Professional Development

Graduate students and postdoctoral trainees can utilize the resources below to explore career pathways in the mathematics, physical science and engineering fields. Each section includes an overview of each pathway, advice from professionals, and a professional development timeline.

Careers in Academia

Professor at a Research Institution

Assistant Professor at a research-intensive institution
Institution Type: Large public or private institution such as a University of California campus, Stanford or Caltech

  • The impact you want to make has an emphasis on cutting edge research that significantly advances your field, training advanced scientists in graduate education and postdoctoral scholars and teaching undergraduate students.
  • You are passionate about solving complex problems and require specialized training in an area where there are few experts.
  • You thrive in environments that are fast-paced, collaborative and have extensive research resources. You enjoy sharing the findings of your work through publishing articles in top-tier journals regularly and have a clear understanding of who your audience is for publishing and presenting your work.
  • You understand the ambiguity, risks and benefits associated with pursuing a faculty position in a major research institution and tenure including the timeline, expected productivity, and influence in the field.
  • You know how to fund your research, understand and have successfully secured funding and written grants through your department, university and national funding agencies.
Advice from Faculty:

It is very important that you discuss your intent to pursue an academic career with your adviser. He or she can then help tailor your project so as to better position you for the academic job market.
-UCLA Faculty Member, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Learn to prioritize. I see a lot of new faculty struggle with the overwhelming number of things to do. When everything is at the same level of priority, it’s difficult. You have to figure out what’s most important to do now, and what can be put off. Underrepresented faculty, whether in terms of gender, race, or other factors, are sometimes asked to do more -- serve on more committees, do more outreach for the institution. But it’s okay to say no, in fact, you have to learn to do that.
-Caltech Faculty Member, Chemical Engineering

Identify the top professors in your field (for example using Google Scholar) and attend conferences that they will be making presentations. Introduce yourself to them. Mentioned you have read their papers and talk to them about their research and tell them about what you are working on.
-Stanford University Civil & Environmental Engineering

Resources for Academic Appointment in a Research University

To best understand if this is the path for you, you need to have a very clear idea of what it takes to pursue and secure a postdoc, then academic appointment as an assistant professor and ultimately tenure at a major research university, and the kinds of work you will need to do to make that possible.

Finding the Right Institutional Fit: Focus on Diversity Issues

How to get Tenure at a Major Research University

Resources for the Development of Early-Career Scientists

The Academic Scientists' Toolkit

Discipline Specific Resources:

Chemistry | Physics | Astronomy | Mathematics | Engineering

Early (Year 1-2, Coursework & Exams)

Draft a month by month degree completion timeline:
Start with your ideal end date and include the following

  1. Degree milestones & coursework (advisor/committee designation, qualifying exams, etc..)
  2. Annual conferences and anticipated conference/poster proposal deadlines
  3. Funding submissions
  4. Publication submissions
  5. Additional training opportunities (TA training)
  6. Department and University service and leadership opportunities/application timelines

Identify mentors and advocates early
Conduct informational interviews with faculty in your department to understand individual research and teaching expectations, areas of research and work, communication, availability and mentorship style (upcoming sabbaticals, days on campus, number of advisees).

Set up regular meetings with your research advisor to stay on track.
Don’t wait for your advisor to tell you what to do, be proactive! Create an agenda or bring topics and questions to discuss each time. Don’t rely on your faculty advisor to lead the conversation. Create and discuss your individual development plan (IDP) to stay on track.

Depending on your discipline and program of study, research at this stage may consist of but is not limited to the following:

  • Reviewing field specific studies and literature
  • Discussing research questions and having early conversations regarding your research focus
  • Performing early stage experiments (typically on an existing project) to determine possibilities for a future focus

Create a Curriculum Vitae.
Track all of your research, funding, teaching and service accomplishments meticulously (link: consider creating a “master” CV)

Network:
Attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquia, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about the field.

Identify University Resources to use in the future
for Fellowship and Grant Writing, Scientific Writing and Presentation Skills, Research Escalator Programs

Financial Planning
Seek out fellowships, TA positions and Graduate Student Researcher positions to help pay for education and expenses.

Community & Life Balance
Find community resources (especially if adjusting to a new institution or city/town), find hobbies and ways to de-stress outside of life in the academy. Manage your stress and seek out institutional resources.

Developing ( year 2-4, Exams, Research, & Dissertation Work)

Monitor and make revisions to your degree completion timeline.
Pay attention to key deadlines and upcoming degree milestones. Pay attention to committee creation, qualifying exams and funding.

Establish research milestones for your project and continue meeting with your faculty mentor regularly.
Research activities mid-stage may consist of:

  • Finalizing experimental design
  • Data collection and experiments
  • Revision of research questions based on results
  • Early stages of the dissertation writing process

Articulate your research agenda and outline your thesis starting with a literature review.
Set aside time each day or week to focus on writing. Build writing into your schedule like you would with any other task or appointment.

