals, consistent slide scheme, or timing of transitions made for the appeal. Conversely, perhaps the use of too many words in small font and poor graphics caused you to miss the message in a poorly-designed presentation.

Here are some tips for building impactful slide decks. There are a variety of platforms like PowerPoint or Google Slides that can be used for crafting slide decks, and you can find additional information online. Note that some specifics depend on audience and context: an audience of topic specialists at an academic conference will expect to see more data and interpretation than students in a large introductory and general education class. Shorter (e.g., 12-minute, followed by question-and-answer) conference presentations will have far fewer slides than an hour-long job talk or large class presentation.

  • What message do you wish to convey in your presentation? Build that message into your slides, and let those slides serve a supporting role. You might craft your own notes to guide your presentation, including when to transition to the next slide. That helps you avoid having to turn your back to the audience to look at a projected slide or to simply repeat the content of a slide.
  • Content on slides should be minimal. The content should hook the audience. When you put more or all of the information you wish to convey on a slide, people may read the slides and not listen to you. Anything you do with a presentation is often about your comfort and how well rehearsed you are with the content and approach. If your slides are used as a scaffold to the point that you cannot function without making constant contact with the slide, you may lose an audience. The slides are a tool to help engage the audience, not a script for you to follow while presenting.
  • Use visuals. And use more, effective visuals. A picture can be worth a thousand words. A picture with people can help bring emotion and life to the story you are sharing in your presentation. An illustration can capture the key findings embedded in the presentation.
  • How many slides should you prepare? If doing a one hour presentation, perhaps 30-35 slides is a helpful estimate, but some use far fewer and others many more. Ask faculty and other students, and observe the use of slides by others in varied contexts to gauge what is appropriate for your presentation. Perhaps use an outline slide(s) to help establish the structure of the presentation. If the audience isn’t familiar with you, consider sharing a brief background in a slide or two. Strive to present one idea per slide. Consider creating extra backup slides at the end of your deck to pull up when questions are asked.
  • Choosing a consistent, aesthetically appealing and appropriate style for your slide desk is an important art. Sometimes a slide deck is “branded” with a color scheme or format specific to a university, department or other enterprise. Sometimes slide formats align with a particular conference or course theme. Choose a scheme that reinforces the message of your content and context in which it is presented. Think carefully about use of a presentation title and individual slide headings, including font size, type, and color. Think about the lighting and setup of the room you may present in. Particular combinations may look fabulous on your computer but may not play well in a large room or in a particular light.

Helpful Links

Cover Letters

For almost any job application, cover letters are standard. Typically academic cover letters are longer than in non-academic sectors. In general, be sure to avoid simply rehashing your CV or resume in complete sentences. Rather, the primary purpose of the cover letter is to address the following question: why would you be an excellent fit for this position?

The following resources will help you craft your cover letter for both academic and non-academic jobs.

Creating Online Scholarly Visibility

How can you become a more visible scholar online? Why does this matter? 

As you publish and present your creative work, you may wish to further disseminate it. An online presence can help with that, in part by making you and your work more discoverable. Your department may have limited capacity (a page for all graduate students or labs?) to make yourself visible online, and you will want your visibility to move with you anyway after your time at UNLV concludes. Perhaps you wish to have an online presence to aid in job applications or to recruit research assistants too. 

