Careers in academia
Careers in academia are very rewarding. Below is information that will assist you in pursuing this career path.
A typical academic path starts with an undergraduate degree, followed by graduate studies (MSc and/or PhD). This is often followed by a postdoctoral research position. Depending on the area of physics, a researcher will need to have several postdoctoral positions before they are able to land a permanent job in academia, such as a tenure-track faculty position that may lead to becoming a professor.
What is a postdoctoral researcher?
A postdoctoral researcher or postdoc is a person professionally conducting research after the completion of their PhD. The ultimate goal of a postdoc is to pursue additional research, training, or teaching in order to have better skills to pursue a career in academia, research, or any other fields.
What does a professor do?
A professor does more than just research. For more information, take a look at the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program, a national movement to transform the way aspiring faculty members are prepared for their careers. Also, take a look at this article in the Blue Review by anthropologist John Ziker, which details the first stage of a study of faculty time allocation.
Other jobs related to academia
Becoming a professor is not the only path related to academia. Other options include:
- Lecturer at a liberal arts college
- Research position at an academic lab
- Science outreach at a university or institute
- Hybrid teaching/research positions such as Perimeter's PSI Fellows
Academic research labs
- Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (Chalk River, ON): nuclear science and technology research
- SNOLAB (Sudbury, ON): underground laboratory (neutrino and dark matter physics)
- TRIUMF (Vancouver, BC): Canada's particle accelerator centre
- TQT (University of Waterloo): Aims to advance the use of quantum mechanics from laboratory to impactful devices
Where to find academic jobs?
There are a number of websites that post jobs. See, for example:
Often, however, your best resource will be your network/community. Make them aware that you are looking for jobs. Many jobs are advertised to colleagues via internal mailing lists. Physics communities tend to be very tight-knit and word-of-mouth is very powerful.
Attending conferences in your field is a great way to make yourself known to your community and to land your next job. Group leaders looking to hire postdocs use conferences as an opportunity to meet possible candidates.
A number of books have been written to help academics build a rewarding career. Some of these include:
- A PhD Is Not Enough!: A Guide to Survival in Science by Peter J. Feibelman
- Advice for New Faculty Members by Robert Boice
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- Networking for Nerds: Find, Access and Land Hidden Game-Changing Career Opportunities Everywhere by Alaina G. Levine
- Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing by Robert Boice
- From UC Berkeley's Career Center, The Hiring Process From the Other Side provides an in-depth look at the hiring process for academic roles, from navigating job announcements to negotiating an offer.
- A continuing series in which David D. Perlmutter explores all the things that can go wrong for candidates during the faculty job hunt.