Maintain your mentor “team”
Meet regularly with mentors throughout the year and seek out mentorship for different purposes. Not all mentors are faculty members, connect with peers, postdocs, and others on and off campus with research intensive roles. Maintain your relationship with faculty both inside and outside of your direct discipline to continue building your network.

Continue meeting regularly with your research advisor to stay on track.
Stay proactive in driving the conversation and consider discussing topics outside of your academic research such as professional development opportunities, presentation skills, and opportunities for publication. Discuss your career goals early so that you may develop a professional development plan with your mentor.

Become a course reader or a Teaching Assistant to gain teaching experience.

Learn the Job Market:
Set up an alert on HigherEdjobs.com specific to your field to monitor academic hiring trends specifically for research intensive universities

Set up informational interviews
with faculty at institutions in which you are interested to learn about campus culture, hiring practices, and departmental expectations.

Continuously Update Your Curriculum Vitae.
Meticulously track all of your research, funding, teaching and service accomplishments.

Network:
Attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquia, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about the field.

Utilize university resources
for Fellowship and Grant Writing, Scientific Writing and Presentation Skills, Research Escalator Programs.

Financial Planning
Seek out fellowships, TA positions and Graduate Student Researcher positions to help pay for education and expenses. Understand your loan and repayment plan.

Leadership
Join a campus, local or national organization. Seek out organizations in your field or that align with your interests and research focus (Ex: American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, Advancing Women in Science and Engineering, National Society of Black Engineers etc…)

Community & Life Balance
Manage your health and stress and seek out institutional resources.

Advancing (Year 4 +, Final Research, Dissertation Work, Employment)

Create a plan for your research agenda and writing your thesis.
Devote dedicated time each day to write. Provide your committee with regular updates and proactively set deadlines and communicate with your committee chair to stay on track.

Present and Publish your work

Find the Right Fit
Set up meetings at institutions you are interested in for future postdoc or faculty positions. Schedule a lab visit, talk to postdocs and students in the lab, find potential areas of collaboration, and learn about future openings and the process for applying.

Develop your job search materials
including your CV, Cover Letter Template, Teaching Statement, Diversity Statement, and Research Statement.

Develop interviewing skills
by learning the type of questions that may be asked, participating in mock interviews, and crafting your professional presence.

Develop timeline
and begin your postdoc search

Improve Presentation Skills
Utilize university resources to improve upon your poster and oral presentations. Be able to talk about your research in front of different audiences including within your discipline, outside of your discipline, and to the public. Develop your “elevator pitch.”

Assess & Activate your Network
attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquia, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to Learn about job opportunities. Start communicating when you expect to finish and your interest in postdoc opportunities at least 12-18 months before finishing.

Financial Planning
Learn about loan repayment options and consider applying for the public loan forgiveness program. Utilize campus resources for learning about long term financial planning (retirement, savings, home ownership etc…)

Community & Life Balance
continue to manage stress and seek out support from peers, family, and your institution. Utilize the student counseling center for 1:1 assistance and graduate student support groups.

Postdoc (between 1-5 Years, mentored research)

Find the right fit
for your first postdoc position.

Develop an Individual Development Plan
and meet with your faculty mentor to discuss expectations for research, publication, lab management, and your professional development and career goals.

Know Your Resources
Find campus resources open to postdocs which could include professional development workshops, career and personal counseling among others. Attend a postdoc orientation or seek out the campus postdoc office/association to learn about your resources.

Mentorship
Develop informal mentoring relationships with graduate and undergraduate students in your lab and classes.

Lab Management
Develop project and personnel management skills including establishing an independent research focus/program, managing budgets, and delegating responsibilities.

Funding & Grant Writing
Take a course on grant writing, seek out opportunities to write or co-author funding proposals, apply to career development awards and fellowships.

Communication
Work through the publication process, seeking out opportunities to read and evaluate others’ work. Present at national and regional conferences and present research to multidisciplinary and lay audiences.

Networking
Attend the annual conference for your discipline and department presentations to meet fellow academics, postdocs and faculty to learn about job opportunities. Find opportunities to engage in campus initiatives to broaden your campus network.

Career Development
Participate in several practice job talks, practice teaching and research demonstrations and conduct mock interviews with faculty and colleagues getting feedback or recording yourself for self-assessment. Assess your research start up needs and personal financial needs and understand the salary ranges for living in areas positions are open and you are applying to. Finalize your CV, Cover Letter, Research Statement, Teaching Statement, Diversity Statement,and Recommendation Letters.

Financial Planning
Utilize campus resources for long term financial planning including retirement, savings, family planning and home ownership.

