Academic Careers - Apply for Faculty Positions

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After you find the positions for which to apply, the next step is reading and understanding for what the search committee is looking, as well as what documents are required in your application package. A tenure-track faculty job application package typically consists of up to four documents: cover letter, CV, research plan, and teaching philosophy. Read below to learn what to include in each, as well as view some examples.


Cover Letters

As for any application, the purpose of a cover letter is to get an interview. Aside from being well written, error-free, and professional, your cover letter should be compelling. In the same way a well-written abstract compels the reader to read the research article, a well-written cover letter should entice the reader to read your application package, should provide an overview of its contents, and allow the reader to assess your potential fit for the position.

Format: Business Letter, 1-2 pages, approximately 4-5 paragraphs
Salutation: Who you are - What you do and where - For what you are applying - How you found it
Body 1: CV highlights (expertise, accomplishments, and strengths)
Body 2: Research and/or teaching statement highlights (what you plan to do and how you fit)
Closing: Thank for consideration - Express interest in the position and people
Enclosure: List of the documents included with your cover letter

CVs

A curriculum vitae (CV), Latin for the course of life, is a comprehensive academic document of an individual's education, employment history, publications, and other achievements. Unlike a resume, which is short and highly tailored, a CV has no length restrictions and is simply a chronicle of accomplishments without elaborate detail or self-promotion.

Common sections of a CV include:

  • Name & Contact Information (personal and professional)
  • Education (undergraduate and graduate)
  • Research Experience
  • Research Interests
  • Teaching Experience
  • Training & Mentoring Experience
  • Grants & Fellowships
  • Publications
  • Presentations
  • References

When formatting, choose a serif font, 0.5" - 1.5" margins, and use formatting (all caps, bolds, italics) to convey clear hierarchy. While a static document in content, a CV can be tailored to emphasize specific expertise and qualifications.

Research Statements

A research statement is a clear, exciting, and compelling description of your past and current work that forms the basis for your proposed research program. For all intents and purposes, a research statement takes the form of a short grant proposal of two or three independent projects on which you and your lab will work over the next few years.

Project 1: Low-hanging fruit - doable, fundable, and publishable
Project 2: High risk - High reward
Project 3: Middle ground between one and two

In each of these projects, you must convey:

  1. Approach - What will you do?
  2. Impact - Why is it important?
  3. Fundability - Who will fund you?

A faculty search committee is looking for someone who can think and communicate like an independent scientist. The expectation is not that you will necessarily accomplish all three of your proposed projects. After all, good science will raise questions, the answers to which may take you in unexpected directions.

Research statement lengths and formats can vary, depending on the requirements of the department or university to which you apply. If the position description does not convey the required format, it is perfectly acceptable to inquire with the department that posted the advertisement. Unlike other scientific communications, research statements are written in first person.

Teaching Statements

A teaching statement, often called a teaching philosophy, is a description of your approach to teaching and to learning. Many academic institutions require a teaching statement; however, it depends on the teaching expectations of the position. Some research intensive institutions may not request it. In a teaching statement, you must describe:

Why: What is your motivation to teach?
What: What do you teach, and what your strengths?
How: What is your methodology? How do you approach teaching?
Effectiveness: How do you evaluate your teaching? How do you assess learning?

Like research statements, teaching statement lengths and formats can vary with the requirements of the department to which you apply. Generally, a teaching statement is one to two pages long. Your statement may also vary depending on the mission of the institution and department to which you apply, e.g., if the university has a religious affiliation, or if there is a large undergraduate component. The most important point to remember about a teaching statement is that it is about the students.

Resources

The Academic Job Search Handbook - Julie Miller Vick & Jennifer Furlong
Fantastic resource detailing the entire academic job search process, which includes numerous examples of the application documents described here.

Writing the Research Plan for Your Academic Job Application - John G. Gilmore, Ph.D. (ACS)

How to Write a Teaching Statement That Sings - Vitae, The Chronicle of Higher Education