  • Consider creating a website. There are free or inexpensive options such as Wordpress or Wix. Look at examples of other scholars to see which platform they use, what content they present, and how they organize it. At minimum, you can present your publications, research and creative activities, academically-relevant photos, and more. You can use QR codes for your conference posters that link to your webpage too.
  • Consider publishing in open-access journals to help make your work visible. UNLV libraries offers guidance for open-access journals. Such journals are becoming more common as publication norms and models shift. Ensure you are publishing in a legitimate, rather than predatory, journal. Publication fees can also be quite expensive. If you publish in non-open-access journals, you can still share your work by submitting pre-publication accepted-for-publication manuscripts to repositories like at UNLV or on other platforms such as ResearchGate or SSRN.
  • Use those kinds of scholarly-relevant platforms like ResearchGate. Another common one, though more debated for its for-profit status and customization fees, is academia.edu. You can publicize your work, and also participate in scholarly exchanges on such platforms; you can learn and establish visibility.
  • Use social media strategically. You can extend the reach of your work with an effective social media presence. One of the best ways to do that is by being a productive contributor who shares others’ work, who in turn may be more likely to share yours too. Be aware too that your presence on social media is professional and represents you well if prospective employers and colleagues were to scan your contributions. 
  • Consider blogging or other writing forms. The Conversation is one platform designed to allow academics to write about their work for more popular audiences, which is the kind of vehicle that can help disseminate to broader audiences your published scholarship. Blogging can enable you to share ideas on research, new papers, and more. 
  • Be thoughtful about your use of time establishing a visible online presence. Original, quality research and scholarly activity will likely be central to your competitiveness in the academic world. The characterization of existing and future research plans, publications in peer-reviewed journals and books, and external funding may be the core of what matters. These should not be compromised to prioritize development of your online presence on social media or a website.

External Grants, Fellowships, and Contracts

Obtaining external funding is important for a faculty member’s professional development. Many universities and colleges now require grants, fellowships, or contracts for tenure and promotion. Prior to being employed in an academic faculty role, some doctoral students may have experience in working on grant-funded projects, but this experience often varies by discipline or subfield. As students transition from graduate school to academic faculty positions, it is important to understand the opportunities for funding for research and teaching, and the role that external funding plays in a new position. Here are some tips for success with external funding:

  1. Educate yourself about the different types of external funding opportunities that are available to faculty and doctoral students. In general, there are three types of funding programs: Grants, fellowships, and contracts. Grants tend to cover more of the expenses associated with research than fellowships or contracts. Grants also provide indirect costs (known also as ‘F&A’) to the faculty member’s institution. You will need to work with your sponsored programs office on grants (the application, budgeting, and administration), but this is not always the case for fellowships or contracts.
  2. Each discipline or field tends to have its own programs for external funding. It is a good idea to speak to your doctoral advisor or faculty mentor for advice about the funding opportunities that are specific to your discipline or subfield. Also, contact staff in your sponsored programs office for information on award opportunities.
  3. If you are offered a tenure-track position, make sure that you read the standards for tenure and promotion in your department, college, and university soon after your appointment. Ask your department chair and faculty mentor to clarify your institution’s expectations for external funding. Also, learn about the norms in your field and at other institutions. For example, are researchers in your field (at comparable, or better institutions) expected to receive an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)?
  4. In the early phases of your career, you may find opportunities to collaborate with senior faculty in your institution (or at other institutions) on grant applications. Seek out these opportunities. Having a seasoned co-PI on your proposal may increase the odds of a successful application. Senior colleagues may also provide you with other forms of mentoring about research.
  5. When you are writing a grant application, ask for feedback from colleagues, doctoral advisor, or mentor. Staff in your sponsored programs office (or another unit in your university) may be available to help you improve the application and budget. Often, university research offices will organize seminars on grant writing. These seminars offer useful advice about how to write an effective proposal. Take advantage of these opportunities.
  6. Even if your proposal is not funded, you may be provided with feedback from external reviewers from the funding agency. Use this feedback to guide your revisions, and carefully consider re-submitting the proposal during the second round (as you have already invested valuable time on the first application round).

Non-Academic Job Market

Many of you have entered your graduate or professional program knowing that you aspired to a career outside the academy. You may have entered your graduate program envisioning a tenure-track faculty position, only to have a change of heart in the course of your studies. The realities of the academic job market may argue for preparing for several potential career tracks, including outside of the academy. However you found yourself in this realm of considering employment possibilities in the non-academic market, we touch on some central issues and online resources here.

Many of the skills you refined during your graduate and professional program may have benefits in career paths outside of the academy.

  • One of the most-dreaded of all human social activities is public speaking. And yet by virtue of your teaching and presentation experience, you may have developed talents speaking to diverse audiences small and large. In the course of a lengthy academic relationship with your advisor(s) and colleagues with whom you collaborated in research, you may have fashioned an ability to work well with others, an ability that could also be highlighted in applications in the non-academic job market. The refinement of one’s analytical abilities, laboratory techniques, statistical expertise, survey design, writing and editing abilities, capacity to engage with diverse communities—these skills may offer vital contributions in the non-academic job market.