Community & Life Balance
Join your local postdoc association or the National Postdoc Association; find and join affinity groups.

Professor at a Combined Research and Teaching Institution

Institution Types: Public state university such as a California State University and some liberal arts institutions

  • The impact you want to make involves both advancing scientific research in your field and science education at the undergraduate level.
  • You are passionate about solving problems that allow access to science by training and mentoring students in your area of expertise and presentations in your field.
  • You thrive in environments that engage students in research, and can manage a lab while deeply invested in teaching courses. You enjoy sharing the findings of your work through publishing articles occasionally.
Advice from Faculty:

Talk to other grad students/post-docs about their thoughts, but don't get caught up in the "prestige" that seems to surround certain career choices vs others. Talk with your advisor as well - don't assume that you know what that advisor would suggest for you. Let them know what you are most interested in. Grad students are quick to assume that their advisors won't support them in a path that looks different from the R1 path, but that's not always the case. They may not understand the path, but that's different that not supporting it.

Networking is real - any contact you make may be useful to you later in life. You really never know. Keep in touch with people who've gone on to different kinds of jobs. Relationships are always going to matter - sometimes in ways that you can't foresee.

Your research is important, but you need to be able to talk about other things too.
-Lee Park, Associate Dean of Faculty, Professor Of Chemistry, Williams College

Resources for this Pathway

Liberal Arts College Faculty: Finding the Sweet Spot

Big Thinking At Small Universities

How to Get a Teaching Job at a Liberal-Arts College

Juggling Research and Teaching at a Small Liberal Arts College

Discipline Specific Resources:

Chemistry | Physics | Astronomy

Early (Year 1-2, Coursework & Exams)

Draft a month by month degree completion timeline:
Start with your ideal end date and include the following

  1. Degree milestones & coursework (advisor/committee designation, qualifying exams, etc..)
  2. Annual conferences and anticipated conference/poster proposal deadlines
  3. Funding submissions
  4. Publication submissions
  5. Additional training opportunities (TA training)
  6. Department and University service and leadership opportunities/application timelines

Identify mentors and advocates early.
Conduct informational interviews with faculty in your department to understand individual research and teaching expectations, areas of research and work, communication, availability and mentorship style - Reach out to faculty at local liberal arts and state schools to learn about their research and teaching responsibilities

Set up regular meetings with your research advisor to stay on track.
Don’t wait for your advisor to tell you what to do, be proactive! Create an agenda or bring topics and questions to discuss each time. Don’t rely on your faculty advisor to lead the conversation. Create and discuss your individual development plan (IDP) to stay on track.

Depending on your discipline and program of study, research at this stage may consist of but is not limited to the following:

  • Reviewing field specific studies and literature
  • Discussing research questions and having early conversations regarding your research focus
  • Performing early stage experiments (typically on an existing project) to determine possibilities for a future focus

Propose a course to teach and/or become an academic reader.
Your department may offer you a Teaching Assistantship position right away or you may need to take a proactive approach and seek out opportunities to teach from departments on campus. The process will vary by institution and department.

Become a member of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) network to gain access to STEM focused teaching and pedagogy coursework, training, and online resources. Seek out on-campus opportunities for pedagogy and teacher training.

Create a Curriculum Vitae.
Track all of your research, funding, teaching and service accomplishments

Network:
Attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquia, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about the field.

Identify University Resources to use in the future
for Teaching Certificates, Fellowship and Grant Writing, Scientific Writing and Presentation Skills

Financial Planning
Seek out fellowships, TA positions and Graduate Student Researcher positions to help pay for education and expenses. Understand your loan and repayment plan.

Community & Life Balance
Find community resources (especially if adjusting to a new institution or city/town), find hobbies and ways to de-stress outside of life in the academy.

Developing ( year 2-4, Exams, Research, & Dissertation Work)

Monitor and make revisions to your degree completion timeline.
Pay attention to key deadlines and upcoming degree milestones. Pay attention to committee creation, qualifying exams and funding.

Establish research milestones for your project and continue meeting with your faculty mentor regularly.
Research activities mid-stage may consist of:

  • Finalizing experimental design
  • Data collection and experiments
  • Revision of research questions based on results
  • Early stages of the dissertation writing process

Articulate your research agenda and outline your thesis starting with a literature review.
Set aside time each day or week to focus on writing. Build writing into your schedule like you would with any other task or appointment.

Maintain your mentor “team”
Meet regularly with mentors throughout the year and seek out mentorship for different purposes. Not all mentors are faculty members, connect with peers, postdocs, and others on and off campus. Maintain your relationship with faculty at local liberal arts and state schools to continue building your network.

