Graduate School and Academia
If you’re considering applying to an MA or PhD program, start with this excellent 30-page guide (created by Oklahoma State) about choosing and applying to graduate schools.
Applying to graduate school
- “How to ask for a letter of reference“
- “Writing Your Letter of Intent for Applying to Graduate Programs in the Humanities” by Terri Senft
- “7 countries where Americans can study at universities, in English, for free (or almost free)“
- “Don’t go to graduate school [without funding]“
- A collaboratively produced guide on “How to Prep for Grad School if You’re Poor“
So, you want to be a professor?
In that case, your dream is probably to get a tenure-track job as a professor, which is a full-time position with a decent salary, benefits, and relative stability. However, most college courses are taught by graduate teaching assistants, adjuncts, and other part-time employees who often have low wages and get no benefits. So, if you’re going to graduate school because you want to be a professor, watch these videos first to learn about the current labor market, “In Academe, the Future Is Part-Time,” and read this SEIU report on professors in poverty.
If you are still interested, read this book: The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job. It will tell you what you need to do during graduate school to be competitive on the academic job market, and will also point you to other career options you can pursue with a PhD.
If you can find a way to get funding, tuition waivers, and if you can live frugally enough to avoid going into (more) debt, spending 4-8 years in school to get a PhD can be a wonderful way to spend your time, regardless of what you do afterwards. If you can make it work financially and you love reading, researching, writing, teaching, and discussing ideas, you could be very happy in a PhD program.
What to do in graduate school
- “101 Tips for Finishing Your Ph.D. Quickly“
- “How Not to Suck at Graduate School:” a series of useful blog posts with tips on succeeding during graduate school.
- “What To Do Now in Grad School“
- “Graduate School is a Means to a Job“
The academic job market
- Competition for tenure-track jobs is intense. According to an NCA report, there were 325 advertised assistant professor positions in 2014, and every year around 650 people earn PhDs in Communication; many of those stay on the market for a tenure-track job for a number of years.
- A booklet from the Chronicle of Higher Ed: Academic Career Development
- Here’s a humorous but completely accurate description of the process of getting a job as a tenure-track professor.
- Jonathan Sterne’s academic professionalization resources page is wonderful and comprehensive, especially for advice about the job market for academic positions. Some of it is Communication-specific, but much is widely applicable to any field.
Navigating and succeeding in academia
- How to write CVs, conference abstracts, and grants.
- “Time management is the key to happiness” by Brad Had.
- Advice for New Faculty Members, by Robert Boice
- The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure–Without Losing Your Soul, by Kerry Ann Rockquemore
- Impostor syndrome is a common problem among academics, and there are strategies you can use to reduce it.
Writing and publishing tips
- “How To Get a Social Media PhD:” a list of resources on writing and publishing in academia that every grad student should read.
- Why academic writing stinks and how to fix it
- How to write clearly: “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell
- “How to Get an Article Published in 20 Easy Steps” by Lynn Schofield Clark
- “Author Rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum to secure your rights as the author of a journal article“
- “30 tips for successful academic research and writing“
- The National Communication Association maintains a list of graduate programs in Communication.
Careers outside academia
- Alt-Ac 101
- Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia
- “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”: Finding Careers Outside Academia
- Navigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager’s Advice for Academics Looking for a Job in Industry