At the same time, non-academic positions may privilege experience over ability or degrees.

  • Some positions may favor an applicant with a B.A. or B.S. who has demonstrated experience over a Ph.D. without the same track record of success in the specific required tasks. As in many domains in life, try to put yourself in the shoes of a company and individuals hiring for non-academic positions. In so doing, you can imagine how they would like to find a candidate whose experience and communication abilities (e.g., not speaking about tangential and jargon-rich academic matters) match their own agendas. Consider an internship to gain experience in a field directly in the area in which you seek employment. There may be additional networking or job benefits that result, including the possibility of a successful internship leaving to paid employment. If you are unsure whether specific fields or positions are a fit with your background and interests, seek to conduct informational interviews with individuals in those very positions. These can prove illuminating.

What are some other issues on which to focus during non-academic job searches?

  • Look under the academic job search link in the preceding page: the written and verbal communication, networking, and professionalism pointers made there also apply in the non-academic job search. A majority of jobs may be filled without being formally advertised, underscoring the importance of networking. You can find a tremendous amount of information online about non-academic positions as well as tips for landing a coveted position; consider your careful scrutiny of those materials part of the research that helps you make informed decisions about how and where to apply.
  • You will need to have strong references. Unlike applications to faculty positions, you will need a one- or two-page resume rather than a C.V. Ensure your resume is professionally crafted. You can readily find samples on the Internet as well as other tips for polishing it. Highlight your experiences and skills rather than list academic outcomes that may not translate to needs of the positions to which you apply. Maintain a professional web presence. Inappropriate posts on social media can become part of your public record that an employer finds in the course of a search. Conversely, a current and polished web presence, including on linkedin.com, is an important aspect of a successful non-academic application process.

Many other online sources offer information on the non-academic job market. Some of these resources are specific to fields such as History or the Natural Sciences, whereas others provide more generalized guidance that cuts across the breadth of disciplines. You can explore the following resources as part of determining the course that best suits you and your career aspirations. Note that some websites require a fee to utilize the services.

Please see the following sources for discipline-specific information.

College of Education

College of Engineering

College of Fine Arts

College of Liberal Arts

College of Sciences

See also SciPhD.com and Association for Women in Science career network.

Criminology & Criminal Justice

Economics

Hospitality Administration

Public Affairs

Public Health

Planning for Transition from Graduate Student to Academic Professional

Students looking to enter the job market must first understand the nature of the various academic positions that they seek. A tenure-track faculty position will have different expectations compared with a non-tenure track position, which will have expectations different from a researcher or post-doc. Regardless of the position you seek, there are some basic tips that all graduate students should consider prior to transitioning to an academic professional. Here are a few common tips as presented by NASPA: Student Affairs in Higher Education: 

  • Mentally prepare yourself for the transition from graduate student to new professional
  • Start a professional development plan
  • Find a mentor
  • Don’t recreate the wheel
  • Pay attention to your work-life balance
  • Set boundaries
  • Ask questions and observe your environment
  • Meet co-workers and network
  • Get organized, keep records
  • Take ownership of your career

If interviewing and/or negotiating for academic positions, there are many factors to consider:

