CAREER options

Exploration can provide ideas, options and connections for potential careers and opportunities you may never have heard about or have known if you had not explored. The more career information you can acquire, the more options and opportunities will present themselves.

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  Career Exploration Checklist
  Career Exploration Resources

Books for Career-Related Information

All of the following books can be found in the MCW Todd Wehr Library.

Guide to Nontraditional Careers in Science

Karen Young Kreeger
Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis 1999

This book was written for the purpose of stimulating graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to consider careers outside of academia. Todd Wehr Library Call #: Q 147 K92g 1999 / ISBN: 1560326700

Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower

Cynthia Robbins-Roth
San Diego: Academic Press 1993

This is a multi-authored text, providing a perspective on 22 nonacademic career tracks. Although the term alternative careers is a misnomer, the descriptions of these career possibilities along with the attendant qualifications and expectations is very useful. Todd Wehr Library Call #: Q 149 A466 1998 / ISBN: 0125893752

The Academic Job Search Handbook

Mary Morris Heiberger and Julia Miller Vick
Philadelphia, PA: University Of Pennsylvania Press 2001

This is a comprehensive resource which starts with information on the structure of academic careers, the hiring process, and planning your job search. It deals extensively with vitae including a discerning gem of advice to tailor your vita to each position for which you apply. There are also chapters on interviewing, accepting/rejecting job offers, and additional guidance for special situations such as dual career couples, foreign nationals, etc. Todd Wehr Library Call #: LB 2331 H465a 2001 / ISBN: 0812217780

Tomorrow's Professor: Preparing for Academic Careers in Science and Engineering

Richard M. Reis
New York: Wiley Interscience 1997

This is a well-written book on how to prepare, compete, and succeed in an academic career. It provides some perspective with an overview of the modern academic enterprise. The author walks systematically through the stages of a scientific career including preparation, applying for positions, first years on the job, and achieving tenure. Todd Wehr Library Call #: Q 149 R375t 1997 / ISBN: 0780311361

Websites for Career-Related Information



Teaching Opportunities in the Local Area




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Doing a Postdoctoral Fellowship

The first and most critical decision you need to make is whether a postdoctoral fellowship is necessary for the career that you desire. For most research careers, the postdoc is the de facto terminal degree. There are a number of other reasons one might want to consider a postdoctoral fellowship:

  • Opportunity to learn new skills
  • Time to publish and write grants
  • Provides a competitive advantage over other candidates
  • Allows crossover into a new field
  • Time to explore new area of country or world
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  Finding a Postdoctoral Mentor

Don’t just look for advertised positions. Be proactive in finding a postdoctoral mentor that will be a good fit for you. Ask questions of your graduate advisor and colleagues. Introduce yourself to potential mentors at scientific meetings.

In choosing a laboratory, consider:

  • Publication history – number, type of journals
  • Number of past postdocs - where are they now?
  • Number of present postdocs/grad students
  • Is the research topic something that you are passionate about?
  • Is this a group that is moving the field along?
  Questions to be Answered

Plan to visit the laboratory to meet the mentor and current lab members before accepting a position. You need a personal visit to discern whether this is an environment and group of people that you would enjoy being around for several years.

During the interview, you should ascertain:

  • Current level and sources of funding of the research program
  • Facilities/resources available
  • Length of guaranteed financial support
  • Will you be required/allowed to write a postdoctoral grant proposal?
  • Mentor’s expectations for you - what will be your role in the lab?
  • Technical assistance for your experiments - student or technician?
  • Will the mentor determine the research program or will you have some autonomy?
  • Philosophy on taking part of project as your own independent research
  • Authorship practices – will you contribute to other papers besides your first author papers?
  • Policy on travel to conferences
  • Expected work hours
  • Are there regular laboratory meetings to review progress and discuss science?
  • Does the PI have time for mentoring?
  • Is there a postdoc office that provides professional development training?
    • Other responsibilities/opportunities
    • Grantwriting
    • Training graduate students
    • Teaching
    • Taking additional classes
  Lifestyle Considerations

Other issues to consider in comparing positions:

  • Spouse/Family Issues
  • Childcare
  • Cost of living
  • Housing assistance
  • Salary and how it is determined
  • Benefits (health, dental, retirement, etc.)
  • Relocation expenses
  • Vacation time