Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Visiting Asst. Prof. Catch-22

I spent some time this morning researching the Chronicle's posting of average annual salary for asst. profs. (assuming this includes VAPs) so that I can get a sense of what the pay might be for a position that needs to be filled immediately. It's a VAP position that starts in about a month teaching statistics classes at a university on the other side of the state. I don't know if they'd be interested in me or not as I haven't taught stats yet, but I do have a lot of teaching experience and I need to work.

However, I don't know if I should be interested in the position. I need research lines on my CV, not more teaching. Teaching 2-3 new classes is not a recipe for getting research done. From what I have read on the Chronicle's forums, it seems there is a widely held perception that there is something wrong with a person who has numerous VAP or adjunct positions and has not found a tenure-track position. Evidently, the consensus is that if you aren't in a t-t position within 3 years of finishing a PhD, then you aren't ever going to be.

If you take a visiting position, your teaching demands are heavier, your likelihood of getting research done shrinks, and then during the next hiring cycle you're better suited for adjunct and visiting positions than t-t ones and the cylce repeats.

At some point you get marked as an itinerant academic.

I've read the forums for that type of academic and have determined the lifestyle is not for me. I am attached to stuff. I don't relish the idea of always renting and never owning, not even your own furniture. Some even talked of battling bedbugs because of relying on Goodwill furniture.

I suspect few of those PhDs thought that's the life they'd lead when they entered graduate school. I certainly didn't. I went in so blindly that I didn't even realize you have to go wherever you are lucky enough to get a job. If someone had told me working in academia is like being in the military in the sense that you go live wherever you're told to live, I would have given much more serious thought to joining.

But, here I am PhD in hand, debating whether to pursue another visiting position partly because I was picky about where I would live and what type of school I'd work for. I only applied to a handful of schools that fit the bill.

1 comment:

Ms.PhD said...

I have to wonder if this is better, worse, or essentially the same thing as doing a postdoc or two (or three)?

I know some fields don't have postdoc "training", but it hadn't occurred to me that this is what happens instead. Yeesh.

Re: where to go and what kind of jobs to take, I'd say the same thing I say about some of my single friends. I was single off and on for a long time, and then I realized that being picky is not a good thing, because it's easy to screen out options based on the wrong criteria. I think you should apply to more places and check them out. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised?

And if you need more research lines on your CV, get them. Don't get caught up doing more teaching right now unless you really enjoy it and it's the only thing keeping you sane, or if you would seriously consider teaching exclusively.