  1. Ask for a copy of the Tenure & Promotion (T&P) document. Take note of the unit’s track record with successful T&P cases. Make observations about the diversity of the department, diversity of college and university leadership, support and resources, and inquire vs. assume.
  2. Ask for a copy of the unit’s bylaws, mission statement, college mission statement, etc. How well regarded is the unit in respect to the college? The university? How is leadership at all levels regarded?
  3. Inquire about startup, moving and living, development money, conference funding, refresher funds if you have expensive lab equipment or technology, etc.
  4. Inquire about teaching load, number of preps, GA support (e.g., for classes of 50 or more, the faculty member receives a GA, etc.), junior sabbatical, grant support (e.g., does the university offer, for example, summer grant workshops that pay the faculty member to attend with the understanding of an extramural grant submission as the deliverable, etc.).
  5. Examine the pay scales at ranks. Do you notice any trends? Is your position hard money/state money, for example, or soft money (e.g., you will need to secure extramural grant funding to support your position)?
  6. Inquire about benefits such as 401k and matching funds.
  7. Inquire about vesting: is it immediate or must you engage in a probationary period before vesting?
  8. Are you unionized? Dues? 
  9. Observe junior faculty (and beyond) advising loads, credit for advising, credit for teaching large lecture and other workload variables.
  10. Does the college have an undergraduate advising center or does the unit cover advising; if the latter, are faculty expected to advise undergraduate students in addition to graduate students?
  11. Is there critical mass in your area of study in the unit? Content? Methodologically? Do you need graduate student support for your research endeavors? Will they consider a research graduate assistant for you? Does the unit have research teams with expected participation? 
  12. Talk to the graduate students. What is your sense of their level of satisfaction and contentment? Would they come there again if they could? Would faculty? Do you notice a trend in turnover? Does the unit represent all ranks or does it appear saturated in a given rank (e.g., many associate professors with few to no full professors)?
  13. Gather as much information as you can so that you may make an informed decision. Be confident in making reasonable requests regarding salary and startup. Remember, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” and, “You end up with what you put up with.” At the end of the day, we’d like to see individuals satisfied with their decisions and be on their way in a successful career.  Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Often, folks focus on, “Do they want me here?” and forget to consider, “Do I want to be here?”

Post-Degree Research Strategy & Drafting a Research Statement

As your degree program wraps up, how will you continue your research momentum? How will you prepare to adjust to a potential new institute, environment, and with new colleagues? Here, you can find some research strategy tips that can be helpful in crafting a research statement. A research statement is a short document that highlights your research experiences/expertise as well as the current status and future plan for your work. The detailed content of the research statement may vary across different areas of studies. When writing up your research statement, be clear and concise about your research theme(s). You may categorize your research paper(s) under your research theme(s) and provide the linkages among the themes in brief to show you have a focused research program. You will want to consider the fundamentals of your research philosophy and vision:

  1. Why do you do research?
  2. Why do you do the research that you do?
  3. Contextualize your research in the greater scheme of things (e.g., the economy)
  4. Highlight what is unique about your research
  5. Provide a brief overview of your research program and pipeline

Broad areas of planning

A) Topics for future research after you receive your terminal degree

Examine your skills and interests that you have developed through your degree program. For example:

  1. Are you particularly good at (and fond of) statistics in your field? If so, you can be a valuable partner for other scholars in their topics.
  2. Are there open questions that remain from your dissertation research (either from reading the scholarly journal articles, or remaining from or springing out of your own research on which you’d like to follow up?
  3. Did your advisor engage you in any small ‘side research’ topics while you progressed through your program? If so, do any of those interest you?
  4. Have one primary focus and two secondary foci. Pick some research areas which are trendy. You may need to read up on journal articles [see A)3 below] or attend conferences and network with colleagues [see A)6 below] to find out what these are.
  5. Try to be the first author on a few projects, but also try to let others take the lead in other projects. Do not try to be the first author on every project! It will burn you out. Likewise, do not be the last or secondary author on all your projects. You will not be taken seriously then for tenure and promotion purposes.

2. Do you have any natural collaborators with whom you have engaged through your degree program such as:

  1. Other graduate students from your own degree program?
  2. Other faculty from your own committee? (see 4. below)
  3. Graduate students and faculty whom you met at conferences (see 6. below) with whom you share interests and have complementary skills (e.g., I’m good at statistics, but only know a little about microbiology, but my friend from XYZ university is a great microbiologist who needs some help with statistical experimental design and statistical workup of data)?
  4. Scholars whose articles you have read and with whom there might be an alignment (contacting them is like a sales ‘cold call’ – the probable success rate is low, as they don’t know you (but they might know your advisor!) - but still it could work, if you ask politely or gently.
  5. You should ideally look for a collaborator who has the bandwidth to work with you on a dedicated basis. Some suggest that ideal collaborators can be a senior Assistant Professor who is trying to make tenure. Often two assistant professors, who are both hungry, will make for a better team.
  6. Another strategy is to have one senior person (who is experienced in editorial duties), one senior assistant professor and you (new PhD) in the team. That way you can cover all bases of a good team. 
  7. Look for collaborators who have the same priorities as you. For example, some top journals take 1-3 years to publish. These are high-risk projects, as you can get rejected after a long wait. Make sure you have a collaborator who is knowledgeable about this. If you want to publish in top journals, then you should be working with a collaborator who wants the same.
  8. Try to see if you can synergize some of your research and teaching so that you can build one on top of another. This is especially true if you are teaching doctoral seminars.

