Greetings! My name is Alex Salter, and I am an assistant professor at Texas Tech University. I’m also a research fellow with TTU’s Free Market Institute. I’m going to do a series of posts on navigating graduate school and the job market in order to build a successful academic career. My advice will be geared primarily towards aspiring economists, but lots of what I have to say will be generalizable across disciplines in the human and social sciences.
First, it’s important to enter graduate school with your eyes wide open, and with a clear understanding of your priorities.A PhD program is not a continuation of college. This is usually hardest for students who enter PhD programs immediately after college to understand. You are in graduate school to learn how to be a researcher. This will prepare you for an academic job. If you know you don’t like doing research, or you don’t want an academic job, I strongly urge you to reconsider getting a PhD. There are other kinds of graduate programs for those who want careers in, say, policy work or the private sector that have far smaller opportunity cost.
By the time you get to the job market, you want to be able to demonstrate that you are a competent academic, and that you will be a welcome addition to any prospective department.There are multiple things you can do in graduate school to accomplish this. At a minimum, by the time you finish your graduate program, you should plan to accomplish the following:
- Attend an academic conference and present a working paper
- Teach a course for which you are the sole instructor of record
- Publish (or have accepted for publication) a solo-authored article in a reputable peer-reviewed journal