Graduate Career Support

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.

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

UNLV Career Resources for Graduate Students

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.

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.

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:

Cover Letters

Resumes/CV Resources

Preparing for the Interview

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