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So, You Want to Be an English Professor? Or Get a Ph.D. in English? Confessions of a second-generation English prof. Dr. Russell Willerton February 5,

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Presentation on theme: "So, You Want to Be an English Professor? Or Get a Ph.D. in English? Confessions of a second-generation English prof. Dr. Russell Willerton February 5,"— Presentation transcript:

1 So, You Want to Be an English Professor? Or Get a Ph.D. in English? Confessions of a second-generation English prof. Dr. Russell Willerton February 5, 2009 The views stated herein are my own and do not necessarily represent those of any other person, organization, or entity.

2 Overview Types of Professorial Jobs Types of Institutions Requirements for Jobs Types of Terminal Degrees Pros of College Teaching Cons of College Teaching Summary

3 Types of Professorial Jobs Tenured or tenure-track Tenured professors have benefits and lifetime appointments, unless they do something heinous or the university eliminates the programs in which they teach. Renewable contracts/lectureships Some teach full-time on contracts that may be renewed; usually receive benefits. Adjunct/Part-time Temporary positions; usually no benefits; usually no guarantees for subsequent work.

4 Three Types of Institutions Note: There’s a continuum of schools and types; these categories aren’t absolute. Research (a.k.a., Doctoral; Research 1) Focus on research; “publish or perish” Fewer classes taught (~2 classes/semester) Ex: UW, Stanford, U of Utah, Harvard Comprehensive (a.k.a., Regional) Faculty must do research, teaching, and service More classes taught (~3 classes/semester) Ex: BSU, Missouri St., Northern Arizona

5 Three Types of Institutions Note: There’s a continuum of schools and types; these categories aren’t absolute. Teaching (a.k.a., Liberal Arts Schools; junior college/community college) Focus on teaching and service More classes taught (~4 classes/semester) Ex: NNU, Eastern Oregon U, LCSC, CSI Some smaller institutions require teaching of 5 or more classes/semester.

6 Requirements for Jobs Research Institutions Terminal degree (Ph.D.; MFA for creative writers) Research or publication agenda Publications Comprehensive Institutions Terminal degree (Ph.D.; MFA for creative writers) Research/publication agenda; demonstrated teaching ability MAs typically work only as adjuncts—low pay, few benefits if any, little security Teaching Institutions Terminal degree preferred; minimum of MA

7 Terminal Degrees In English Studies, the terminal degree is a Ph.D. in the specific area of interest (literature; tech comm; rhet/comp.; sometimes in creative writing). An MFA is a terminal degree for people in the field of creative writing. Ed.Ds. are degrees in the field of education. You won’t need an education degree unless you have specific interests in teaching people how to teach English in public schools (K-12).

8 Things You Should Know about a Ph.D. in English A Ph.D. in English prepares you to teach and do research at the college level. There are way more people Ph.D.s than there are full-time jobs, especially in literature. The narrower your focus, the narrower your job possibilities may be. Many holders of Ph.D.s in English find that they need a “Plan B.” Younger fields like rhetoric & composition, technical communication, and “new media” may offer more opportunities for growth. English is losing its standing in a lot of universities.

9 Pros College teaching can be rewarding. It can be fun. It is a privilege. It has a nice ‘ring’ to it. “Summers off, right?” Stability for people with tenure/tenure- track jobs; somewhat recession-proof.

10 Cons Requires a lot of work behind the scenes. Reductions in public support for higher ed, financially and otherwise. High number of available workers drives down salaries. No other group goes to school so long for salaries that are lower than in many fields; no yearly bonus checks. Many people get Ph.Ds. and then try to subsist as adjuncts, and that’s difficult. The time spent to get a Ph.D. could be spent making money in a “real job.” Many Ph.Ds. accrue huge debt.

11 Summary Know the rewards. Know the risks. Know what the competition will be like. Choose carefully.


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