Micheal Hickerson, maps out an ideal route to becoming a professor. There may be bumps along the way, but keep your destination in mind.
This is only a general outline of an idealized route. Details vary by discipline and by your intended goal (e.g. research university, Christian college, part time instructor). For more material and stories visit Graduate School Journey on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog.
As an Undergraduate
For Your Self-Development
- Develop your worldview. Consider theological coursework.
- Develop your writing skills.
- Learn a second language.
- Improve your study skills.
- Earn a high GPA.
For Your Application
- Get to know your professors, so that they can write good letters of reference.
- Prepare well for the GRE, GMAT, or your discipline’s entrance exams.
- Research graduate schools and apply to several.
- Apply for funding. One potential source: The Harvey Fellows Program, sponsored by the Mustard Seed Foundation, offers stipends to Christian students earning doctorates in strategic fields at premier institutions. See http://msfdn.org/harveyfellows/ for details.
The Structure of Grad School
Again, this varies by discipline. For example, some disciplines expect you to earn a masters degree before starting your doctorate, while other discipline view a masters as unnecessary.
- Course Work: 2 or more years
- Know your language requirements!
- Comprehensive exams before starting dissertation.
- Dissertation: 1 to 2 years (but often longer)
- Dissertation Defense
- Research or Teaching Assistantship
- Begin publishing while in graduate school.
- Apply for teaching positions.
Finding a Job
Be Intentional and Network!
- Contact schools you like, whether or not they have an opening.
- Most openings (80%) are never advertised.
- Competition for positions varies widely, and is sometimes counter-intuitive (e.g. an “easy” teaching position might attract 10 times as many applications as a prestigious research position).
As a Professor
Faculty positions are either tenure-track (TT) or non-tenure-track (also called contingent). Non-tenure-track positions can be quite fulfilling, depending on your personal goals and situation.
- Three categories are assessed for tenure: research, teaching, and service.
- Different kinds of schools have different requirements. A research university will value research above all else. A teaching college might place more emphasis on course evaluations.
- The first year teaching will probably be the most stressful year of your life, so be prepared and seek good counsel.
- It’s possible to get hired “ABD” (“All But Dissertation”) but be very cautious: it’s easy to get caught up in the new job (see above) and never finish your PhD.
- Non-tenure track: Instructor, Lecturer, Adjunct
- Tenure-track starts with Assistant Professor.
- After tenure is Associate Professor, then promotion later to Professor or Full Professor. Senior scholars can be awarded endowed Chairs.
- If desired, you can later move into administrative roles: Department Chair, Dean, Provost, etc.