3. For 1.b and 1.c, conduct preliminary literature research by yourself first through many online databases such as Google Scholar and other discipline-relevant search engines.

4. Talk to those faculty in your degree program and find someone whom you like to work with by matching with your research interest and personality as closely as you can.

5. Try to meet and discuss with your advisor either weekly or at least monthly.

6. When possible, go to some professional conferences, present your research and meet researchers working in similar subjects.

7. Consider a post-doc in another lab where you can work for 1-3 years on another field to broaden your knowledge and either deepen your skills or build a second skill set.

B) Getting funded

  1. After working several areas in Part A) above, so that you have done a skills inventory, considered areas about which you would like to learn more, and identified potential collaborators, now starting looking for funding!
  2. If you are a postdoctoral scholar or a new assistant professor at a new research-intensive or research-extensive university, find out about seed grant proposals that might be available to help you get started with acquiring one or two pieces of equipment, some research travel and supplies, to make a start on developing preliminary data.
  3. Look at calls for proposals from agencies and foundations that you know (from asking your advisor) fund work in your area. Look carefully at these calls. Are they at least a partial match for your skills and interests? Do they offer seed grants or developmental grants for new faculty (smaller dollar amounts, shorter term, but at least you can make a start!)?
  4. Find out if there are any faculty at your new institution who are looking for partners on their grants. Can you bring some new perspectives and skills to their research area or lab? If so, and if the relationship looks to be collegial, maybe start by framing a partnership discussion (it might be that the existing faculty might approach you, as well)
  5. If you work in an applied area with municipal or regional relevance, such as nursing, social work, education, psychology, civil or environmental engineering, water resources, construction, public health, hospitality, or performing and fine arts, are there potential partnerships in your community (does someone need data processed? Do they have a problem that they’d like someone to work on (hopefully grant-funded)?

Here are several links that provide helpful information on how to generate a research statement:

Preparing for the Interview

Publishing a Revised Version of your Dissertation as a Book

Adapted from Routledge Publishers

In most cases, a dissertation will require some rewriting in order to ensure that a more accessible style is adopted, using less technical vocabulary and, where a study contains separate sections for the literature review and methodology, these are usually condensed into one chapter. In addition, where a dissertation will often address several, very specific and specialized questions in depth, a book generally needs to appeal to a wider readership and as such, ought to engage with broader debates where relevant. As you seek to convert your dissertation to a book, which is a common occurrence in many humanities and social science fields, consider the following tips; also discuss this possibility with faculty or other scholars who have been through this process.

Stage 1: Considering Your Options

You have completed or are about to complete your dissertation and you are thinking about publishing it as a book.

  • Consider the following points: 
    1. It is extremely rare for a PhD to be published as a book without some reworking. Exceptions may occur when a doctoral student, usually with a publishing track record, has planned for book publication from the outset.
    2. Certain types of argument lend themselves to publication in either book or journal form. For example, a historical study in which conclusions emerge from the narrative, or an attempt to push a particular debate further through the close reading of texts, may require 80,000 words for development, while a single conclusion reached by or proved through primary research may be  much more effectively presented in 10,000 words.
    3. Bear in mind that some research is likely to date quickly and may not be suitable for presentation in book form. Your thinking may be influenced by whether or not you have an academic position. A full-time contract for 12 months (preferably longer) gives you a relatively stable position from which to write a book. When seeking some posts, however, it may be advisable to concentrate on journal publications.
    4. A doctoral dissertation is usually a reflection of sophisticated research and normally makes an original contribution to one’s field of expertise. However, it is not necessarily a work aimed at an audience beyond your supervisor, examiners and immediate colleagues. For a book to be viable, a publisher will need to be sure of selling a certain number of copies. As such, some work is likely to be needed in order to ensure that your dissertation does appeal to a wider readership and this work usually involves changes to the style and structure, together with engagement in wider scholarly debates to which your research might contribute, but which were not necessarily take up in the dissertation itself 
  • Answer the following questions: 
    • Am I prepared to invest time – several months of work – in transforming the PhD into a book?
    • Is my research best suited to publication in book form, or would it be better presented as a journal article, or a series of articles?
    • Which would be the best approach in terms of my career development?
    • To what audience would my book be addressed? Can I quantify it?

