Preparing Future Faculty

Nikolas Sweet Ph.D. candidate 2019 PFF Program AssistantNikolas Sweet Ph.D Candidate 2019 PFF Program Assistant

Are you considering a faculty career after graduation?  Want to know more about how to prepare? The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching offers a month-long seminar, “Preparing Future Faculty” (PFF), which helps graduate students navigate the transitional period between graduate school and becoming a faculty member. Read more »


Winter: in many fields, this time of year is filled with faculty position interviews, campus visits, and job talks. You might currently be deep in an academic job search process or watching others grapple with it. You may be curious about the kinds of jobs that PhD’s hold outside the academy. In this competitive academic job market, many graduate students and postdocs are doing both--investigating the market for academic jobs while also exploring alternate career paths.

To support the needs of current and future faculty, CRLT has drawn together a broad set of Preparing Future Faculty web resources that can help academics explore, apply for, and thrive in a wide variety of jobs. Many of the linked documents, videos, and websites originated from a CRLT-Rackham collaboration that took the form of an annual Preparing Future Faculty conference. The collection thus contains a wealth of resources that have been developed collaboratively over a decade of Preparing Future Faculty efforts at U-M.

While graduate students and postdocs will find these resources particularly useful, academics at all stages will find valuable guidance and information here. For example, we highlight strategies for success at any point in your academic career, from graduate student to postdoc to full professor. In addition, many graduate students and postdocs may be interested in exploring career options outside the academy that draw on the skills they are developing as scholars and teachers inside the academy. Read more »


photo of apple on deskIn STEM fields, postdoctoral positions are frequently the launching point into the professoriate. However, given the demands of their research commitments, many postdocs have very limited teaching experience when they begin applying for academic jobs.  To enable postdocs to build their skills in teaching in the sciences, CRLT and Rackham Graduate School collaborated to create a unique opportunity for U-M postdoctoral scholars: the Postdoctoral Short-Course on College Teaching in Science and Engineering (PSC). The PSC has been offered seven times in a face-to-face format since its debut in 2012, and an online version of the course has been offered twice with Rackham and the U-M Office of Academic Innovation.

CRLT is currently accepting applications for the face-to-face version of the course during the Winter 2017 term. The course will meet on Wednesdays from 9:00am-12:00pm from Jaunary 4th through February 22nd, 2017. Applications are due by 8:00am EST on November 11th, 2016. More information about the face-to-face and online versions of the course can be found on the PSC webpage.
Feedback from previous participants attests that the PSC can be a transformative experience for postdocs:
  • “I wasn’t planning on teaching as part of my career.  PSC showed me that not only do I enjoy teaching, but that I am capable of doing it well.  It’s changed the type of job I’m applying for.” (from a postdoc in engineering)
  • “During a campus interview, the search committee chair asked me how I would actively engage students in their introductory courses with over 100 students.  After PSC, I was totally prepared to answer this question and could provide examples from my course design project and practice teaching session.”  (from a postdoc in the biomedical sciences)
In order to flexibly accommodate the demanding research obligations of U-M’s postdocs, the PSC uses a “flipped class” model. Before each of the sessions, participants watch short video podcasts and complete preparatory online assignments to establish basic mastery of teaching and learning concepts.  During face-to-face meetings, the postdocs engage exclusively in hands-on, experiential learning, practice applying the concepts, and participate in reflective discussions.  Both online and during class, the instructors model research-based teaching strategies, so that participants can experience these approaches from the perspectives of their future students.  
If you’re wondering what an academic career might entail in different fields and at different kinds of institutions, how to write a teaching philosophy, or how to make productive use of your time in graduate school, you’ll find resources here to help you. Browse through the pages based on your interest in learning more about the types of academic jobs, how to navigate the academic job market, or strategies for success at any stage of your academic career, from graduate student to postdoc to full professor. 
Many of these resources originated from a CRLT-Rackham collaboration, the former annual Preparing Future Faculty conference. If you'd like additional information on these topics, see this additional programming from CRLT:
  • Preparing Future Faculty Seminar - 5-week program each May offered by CRLT and Rackham designed to help prepare doctoral candidates for the academic job search and success in their subsequent faculty positions.
small graphic of a magnifying glass Unsure about whether a faculty job is a good fit for you? You have options! Many PhDs go on to find career satisfaction in non-academic or alt-ac jobs. These resources present some possibilities for non-faculty jobs, including strategies for non-academic job searches.

Defining Terms. Alt-ac careers, or alternative academic careers, can be an excellent possibility for those who wish to remain inside the academy but off the tenure track. This blog post offers multiple resources for those interested in exploring alt-ac careers.

U-M's Humanities PhD Project. This site offers many resources for graduate students' career explorations.

Ten Simple Rules for Choosing Between Industry and Academia. This editorial from PLOS Computational Biology helps science PhDs assess the choice between industry and academia.