Cover Story

You'll most likely make your decision to seek an academic position several years before you finish your formal schooling. The steps you take before graduating are crucial to positioning you well in academia. Experts weigh in on:

  • Building your network. As soon as you start grad school, begin attending as many professional meetings and conferences as you can, say experts. Introduce yourself to professors you envision as future colleagues.

  • Gaining teaching experience. While in grad school, become a teaching assistant, or offer to lead study sessions for undergraduate students, says Miguel Gallardo, PsyD, an assistant professor at Pepperdine University.

  • When to apply. "Most universities today begin reviewing applications a year ahead of time for a faculty member who will start in the upcoming fall," says Frank Collins, PhD, a professor and former clinical director at Oklahoma State University. Students typically interview throughout their final year of their program or while they are on internship. And it's not uncommon that students haven't completed their dissertation before they interview.

"In the summer before their last academic year, students should be talking with their adviser about interviewing, getting a C.V. together and looking at ads," notes Mark Zanna, PhD, professor and former chair of the University of Waterloo psychology department. "Most students will not have finished their PhDs when this process starts."

  • Early planning. For Tonya Dodge, PhD, an assistant professor at The George Washington University, the process began when she got to grad school. Her adviser suggested that if she wanted to begin applying for academic positions in her fourth or fifth year of grad school, she should start researching and publishing in her second and third years. "It's the sort of thing where you can't all of a sudden be a competitive applicant because you write a good personal statement," she says. "You have to prepare early in your academic career."

-E. Packard