actually, you should concentrate on your research
Before the holiday, we discussed Sam Perry’s job market advice, which is that grad students should really buckle down on research. A number of commenters thought that Perry’s advice was misleading. Sure, if you want a job in a doctoral program, focus on research in graduate school. But, the critique goes, there are many jobs that are not in research intensive programs, so you don’t have to focus on research in grad school.
After giving this a bit of thought, I still side with Sam Perry. The argument has two parts. First, list the typical outcomes for graduate students and you will see that for many, focusing on research is the obvious thing to do:
- Doctoral/MA program employment: obvious.
- Administrative position in higher ed: They don’t care about your research post-PhD. They mostly want to know that you have finished your degree (e.g., your dissertation).
- Policy/private sector: They don’t care about teaching, just that you finish the degree (i.e., get your research done).
- Competitive liberal arts school: They tend to hire from elite schools, so you need to get into elite schools, which look for research potential in applicants. They also want PhD holders and publications for tenure. That suggests to me that a heckuva lot of effort should be put into research. Don’t believe me? Check out the CVs of the sociology faculty at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Bates, Amherst, or other well known liberal arts school.
So, in these cases, research is either integral to the job or how you are selected for the job (i.e., getting your PhD and moving on to administration).
The second part of the argument: the major category of work that we have not discussed are jobs in less selective teaching intensive schools. Here, the advice is that one is best served by having a portfolio with a good mixture of teaching and research. Why? If you look at the CVs, that is what you see (pick a few random schools – like IU Northwest or Knox College). You see that those with tenure are those who have good teaching records in addition to *some* publication.
To summarize, if you look at typical jobs for academics post-PhD:
- research is the job (doctoral programs, policy shops)
- research screens applicants (higher ed admin, teaching intensive schools, some policy/private sector)
- research is part of the package (most teaching intensive schools).
Final thoughts: (a) research is scarce compared to teaching; (b) having research on the CV broadens the jobs you can consider; (c) “research” means different things – it can range from “get your dissertation done” to “respectable peer reviewed journal” to “flagship journal hit;” and (d) if you are shooting for teaching intensive jobs, it is not too hard to acquire teaching experience of varying types to create a complete application.