Securing a Teaching Position at the Post-Secondary Level
By Nathan Bond
Dr. Bond is a Past President of Kappa Delta Pi. At Texas State University, he serves as the KDP chapter counselor, teaches graduate-level courses in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and serves as the Assistant Director of the Office of Academic Development and Assessment.
After teaching for a number of years in the K-12 setting, teachers often experience a “professional itch” and begin looking for a new job that will satisfy and challenge them intellectually and professionally. Many teachers consider returning to the university because they view earning an advanced degree as a stepping stone to teaching at the post-secondary level. When practicing teachers and undergraduate students inquire about teaching in higher education, I often pose the following questions to guide their decision making.
First, what are your short- and long-term goals? What do you see yourself doing in three years, or five? Your answers will inform the next steps and the type of degree to pursue. If you want to work as an administrator in your district, then earning a degree in administration, pedagogy, or curriculum development is wise. If teaching at the community college level is the goal, then you will need to complete at least 18 graduate hours in the subject area and, in some cases, possibly earn a master’s degree. If the goal is to teach at a university, then a doctoral degree is probably required. In my professional opinion, one purpose of an advanced degree is to help you to reach the next destination along your career journey.
Second, in what type of higher education institution do you want to teach? Not all post-secondary institutions are the same. There are many different types, and each has a unique focus and required set of job skills. The wide range of post-secondary institutions include: community colleges, teaching universities, emerging research universities, Tier I institutions, and private universities. Faculty members at a community college or a teaching university will spend almost all of their time engaged in teaching. Faculty members at emerging research institutions and private universities split their time between teaching and conducting research. Professors at Tier I universities focus primarily on conducting research and securing grant funding. It is important to determine how you want to spend your time. Fortunately, the job prospects for all types are good for the near future because many states are encouraging their high school graduates to pursue some form of post-secondary education. Since tuition at a four-year university is expensive, many high school graduates are beginning their educational studies at community colleges. As a result of this burgeoning influx of students, many teaching positions are now available at community colleges. The Carnegie Foundation has created a classification scheme outlining the various types of institutions: The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
Third, what types of teaching positions are available? After you decide on your goals, degree, and type of institution, you will want to begin monitoring job postings. Two main websites serve as a clearinghouse for open positions in higher education: The Chronicle of Higher Education and Higher Ed Jobs. Early in their careers, prospective faculty members are encouraged to review the job positions to get a sense for the types of jobs available and the specific requirements for each position. When you’re monitoring these websites frequently, you’ll see the hiring trends in each field. For example, the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are current hot areas and will continue to be so in the future.
It is always good to interview educators who teach at these levels and ask about the positive and negative aspects of the position. Some preconceptions about teaching in higher education are incorrect. Furthermore, visiting the career counseling center at your undergraduate institution is another good strategy. Trained professionals in these offices can give expert advice. Finally, maintaining membership in professional organizations such as KDP will provide online and in-person networking opportunities and ongoing professional development that will help as you seek a teaching position at the post-secondary level.
Tips & Resources
Network with professors and graduate students through the Educator Learning Network.
Subscribe to the Education Week’s Career Corner blog.
As you finish a master’s or doctorate, you may want to narrow your search to find a school that fits you. Work with your mentor and network with others you know who recently graduated. Research the school, the school of education, and the other faculty members.
Possible websites to use:
Higher Ed Jobs
The Chronicle of Higher Education Job Listing
Check out this on-demand webinar in the KDP Learning Center.
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