Continue meeting regularly with your research advisor to stay on track.
Stay proactive in driving the conversation and consider discussing topics outside of your academic research such as professional development, presentation skills, teaching opportunities and opportunities for publication. Discuss your career goals early so that you may develop a professional development plan with your mentor.

Teach a course.
Talk with your mentor and take a proactive approach to seek out teaching opportunities within and outside of your department

Seek out opportunities to develop skills as a teacher
including on-campus opportunities for pedagogy and training.

Learn the Job Market:
Set up an alert on HigherEdjobs.com specific to your field to monitor academic hiring trends, topics and timelines for regional state schools and liberal arts institutions.

Set up informational interviews
with faculty at institutions in which you are interested to learn about campus culture, hiring practices, and departmental expectations.

Continuously Update Your Curriculum Vitae.
Meticulously track all of your research, teaching, funding and service accomplishments.

Network:
attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquia, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about the field.

Utilize University Resources
for Teaching Certificates, Fellowship and Grant Writing, Scientific Writing and Presentation Skills

Financial Planning
seek out fellowships, TA positions and Graduate Student Researcher positions to help pay for education and expenses. Understand your loan and repayment plan.

Leadership
Join a campus, local or national organization. Seek out organizations in your field or that align with your interests and career focus (Ex: American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, Advancing Women in Science and Engineering, National Society of Black Engineers, Association of American Colleges & Universities etc…)

Community & Life Balance
Manage your health and stress and seek out institutional resources.

Advancing (Year 4 +, Final Research, Dissertation Work, Employment)

Create a plan for your research agenda and writing your thesis.
Devote dedicated time each day to write. Provide your committee with regular updates and proactively set deadlines. Evaluate the balance between your teaching and research duties and set goals and timelines with your committee chair to stay on track.

Continue finding opportunities to teach and create a teaching portfolio
which includes your teaching statement, course syllabi, materials, and other documents that demonstrate and document your teaching activities.

Present and Publish your work

Find the Right Fit
Set up meetings at institutions you are interested in for future faculty positions. Schedule a lab visit, talk to colleagues in the lab, find potential areas of collaboration, and learn about future openings and the process for applying. Speak with faculty at the institution to determine if a postdoc is required, which varies by campus and discipline.

Develop your job search materials
including your CV, Cover Letter Template, Teaching Statement, Diversity Statement, and Research Statement.

Develop interviewing skills
by learning the type of questions that may be asked, participating in mock interviews, and crafting your professional presence.

Develop timeline
for your academic job search and postdoc search

Get Involved
Participate in department, university and disciplinary committees.

Improve Presentation Skills
Utilize university resources to improve upon your poster and oral presentations. Be able to talk about your research in front of different audiences including within your discipline, outside of your discipline, and to the public. Develop your “elevator pitch.”

Assess & Activate your Network
Attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquia, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about job opportunities. Start communicating when you expect to finish and your interest in postdoc and/or faculty positions.

Financial Planning
Learn about loan repayment options and consider applying for the public loan forgiveness program. Utilize campus resources for learning about long term financial planning (retirement, savings, home ownership etc…)

Community & Life Balance
Continue to manage stress and seek out support from peers, family, and your institution. Utilize the student counseling center for 1:1 assistance and graduate student support groups.

Postdoc (between 1-5 Years, mentored research)

Find the right fit
for your first postdoc position.

Develop an Individual Development Plan
and meet with your faculty mentor to discuss expectations for research, publications, lab management, teaching opportunities, mentorship, and your professional development and career goals.

Know Your Resources
find campus resources open to postdocs which could include professional development workshops, career and personal counseling among others. Attend a postdoc orientation or seek out the campus postdoc office/association to learn about your resources.

Mentorship
Identify mentorship programs and opportunities to develop interpersonal communication and management skills. Informally mentor graduate and undergraduate students in your lab.

Lab Management
Develop project and personnel management skills including establishing an independent research focus/program, managing budgets, and delegating responsibilities. Seek out opportunities to train, teach and manage students, colleagues and work in different kinds of environments.

Funding & Grant Writing
Take a course on grant writing, seek out opportunities to write or co-author funding proposals, apply to career development awards and fellowships.

Communication
Work through the publication process and develop skills in presenting information/research to a multidisciplinary and lay audiences. Identify opportunities to guest lecture.

Networking
Attend the annual conference for your discipline and attend departmental presentations. Find opportunities to speak with faculty and learn about job opportunities at institutions that interest you. Find opportunities to engage in campus initiatives to broaden your campus network.

Career Development
Participate in several practice job talks, practice teaching and research demonstrations and conduct mock interviews with faculty and colleagues getting feedback or recording yourself for self-assessment. Assess your financial needs and understand the salary ranges and your needs for living in areas positions are open and you are applying to. Finalize your CV, Cover Letter, Teaching Statement, Teaching Philosophy Diversity Statement, Research Statement and Recommendation Letters.