Stage 2: Submitting a Book Proposal

If you decide to pursue publication in book form, you will need to submit a book proposal and most publishers will require one or more sample chapters to send for external review with the proposal.

  • You may choose to take the chapters you feel will need least revision from your dissertation, but it is often more effective to attempt a reworking of a chapter. The first chapter is ideal, but may be the most difficult to rewrite for publication, in which case try working on a substantive middle chapter instead.
  • Do not send the complete dissertation, unless it is specifically requested.
  • It can be very useful to ask a colleague with publishing experience or your PhD supervisor to read through the proposal and sample material before submission. If the publishers consider the proposal potentially suitable for their list, they will send it for peer review and ask their publishing board to review it with a view to agreeing a contract.

Stage 3: Rewriting

If a contract is agreed, then the work of re-writing begins. The publishers will provide you with copies of the external readers’ reports, which should give you some useful suggestions. The following are general guidelines:

  • Look closely at the books you have found most engaging as arguments and as reading experiences and work out what makes them successful. Be ambitious: try to write the book you would most want to read about your subject.
  • Keep your audience constantly in mind. It is important to write for the widest potential audience, rather than just for those engaged in similar research areas. Do not assume that readers will be as familiar with the literature as you are.
  • The opening chapter is the reader’s ‘way in’ to the argument. It must be as accessible and compelling as you can make it.
  • Think about the narrative flow of the book. Your goal is to tempt readers to read from beginning to end of the book. Some PhDs do not proceed in this fashion, but adopt an approach in which a point is made and then supported with evidence. It may be possible to reduce some of this evidence, or to confine it to footnotes or appendices if doing so enables you to improve the progression of the argument without significantly compromising the strength of your position.
  • In general you should aim to reduce your review of the literature. Instead, the relevant literature should be cited at appropriate points throughout the text.
  • You may need to omit or reduce substantial methodology sections, unless a review of your proposal has specifically stated that a full (or fuller) discussion of methodology is required, or one of the book’s central concerns is with method and methodology.
  • In general, develop and summarize your conclusions throughout the book rather than towards the end. A strong introduction should indicate clearly where you are going.

Resumes/CV Resources

What are the Differences Between a Resume and CV?

A key question for many graduate students is what is the difference between a resume and a Curriculum Vitae (CV)? The primary differences between the two are:

Length

  • A resume is usually between 1-2 pages long, whereas CVs tend to run much longer (especially as you advance in your career).

Information That is Included

  • A CV typically lists all of your accomplishments, experiences, and skills.
  • A resume focuses on the applicant’s skills, work experience, education, and notable achievements.

What Each is Used For

  • A CV is typically required for jobs in medical fields, academia, and scientific research.
  • A resume is required for alt-ac jobs or careers outside of the academy.

Please see the following resources for additional information on the differences between a resume and CV.

Converting Your CV to a Resume

If you are considering a non-academic job, you will need to convert your CV to a resume. Think about all the activities you engaged in as a graduate student to complete your coursework, program milestones, and dissemination of publications, other scholarly work, and/or creative performances/exhibits. Describe those activities in terms of skills and competencies on your resume. See FindAPhD for some helpful examples regarding how to convert the work you did as a Ph.D. student to a skill or competency. Skills you could emphasize that are attractive to employers and that PhDs typically possess include:

  • Analytical thinking and problem-solving
  • Program management
  • Grant writing and management
  • Budget experience
  • Developing new ideas and innovative approaches
  • Creating, organizing, and managing projects
  • Leadership abilities
  • Working independently and as part of a team
  • Communicating with co-workers and clients (students you taught, research participants)
  • Being motivated, planning and meeting deadlines
  • Presenting information clearly, systematically, and efficiently in oral or written format

Please see the following resources for examples and additional information on how to craft your resume or CV.

