How can you tell whether an academic career is for you or not? Can you tell it from one's characteristics or personalities?
As Moonbear points out, an "academic career" is a broad term, and depending on where you are, it can emphasize teaching, research, tenure-track or not, etc.How can you tell whether an academic career is for you or not? Can you tell it from one's characteristics or personalities?
This description probably applies more to medium and large colleges and universities than small ones. At colleges whose main mission is teaching, the college generally pays your entire salary, you're expected to teach the same number of courses per year as everyone else, and research is something you do "on the side" and/or during the summer. Grant money pays for equipment, travel, student workers, etc.Then there are educator/instructor type tracks. These are focused on teaching with little to no research requirements, though tend to be 9 or 10 month appointments, but no grant writing required. At a lot of universities, these positions are filled by family-oriented people who want to be able to leave the office by 5 or 6 every night to get home and care for kids. The stability isn't quite as good in a lot of places (though this varies depending on what you teach and how committed the school is to having that course taught well). While the threat to research track stability would be difficulty getting grant funding, the threat to teaching track stability is if tenured faculty have difficulty getting grant funding...in other words, they get forced to teach more courses if they aren't covering their salaries on grants, so the teaching faculty can no longer be afforded.
Of course this varies from school to school. Sorry if I didn't make that clear. The main point I was trying to make was that an "academic" career isn't all that defined other than to mean one is working at a university or college.This description probably applies more to medium and large colleges and universities than small ones. At colleges whose main mission is teaching, the college generally pays your entire salary, you're expected to teach the same number of courses per year as everyone else, and research is something you do "on the side" and/or during the summer. Grant money pays for equipment, travel, student workers, etc.
Where I teach, it's unusual for someone to have part of his salary paid from external sources. We do in fact have an exception in my department, whom we hired starting this year. He brought along some research funding that pays part of his salary, so he's teaching one course less per year than the rest of us in my department.
Probably not. But, it's hard to find a job ANYWHERE where you can avoid being stuck on committees or having to work with groups from time to time. Academia does usually have "service" requirements, which means sitting on committees. They usually expect about 5% of your time will be spent doing this. Academic research is almost always done in groups...you'll either be working with a supervisor or students and post-docs working for you. Of course, teaching requires the most people-skills.tgt said:Would it suit someone who doesn't like to work in groups or be part of committees etc?
True. And some committees are better than others. I've been on ones run by people who shouldn't be chairing a committee (we called it the Local Torture Committee), because they don't really want input from the committee members, just minions to micromanage, which doesn't really fly well with academics. Others can be very productive and useful and leave the members feeling like they've really accomplished something good. The biggest problem people have with committees is they suck up time you don't have to spare. The meeting that should only be for an hour once a month and ends up dragging on for 3 or 4 hours because nobody can agree on a final decision that has to be made by an admissions deadline will make people pull their hair out.Just a small observation about committee work from my non-faculty perspective: serving on committees seems to be a chance to benefit yourself and your group. Being on the graduate admissions committee can be helpful in making sure an entering class has some people interested in your areas of research, being on a facilities committee may aid you in getting support/equipment that benefits your research, and so on. This is, at least, what I've deduced from many conversations with junior faculty to date.
You may not enjoy it, all in all, but you may find that it is helpful to your efforts to staying in academia.