Teaching
Audit a course, attend teaching workshops and seminars; Observe a faculty taught course or assist your PI in developing a syllabus or curriculum for a course.

Financial Planning
Utilize campus resources for long term financial planning including retirement, savings, family planning and home ownership.

Community & Life Balance
Join your local postdoc association or the National Postdoc Association, find and join affinity groups.

Professor at a Teaching Focused Institution

Institution Type: Liberal Arts College, community college or other undergraduate-serving institution such as Mills College or the Claremont Colleges

  • The impact you want to make lies in educating undergraduate students in your field in broad and narrow ways.
  • You are passionate about solving problems around designing scientific pedagogy and have an effective teaching philosophy.
  • You thrive in environments that make teaching and learning the highest priority by providing the appropriate resources and support.
  • You enjoy and participate in administrative duties such as serving on academic policy and selection policies.

Resources for this Pathway

Community College Faculty: Must Love to Teach

Teaching Science to Nonscience Majors

Discipline Specific Resources:

Chemistry | Mathematics | Astronomy

Early (Year 1-2, Coursework & Exams)

Draft a month by month degree completion timeline:
Start with your ideal end date and include the following

  1. Degree milestones & coursework (advisor/committee designation, qualifying exams, TA opportunities, pedagogy training etc..)
  2. Teaching and mentorship opportunities, application timelines
  3. Funding submissions
  4. Annual conferences and publishing expectations
  5. Additional training opportunities (TA training, pedagogy courses)
  6. Department and University service and leadership opportunities/application timelines

Identify mentors and advocates early
Conduct informational interviews with faculty in your department to understand individual research and teaching expectations, areas of research and work, communication and mentorship style -

Reach out to faculty at local community colleges or teaching liberal arts schools
to learn about their teaching and service responsibilities

Set up regular meetings with your research advisor to stay on track.
Don’t wait for your advisor to tell you what to do, be proactive! Create an agenda or bring topics and questions to discuss each time. Don’t rely on your faculty advisor to lead the conversation. Create and discuss your individual development plan (IDP) to stay on track.

Depending on your discipline and program of study, research at this stage may consist of but is not limited to the following:

  • Reviewing field specific studies and literature
  • Discussing research questions and having early conversations regarding your research focus
  • Performing early stage experiments (typically on an existing project) to determine possibilities for a future focus

Propose a course to teach and/or become an academic reader.
Your department may offer you a Teaching Assistantship position right away or you may need to take a proactive approach and seek out opportunities to teach from departments on campus. The process will vary by institution and department.

Become a member of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) network to gain access to STEM focused teaching and pedagogy coursework, training, and online resources. Seek out on-campus opportunities for pedagogy and teacher training.

Create a Curriculum Vitae.
Track all of your teaching, service and research accomplishments

Network:
attend conferences as a volunteer, shadow colleagues and faculty teaching, attend colloquia and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about the field.

Identify University Resources to use in the future
for Teaching and Learning, Teaching Certificates, Innovation in Teaching Grants

Financial Planning
seek out fellowships, TA positions and Graduate Student Researcher positions to help pay for education and expenses. Understand your loan and repayment plan.

Community & Life Balance
Find community resources (especially if adjusting to a new institution or city/town), find hobbies and ways to de-stress outside of life in the academy.

Developing ( year 2-4, Exams, Research, & Dissertation Work)

Monitor and make revisions to your degree completion timeline.
Pay attention to key deadlines and upcoming degree milestones. Pay attention to committee creation, qualifying exams and funding.

Establish research milestones for your project and continue meeting with your faculty mentor regularly.
Research activities mid-stage may consist of:

  • Finalizing experimental design
  • Data collection and experiments
  • Revision of research questions based on results
  • Early stages of the dissertation writing process

Articulate your research agenda and outline your thesis starting with a literature review.
Set aside time each day or week to focus on writing. Build writing into your schedule like you would with any other task or appointment.

Maintain your mentor “team”
Meet regularly with mentors throughout the year and seek out mentorship for different purposes. Not all mentors are faculty members, connect with peers, postdocs, and others on and off campus. Maintain your relationship with faculty at local community colleges and teaching focused institutions to continue building your network.

Continue meeting regularly with your research advisor to stay on track.
Stay proactive in driving the conversation and consider discussing topics outside of your academic research such as professional development, teaching opportunities, presentation skills, and opportunities for publication. Discuss your career goals early so that you may develop a professional development plan with your mentor.

Teach a course.
Talk with your mentor and take a proactive approach to seek out teaching opportunities within and outside of your department

Seek out opportunities to develop skills as a teacher
including on-campus opportunities for pedagogy and training.