Please note that you can schedule an appointment with the UNLV Career Services to have your resume reviewed. For additional information, please visit their website.

Search External Workshops/Trainings/Conferences

Search Graduate Assistantships

To look for graduate assistantships please log into your Handshake account. Under Shortcuts (on the right-hand side of the main page), please click on the UNLV Graduate Assistantships option. All UNLV graduate assistantships will be posted here.

Search Jobs and Internships

Search Postdoc Positions

Search Scholarships and Fellowships

Search Summer Programs

Start Planning Now

  • Start early preparing for job success. Waiting until graduation to prepare will leave you behind others who began their preparation earlier.
  • Look up career websites in your profession to see what kinds of positions are advertised, and the criteria for those advertisements.
  • Talk to your advisor(s) about professional development.
  • Network with graduate and professional students in your department, at UNLV and outside of UNLV. When you meet other students in your field from different universities at a conference, talk to them about their programs, their research, and their aspirations. You will be applying for jobs along with graduates from other programs in the U.S. and indeed internationally, so do not only keep an eye on what UNLV peers are doing to prepare for success.
  • Take advantage of various UNLV resources to gain experience, hone your skills, and develop a polished approach to the job application process. You can find additional guidance and internet resources for both Academic and Non-academic job pathways below:

Helpful Articles

Teaching Materials and Teaching Portfolio

Most academic faculty positions, whether at a national or regional university, small liberal arts college, or community college, will require teaching materials. They may ask for a formal teaching portfolio. A teaching portfolio consists of a statement of teaching philosophy, instruction materials (e.g., representative syllabi, assignments, grading rubrics), and evidence of teaching effectiveness (e.g., formal teaching evaluations or student course evaluations, how you have solicited and incorporated previous feedback). Here are some things to consider while putting together your teaching materials (e.g., retaining relevant documentation and honing your teaching philosophy), bearing in mind that it is best to begin earlier than later:

How should you craft a statement of teaching philosophy? How long should it be? What elements comprise it? This is typically around two pages single-spaced, though it can vary across institutions and fields. It should also be tailored to the particular kind of institution to which this is being submitted. A research-intensive university faculty position will expect to see evidence of how you mentor and instruct students (e.g philosophy and scope of teaching in small graduate student seminars) unlike the focus in community colleges of working with students of diverse professional, life, and academic backgrounds with an intensive undergraduate-student emphasis.

While putting together your teaching materials, some questions to think about (from Iowa State University’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) are: 

  • What are your objectives as a teacher? 
  • How will you achieve those objectives? 
  • How will you measure your teaching effectiveness? 

You should address existing courses you are prepared to teach in addition to several potential new classes you could propose to complement the existing curriculum. As discussed elsewhere online like here (Cornell: Teaching Philosophy Statement) and here (Chronicle of Higher Education: How to Write a Teaching Philosophy Statement), a teaching statement might: 

  • Describe not only your teaching philosophy, but how it has been shaped by teaching experience
  • Discuss the use of technology in the classroom
  • Address the promotion of diversity and inclusion in the classroom (although this could also be part of the teaching philosophy)
  • Touch on examples of course assignments, exams, lecture outlines, and grading rubrics
  • Note that some UNLV departments offer seminars in graduate pedagogy, which can be excellent ways to develop your teaching philosophy and approach. Also consider applying to be part of the  Graduate College Teaching Certification (GCTC) or attend workshops offered as part of UNLV’s Faculty Center Workshops. 

Helpful Links

Tips for Creating Award-Winning Poster Presentations

How should you prepare to present a poster at a conference? Because poster parameters (e.g., size of a poster, size of audience in a poster session) can vary across conferences, look at requirements and guidelines for the conference you are attending. These are typically provided on a conference website, perhaps with the call for abstracts. You will probably be printing your poster in Las Vegas, then traveling with it (e.g., in a cardboard tube to ensure its safety) to the conference.

