Academic Career Guide for Graduate Students

Planning for an Academic Career

1. As early as possible, clarify your values and priorities about your career goals: 
  • If your goal is to be a professor, consider the size and culture of the institution that is the best fit for you: is it public or private? is it a Research 1 (R1), Liberal Arts College, a State College or University, a Community College, a professional school? 
  • If you are interested in working outside of the academy, determine the types of institutions, organizations, or companies you'd like to work for, and what kind of professional training and/or experience they expect in their employees. How can you obtain such experience during the school year (either by identifiying non-teaching and/or non-research positions within your institution, or by freelancing on the side), as well as over the summer, to become qualified for the careers you're interested in?
2. Determine your field and become an expert: 
  • Attend academic talks, as well as departmental and divisional colloquia, regularly.
  • In conjunction with your academic adviser, determine a field that will shape the course of your study.
  • Once you have determined this field, ask yourself the following questions: Who are the major researchers in your field? What are its most important and influential works? What are the most important works to be published within the last 10 years? What are the most important scholarly journals in your field? Is there an important scholar in your field who serves as an editor for a regularly published series of books? Keep abreast of current literature and debates within it. 
  • Join professional associations in your field and attend as many conferences, events, and meetings as possible. 
  • Study the art of the Book Review, and try your hand at writing one.
  • As early as possible, begin working on publishable articles. 
3. Enroll in departmental course offerings on professional development and grant writing. 
4. Network:
  • Networking is crucial; it is estimated that over 70% of jobs are filled through networking connections.  When you attend conferences, talk about your research interests with fellow colleagues. 
  • Make an effort to meet new professionals attending departmental colloquia or other academic events.  Follow-up on research topics via email.  Accept invitations to do collaborative research.
5. Publish and present:
  • Present your research at local and national conferences.
  • In conjunction with your academic adviser, set goals for completion of research and writing to submit to professional journals. 
  • "Shop around" for a potential home for your work, given what you know about the important journals in your field. Study the editorial conventions of each, and make sure to individually prepare your manuscript for each journal before submitting your work. 
  • Try to give yourself no longer than 2 weeks to a month "turn-around time," after receiving a rejection. 
6. Gain teaching experience: 
  • Develop your teaching skills during teaching assistantships. 
  • Volunteer to be a guest lecturer for other courses. 
  • Apply to teach your own course.
  • Consider teaching a class or course outside the graduate institution you attend.

7. Develop your curriculum vitae and resume regularly:

8. Participate in departmental activities:
  • Develop your administrative skills by participating on departmental committees or taking a leadership role in graduate affairs.

9. Set a Timeline

  • Begin early, allowing 18 months to 2 years to conduct a successful job search.

10. Determine your short term goals:

  • Are you interested in obtaining in a postdoctoral position, or are you competative for an Assistant Professor position in your field? Are you willing to adjunct for a few years while being on the market?

11. Request and confirm letters of recommendation:

  • Establish who will write your reference letters. 
  • Create a file with Interfolio.


Your faculty adviser is your primary resource for professional development. Thesis and dissertation committee members can provide information and assistance. The following resources also may help:

UCSC Career Center
Meet with the career adviser of your discipline. Use SlugQuest for an appointment. 

Create a free account or update your profile. Over 73,000 UCSC alumnae have accounts, utilize them to network regarding positions. Follow institutions you are interested in working, professionals will check to see who is interested in their schools.


The Transition from Grad- UC Berkeley