Learn the Job Market:
Set up an alert on HigherEdjobs.com specific to your field to monitor academic hiring trends, topics and timelines in liberal arts and community colleges.

Set up informational interviews
with faculty at institutions in which you are interested to learn about campus culture, hiring practices, and departmental expectations.

Continuously Update Your Curriculum Vitae.
Meticulously track all of your teaching, service and research accomplishments.

Network:
Attend conferences as a volunteer, shadow colleagues and faculty teaching, attend colloquia and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about teaching in the field.

Utilize University Resources
for Teaching and Learning, Teaching Certificates, Innovation in Teaching Grants, and presentation skills

Financial Planning
Seek out fellowships, TA positions and Graduate Student Researcher positions to help pay for education and expenses. Understand your loan and repayment plan.

Leadership
Join or become involved in a campus, local or national organization. Seek out organizations in your field or that align with your interests and career focus (Ex: American Chemical Society, American Association of Community Colleges, National Society of Black Engineer, Association of American Colleges & Universities etc…)

Community & Life Balance
Manage your health and stress and seek out institutional resources.

Advancing (Year 4 +, Final Research, Dissertation Work, Employment)

Create a plan for your research agenda and writing your thesis.
Devote dedicated time each day to write. Provide your committee with regular updates and proactively set deadlines. Identify how your research will contribute to your teaching agenda.

Continue finding opportunities to teach and create a teaching portfolio
which includes your teaching statement, course syllabi, materials, and other documents that demonstrate and document your teaching activities. Start cataloging institutions or funding opportunities that offer teaching-focused postdoctoral positions.

Present and Publish your work

Find the Right Fit
Reach out to faculty at local community colleges or teaching liberal arts schools to learn about their teaching and service responsibilities. Visit the campus, speak with students, and learn about future openings and the process for applying.

Develop your job search materials
including your CV, Cover Letter Template, Teaching Statement, Teaching Philosophy, Diversity Statement, and Research Statement. Position yourself as a teacher, not a scholar.

Develop interviewing skills
by learning the type of questions that may be asked, participating in mock interviews, and crafting your professional presence.

Get Involved
Participate in department, university and disciplinary committees.

Develop a timeline
for your academic job search.

Improve Presentation Skills
Utilize university resources to improve upon your poster and oral presentations. Be able to talk about your research in front of different audiences including within your discipline, outside of your discipline, and to the public. Develop your “elevator pitch.”

Assess & Activate your Network
Attend conferences as a volunteer, shadow colleagues and faculty teaching, attend colloquia and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about job opportunities. Start communicating when you expect to finish and your interest in faculty positions.

Financial Planning
Learn about loan repayment options and consider applying for the public loan forgiveness program. Utilize campus resources for learning about long term financial planning (retirement, savings, home ownership etc…)

Community & Life Balance
Continue to seek out support from peers, family, and your institution. Utilize the student counseling center for 1:1 assistance and graduate student support groups.

Postdoc (between 1-5 Years, mentored research)

Find the right fit
for your first postdoc position.

Develop an Individual Development Plan
and meet with your faculty mentor to discuss expectations for research presentations, publications, teaching and service.

Know Your Resources
Find campus resources open to postdocs which could include professional development workshops, career and personal counseling among others. Attend a postdoc orientation or seek out the campus postdoc office/association to learn about your resources.

Mentorship
Seek out opportunities to mentor graduate and undergraduate students in your lab. Seek out university programs designed to enhance mentorship and interpersonal communication skills.

Lab Management
Seek out opportunities to train, teach and manage student staff and collaborate with university administrators. Become involved in campus committees.

Communication
Seek out opportunities to guest lecture, teach online and present your research to multidisciplinary and lay audiences. Work with a range of administrators to enhance your interpersonal professional communication skills and gauge contextual differences.

Networking
Find opportunities to speak with faculty and learn about job opportunities at institutions that interest you. Consider attending a teaching focused conference and become engaged with regional organizations focused on teaching. Find opportunities to engage in campus initiatives to broaden your campus network.

Career Development
Participate in several practice job talks, practice teaching demonstrations and conduct mock interviews with faculty and colleagues getting feedback or recording yourself for self-assessment. Assess your financial needs and understand your value in a teaching position. Finalize your CV, Cover Letter, Teaching Statement, Teaching Philosophy Diversity Statement, Research Statement and Recommendation Letters.

Teaching
Audit a course, guest lecture, attend teaching workshops and seminars; Observe a faculty taught course or assist your PI in developing a syllabus or curriculum for a course.

Financial Planning
Utilize campus resources for long term financial planning including retirement, savings, family planning and home ownership.

Community & Life Balance
Join your local postdoc association or the National Postdoc Association, find and join affinity groups.