  • What should you think about when designing your poster? Many websites provide suggestions for crafting a successful poster, including websites noted below. Sites like Pinterest can offer many sample poster inspirations. A helpful benchmark is to note what other posters look like when attending conferences.
  • Plan the poster content and layout. A poster should help you share your research story. Many posters have the structure of a title; authors and affiliations (potentially using official UNLV logo); introduction/background; methods; results; and discussion. The general flow will be from upper left to lower right, perhaps using several columns of content including images and/or results near the center. Avoid using too many words. Font size should be large enough for the audience to readily read. Don’t use distracting color schemes. Grab the audience’s attention and visually represent key scholarly take-aways.
  • Allow some lead time to print your poster before traveling to a conference. In case the printer is not working, others are ahead of you in line to print, or you catch a last-second mistake, it is helpful to have some time to ensure you are printing the highest quality poster possible. Ask colleagues for suggestions about printing a poster. Some UNLV departments have a poster printer. The UNLV Library also has poster printer capacity (http://ask.library.unlv.edu/faq/94371), as does the Graduate Commons in Lied Library (https://www.unlv.edu/gpsa/student-commons). These UNLV poster printing options are likely cheaper than other local services.
  • What should you envision for your actual poster presentation? Prepare a succinct elevator pitch (or poster pitch): what you did, why you did it, what you found (ideally pointing to figures or key findings), and why it matters. Though conference poster session dynamics can vary, often these are crowded, noisy spaces with a limited time for audience members to walk through rows of posters. Many audience members may quickly glance at your poster, some others may stop for a short time, and others (sometimes poster award judges) may stop for longer, expecting or wanting more thorough discussion. You should have a quick overview rehearsed for these different contexts. Consider printing out a few sample posters (on regular size paper), having business cards, and/or incorporating a QR code in your poster (so that an audience member can scan the QR and perhaps be routed to your website or an electronic copy of the poster).
  • Some sample poster websites include:

Tips for Successful Conference Presentations

A conference presentation affords an opportunity to showcase the work that you have done, and connect with scholars with shared interests. How can you get the most out of this opportunity? The following tips focus on oral or podium presentations. Elsewhere under the UNLV Graduate Career Support pages you can find tips for poster presentations and for crafting impactful slide decks. You can also find relevant information online, including sites similar to this page. Make sure you pay attention to any guidelines that may be field or conference specific such as the duration of your presentation; whether you or other session participants need to bring a laptop; and any other technical or program details (e.g., loading slides prior to the beginning of a session).

Here are some additional suggestions:

  1. Try to check out the presentation room before you present to visualize the space, determine whether you will have or need a microphone, see how you will be positioned relative to a screen on which slides might be presented, etc.
  2. Know your material WELL. Demonstrate to the audience that you care about your material (if you don’t care, why should they)?
  3. Prepare.
  4. Do not read off of cards or slides (a gentle suggestion is not more than 3 bullet points per slide). Busy slides might contribute to cognitive overload with the audience.
  5. Focus on key takeaways.
  6. Know your audience in terms of literacy level, knowledge of the topic, motivation to understand the topic, etc. Consider whether your audience is composed of folks who want to be there or who might be required to be there. You want to capture their interest, yet not talk down to them, or alternatively, speak over their heads.
  7. Practice so that your presentation is on time (e.g., the chair of the panel, for example, could cut you off if you are running long, etc.). Know yourself...do you tend to speak quickly when public speaking? Do you project when you speak? Will you have A/V or a microphone at your disposal or will you need to project to a large room? Will the microphone be clip-on or hand held (if the latter, might this impede anything if you were planning on using your hands to demonstrate something)? If you are an animated speaker, remember that moving your hands with a handheld microphone will affect sound quality.
  8. Know in advance if you are part of a panel, if there is a chair, if there will be a respondent or a discussant, etc. Knowing your content will allow you to provide satisfactory answers during any Question & Answer (Q&A) time; alternatively, if you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
  9. If you are speaking on something controversial, anticipate audience reaction (e.g., hecklers, backlash, protesting).
  10. Be confident.

UNLV Career Resources for Graduate Students