Careers in Research

National Laboratory Scientist

(Sandia National Lab, Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

  • The impact you want to make has real-world applications in real-time. The results of your research will have national reach.
  • You are passionate about solving problems relating to national security, the environment and health care.
  • You thrive in environments that have extensive research resources. You are comfortable working along structured research plans that are encompassed under the umbrella of a larger set of research objectives.
  • You are able to secure funding and can manage a lab of postdocs.
Advice from Researchers:

Make sure you know what you want to do with your education when you're done. There should be a well identified well thought out goal for your education investment. Take classes that directly support what you want to do, seek a thesis topic that segues to what you want to do. Reference papers in your work of people you want to work for. Then reach out to them with questions seeking more information about your work. Do that enough that they know your name real well. Try and get and maintain a relationship if possible. Don't be a nuisance or a stalker. Gauge the situation and determine how much you should pursue the interaction or potential relationship.

Seek out people working in your field of interest and get mentored. Work in your field even if it's unpaid. Having no experience on your resume often looks bad even if you have a strong GPA.

Having good communication skills and the ability to interface effectively with others is key. Looking someone in the face when communicating (speaking and listening) is key for inspiring confidence in others that you know what you are doing. Confidence comes by knowing what you are doing. Ask questions and make sure when you're doing things (calculations, code, etc) you are getting the right answer for the right reason and that you understand it well enough to communicate it to others in layman terms.
-Shonte Tucker, Senior Thermal Systems Engineer, NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Typical job titles for PhDs

Staff Scientist and Researcher

Resources for this Pathway

Jobs in Industry vs. Jobs in National Labs

Working in a Government Lab

List of Federal Government Research Centers in the US

Department of Energy

Department of Defense

Discipline Specific Resources:

Chemistry | Physics | Mathematics

Early (Year 1-2, Coursework & Exams)

Draft a month by month degree completion timeline:
Start with your ideal end date and include the following

  1. Degree milestones & coursework (advisor/committee designation, qualifying exams, etc..)
  2. Annual conferences and anticipated conference/poster proposal deadlines
  3. Funding submissions
  4. Publication submissions
  5. Additional training opportunities

Identify mentors and advocates early.
Conduct informational interviews with faculty in your department to understand individual research and teaching expectations, areas of research and work, communication and mentorship style - identify those who have research connections to national labs.

Set up regular meetings with your research advisor to stay on track.
Don’t wait for your advisor to tell you what to do, be proactive! Create an agenda or bring topics and questions to discuss each time. Don’t rely on your faculty advisor to lead the conversation. Create and discuss your individual development plan (IDP) to stay on track.

Depending on your discipline and program of study, research at this stage may consist of but is not limited to the following:

  • Reviewing field specific studies and literature
  • Discussing research questions and having early conversations regarding your research focus
  • Performing early stage experiments (typically on an existing project) to determine possibilities for a future focus

Create a Curriculum Vitae and Resume
Track all of your research, funding, teaching and service accomplishments

Network
Attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquiums, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about the field. Seek out opportunities on and off campus to meet and collaborate with National Laboratory researchers.

Learn the National Lab Job Market
Identify which national labs you are interested in pursuing and set up alerts for jobs in your field.

Financial Planning
Seek out fellowships, TA positions and Graduate Student Researcher positions to help pay for education and expenses.

Monitor Your GPA
depending on the lab,there may be strict GPA cutoffs when applying to positions.

Community & Life Balance
Find community resources (especially if adjusting to a new institution or city/town), find hobbies and ways to de-stress outside of life in the academy. Manage your stress and seek out institutional resources.

Developing ( year 2-4, Exams, Research, & Dissertation Work)

Monitor and make revisions to your degree completion timeline.
Pay attention to key deadlines and upcoming degree milestones. Identify internship and research fellowship opportunities with National Labs you are interested in and build those opportunities into your timeline.

Establish research milestones for your project and continue meeting with your faculty mentor regularly.
Research activities mid-stage may consist of:

  • Finalizing experimental design
  • Data collection and experiments
  • Revision of research questions based on results
  • Early stages of the dissertation writing process

Outline your research agenda.
Build out a literature review and timeline. Create a writing habit and set aside time each day or week for focused writing. Build writing into your schedule like you would with any other task or appointment.

Propose a course to teach or become a course reader to gain teaching experience.
Although an extensive teaching portfolio is not required for a position at a national laboratory, the ability to communicate complex ideas to diverse audiences and collaborate across disciplines is a skill enhanced by teaching. Teaching experience will allow for more well-rounded application materials.

Identify research and funding areas from labs you are interested in.
Spend time learning how to write a grant, understanding different funding options and which funding institutions align with your line of research.

Maintain your mentor “team”
Meet regularly with mentors throughout the year and seek out mentorship for different purposes. Not all mentors are faculty members, connect with peers, postdocs, and others on and off campus. Maintain your relationship with faculty both inside and outside of your direct discipline to continue building your network.

Continue meeting regularly with your research advisor to stay on track.
Stay proactive in driving the conversation and consider discussing topics outside of your academic research such as professional development opportunities, presentation skills, and opportunities for publication. Discuss your career goals early so that you may develop a professional development plan with your mentor.

Monitor Your GPA.
Depending on the lab,there may be strict GPA cutoffs when applying to positions.

Set up informational interviews
with PI’s and postdocs at national labs and research labs that you are interested to learn about.

Maintain Your Curriculum Vitae and Resume
Meticulously track all of your research, funding, teaching and service accomplishments.

Network:
Attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquia, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and researchers to learn about the field.

Utilize University Resources
for Fellowship and Grant Writing, Scientific Writing and Presentation Skills, Research Escalator Programs.

Financial Planning
Seek out fellowships, TA positions and Graduate Student Researcher positions to help pay for education and expenses. Understand your loan and repayment plan.

Leadership
Join a campus, local or national organization. Seek out organizations in your field that align with your interests and research focus (Ex: American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, Advancing Women in Science and Engineering, National Society of Black Engineers etc…)

Community & Life Balance
Manage your health and stress and seek out institutional resources.

Advancing (Year 4 +, Final Research, Dissertation Work, Employment)

Create a plan for your research agenda and writing your thesis.
Continue devoting dedicated time each day to write. Provide your committee with regular updates and communicate with your committee chair to stay on track.

Continue meeting with your research advisor and other mentors.
Continue to discuss your career goals, opportunities for professional development, and final research expectations before completing your degree. Research activities in the advanced stage will consist of finalizing data and finishing the thesis.

Present and Publish your work

Find the Right Fit
Set up meetings at labs and institutions for future postdoc or PI positions. Schedule a lab visit, talk to postdocs and students in the lab, find potential areas of collaboration, and learn about future openings and the process for applying.

Develop your job search materials
including CV and Resume, research statement, official transcripts, letters of recommendation and a list of professional references.

Develop interviewing skills
by learning the type of questions that may be asked, participating in mock interviews, and crafting your professional presence.

Develop timeline
for your postdoc search - consider postdocs in national labs, industry and academia.

Improve Presentation Skills
Utilize university resources to improve upon your poster and oral presentations. Be able to talk about your research in front of different audiences including within your discipline, outside of your discipline, and to the public. Develop your “elevator pitch.”

Activate your Network:
attend the annual conference for your discipline, department job talks, colloquia, and presentations and meet with fellow academics and graduate students to learn about job opportunities. Start communicating when you expect to finish and your interest in postdoc opportunities.

Monitor Your GPA
Depending on the lab, there may be strict GPA cutoffs when applying to positions.

Financial Planning
Learn about loan repayment options and consider applying for the public loan forgiveness program. Utilize campus resources for learning about long term financial planning (retirement, savings, home ownership etc…)

Community & Life Balance
continue to manage stress and seek out support from peers, family, and your institution. Utilize the student counseling center for 1:1 assistance and graduate student support groups.

Postdoc (between 1-5 Years, mentored research)

Find the right fit
for your first postdoc position and explore positions in research institutions and national laboratories.

Develop an Individual Development Plan
Meet with your faculty mentor to discuss expectations for research, publication, lab management, and your professional development and career goals.

Know Your Resources
Find institutional resources open to postdocs which could include professional development workshops, career and personal counseling among others. Attend a postdoc orientation or seek out the campus postdoc office/association to learn about your resources.

Mentorship
Develop informal mentoring relationships with graduate and undergraduate students in your lab and classes.

Lab Management
Develop project and personnel management skills including establishing an independent research focus/program, managing budgets, and delegating responsibilities.

Funding & Grant Writing
Take a course on grant writing, seek out opportunities to write or co-author funding proposals, apply to career development awards and fellowships.

Communication
Work through the publication process, seeking out opportunities to read and evaluate others’ work. Present at national and regional conferences and present research to multidisciplinary and lay audiences.

Networking
Attend the annual conference for your discipline and department presentations to meet fellow academics, postdocs faculty, and researchers to learn about job opportunities. Find opportunities to engage in campus initiatives to broaden your campus network.

Career Development
Participate in several practice research demonstrations and conduct mock interviews with colleagues getting feedback or recording yourself for self-assessment. Assess your research start up needs and personal financial needs and understand the salary ranges for living in areas positions are open and you are applying to. Finalize your Resume, CV, Cover Letter, Research Statement, Transcripts and Recommendation Letters.

Financial Planning
Utilize campus resources for long term financial planning including retirement, savings, family planning and home ownership.

Community & Life Balance
Join your local postdoc association or the National Postdoc Association, find and join affinity groups.